Bartholomew County has taken the first step to meet a growing demand from local businesses for free, curbside cardboard recycling.
“We have grown that program over the years,” said Jim Murray, director of the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District.
“We now serve 250 businesses in the city, providing no-cost recycling of cardboard and office paper. We have taken that program about as far as you can take it with one truck and two persons,” Murray said.
The district would like to expand the program, not only in the city of Columbus but also open it up to businesses elsewhere in the county.
“We have had significant interest expressed in the Hope area, Taylorsville, Edinburgh, and I know there are others out there,” Murray said. “We haven’t been able to serve them because the city crews were doing collection.”
The city and waste district have been partnering to collect commercial cardboard for 19 years within city limits. The program has proved successful, raising money for the district, reducing trash dumped at the county-owned landfill and meeting customers’ needs, Murray said.
The solid waste management district already funds one of the two workers on the city truck and the city would give the packer truck to the district under a proposal that got its first stage of approval by the County Council this week.
With the change, Murray said, he would add a second truck with a single worker and expand the service outside
Initially, that truck would run two days a week, but eventually the program would expand to full time, and a fourth worker would be added, he said.
Murray said that cardboard takes up more space, at nine cubic yards per ton, than just about any of the other recyclables dumped at the landfill. However, it is easy to remove from the waste stream by recycling, extending the life of the county landfill, he said.
The price of cardboard fluctuates but has been bringing the district about $120,000 a year from 11,000 tons of collected cardboard, Murray said. He said the hope would be that the cardboard recycling program eventually would pay for itself.
The County Council this week gave its first approval of the 2014 Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District budget, including $369,632 in first-year costs to take over operations of the cardboard recycling truck from the Columbus City Garage and expand the cardboard recycling program. The ongoing cost would be about $212,132, Murray said.
Council member Ryan Lauer stressed that the council expected the district to work aggressively to line up new customers to make the free service self-sufficient.
“A big part of this plan is to let businesses in the county know that this is a new, free service that is definitely very beneficial to the environment and to our landfill life,” Lauer said. “I am hoping the word will get out and that will get an immediate influx of new customers in the county for cardboard recycling.”
Murray said the city workers currently operating the truck would not be moved to new positions with the management district. Instead, the district would advertise for the positions internally within city and county government. He said the positions with the waste district would likely pay less than the workers were making with the city.
The total waste management district budget increased about $161,624 to $3.8 million for 2014. The countywide district owns the county landfill near Walesboro and operates recycling sites and education programs to reduce the amount of trash going into the landfill. The district contracts with Rumpke of Indiana to operate the landfill.
Murray said the amount of the district’s budget paid for by taxpayers would decrease next year by about $55,000, from $850,000 now, and the tax rate also is expected to fall slightly. The district tax rate this year is 2.3 cents per $100 of assessed value. For a Columbus resident, that is about a hundredth of the annual property tax bill.
Cardboard recycling costs
Bartholomew County Council on Tuesday night gave its first approval for the 2014 budget for the county solid waste management district, which included taking over the Columbus City Garage commercial cardboard recycling program. The district plans to add a second part-time truck to serve county businesses. The estimated first-year costs:
Expense Full-time truck Part-time truck
Staff $100,000 $50,000
Vehicle $175,000 Donation
Fuel $20,000 $8,000
Tires $2,100 $840
Engine service $726 $290
Insurance $4,910 $4,910
Brakes $940 $376
Mechanical $1,100 $440
Totals $304,776 $64,856
First-year total $369,632
Bartholomew County’s solid waste district budget requires a second and final reading. The next County Council meeting is at 6 p.m. Oct. 8 in the County Council Chambers at the Governmental Office Building, 440 Third St.
In other business Tuesday, the County Council:
Approved the first readings of the 2014 annual budget and salary ordinances. The total county budget will be $36 million, about $1.8 million less than the approved budget for 2013 and $1.6 million less than requested by department heads and elected officials. The county general fund for 2014 would be $16.7 million, which is about $26,000 less than 2013.
Heard an update from Auditor Barb Hackman on the county’s gross assessed value, which increased 4.57 percent from 2012 to 2013, from
$5.4 billion to $5.7 billion. The estimated net assessed value, which includes abatements, tax increment-financing districts and other deductions, will not be available for about a month, she said.
Approved a contract for Chris Monroe to serve as the County Council attorney. Monroe served as judge in Bartholomew Superior Court 1 for 24 years, the longest in county history. Rod McGillivray resigned as County Council attorney in July.
Completed its reviews of the budgets of other taxing units in Bartholomew County. The only body that did not submit a budget to be reviewed was the town of Clifford, whose budget will be set at 2013 levels.