District well positioned for challenging new year

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Cash reserve will help in face of lower prices for recyclables

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY – The Perry County Recycling Management District had unusual expenses in 2008, but was still able to finish the year with some money in the bank, according to district accountant Jerry Hoagland.

Reporting at a regular meeting of the district's board of directors Dec. 18, Hoagland said he expected to enter the new year with approximately $7,000 in the bank and two certificates of deposit totaling $150,000.

That reserve will be important if prices for recyclable materials remain low as 2009 wanes. Executive Director Paul Alvey said at last month's meeting China had dramatically reduced the amount of recyclable materials it imports, affecting prices worldwide. That followed a year he'd called "really blessed" for the prices he'd been able to get for the cardboard, metal and other materials the district collected for recycling.

"Office paper is still at a good rate," he said at this month's meeting, but he'll continue to stockpile other materials in hopes their prices will rise.

"Everyone's backed up," said board member and County Commissioner Gary Dauby, who explained he'd seen a television program about the issue. Once the market opens up, prices will be low, he added.

"We're very fortunate that we've been able to build up a reserve and blessed that we're able to stockpile," Alvey replied. "We knew when China was going to slow down, although we anticipated a much more gradual decline."

A first wave of selling will likely feature low prices for recyclable commodities, he said, "but we're positioned to where we can wait for a second wave."

User fees and tags affixed to trash bags provide the district approximately $285,000 in annual revenue, Hoagland said, against a budget of $350,000.

The certificates of deposit will provide funds needed to bridge any gap between the two.

"We've been prudent in managing that," Alvey noted.

Alvey also announced an Indiana Department of Environmental Management grant, requested as a joint effort between the district and Perry Central Community School, had been approved. He called the work it will fund a "major project" that will, among other things, help the district provide another site for people in the northern part of the county.

Perry Central is already doing an outstanding job of recycling, he said, and the new site will allow people dropping students off at school to drop off recyclable materials, as well.

Many details remain to be worked out, Alvey said.

He said another grant will allow him to provide education about rubber-asphalt mixtures used in several Perry County locations in recent years, including the track at Tell City's Legion Field.

While last year's fiscal environment allowed the district to make major purchases like a baler and some construction work necessary to increase its efficiency, 2009 "will be a year of very prudent operations," Alvey said.

"We're still seeing an increase in the amount of materials coming in," he said. "This was a fun year for commodities. We probably won't see another like it. But we worked really hard to develop our market and get the materials in. Our employees worked really hard to accommodate them. I'm not willing to start saying we should discourage people from participating."

The district's No. 1 objective, he continued, "will be to manage commodities the best we can."

He thanked board member Don Sherry, also a county commissioner, for the "hard work and perseverance" he contributed to the district. Sherry lost his commissioner title, and the district position that came with it, in the last election.

"Where we're at today is due largely to your commitment," Alvey told him. "I look forward to working with you in some other opportunity. It's been a very good year in getting things built up."

Board member and County Commissioner Jody Fortwendel echoed the sentiment.

"It's been a pleasure serving with you the last four years," he said.