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TELL CITY – The advisory board for the Perry County Recycling Management District is "looking at scaling back" in response to the nation's economic downturn, Executive Director Paul Alvey told the district board of directors at their regular meeting Jan. 22.
"We'll hunker down and do business as well as we can do business," he said. "Commodity prices are still depressed, and some are at zero value," he'd already told the board, referring to the recycling materials the district collects and sells to brokers. He boasted in the past of being able to hold some to await price upswings, but said the Cannelton site is becoming crowded. "Commodities are just tough right now, and I don't see that changing in the immediate future," he said. "I reported last time China has committed to the purchasing of some recyclables. I think in the world market, it's pretty much a splash in the pan, but at least it's something. Hopefully, with the stimulus packages that are being released, we'll get some major projects going which will generate some desire for recycling."
The mining and production of raw materials is slowing, Alvey said, so perhaps recycled materials, which require less processing, "will be first in line if and when things start picking up." Less energy is needed to prepare it for use and it's already packaged and ready to ship "if we ever get the demand for it," he added.
Gary Morton, Tell City Common Council representative on the board, asked if some materials collected by the district have to be shipped out within a certain time.
"Cardboard and some plastics start to deteriorate at some point," Alvey replied.
Cardboard has been a profitable commodity for the district, and businesses have diverted it there to cut costs of sending it to landfills, to the point Alvey is seeking ways to cope with new demands. A company is expected to attend the directors' next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 26 in the courthouse commissioners room, to offer suggestions.
Collection of annual fees paid by county residents is going well, "as good if not better than most years so far," Alvey reported. People are more familiar with it than in the past and "the office staff has done an outstanding job of keeping up with that," he added.
Alvey said he and representatives of other districts heard from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that grants already at approval or signature stages will be funded this year, including one that will permit educational efforts concerning asphalt containing rubber from used tires.
That grant was approved by the state attorney general, board member and Tell City Mayor Barbara Ewing said. Her city had received a go-ahead for similar work, but "for 2009, all recycling grants have been frozen, other than those that have been approved. We had several projects that we were getting ready to present to the community and to this board, and those opportunities, I think, would have been possible had grant money been available and awarded to Tell City."
An educational effort to promote recycling and additional bins for residents to collect recyclables have been put on hold, the mayor said, along with receptacles for city parks.
"From a community standpoint, and a partnership with the district," she said, "this is critical to us, because funds are not available to proceed unless we can obtain grant funding."
She spoke with the southwest-Indiana director for IDEM, she said, "and he tried to remain positive," but "all state agencies, not just IDEM, are facing cuts."
Cutbacks in grants will hit the district hard, Alvey interjected, "because we've been very successful in applying for and being awarded grants in the past ... and we were very aggressively looking for other grants. We're going to put them in a warmer and keep them ready to go, but at least for 2009, everything's been frozen, possibly ... through 2010, which is very significant for us."
He and the district's advisory board have been looking at scaling back projects and re-examining where they should focus resources, he said.
Grants allow the district to expand programs "and provide different things for different folks, and it's a lot of fun," Alvey said.
Ewing said she asked Alvey to look into a recommendation from a Tell City resident to take advantage of a program offered by Toshiba to recycle computers and other electronic devices. "If it works for a community ... it's a free shipping program for the disposal of various electronics," she explained.
Alvey said he's checking to see what has been done locally in similar past efforts.
The deputy commissioner for IDEM approved a grant that will allow collections at Perry Central Community School, saving recyclers trips to the district's Branchville site, Alvey said. He was awaiting the completion of additional paperwork before starting the program.
"It's going to be a big help for us in a lot of areas," he said
In an annual reorganization, Jody Fortwendel, a county commissioner, retained the chairman's title and Ewing was named vice chairwoman. Alvey retains his role for another year, as do the district's attorney, Jeff Hagedorn, and controller, Jerry Hoagland.
Hoagland reported that the district spent approximately $463,000 in 2008, roughly $16,000 under the $479,000 budgeted for the year.