CUSTER COUNTY–A wall-to-wall filled supervisors room welcomed more than 70 people who shared an overwhelming amount of support for the Custer County Recycling Center.
During Tuesday’s Public Hearing following the regular Board of Supervisors meeting, individuals, business owners, and municipal representatives from at least 12 surrounding communities showed they are in favor of maintaining local recycling programs.
Custer County Recycling Manager Kelly Flynn told the crowd that one million pounds of materials were recycled last year, more than 700,000 pounds from Custer County alone in 2018.
According to Supervisor Chairman Barry Fox, the recycling center is funded through county tax dollars–based on valuation–which comes to about two percent of the county budget. Despite past government grants to fund new equipment, recycling costs have increased and the board wanted to gain input about additional funding possibilities.
The county is under a $4,800 per month lease until February 2023 for the recycling center building.
“Over the last 10 years we’ve seen recycling nearly double in the expense from a county standpoint. Depending on what years you average, it’s gone from a cost of about $68,000 a year to the last three years averaging nearly $112,000 to $114,000,” Fox said.
Numerous citizens spoke in favor of recycling and expressed their concerns of what would happen if the program ceased to exist. Individuals spoke of increased amounts of trash in landfills, increased garbage rates, fear of illegal burning, and the importance of teaching future generations.
“I think at the end of the day if we stop recycling, we’re still going to have higher garbage rates because so many pounds does come into the recycling center. It just makes us feel better about taking care of the planet and I see less trash and less things in the ditches and around because I think people are more aware of taking care of the trash. And if we don’t do something for our planet right here in four county, I don’t think we’re setting a very good example,” Merna resident Dee Adams said.
Market values for recyclable materials continue to decline according to Fox and Flynn, with plastics being especially low and cardboard being the most lucrative market.
When divided out, the cost of recycling is approximately $1 per person per month in Custer County. However, because the tax system is based on valuation, there is no easy way around the fact that those who have more, pay more as described by Ansley Village Clerk Lanette Doane.
“You don’t want to increase the fees there [communities outside of the county] too much to discourage them from using recycling. It’s also a sad fact that across the board for taxes, those who have more pay for more. I don’t care if its income taxes, I don’t care if its property taxes, so I don’t know how you’d get around that. I don’t know if there’s a way around that when you’re talking about government services. You know for councils and the county board, that’s just how the system works whether we like it or not,” Doane continued.
“Fees or taxes. And if most people are in favor of it, there’s not going to be an equity where everybody’s going to pay a fair share. There’s going to be some people who pay more. Those people also pay more for roads. More of a share of their taxes go for roads, more share of their taxes for law enforcement. It’s across the board–that’s just the nature of the system. If you figure that out, you’ll be in Cancun with your feet up drinking a mojito,” Doane said.
The board thanked those in attendance and everyone who sent letters and made phone calls that were either in favor or against the recycling center. While the hearing took over an hour, no decisions were made. Board members commented that while they were very pleased with the overwhelming support of the center, questions do remain on if the current way of funding the recycling center is appropriate or if a change needs to be made.
“If we change the program at all how does that change the usage of the recycling program? If there’s a fee, who stops doing it? If we stop recycling who’s going to burn the stuff in their backyard? All of those are huge concerns that we have to weigh. Not only is there a program but how is it administered?” Board member Matt Eggleston said.