By Sean Tubbs


Monday, September 6, 2010

With the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority facing an uncertain future due to a dramatic drop in revenue, a majority of the City Council appears to favor keeping one of its key services in business.

“I’m strongly in support of not only maintaining the McIntire Recycling Center but figuring out how to enhance the services,” Mayor Dave Norris said.

As of Jan. 1, neither Albemarle County nor Charlottesville will be obligated to continue paying the RSWA to operate the Ivy Material Utilization Center or the McIntire Recycling Center.

Both localities recently amended an agreement that governs operations at Ivy and McIntire. The RSWA previously funded the services with profits made from tipping fees charged at Ivy and another transfer facility at Zion Crossroads.

Many trash haulers have chosen to stop using the Ivy facility, and the RSWA no longer collects a fee at Zion Crossroads. That was one of the conditions of a settlement between the authority and Van Der Linde Recycling, which operates a similar facility nearby.

In fiscal year 2005, 105,593 tons of municipal solid waste and other items passed through the Ivy facility. In FY2009, that number had dropped to 69,636 tons.

The authority’s executive director, Thomas L. Frederick Jr., told the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors last week that his employees need to know soon what their destiny will be.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in their eyes right now about what are they going to be doing, how are they going to feed their families and pay their mortgages in the future because I can’t tell them beyond the end of December what our structure is going to look like,” Frederick said.

Frederick said the RSWA could play a role in helping Albemarle County continue to provide services at Ivy, as well as the recycling center, should the city opt out.

To save money, the RSWA also cut back hours at McIntire and stopped accepting certain materials that are expensive to dispose, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, batteries and paint. Area residents are being directed to private companies or to wait until a special collection day the RSWA will sponsor next spring.

“In the last two months we have seen increasing numbers of complaints, and the vast majority of those complaints are about the services that we curtailed,” Frederick said. “There are some people that are feeling the effects of not having a regular place to take their CFLs and their fluorescent tubes anymore.”

Frederick also told supervisors he thought the city may exit the RSWA because it provides many of the same services to its residents.

However, Councilor David Brown, who sits on the RSWA Board of Directors, said at the authority’s August meeting that he still wants to find a way to have the city contribute to the McIntire Recycling Center.

City and county staffers are preparing solid waste plans for elected officials to consider.

County Executive Robert W. Tucker said supervisors will be presented with a series of options on how to proceed at their meeting in October. They might include curbside recycling through private haulers, a recycling center at the Ivy transfer station or finding a way to build multiple centers in populated areas throughout the county.

“At one time we had five recycling centers in the capital improvement program, and they were taken out because of funding issues,” Tucker said in an interview. Each one was estimated at $250,000, though Tucker added that that figure may have dropped due to the recession.

Norris said he hopes the city can make its decision in October as well. He said one option might be contributing to the McIntire center outside of the auspices of the RSWA.

In an e-mail, Councilor Holly Edwards called the center “part of the fabric of the community.”

Councilor Satyendra Huja said he had not yet made up his mind, but observed that the county has more of a use for the McIntire center than the city does. Councilor Kristin Szakos could not be reached for comment.

Regardless of the RSWA’s destiny, the city must continue to participate in an agreement to pay for the continued remediation of the Ivy landfill, which closed in 2001 after being the primary landfill for the city, county and the University of Virginia.

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