ROCK SPRINGS — After the dust settled during a four-hour budget workshop on Monday, the Solid Waste District No. 1 board members came to a consensus to fully fund the Ray Lovato Recycling Center’s request of $218,000 to keep their doors open through the next fiscal year.
The funding from the District for $218,000 will fund operational costs to keep recycling services available for the community. The decision to fund the recycling center will officially be made once the board can vote on a final budget during their June 8th board meeting.
Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo made it known during the board’s meeting on May 11, that the City of Rock Springs would not be setting aside any funds for the recycling center this year.
Mayor Kaumo was present for the board’s budget workshop and once again voiced his support for the recycling center.
Mayor Kaumo pointed out that the landfill’s life expectancy will be expanded with the recycling center in operation.
Listening to the Taxpayers
During the budget workshop, board member Larissa Apel said that the board has only received support for the recycling center’s operation.
“We are in the business of waste management, and recycling is a part of managing waste,” Apel said.
Solid Waste District No. 1 General Manager, Kevin Herman, voiced his concerns for funding the recycling center’s request in full. According to Herman, he hears complaints on a weekly basis about the recycling center.
Herman also said that he couldn’t justify paying $350 a ton to recycle when taxpayers could pay $55 a ton to put it in the landfill.
“I have a big problem with that kind of a number,” Herman said. “When this District and the people in this District can dispose of it for $55 a ton, there is no way you should be paying six or seven times that rate. I don’t care how much of a recycler you are. I don’t care how good of a feel good thing it is… You’ve got one-percent of our waste being recycled.”
Apel asked if Herman had evidence of those against the recycling center. In response, Herman stated that he didn’t “… have time to take notes every time someone b****** at me for that recycling center.”
At that point, Herman announced to the attendees that he was done talking about the recycling center and abruptly left the meeting.
Apel said that there has only been evidence of taxpayers’ support for the recycling center. She referenced a survey by SweetwaterNOW from 2019, which showed a majority support for the recycling center and said that the board has received multiple emails in support.
“As us representing the taxpayers of this district, if that’s what we’re being told by the people who choose to make their voices heard, then I feel like we have a responsibility to go with that,” Apel said.
An Uphill Battle
Ray Lovato Recycling Center Board President, Devon Brubaker, said that the recycling center had nearly closed months ago due to the bad recycling markets.
“If it wasn’t for COVID-19, the recycling center would’ve ran out of money in the middle of April because of how bad the markets got this year,” Brubaker said.
With another year ahead, there is an uphill battle for the future of the recycling center. Brubaker expressed his hope to form a true partnership with the District moving forward. Multiple board members recognized that the future of recycling will take a group effort from the entire county, involving multiple entities, leaders and residents.
Brubaker said that the recycling center has a lot of ideas and ways to grow, but unless they come together and work together, not much will change.
Mayor Kaumo said that the City of Rock Springs is looking at a curbside recycling program. A small fee associated with the service would help generate some funds for the recycling center.
Several board members agreed that more recycling education needed to be produced in order to help educate residents. In addition, both Brubaker and the board plan to meet in the near future to discuss further plans for the recycling center’s growth and community support.
One thing is for certain. There is plenty of work to do, and it will take the efforts of many to help the recycling center moving forward.