By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — The Kosciusko County’s Solid Waste Management District is facing some hurdles with the recycling depot’s budget for 2021.
During a meeting on Tuesday, June 23, Kosciusko County Recycling Depot Director Tom Ganser told the board of director’s there is a deficiency between revenue for the depot and costs for next year.
“We’re going to be short $337,000 from revenue numbers compared to expense numbers in the proposed budget,” said Ganser.
The depot’s total proposed budget for 2021 is at $870,000, with revenue at $532,000.
“The biggest portion is the contract,” said Ganser, noting the depot’s contract with Whitley Environmental, Columbia City. In an October 2019 meeting, Ganser noted that the recycling contract would be a matter the board would have to watch during budgeting season in 2020.
Ganser then offered ideas to the board for cost reductions at the depot, including the possibilities of implementing recycling fees for items again, as well as potentially reducing the number of consumer drop-off locations in the county.
In total, there are nine stations countywide in Warsaw, North Webster, Syracuse, Claypool, Leesburg, Mentone, Milford, Pierceton and Silver Lake.
“Even if we do that, we realize that we’re going to reduce volume that we’re taking in because people are not going to take items and do the right thing,” said Ganser. “And at the end of the day, we’re still not going to get the numbers we need to.”
One proposal Ganser presented for revenue recovery focused on the possibility of closing the depot’s three smallest locations that bring in the lowest amounts of volume. Those sites are in Leesburg, Pierceton and Claypool.
“That would be about a 10-ton reduction on the month for about $1,800 a month,” said Ganser.
Ganser said the depot’s three largest sites are in Syracuse, North Webster and Warsaw. If the depot reduces its number of locations from nine to three, there would be an average of $5,500 a month in savings.
“We knew this was coming,” said Ganser regarding the contract’s costs. “However, what’s really been the catalyst is the volume hasn’t gone down.”
“I think if you close sites down or (bring back fees), you’re going to get more pushback by closing sites down,” said Board Member Brad Jackson, saying that those who live in smaller towns will be upset about their sites closing.
According to Ganser, the depot is seeing about 20 percent in commercial volume coming in to the drop-off sites.
“When we go out, there’s a lot of commercial people coming in with their pickups and unloading on us,” said Ganser. “It’s cost-avoidance. Yeah, they’re doing the right thing; in the past, it’s never been a huge concern for us. But when you’re talking about a business expense, it becomes more of a concern.”
“Like everybody else who’s having budget discussions now, it’s going to be having to do some budget reductions or tapping into investments,” said County Auditor Michelle Puckett.
“I think we need to make some kind of move, but I don’t think we need to make it right now,” said Jackson.
Jackson summarized the board’s thoughts and said members are leaning toward leaving all consumer drop-off stations open, reinstating recycling fees for items and adjusting the depot’s tax rate.
“We’re not a for-profit but we don’t want to lose money,” said Jackson.
The board also discussed a roofing project at the depot that is incorporated into the budget and questioned how to go about the project looking forward. The roofing project is estimated to cost about $50,000.
Jackson suggested that Ganser pursue bids for the roofing project to present at the board’s July meeting.
The board’s next meeting is at 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 21.