Scott Kurz, head of the city streets and sanitation department, stands in the nearly 25-year-old recycling truck that Marion City Council voted to replace Monday. He said the truck, whose floor is rusting, is not safe. (Photo: Sarah Volpenhein/Marion Star)
MARION — The city has committed to curbside recycling for the near future after Marion City Council approved the purchase of a new recycling truck.
Marion City Council voted 7-1 Monday to buy a new recycling truck to replace a 1996 truck that city workers say is beset by safety issues.
The money for the new truck was already in the city’s budget, but passage of the measure was still uncertain after it set off questions among some council members last week about the expense of the city’s recycling program and whether to continue curbside recycling after the end of the year.
“This administration made a commitment to curbside recycling earlier this year when we passed the plan, and I’m going to stand by that right now, but to continue that curbside recycling program, we need the tools to do it,” Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer said at Monday’s council meeting. “Without that, it’s not an end to recycling, but it may be the slow death of, if we don’t have the tools to do the job.”
At Monday’s meeting, Schertzer stressed that the cost of the truck had already been built into the city’s budget.
“This was planned out. We knew that this nearly 25-year-old truck isn’t going to last much longer. The taxpayers have gotten their money’s worth out of this recycling truck,” Schertzer said.
The city has four recycling trucks, two of which are from the mid 1990s and the other two of which are five years old or younger.
According to the ordinance passed by City Council, the truck is expected to cost about $168,000 and will be paid by revenues from the monthly sanitation bill city residents pay.
At a committee meeting last week, some council members questioned buying the truck.
At that meeting, Robert Landon, R-1st Ward, echoed the mayor and pointed out “we did commit earlier this year to continue recycling in the city.”
Josh Daniels, D-At-large, responded then, “No one committed to continuing anything. We agreed to enter into a contract with Sims Brothers at the amount of $54 a ton for one year, and we did that under the auspices that we may receive some assistance from the agency tasked with recycling. We received none.”
More: Answering your questions on Marion recycling
Ayers Ratliff, D-2nd Ward, spoke after Daniels and said, “Tonight, we’re talking about buying a truck, but it’s more than buying a truck.”
Ratliff encouraged the council to discuss whether to continue the recycling program after Jan. 1.
“If we are going to continue the program, we’re obligated to buy the truck,” he said.
At Monday’s meeting, supporters of curbside recycling spoke in favor of buying the truck and of the curbside program.
Dominic Straquadine, a Marion area resident, pointed to the environmental and economic benefits of recycling, alluding to the energy savings of using recycled versus virgin materials to make new products.
Recycling “lessens the need for virgin materials to create products. When you recycle, you also save … by reducing the amount of materials that you have to excavate from the earth to create new things,” he said.
Beth Babich, of the League of Women Voters of Marion, acknowledged that people sometimes put non-recyclables in their blue recycling bin, thereby making it more cost-intensive for recycling processors to sort that material out.
“As Councilman Daniels has indicated, there’s stuff that’s put in recycling that just doesn’t belong, but over 70 percent is the real good stuff that something can be done with,” she said.
On Monday, Ratliff said that “none of your elected officials are against recycling,” but that the city council was trying to ensure the taxpayers’ money was spent properly.
Schertzer said that the city still plans to apply for a grant of up to $50,000 offered by the Delaware-Knox-Marion-Morrow Solid Waste District. It is unclear whether the city could use the grant toward the new recycling truck.
The city is contracted with Sims Brothers Recycling to take, sort and process the recyclables that city workers pick up at residents’ curbs, at a cost of $56.75 per ton in 2019. The contract, a copy of which was obtained by the Star, is for one year and states that it may be renewed for two additional one-year terms, “at the sole discretion of the city.”
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