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Cost of recycling to increase for Solon residents

Johnson County Refuse asks for help with transportation costs

SOLON– Council members are in it for the longer haul.
The members of the Solon City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance increasing the monthly recycling fee from $5.50 to $6.35 at a special meeting Jan. 25.
Sixty cents of the jump in price is due to the trucking of recyclables from Johnson County to Scott County, according to Johnson County Refuse owner Steve Smith.
Smith told council members at a Jan. 11 special meeting his local market for recyclables had changed dramatically in the last 18 months.
Previously, Smith said, Johnson County Refuse hauled recyclable materials to City Carton in Cedar Rapids where items would be sorted at no charge.
“We never used to have to pay for that,” Smith explained.
City Carton, with locations in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, was purchased by Republic Services in 2015. About six months later, Smith said, the company began charging Johnson County Refuse $2.50 per ton for sorting.
“Which wasn’t any big deal to worry about,” he told council members.
But over the next year, he said, the processing fee increased to $10 a ton and to $38.50 a ton.
“They told us it wasn’t going to go up, but it continued to go up,” Smith added.
Between July of 2015 and June of 2016, he said, Johnson County Refuse paid over $5,000 to City Carton to process recycling from the residents of Solon.
“We really didn’t feel like we could come in and ask for a raise at that time because we didn’t know where it was going,” he said.
In September, Smith said he received an email giving him two weeks to consider a contract for $65 a ton with a share of the profits from the sale of materials.
“I started looking for other places,” Smith said.
Scott County in Davenport has a really nice facility and offered a different cost sharing arrangement, he said.
For the last three months, Smith said, Scott County has been paying between $14-16 per ton for recyclable materials.
“But we’ve got to truck it there,” he added.
He requested an increase of 60¢ per household from the city, as well as quarterly updates on the number of newly-occupied homes. The new contract would extend services through 2021. Johnson County Refuse would not seek an increase in the price of garbage tags, Smith said, although the landfill did increase fees by $5 a ton.
“I think in the long run we’re going to a better place with it and we’re more comfortable with what’s happening to it,” Smith said.
Johnson County Refuse, headquartered in North Liberty, has been the city’s garbage and recycling hauler since 2003, according to City Administrator Cami Rasmussen. She was contacted Smith last year to begin the process of renewing the agreement, which expired in 2016.
Rasmussen told council members the contract for services was last renewed in 2011, when the contract increased from $4.50 to $4.75 per household.
“It’s been a good relationship,” Rasmussen said.
“Your service is outstanding,” said Mayor Steve Stange. “I think we’re very fortunate that we have a good working relationship with you.”
Council member Mark Prentice asked Smith if he thought Scott County would be a stable partner in the long run. “Maybe that’s more your concern than ours,” Prentice said.
Smith said he felt more comfortable with Scott County than City Carton. “I think the recycled market’s come back up a little bit, but it’s not where it was a few years ago,” he said. “It seems to run kind of in cycles.”
Stange asked how electronic waste would be handled.
The landfill still accepts monitors and televisions, Smith responded, but charges for it. Likely they would be treated as appliances in the future, with tags required, he said. Other types of electronics are recyclable, he added, but can still be allowed as garbage.
The city council approved the new contract for garbage and recycling collection with Johnson County Refuse at the Jan. 11 meeting and placed the first reading of the ordinance amending the city fees on the Jan. 25 agenda.
In between the two meetings, council members decided to increase the amount tacked onto recycling rates by the city.
The city has traditionally billed residents an additional dollar per household to cover administration costs associated with garbage and recycling, and to help fund the city’s annual cleanup day, Rasmussen said at a Jan. 18 regular session.
In 2011, the city absorbed the increase in the Johnson County Refuse contract and did not pass it on to residents, she said. For the last five years, the city has been keeping 75¢ of each monthly charge instead of a dollar.
“We do need to at least maintain the 75 (cents) in my opinion because our budget is dependant on that,” Rasmussen said.
Council member Mark Krall suggested increasing the city’s portion from 75¢ back to the dollar.
When added to the base price of the Johnson County Refuse contract ($5.35 per household) the dollar would raise the rate to $6.35 per residence, the amount that was approved at the Jan. 25 special session.
Two more readings must be approved and the ordinance must be published before the hike takes effect.