Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 21, 2010

Funds give Leelanau residents access to recycling centers

Funds give Leelanau residents access to recycling centers


GREILICKVILLE — At least once a week, Dave Mertz drives to the recycling station in Leelanau County's Elmwood Township and unloads reusable materials he'd collected at home.

He doesn't live far from the center on Cherry Bend Road, but that's not important. Mertz "would be willing to drive" regardless of the distance.

"It's the responsible thing to do," he said. "It's great for the community and for the environment in general to try and recycle as much as you can."

Leelanau voters will be asked Nov. 2 to approve a $29 annual recycling fee for 10 years. The measure continues a rate first assessed in 2006 and is anticipated to raise close to $300,000 each year.

The money would allow residents access 24 hours a day, seven days a week to the county's eight drop-off recycling centers, and operate three household hazardous-waste collections each year.

Voters in each township and municipality will vote separately on the issue. It can't be imposed in a jurisdiction if it is rejected. The fee will be collected only from residences, not from vacant or commercial properties.

Bingham, Kasson and Solon township voters rejected the fee the first time. Trudy Galla, Leelanau County's planning director, said residents there were allowed to pay individually.

This time, "we would love to have 100 percent participation," Galla said. "You can recycle as much as you want as a household."

The fee generated nearly $311,000 last year, about $226,000 in 2008 and roughly $336,000 in 2007.

Revenue is stored in a separate recycling fund, and any money remaining at the end of the year is carried over, Galla said. It cannot be used in the county's general fund.

About $60,000 is in reserves now, she said. Close to $75,000 of the recycling fund's balance was used in 2008 and 2009 to offset higher-than-projected hazardous-waste collections.

State law dictates how and when counties can request waste-collection fees.

Passed in 2005, Public Act 69 allows counties to ask voters to approve up to $4 monthly and up to $50 annually from households for recycling and waste collection.

The price was negotiated with contractors American Waste, which takes recyclables, and Environmental Recycling Group, which operates household hazardous-waste collection.

When the $29 first was charged in 2006, state law required it to be collected for five years before returning to voters. All future proposals are to be for 10 years.

The amount is "not too much to ask," said Ryan Fay, of Elmwood Township, who once a week walks with his dog to the Cherry Bend Road station.

Curbside recycling pickup, which Leelanau County doesn't offer, might convince more residents to save paper, glass and plastic, Fay said. But the drop-off sites have been convenient enough that he hadn't given the fee much thought.

"It's not that big of a town," he said. "Sometime or another, you'll be passing the recycling center."

Coming Friday: 105th state House District.