Commissioners discuss future of recycling center
Saying that the recycling center was ripe for financial review while offering a lot of potential, Isabella County’s new administrator asked the board of commissioners to get behind studying the facility’s future.
“In order to go for any type of grant dollars, we would need to have that feasibility study completed,” Nicole Frost told commissioners during her first report as the county’s new administrator. “We need to know the data. To think about a regionalization effort, we need to know the volume of recyclables in our region.
“Those things would come from a feasibility study.”
Commissioners took no formal action, but their words were supportive of the idea. Frank Engler, a District 2 Republican from Chippewa Township, was one.
“There are opportunities there,” said Engler, generally considered the county commission’s expert on recycling. “You probably don’t want it to stay the way it is. There probably does need to be some changes.”
During an interview last week, Frost said that the MRF still operates largely the way it did when it first opened in the early 90s.
“The only thing left from the 90s about recycling is the guilt,” she said in an interview last week.
Such a study would look at the possibility to change the way the MRF operates so that it is easier for waste haulers to bring recycled materials from a larger geography. It would require an up
front investment, but the facility could also bring in additional money.
Currently, waste haulers are paying the facility to drop off materials, which are bundled and sold. Currently, prices for cardboard and plastic are good, owing to the pandemic.
What holds it back is that the way the MRF operates, it requires some pre-sorting of waste.
If haulers could bring everything jumbled together, it could make it a more attractive destination rather than paying to take it to Grand Rapids and other places.
It would also help the county from a budget standpoint. Last year, Isabella County subsidized MRF operations with $450,000 from its general fund. County Commission Vice Chairman Jim Horton, a District 4 Republican from Union Township, said that amount has increased over the years.
During her presentation, Frost asked if commissioners should stand an ad hoc committee to handle
it. During his comments, Horton said that the existing committee structure offered an appropriate framework.
“You already have a group together subject to Open Meetings (Act), things like that,” he said. “I really like the idea of doing that.”
The MRF is jointly owned by the county and Mt. Pleasant, although its employees fall under the county.