IRC asks Tyrone to remain member

Logan’s IRC member Jim Patterson heaped emotional appeals on council

TYRONE — Two leaders of the council of governments that oversees curbside recycling for the four Blair County municipalities mandated to do it made their case Monday to Borough Council for Tyrone to remain a member.

Tyrone officials, who revealed last month they were looking into breaking away from the Intermunicipal Relations Com­mittee because the annual assessment grew this year from $25,000 to $55,000, said after the meeting, they plan to continue to look into whether it will benefit borough taxpayers to leave.

Despite what borough officials may think, their staff can’t handle the responsibilities mandated by the state as well as the expert staff of the IRC, which includes Altoona, Logan Township and Hollidaysburg, said IRC Execu­tive Director John Frederick.

All four municipal staffs lack the necessary “knowledge or experience in composting, recycling program oversight, environmental education, special waste handling, processing of recyclable materials, recycling data collection and compilation, (Department of Environmental Protection) reporting (and) recycling grant application and administration,” Frederick said.

That has become true especially in recent years, given growing complications with recycling of electronics, hazardous waste and freon-containing appliances, control of illegal dumping and marketing of recyclables, Frederick said.

There are details to oversee, contractors who need to be pressured to perform, issues to be evaluated and problems to be solved, he said.

“It will be impossible for you to tackle all this, no matter how hard you try,” he said. “It seems likely that you’ll miss out on funding and program opportunities and struggle to meet reporting and administrative responsibilities.”

The borough may assume things will take care of themselves: Haulers will haul, recyclers will recycle, residents will comply, yard waste will be prepared properly, compost will happen, Frederick said. “(But) we can tell you from firsthand experience, nothing could be further from the truth.”

If the borough goes out on its own, it will also lose the benefit of economies of scale, Frederick said.

The borough’s concerns about the cost of subsidies doesn’t take account of there being no assessment at all for any of the municipalities in the 25-plus year history of the organization until last year, Frederick said.

The IRC would still be making ends meet on its own, except that state grant funds have been “fading,” he said.

As a small municipality, Tyrone may think it’s being taken advantage of, given that its assessment is the same as that paid by the bigger municipalities, but it’s a fair deal, because the bigger ones bring in much more grant money, he said.

Recent calculations show that Tyrone accounts for 20 percent of IRC costs — close to the 25 percent assessment, he said.

While Frederick cited rational arguments, IRC member Jim Patterson, chairman of the Logan Township supervisors, heaped emotional appeals on council.

“It’s a brotherhood here,” Patterson said. “We need you.”

Leaving would place a “tremendous burden” on the other municipalities, Patterson said.

He didn’t specify how much of a burden, but after the meeting, Frederick pointed out that dividing this year’s total subsidy by three instead of four would bring the assessment from $55,000 to $73,000 — an $18,000 hike.

It could get “to the point where municipalities are going to say how much can we afford?” he said.

He declined to say that that would be a formula of the dissolution of the organization.

“Put the shoe on the other foot,” Patterson told council. “What if we did that to you all?”

One of the problems with being a member of the IRC has been the distance — about 25 miles — to the IRC compost facility at the Buckhorn, Mayor Bill Latchford said after the meeting.

It’s not an ideal location for any of the municipalities, Patterson said, adding that the spot was chosen not by the IRC, but the county, years ago.

Maybe the IRC would consider creating a small satellite compost facility in Tyrone, like the one near Newry, which the other municipalities sometimes use, Patterson and Frederick said, making a concession to the threat of the borough’s departure.

Latchford said he didn’t know whether the IRC leadership was fighting for the organization’s existence, but he said their appeal — which included Frederick’s hand delivery of a packet of information to council members’ homes over the weekend — was a “tsunami.”

“I can certainly appreciate their passion,” he said.

“I’m asking you guys to reconsider,” Patterson said.