IRC needs support from state

It’s unlikely that the 20 Blair County municipalities not covered by Pennsylvania’s mandatory recycling law will step forward to help the local Intermunicipal Relations Committee avert a financial crisis now predicted to occur by mid-2018.

Money is tight for all local municipalities, and it’s doubtful whether many — if any — will be willing to contribute money that they need for their own fiscal obligations.

It would be laudable if they were willing and able to assist the IRC, which is the organization that, besides overseeing state-mandated curbside recycling for four Blair municipalities, allows the 20 others to benefit from hazardous-waste and electronics collections.

However, the IRC must face the dominating probability that the four municipalities covered most directly by the organization — the City of Altoona, Logan Township and the boroughs of Hollidaysburg and Tyrone — are the ones that will have to provide the funds to keep it afloat.

With its precarious financial future clear, IRC doesn’t have the luxury to relax its attempt to find the least painful solution to what’s before it.

As an article in Tuesday’s Mirror reported, IRC has voted to write to local lawmakers, protesting the requirement covering Altoona, Logan, Hollidaysburg and Tyrone.

That article also noted that, in the past, IRC officials have said they’d like the state either to eliminate mandatory recycling altogether or apply the rule to all municipalities.

Of course, the way Pennsylvania state government works, that’s easier said than done.

In reality, mid-2018 could be long past before Harrisburg gets around to trying to find ways to help solve the financial plights of IRC and other organizations like it.

From the state’s perspective, there’s really no urgency regarding Blair, due to local ordinances passed in 1991 requiring Altoona, Logan, Hollidaysburg and Tyrone to split any required costs evenly.

All four have budgeted $25,000 for the IRC for 2017, even though they might not actually have to pay out that money.

But judging from the fact that the IRC is averaging an annual operational deficit of more than $70,000 and is expected to exhaust its savings by mid-2018, 2018 appears to be when municipal contributions will be unavoidable.

From the standpoint of IRC and municipal officials, the state needs to provide the means for curbside recycling programs to support themselves without municipal subsidies.

That “means” would include revenue from taxpayers who are not under any directive requiring them to recycle.

So the issue of fairness to all is a major sticking point regarding the IRC’s shaky financial future.

And there’s an even bigger consideration that must remain at the forefront throughout the discussion that lies ahead: Adhering to the state’s recycling mandate would be much more expensive for Altoona, Logan, Hollidaysburg and Tyrone individually than what it is under IRC’s umbrella.

The recycling of reusable materials isn’t likely to go the way of a fad. The situation in which IRC finds itself needs brainstorming not only on the local level, but on the state level, as well.

Unfortunately from the standpoint of IRC and its four municipalities, they’ll probably have to navigate those waters without most or all of the other 20 county municipalities’ participation.

Those 20 are being hobbled by too many challenges of their own.