Tyrone posture a concern

The possible departure of Tyrone Borough from the four-member Intermunicipal Relations Committee doesn’t necessarily portend the demise of the governmental council that oversees recycling in those municipalities.

But Tyrone’s departure, if it actually comes to pass, would inflict a significant blow, not only from the standpoint of the IRC’s overall positive environmental mission, but also in regard to the financial foundation that supports it.

Tyrone’s proposed departure stems from a big assessment increase implemented by IRC for 2018. After many years without any assessment, IRC established a $25,000 annual assessment for 2017 for each of its members — Altoona, Logan Township, Hollidaysburg and Tyrone Borough.

For 2018, the assessment fee has been more than doubled to $55,000.

Faced with the much bigger assessment, Tyrone officials — at least some of them — believe that the municipality can meet the state’s recycling mandates outside the IRC and save money.

It’s necessary to point out that the state apparently is the big culprit in why IRC has had to opt for an annual assessment. As explained at a Tyrone Borough Council meeting on Feb. 19, the commonwealth has reduced the size of the operating grants it is making available and hasn’t been on time with delivering grants that have been approved.

For anyone who has been following news about the state’s fiscal woes, that’s probably not much of a surprise.

The state aside, Tyrone Borough, as an IRC member, has had an open window for discussing its concerns with those overseeing the umbrella council. Upon learning about the borough’s possible departure, IRC Executive Director John Frederick indicated that the northern Blair community hadn’t sought discussions.

Still, it’s understandable that Tyrone officials recognize the unlikelihood of IRC being able to grant special treatment to Tyrone without creating unrest involving the other three communities.

Frederick doesn’t anticipate that Tyrone’s departure would lead to IRC’s demise. However, it is reasonable to suggest that Tyrone’s threatened action might plant a seed for at least some measure of rethinking by the other municipalities — especially if more money will be needed to keep IRC afloat.

“If I can save the (Tyrone) residents $55,000 a year, I’m going to do it,” said Borough Manager Ardean Latchford.

Latchford said Tyrone has curbside recycling covered under the borough’s single-hauler trash-collection contract. Therefore, he said, all the borough will need is a compost facility.

The borough manager said Tyrone has received approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection for a composting site at the upper end of Reservoir Park.

Commendably, Tyrone officials, on Feb. 19, didn’t rush to break ties with the IRC. Perhaps there will be the dialogue that Frederick advocates, with a positive result.

But on Tuesday, the IRC raised the possibility of litigation to prevent Tyrone’s departure, so that adds an additional element of uncertainty to what’s transpired so far.

Yet, in the end, it is Tyrone officials and the people they serve who maintain the right to decide what’s best for their community. Savings and efficiencies should be at the heart of every municipal operation.

Whether IRC will survive over the long term is impossible to predict, especially with the state’s financial involvement so shaky.

Regardless, recycling makes sense, and the four current IRC communities must continue to remain leaders on that front.