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IRC looking to launch authority

Proposed surcharge on haulers would fund electronics-hazardous waste collection

The organization that oversees state-mandated recycling in four Blair County municipalities wants help in funding services it provides to the whole county.

The Intermunicipal Relations Committee, representing Altoona, Logan Township, Hollidaysburg and Tyrone, runs a deficit of $53,000 a year collecting electronics and household hazardous waste — services that benefit residents from all 24 municipalities.

To help defray that cost and cover the pro-rated $23,000 subsidy the IRC provides for those non-member municipalities, the IRC is proposing an authority with all county municipalities as founding members.

That authority would have the power to impose a surcharge that all haulers would pay when they “tip” their loads at landfills or transfer stations — a surcharge that would fund the electronics-hazardous waste collection deficit.

The only way the plan would work is if all, or nearly all, the municipalities agree to become members, officials said.

Accordingly, IRC Executive Director John Frederick plans to invite elected officials in the 20 non-IRC municipalities to consider the idea.

“I’d like to give them a feel for the challenges and the ways we can meet those challenges,” Frederick said. “So we can address this in a way that’s fair to everybody, and provide the services that would not cost the (non-member) municipalities anything directly.”

The IRC municipalities would be members of the authority also, he said.

If not enough municipalities agree to join an authority, the IRC would need to ask for general-fund contributions, proportional to each municipality’s population, officials said.

Those who didn’t contribute would risk losing access to the electronics-hazardous waste collection service, they said.

IRC member Patrick Plummer, a Hollidaysburg councilman, believes the IRC needs to be aggressive in tracking down money from non-member municipalities for those countywide services, given the recent need for the member municipalities to contribute money to fund basic IRC operations.

Each of the member municipalities has agreed to contribute $25,000 this year.

For now, those $25,000 contributions are helping the IRC deal with cash-flow problems caused by delays in state grants.

But by the middle of next year, the operational deficits the IRC has been running for several years will finally exhaust its savings, so the member-municipality contributions will be needed regardless of cash flow.

The IRC is not seeking help from non-member municipalities to fund the member municipalities’ state-mandated responsibilities — mainly curbside recycling and composting, said Katrina Pope, the IRC education and enforcement coordinator.

Logan Township Manager Tim Brown said that he would have preferred a quiet campaign, with elected officials from member municipalities speaking individually with colleagues in non-member municipalities.

“I think we’ve got the cart before the horse,” he said.

The tipping surcharge that an authority could impose would take the place of the fee the county used to impose to help fund its Solid Waste Department, which collected electronics, household hazardous waste and compost materials, Frederick said.

A state court struck down the authorization for counties to impose that fee, which led to the eventual elimination of the county Solid Waste Department and the IRC’s takeover of its responsibilities.

There is no question that an authority has the power to impose a surcharge as the IRC envisions, officials said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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