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City may refuse $250K grant

Council concerned recycling facility may not be best use of site

City Council might decline a $350,000 state grant to upgrade a recently purchased recycling center on Margaret Avenue because of concerns that the money would be insufficient and that locating a facility for refuse in an area that is turning into a gateway is less than ideal.

Rules for the Department of Environmental Protection grant wouldn’t permit the city to simply repurpose the money, officials said at a City Council meeting this week.

At the suggestion of then-Intermunicipal Relations Committee Executive Director John Frederick, the city applied for the grant in March to buy the former J&J Recycling property, so the IRC could begin collecting recyclables — not including compost — there that Altoona-area residents might otherwise have to take to special electronics collections or to the IRC collection center at the Buckhorn, which is much farther.

The idea for a more convenient transfer station for recyclables not collected at curbside makes sense, but there’s probably a better location than on Margaret Avenue, council members said. That area is losing its industrial grittiness, as more businesses flourish downtown, with the refurbishing of the Elizabeth Apartments, with plans for streetscaping Beale Avenue and as redevelopment occurs at the former Bon Secours hospital property, the former silk mill near there and at the former Drenning property. It is also not far from the Jaffa Shrine.

The former recycling center, which has been vacant for many months, has been a magnet for dumping trash, which blows around on windy days, leading to complaints from neighbors, said Councilman Dave Butterbaugh.

While an upgrade to the facility might minimize its attractiveness for those creating that mess, it might be hard to eliminate the problem altogether, officials said.

The property might also be smaller than it should be for its proposed use, said Councilman Bruce Kelley.

Even if renovations could be completed with the grant money, plus a required $39,000 local match, the current poor market for recyclables might make it hard for the facility to be self-sustaining, officials indicated.

Yet refusing the grant could create problems too.

It’s not certain that the DEP would allow the city to sell the site now, after having been awarded the grant, according to officials.

Moreover, if it sold the property, it might not be able to recoup the whole cost, as the purchase price of $187,000 is $47,000 more than the appraised value.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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