Photo by The North Platte Bulletin
Mona Anderson of Keep North Platte and Lincoln County Beautiful with a curbside recycling container.
Curbside recycling, with its free containers spread around North Platte neighborhoods, is in dire financial straits, the owner of the company said Tuesday. Curbside recycling began in January, operated by Regional Recycling, with help from a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
Ten months later, the Regional Recycling company is struggling financially. Owner Brad Borges is asking for a development grant to help him survive.
Borges has requested a $66,000 grant from the city’s quality growth fund to help him weather tough times and low prices for recycled materials.
City officials have not agreed what to do with Borges’ request. The city council tabled it Tuesday for at least two weeks.
But Borges told the council without the money, he cannot operate curbside recycling beyond 2012. He said market prices have dropped severely. However, said there are reasons to plan for better times. He has reasonable expectations that market prices will return to more normal levels within 3-6 months.
Brad and his wife Melinda bought the recycling business in 2008. They have six full time employees. The company recycles office paper, newspaper, cardboard, plastics, metals and cans, Borges said in his grant request.
The grant money would allow him to pay about $11,000 in bills and do $10,000 worth of maintenance and repairs. The rest of the money would provide a cushion of operating capital for another nine months, he said in his request.
Borges first approached a citizen’s review committee for the North Platte Quality Growth Fund. That committee considered paying Borges a market-based subsidy instead of a one-time payment of $66,000. The idea was to pay Borges a break-even price for cardboard, paper and office paper when his receipts showed that the market price was below break-even.
But the advisory committee split on that idea – voting 2-2. Member Bob Phares absent.
So, without a recommendation, Borges went before the council.
When asked if he could ask a financial institution to loan him that much, Borges said he “created a large amount of debt to begin this and my credit line is maxed out. Basically, if I don’t get help I will be looking for another job.”
About 24 percent of the homes in North Platte have a curbside recycling container, said Mona Anderson of Keep North Platte and Lincoln County Beautiful.
Councilman Jim Carman said he likes the recycling program, but has concerns.
“It’s a feel-good thing,” Carman said. “But, my take on this is that the prices on these kinds of things fluctuate all the time. It’s not a good business plan to not anticipate this. We may be opening ourselves up for a continuing dilemma and I think the money could be used for better things.”
Councilman Larry Campbell supported Borges’ request.
“We are already involved with the curbside recycling program and it’s a good thing,” Campbell said. “We already have an investment in it and we shouldn’t just walk away. I am in favor of some kind of continuing help, but we need time to consider more information.”
“What happens to money left, if the market comes back sooner than expected?” Campbell said.
Councilman Tim Barrett said he is more comfortable with a subsidy than awarding a lump sum. Barrett also said more information and time are needed.
Councilwoman Judy Pedersen moved to amend the grant request to allow market prices to be recorded and a subsidy paid. Dan McGuire seconded the motion but other council members were not ready to settle it quickly.
After more discussion, Barrett, Carman and Campbell voiced more concerns about not having enough information, and Pedersen withdrew her motion.
The council then agreed unanimously to table the request for two weeks to allow City Administrator Jim Hawks to gather information on fluctuating market prices and present more information to the council.
Then, the council agreed 7-1 on a three-month agreement with Borges and Regional Recycling, extending an existing agreement to broker recyclables collected at the city’s drop-off sites. The city will pay the customary $7,500 to Regional Recycling immediately instead of at the end of the three months, to help the company’s cash flow.
Carman voted no.
But Carman joined the others in two related moves. The council unanimously agreed to continue to lease a recycled materials baler and a conveyor sorting line to Regional Recycling for three months.
In other action, the council:
• Unanimously authorized payment of $23,662 from Jerry Remus Chevrolet for a 2013 ¾ ton cargo van, and a $58,832 for two 2013 4x4 extended cab pickups with utility boxes from Janssen Chrysler Dodge Jeep. All three vehicles are for the electric department.
• After a public hearing, approved an application by Randy, Monica and Joshua Kramer for a conditional use permit to allow a private counseling office to be located at 121 N. Willow St.
• Approved an application by Paulsen Inc. for a conditional use permit for two 1,000 gallon propane tanks and one 11,700 gallon diesel fuel tank at 1905 S. Newberry Rd, near Paulsen’s ready-mix concrete plant.
• Awarded a contract to Midlands Contracting Company of Kearney for 2012 sanitary sewer improvements in the amount of $472,547.28.
• Approved the mayor’s re-appointments of Charlie Moreland and Bud Gale to the city plumbing board.
• Adopted, on second reading, the annexation of a lot at the intersection of Valle Vista Drive and east of Echo Drive, west and north of the south campus of North Platte Community College.
• Agreed to discuss common interests with other cities in electrical usage and rates, as opposed to the interests of rural electric users. In the resolution, the cities aim to lobby more effectively.