Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham and Board of Commissioners' Chair Dean Browning have no time to engage in ideological niceties. It is either privatize the Recycling Center or close it. It was operating at a loss, draining the County budget. So yesterday, Cunningham and Brownng announced that they announced that Middle Smithfield Materials (Palmerton, Pa.) will continue operations at the Lehigh County Organic Recycling Facility in Orefield after the County ceases operations there in June.
The facility receives grass clippings, leaves, tree branches and other organic recyclable waste from many of Lehigh County’s municipalities, landscapers and private haulers.
No campaign flyers. That's toxic waste.
“With the full cooperation of Board of Commissioners Chairman Dean Browning and the Board, we worked behind the scenes with municipalities, listened to their concerns and found a way to keep this facility open under an alternative structure so that the services could continue to be provided at as low a cost as possible,” Cunningham said.
Lehigh County, however, has operated a regional facility since the late 1980s, paid for through administrative fees paid by waste haulers for trash deposited at landfills. A 2006 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling ended that arrangement, so Lehigh County was losing between $250,000 and $500,000 in annual operating costs.
Middle Smithfield Materials has a five year deal with guaranteed rate structures for municipal users. A municipal consortium will assume ownership to retain eligibility for state grants to purchase grinders, screeners, loaders and trucks.
Browning calls this arrangement a non-critical function best handled by the private sector. "We’ll continue to look for other areas where this could be done to benefit Lehigh County taxpayers,” he promised.