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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

$35,000 DCED Grant Went to For-Profit Company ... in Massachusetts

NorCo DCED Director Diane Donaher came under some criticism last week for a $35,000 grant to Re-Store, a nonprofit business located in Whitehall at the old Circuit City and associated with the Lehigh Valley Habitat for Humanity. It's for start up costs that would enable it to recycle latex paint.

Lori Sywensky, who is with NorCo's DCED depart defended that grant because both ReStore and Habitat for Humanity LV are Valley-wide entities. "We looked at the greater regional good here." Council member Ken Kraft defended the grant because it beats tossing it into a landfill.

Late yesterday, one of my readers discovered that the real recipient of this grant is a company called The Paint Exchange, LLC. It's located in Rockland, Massachusetts.

"Is the NorCo grant helping a Lehigh County nonprofit organization and also subsidizing a for profit company located in Massachusetts?" my reader asks.

It appears that the answer is Yes. From the corporate papers on file at the Massachusetts Department of State, it appears that we indirectly subsidized a Massachusetts company. A reader sarcastically observes, "Real good use of county gaming dollars! Create ZERO jobs for the county while helping others outside the county to profit."

Updated 11 am: As a point of clarification, I should note that this money went indirectly to The Paint Exchange. The direct recipient of the grant was LV Habitat for Humanity. Both ReStore and LV Habitat support regional efforts for affordable housing.


Mr. E said...

so wait? we gave $35,000 to Re-Store so what? they can take paint and drive it to MA to be restored and resold? Or will there be no paint recycling in Whitehall and the #35,000 just get given to the MA co?

~Elijah LoPinto

Anonymous said...

The County gave $35 K to Restore so the residents could get shelves of paint out of the garage and keep it out of our waterways. County lines don't exist in regionally charities.

Ken Kraft said...

Bernie, I support this because as I said before, they are only taking paint, at this time, from Northampton County Residents. They are having reclamation events in all areas of the county and we are recycling a great deal of waste that would otherwise be sent to the landfill. Would I have liked to have the paint reclamation facility In Northampton County, sure, but the Re-store habitat for humanity is located at the old circuit city building by the Whitehall mall and short of moving that entire operation that by the way serves the entire Lehigh valley, they had the room for this operation. The last point is if we took the paint at one of our yard waste events and then tried to get it recycled, we would spend well above the $35,000 that we invested in this endeavor

Before people complain, sorry about the extra commas or spelling errors, if any, I'm responding on my iPad

Kim Schaffer said...

I appreciate the careful consideration of this but have a hard time seeing it as anything but a net positive. Northampton County residents have been looking for ways to recycle latex paint for years, and, as the commenter above said, these issues don't stop at county borders. I trust Lori to have considered all the alternatives. We are fortunate to have someone in county government looking for good and efficient ways to serve county residents.

Anonymous said...

A few questions and comments:

1) Latex is not a hazardous material, correct? So it could be dried and disposed of in a landfill, and isn't necessarily something the County needs to collect.

2) Does Northampton County collect trash in the county? If not, it would then seem that this is a grant that should be borne by individual municipalities in the county, if they want to do so.

3) Are we saying Habitat for Humanity really needs this $35,000? A great group for sure, but I think they have a healthy balance sheet and already get a ton of grants and other pass through money. And if they're already receiving other grants through NorCo, couldn't this service be included as a condition of those grants. I'm sure there are other worthy non-profits in the county that would appreciate the $35,000.

4) Why does every resident have to pay for this service? If I contract out to paint my house, or buy the right amount if I'm doing it myself, why should I pay for someone else who isn't as responsible? This is a service for which a user fee ($X.00 per can of paint) seems more appropriate.

5) Similar to the previous question/comment, it doesn't seem like there's any accountability for how much paint someone's bringing there. Are the resident taxpayers of Northampton County actually subsidizing contractors who will be taking large amounts of paint there?

Anonymous said...

8:06. Typical republican response. What next? You only want to pay for the exact roads you use, or the only services you use? How about fire, or police you never use them so why pay for it lets make the ones who have fires pay for firemen. I'll take my chances because I am so smart I will never need that kind of service. It's your attitude that is destroying this country. I only want to pay for what I use why should I pay for all those idiots who call 911 why should I pay taxes for the roads I don't use, screw kids let them pay for their own education I got mine already when America used to care about edemacation let them get their Own. Was wah wah

Anonymous said...

Then go to county councils next meeting and de,and your 5¢ back that they used for this program

Anonymous said...

Do what I do. Dump all your paint in your used cat litter and put it out for the trash collector. He always says I have the stinkiest and heaviest garbage. If he only knew.

Anonymous said...

The whole tea party movement is based on hypocrites who want to take as much for themselves and the hell with society! John Brown is a perfect example: He wants to take away as much as possible from the employees. He wants to reduce the staffs by not hiring (or like in Bangor when he illegally fired the police chief and didnt replace him).
All this while at the same time squeezing as much $$$ from the taxpayers. Giving cushy jobs to friends for kickbacks, and taking vacations on the taxpayers (we didnt forget that $7,000.00 trip to Notre Dame for "leadership training" LOL).

Anonymous said...

For once, this is a great use of tax dollars and it's a program both counties should have had ten years ago. I'd rather recycle the latex paint instead of taking up the landfill space.

Latex paint is the liquid equivalent of the tire. Technically recyclable but most don't. Since the garbage won't take it and people don't have the time or energy to let it dry out, it usually finds it way to a nearby roadside.

Anonymous said...

First off, I think residents will be surprised when they find that not all their latex paint is even accepted. They do have requirements as to what latex paint they'll take.

Beyond that, this is a typical non-profit/government solution. A non-profit comes up with a good idea (recycling latex paint) and takes the easiest path to funding it (the government). The government eagerly throws money at it, without considering whether it's the proper level of government to be dealing with it, or doing the work to find better ways to accomplish the same goal that don't involve government funding.

Why not solicit donations from major paint stores in the county and the big-box stores (Lowe's, Home Depot) to fund this? They're the ones profiting off the paint in the first place and are getting away free as far as dealing with the problem they help create.

Why not hold the collection events weekly at one of the sponsoring retail sites, instead of just occasionally?

You could certainly charge a fee to those bringing paint to recycle (I know I'd happily pay a few bucks a can for it), and a smart retailer might even offer me a gift card for what I'm charged (up to a certain amount) to sweeten the deal. Then my cost is lowered, and the store is getting a boost in business for holding the event.

Of course organizing that takes a little bit of creativity, and a little bit of work, but it saves the $35,000.

I'd prefer that over the current "solution", and you could even ReUse the $35k toward an event for oil-based paints or other truly hazardous household items.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked that people are so casual about throwing this stuff--or continuing to throw it--in landfills. That's a typical American attitude: out of sight, out of mind, and not my problem. Good suggestion to enlist the big box stores to make a donation to subsidize this program in the future, but why not get it started w/this grant? I hope people do the right thing and recycle this substance.

Anonymous said...

10:35 only problem is the big box stores will just dispose of it. I doubt they would recycle to compete with their prime brands. So the material will just end up in an landfill anyway. But there are some misconceptions out there. To be honest, in all my years I have never had enough latex paint left over after several projects to even recycle. The small amount left can be easily separated from the can and left in the trash. That is hardly a significant volume to justify recycling. However, it is the can that ends up taking up space in landfills. But they can surely be recycled with other metal, correct? What does ReStore do with the old cans? I doubt that they use them for the recycled paint. Are the old cans recycled properly as well?

Anonymous said...

11:22 -

10:35 here.

Just to be clear, I believe that ReStore isn't taking paint at their Whitehall location, and is only planning to pick up at collection events, for which the dates locations, and frequency may or may not be determined at this time.

I'm suggesting holding it at a paint store or big box store where paint is sold. I would still have the ReStore run the event. I'd just rotate it around to the paint and other big box stores that would participate. That way, it brings potential customers to their location, which they'd probably like.

Even if they'd just offer a coupon to those bringing cans to their location on that day (for ReStore), it's an opportunity for them.

And ReStore could still do the same thing they're planning to do with the paint now.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your idea is a good one, and hopefully, someone at Re-Store will pick up on it.

Anonymous said...

So when the Commonwealth issues a grant to a municipality, are we to expect that only non-profit contractors will be doing the work? Without knowing the details, I find this as a public services that helps municipalities comply with PADEP regulations. I would not expect ReStore to have the technology the process waste paint. This has regional benefit. Just like the crime center that Lehigh County is funding. Proceeds from ReStore have benefits that cross municipal and county borders.