It’s no secret that the Colfax County Recycling Center is struggling to make ends meet through its current operation.
Annually, Mayor Jon Knutson said that about 7,000 vehicles make their way through the facility’s doors to drop off newspapers, magazines, paper bags and several other approved items.
The issue at hand is that Keep Schuyler Beautiful, the facility’s operator, isn’t receiving enough grant funding to run the facility the way it needs to.
To combat some of the recycling center’s woes, Knutson during a recently held Schuyler City Council meeting received approval to send out a letter to other county entities attempting to receive dollars that would go toward the center’s operational expenses.
The city is also planning to contribute $5,000 out of its gathered Keno Funds to Keep Schuyler Beautiful, though formal council action will be required for that to happen.
“I have a letter prepared that I will send out to all kinds of governmental units in our county, but it would make no sense to set it up without you guys jumping in,” he said, referring to the six-person governing body. "So what I’m asking is for $5,000 to come out of our Keno funds for this year and then we (the city) could probably hold off for a while … But if we would do that I would have the courage, I guess, to ask other government units in our county to step up and do the same."
The mayor noted that the Keno fund is currently comprised of more than $38,000 and is generally used to balance budgets that “don’t quite cover themselves.”
Without the proper help, it’s very possible the recycling facility could close doors in the near future.
“I was told by members of their (KSB) committee that they did have CDs (Certificate of Deposit) and they will be cashing them to make things flow, but if they run out of money they will close their doors,” Knutson said.
In February, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality announced the recipients of this year’s annual Litter Reduction and Recycling Grant program. A total of 49 grants worth a total of $1.3 million were awarded.
Mary Peschel, who serves on the board of directors for KSB, previously reported that the organization is receiving/received $23,884 from the NDEQ grant - only half of what was requested. The funds are used to cover the operating expenses for the Colfax County Recycling Facility.
“We’ve been managing on a shoestring for many years, so you have to adapt your operation to what you have,” Peschel previously said. “So it’s a very difficult time right now.”
Ward 3 Council Member Jane Kasik questioned whether this would be a one-year contribution or if the city would be tying its hands for years to come by taking this action.
Knutson said that the city would have to assess its budget and Keno funds to have a better idea of how to proceed moving forward.
The position KSB is in regarding its facility isn’t uncommon. Several other facilities around the state in recent years closed doors for a variety of reasons.
“Looking at other communities, some of them are just stopping with the (city) recycling,” Ward 1 Council Member Alden Kment said. “Columbus and Fremont have, and there are a lot of communities struggling with this deal and I don’t know what the answer is.”
Ultimately, the council did vote in favor of Knutson sending out his letter of inquiry, however, the group indicated that it didn’t want to make more than a one-year commitment up front with its Keno fund dollars.
"I'd be fine with doing it for one year and then reevaluating and going from there,” Ward 2 Council Member Dan Baumert said. “I just don’t want to go out and promise every year.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at email@example.com.