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Clarksburg seeks answers to compost dilemma

by J.R. Brammer

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- More than $2 million of city taxpayer money has gone into the compost recycling center since the early 1990s, but non-resident revenue -- once projected to subsidize the city's investment -- hasn't surfaced.

In 1990, responding to a looming state law to prohibit the dumping of yard waste such as grass clippings and shrubbery in landfills, Clarksburg began constructing a facility to turn the waste into a mulch-like product for re-use and possible resale.

The compost facility, located in North View, became operational a few years later.

The law, which was supposed to require neighboring cities to use the facility, was never enforced because of widespread political opposition.

The city of Clarksburg subsidizes the costs of recycling yard waste for its residents. Non-resident usage, once predicted to be the backbone of revenue and make the compost facility economically feasible, has had limited impact.

The facility, which requires more than $116,000 per year in operating expenses, collects just shy of $35,000 per year in revenue.

City officials met Wednesday night to discuss how best to approach and correct the situation.

"It was never designed to be for profit," said Mike Grunau, chairman of the Solid Waste Authority. "But it would have been a lot closer to breaking even (if the law were enforced).

"The law has sort of backed off and left the city high and dry."

The Solid Waste Authority has contributed about $200,000 to the project.

City council, Public Works Superintendent Anthony Bellotte and Solid Waste Authority officials departed Wednesday night's meeting with no definite solution.

City officials need to:

n determine if the Solid Waste Authority will continue appropriating money to the site;

n if equipment planned for the site will make the mulch more attractive for sale;

n review operating expenses for possible cutbacks;

n lobby the Wise administration to enforce the law;

n ask county commissioners to attach the use of the compost facility to planned changes in recycling policies;

n or whether to scrap the project all together.

Staff writer J.R. Brammer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at jbrammer@exponent-telegram.com.

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