CLARKSBURG -- While the fiscal year 2001-2002 budget process was relatively easy for council members, one of the biggest issues raised was funding for the city's compost facility.
Vice Mayor Kathryn Folio and Councilwoman Margaret Bailey initially opposed funding the facility this year. Bailey since has backed off because she believes the facility provides a much-needed service to the community and the environment.
The original budget submitted to council included a recommendation by City Manager Tom Vidovich to close the facility if a $50,000 subsidy was not received from the Harrison County Solid Waste Authority. That request was later reduced to $32,500, but still denied by the authority.
Despite not receiving the funding, council agreed to keep the facility open for at least another year.
A key budgetary problem with the facility: Council members and city administrators have said the state has not been actively enforcing a law banning yard waste from solid landfills.
During the final budget meeting, City Manager Tom Vidovich said he hoped that would change in the coming year, with a new governor and state administrators.
"This gives us a year for transition," he said. "If these laws are enforced as written, we will be ahead of the curve of other cities."
The city's contention is that if the state law banning yard waste from landfills was properly enforced, anyone with yard waste would be compelled to haul it to the facility. And then, they say, the facility would pay for itself.
Officials from the state Division of Environmental Protection say that line of thinking is flawed.
"A lot of (landfill) facilities separate and handle yard waste themselves. It's a fairly common practice around the state," said Mike Zeto, Chief Enforcement Officer. "But as far as requiring people to take their yard waste to a composting facility, I'm not sure the law takes it that far. Basically, the law says you can't dispose of yard waste in a landfill, but it doesn't go so far as to say you must take it to a compost facility."
While both Zeto and Dick Cooke, assistant chief of the Office of Waste Management, said that the state encourages composting, requiring it is not practical on a statewide basis.
Cooke said there are several county- or municipal-run facilities around the state, but in many areas there is not one available. Cooke cited the Jefferson County and Cabell County solid waste authorities and the city of Charleston as examples of such facilities. But Cooke said that even in those areas it is not a requirement that yard waste be composted.
"The DEP strongly encourages persons and entities to use composting facilities if they exist. It's what we should be doing and it's what the law intended," Cooke said. "Clarksburg is one of the leaders in this and they've made a commitment to composting. We certainly hope it survives and people utilize the facility."
Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.