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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Travis County to increase its recycling efforts
Friday, January 11, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano
Travis County commissioners voted this week to expand the county’s recycling efforts, unanimously authorizing roughly $66,000 for the collection and transportation of reusable materials at county facilities.
Commissioners also put their stamp of approval on expanding recycling through county facilities and developing an interlocal agreement with the Texas Facilities Commission for recycling services.
Presently, the county has a contract for recycling services at 12 of its facilities, with on-call recycling at other locations. But 15 county facilities are without recycling services. Natural Resources & Environmental Quality Division Director Jon White said “there is an opportunity for substantial improvement,” noting that employees at locations without recycling have developed ad hoc ways to recycle.
County Judge Sam Biscoe said, “Part of this plan is periodic reports to the Commissioners Court, and in my view every quarter would make sense. That way we will know what we are actively doing.”
To streamline the process, the county plans to take advantage of the operations of the Texas Facilities Commission, which provides recycling services for state offices downtown and has offered to do the same for county facilities. However, the new deal will not include the county’s administrative offices at 700 Lavaca Street, which is under contract with Balcones Resources.
About $46,000 in funding for the project will come from the county’s allocated reserve and $20,000 from the existing Transportation and Natural Resources Budget. The Planning and Budget Office did not recommend this strategy.
“We were very supportive of the recycling project,” said Planning and Budget Office Senior Budget Analyst Diana Ramirez. “Our whole issue has just been with mid-year requests coming more and more frequently. We want to be tightening down on that as much as possible.”
Ramirez said that her office would be happier with a pilot project initiated mid-year, with the program itself going through the normal yearly budget process for 2014. She added that a pilot program would have the additional benefit of giving concrete numbers to evaluate success of the program.
“It’s a cultural change, and we want them to be as successful as possible,” said Ramirez.
Biscoe disagreed, saying, “I guess if we are going to do this, it doesn’t make much sense to wait until the next budget cycle. It would seem to me to make more sense to go ahead and implement it, and then as part of that budget cycle we get an update and try and figure out where we are.”
“This is one of those areas that I think is important,” said Biscoe. “If we are going to do it, I’d rather do it now.”
Biscoe was concerned about generating revenue to offset the $66,000 cost. Environmental Program Manager Shaun Auckland assured him that they were looking for ways to recoup costs. She said she was looking into recycling old metal file cabinets for profit.
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