The Montgomery County Council today rejected funding for the proposed mixed-paper recycling contract, calling it a bad deal for County taxpayers that would jeopardize future County recycling efforts.
Even though every Councilmember present voiced disapproval with the terms of the contract, the vote to deny $440,620 in funding for fiscal year 2000 was 6-2.
Councilmembers Marilyn Praisner, Betty Ann Krahnke, Blair Ewing, Phil Andrews, Michael Subin, and Nancy Dacek voted against the funding. Council President Isiah Leggett and Councilmember Steve Silverman voted in favor.
"This is not fiscally responsible from the perspective of the County ratepayer," said Councilmember Marilyn Praisner. "The contract’s assumptions are so flawed. We need a recycling program that’s sustainable and financially viable. Our recycling program must work right -- the first time."
Councilmembers were joined by environmental leaders in criticizing the contract, a contract that also drew fire from the County Executive’s own Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
"The Council did the right thing," said Neal Fitzpatrick, conservation director of the Audubon Naturalist Society. "Now the County Executive and the Council should get together with the contractor to come up with terms that are more reasonable for County taxpayers."
Originally, the contract presented to the Council last August estimated costs to the County of $18 a ton for 109,000 tons. When the County Executive staff presented their request for funding to the Council three weeks ago, however, the cost per ton had ballooned to $28 a ton for fiscal year 2000 and somewhat less afterwards – a 56 percent increase – for only 89,000 tons – a 20 percent decrease.
"This contract is extremely risky and could leave the County high and dry," said Councilmember Betty Ann Krahnke. "And the numbers change – depending on who’s asking and when."
"I am voting to recycle this contract because funding it, in its current form, would discredit County recycling efforts," said Councilmember Phil Andrews. "The contract requires the County to pay for 115,000 tons of mixed paper each year – regardless of how much we actually deliver. A more realistic estimate, based on the experience of other communities, might be 70,000 tons – assuming a big effort to boost recycling. We could pay $400,000 or more every year of the ten-year contract for undelivered tons."
"All of us support our goal of a 50 percent recycling rate," said Councilmember Nancy Dacek. "But we don’t support it ‘no matter what’ the price. This deal is ‘no matter what.’ The County taxpayers don’t want that. This is a totally different contract than what we saw last August."
"I initially supported funding for this contract," said Councilmember Blair Ewing. "But the closer you look, the more you see it’s not a good contract."
"Is this a good program to take risks on?" asked Council Vice Chair Michael Subin. "No, it’s not."
"The Sierra Club strongly supports recycling," said Montgomery Sierra Club board member David McGuire. "But bringing forth disputed assumptions about tonnage isn’t the way to do it. This was the right action for the Council to take."