JB Green Team OKs cost-cutting measures

STEUBENVILLE – The JB Green Team board of trustees approved several immediate cost-cutting measures Monday night, including the elimination of their grant program, a reduction of school funding through the paper recycling program and a reduction of township cleanup and tire collection projects.

Also under consideration in the 2014 budget is a hard look at the recently implemented curbside recycling pilot programs in Steubenville and Martins Ferry, a consolidation of the annual household hazardous waste collection and the elimination of the advertising budget.

The board spared immediate budget cuts for the litter enforcement programs in Jefferson and Belmont counties and the Jefferson County Health Department.

“I didn’t have a chance to make my case before the finance committee. If you approve these budget cuts for the health department, solid waste inspections is out of business. We monitor the Apex Sanitary Landfill at the request of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. We inspect closed landfills and residual landfills. We spent 80 hours just last month on Apex. Without the money we receive from the solid waste authority, the OEPA will take us off their approved list and there won’t be any regular monitoring of the Apex landfill. And our work closing open dumping sites will no longer happen,” warned Jefferson County Health Department Administrator Bruce Misselwitz.

The budget cuts were first raised at an emergency October JB Green Team trustees meeting by Executive Director Cliff Meyer, who announced the parent company of the Apex Sanitary Landfill had sold its rail assets and transfer stations in New Jersey.

Meyer said the sale will mean out-of-state solid waste will no longer be delivered to the landfill in western Jefferson County by Jan. 1.

“We have seen the amount of out-of-state solid waste falling every year while drill cutting waste has increased. They have told us the solid waste has fallen off this year due to negative publicity and bad press. We saw a 9 percent reduction in total revenue from the landfill tipping fees in 2012, and so far this year we have seen a 7.2 percent decrease in revenue from the tipping fees,” explained Meyer.

“There are a lot of unknowns at this point. The company that bought the ELS rail assets already has landfills in southern West Virginia and in Ashland, Ken. We don’t know yet if the new company has a contract with Apex,” added Meyer.

The trustees voted 9-1 in favor of the budget cuts but delayed action on the Jefferson County Health Department and the litter enforcement program that recently was initiated in Belmont County and is set to start soon in Jefferson County.

Martins Ferry Mayor Paul Riethmiller voted against the budget after he cited his concerns regarding the curbside recycling test program in Steubenville and Martins Ferry.

“Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci and I did a lot of work to promote curbside recycling and I am seeing growing interest in Martins Ferry. To make a decision on curbside recycling after only three months is not long enough to properly test the program results. I understand we have to make cuts. But we have two communities where we said it was going to be a year-long trial. I think we need to look at a six-month trial,” Riethmiller declared.

“We were out front on the curbside recycling idea and we built a consensus in our communities. But a quarterly review will have to look at how the curbside recycling is progressing. We will be forced to look at our programs and our administration,” noted Mucci.

“As the finance committee started reviewing this budget we knew this would be a struggle. The reality is we don’t have the financing and we will need to be creative. The people who have received grants from the JB Green Team will ask what happens in 2014. We will have to make adjustments,” added Mucci.

Meyer proposed consolidating the annual township cleanups from 14 sites in Jefferson County and 16 sites in Belmont County to four sites in each county.

JB Green Team Trustee Terry Bell said the township spring cleanups and tire collections, “have always been a sacred cow for the township trustees.”

“I understand the program will have to be scaled back. God forbid it ever goes away because you know that material will end up along a road or dumped over a hillside. My biggest fear is the township cleanups will go away,” stated Bell.

“I am giving you my suggestions on where to make the necessary fiscal cuts. I hate to do this because we have made great programs. We have a number of very good programs. But we need to take a hard look at these programs. That includes reducing the money we pay the schools for their paper recycling. I am proposing we change the Household Hazardous Waste collection from every year in both counties to every other year. We can swap it between the counties,” cited Meyer.

Board Chairman Bob Chapman said the budget cuts will provide the solid waste authority with approximately $630,000 in cash reserves, “that will allow us to operate 24 to 30 months if we lose our revenue from the landfill.”

In other business Monday night, Chapman announced he will be stepping down from his seat on the board of trustees along with Bell.

“There will be a reorganizational meeting in January and that will include the appointment of our 15th member. That position is currently held by William Weekley of Belmont County. Anyone interested in applying for that seat should attend our January meeting,” said Chapman.