Presque Isle County voters will decide whether to pay a millage to support the county's recycling program in November's election.
County commissioners have voted to ask property owners to pay up to one-tenth of a mill annually for four years, enough to raise about $64,696, according to ballot language. The money would go toward refurbishing and maintaining dumpsters for five collection points, as well as hauling materials to an Emmet County recycling plant.
Commissioner Mike Darga, a member of the board's resource recovery committee, said the millage would cost the average homeowner about $20 to $30 per year.
Even those who don't recycle could benefit from supporting it by diverting material from landfills, which eventually will fill up and need to be replaced, commissioner board Chairman Carl Altman said.
"The sooner that landfill fills up, obviously the sooner they have to build another landfill, and that cost gets passed on to the consumer, whether that person is a recycler or not," he said.
Darga said more and more people are recycling since he was elected as commissioner in 1997. As more people use the service, hauling fees have gone up, compounded by climbing fuel prices. Overall, the program's budget has grown from about $12,000 when he was elected to about $80,000 for the county's fiscal year in 2011 and 2012.
"It's costing the county a lot of money out of the general fund," he said. "We've got to recoup the money some other way."
Originally, the program was funded through a portion of tipping fees paid by trash haulers for each truckload dumped at landfills, money the county no longer receives, Altman said. If passed, the county would spend the millage money on the recycling program, including a project to alter dumpsters to hold more plastic, metal and glass, materials that no longer need to be sorted by those who drop them off. They're also being retrofitted to accept cardboard.
Currently, the county has collection dumpsters in Bearinger, Krakow, North Allis and Ocqueoc townships, as well as in the community of Hawks, Darga said. These dumpsters are being changed from four compartments to two on a rotating basis so haulers can take more recyclables per trip, instead of hauling them when one compartment is filled. The county has already spent about $16,000 under the premise that this alteration could significantly reduce hauling costs.
The county also could spend millage funds on a new collection point, either in Posen or Onaway, Altman said.
Darga said the millage is a small cost to support a program people like to use. Another perk is that materials collected in the county and hauled to Emmet County Recycling Services are resold within the state.
"It's all a Michigan thing. They send the cardboard downstate," where it's recycled into paper bags, he said. "Everything is recycled here in Michigan and sold back here in Michigan."
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5688.