February 26, 2015

Electronics recycling pact off the table

NORMAL — The town has withdrawn a proposed intergovernmental agreement with Bloomington and McLean County that would have helped cover the cost of electronics recycling offered by the town.

Normal City Manager Mark Peterson notified Bloomington City Manager David Hales and County Administrator Bill Wasson on Tuesday, the day after the Bloomington City Council tabled a vote on the pact after some aldermen had questions.

“We’ve already spent a considerable amount of staff time; we don’t need to spend additional time on this,” Peterson said.

The town will continue to accept electronics at its drop-off center at 1301 Warriner Street and during monthly Saturday drives.

The idea of sharing the cost of recycling electronics was first discussed in the fall at a McLean County Solid Waste Management Technical Committee meeting after the town, which offers the service to any McLean County resident, started receiving bills for the previously free service.

The mandated funding from electronics manufacturers that helped cover the cost had run out, forcing Normal’s recycler, Vintage Tech of Naperville, to start charging to pick up and recycle the electronics. The largest cost in the program comes from recycling old televisions and monitors that have cathode ray tubes.

Between September and mid-February, the town had to pay more than $46,000 to recycle electronics.

The proposed intergovernmental agreement was expected to go to the city councils and County Board by the end of the year, but Bloomington City Manager David Hales raised some concerns, sidetracking the agreement until this month. The Normal City Council approved it Feb. 16; the County Board was expected to vote March 17.

The pact would have split any 2015 costs among the three entities based on population.

Normal spent $8,692 in January. Earlier this month, Vintage Tech informed the town it had received notification of its share of 2015 electronic manufacturers funding and promised to recycle 262 tons from Normal between February and November at no cost.

Peterson said Wednesday, because the proposed intergovernmental agreement has been withdrawn, Normal will cover all of January’s cost. Under the proposed pact, Bloomington would have picked up about $4,000 of that cost; McLean County, about $2,000.

The town will consider a new recycling contract later this year to cover December and beyond, he said.

Bloomington Alderman Kevin Lower was among those with questions about the proposed intergovernmental agreement. Lower said Wednesday that before the pact came to the council, he contacted Advanced Technology Recycling in Pontiac to discuss what that company could offer.

Normal had reached out to ATR when it issued a request for proposals for electronic recyclers last fall, but the company did not respond. Three other companies, including Vintage Tech, submitted proposals.

On the day of the Normal City Council vote on the pact, ATR contacted town officials via email saying it could provide a less expensive option. Because the proposal came in late and because council members said they wanted to maintain the integrity of the request-for-proposal (RFP) process, it approved a one-year pact with Vintage Tech.

Lower said he brought up questions at Monday’s Bloomington City Council meeting because he was “looking into the future; long-term, what are we doing? Can we do it at no cost or cheaper?”

He indicated that ATR offered to pay to recycle some electronics. ATR officials did not return calls to The Pantagraph on Wednesday.

“I certainly appreciate what Normal has done,” Lower said. “I did not intend for them to be stuck with the (January) bill.”

McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen said while he appreciates Lower and others “making sure Bloomington, Normal and McLean County gets the best deal, Normal went through a deliberate and fair process (for the RFP)” and that should be respected.

“We owe a thank you to Normal for taking a lead on electronic recycling,” Sorensen said.”It’s unfortunate this has become such a big deal.”

Bloomington Public Works Director Jim Karch also thanked Normal and said the city “will continue to evaluate a partnership this fall.”

A law that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, bans all electronics from being dumped in landfills and requires they be recycled.

February 26, 2015 6:00 am  •