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Terry Bly, a City of Thomson employee, is shown holding recycling containers like the ones the city will stop picking up later this month.

After Jan. 31, the program that allows citizens to place those green recycle containers at the curbside of their homes and businesses will cease.

The City of Thomson voted to discontinue its curbside recycling program because it is losing money and less than 30 percent of residential customers use it.

The City Council approved the Jan. 31 discontinuance during a Dec. 23 called meeting.

Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry presented a budget sheet that showed that the program had recycling costs of $162,219.99 and  revenues of less than $2,000 for the 11 months of 2019 for recycle items.  

“We have a lot of stuff in the warehouse and there is no market for it,” Usry said.  “We cannot continue to recycle and not get anything back in return when we are spending $162,000 and only getting back $2,000,” he said.

After Jan. 31, the city will place a recycle container to accept recyclable materials  at the current recycling center off Augusta Highway and a recycle container will be placed at the Transfer Station off Tankersley Road, both as a stop-gap measure, Usry told the council.

“We are going to have man them (the containers) and we would spend another $20,000 of our dollars and $20,000 of the county’s and we won’t know how much it would cost to have it pulled,” Usry said.  He estimated that the cost would be at least $500 for each load that was picked up by the waste hauling company from the recycle center.

“We have to stop the bleed,” he said.    

The mayor said that the city would incur expenses in paying for someone to watch the container placed at the recycle center. “We cannot leave it open to the public and we are going to incur some expense now to clean up what is out there,” he said.

The council approved allowing a container at the recycle center for 90 days and manned five days a week, for eight hours a day, at $40,000, to gauge participation and orderliness.

Council members Scott Whittle and Elaine Johnson wanted to know what would happen to the five employees of the Recycle Center when the recycling program ended.

“We need to find a place for these people before we do anything,” Johnson said.

“Our intent is to move them over to fill current vacancies, if applicable,” Usry said.  

The council, with a motion from Bud Lunceford, requested the City place the five employees, if possible, in other positions in the city. The council requested that when the five come in to work Feb. 3, that they come into new positions in the City. “They will not lose any seniority or time,” Lunceford mandated.

Responding to a question from local resident Bert Waller about recycling programs in area cities, Usry said the future of recycling services is questioned in them.

“It is a matter of dollars in justifying the expense,” he said.  Within the past five years, the highest year for revenue collected in Thomson in 2017, was $27,845.19.   He said the budget of $162,000 verses collections is dead weight.

“We are dealing with some deficits in our budget and this is one way to address that,” the mayor said.

He said within two weeks of the program’s Jan. 31 discontinuance, the recycle containers people and businesses possess would be collected and placed in storage.

Brenda Hilson asked the council why the $19 monthly fee residents pay for garbage and yard waste collects did not include recycling. “We never factored in that fee,” Usry said.

“It is a shame but we really need to recycle,” Hilson said.

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