By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
CAIRO — The Cairo Recycling Center will reopen after being closed since fall 2020.
The facility could be reopened by June, Town Supervisor Jason Watts said.
The town council voted April 20 by a 4-1 margin to reopen the facility. Watts and councilmembers MaryJo Cords, Michael Flaherty and Debra Bogins voted in favor of the resolution to reopen the recycling center. Town Councilman Tim Powers voted against it.
A similar resolution failed to pass at the board’s previous meeting with an abbreviated board in attendance. Watts and Bogins were not at the meeting and the measure failed by a 2-1 vote in favor. A majority of the board must vote for a resolution to pass. Powers was the lone dissenter that time as well.
Watts presented the resolution a second time at the April 20 meeting.
“We will put it through again and see if it passes,” Watts said. “I got a lot of feedback and phone calls from people.”
Watts and Cords have said several times that numerous people have contacted the board asking that the facility be reopened.
The recycling facility, originally sited at Angelo Canna Town Park, was closed in October 2020 by a unanimous vote of the board because people were dropping trash, furniture and other items into the dumpster, which then had to be disposed of into the normal domestic garbage stream and the town was charged fees. There were also incidents of park staff being “harassed” by facility users, according to the 2020 resolution.
Powers said he feared the same problems would occur again.
“I asked you [Jason Watts] last week when I spoke with you if you were able to get a guarantee from the county that the town wasn’t going to be charged if that dumpster has to be emptied [into the regular trash stream],” Powers said to Watts.
Watts responded that he did not get confirmation of that from the county. Powers said he spoke with county officials about the issue.
“They said what they are looking for is it has to be fully secured, it needs to be fully manned when it is open, and if those dumpsters have to be emptied it is going to cost us $115 per ton,” Powers said. “So again, I am asking — why are we putting in a repetitive service?”
In previous meetings Powers said local residents have other options for disposing of their recyclables, including the county transfer stations where both trash and recyclables are accepted, and through private trash hauling services.
Watts reiterated that he has been called by numerous residents asking for the recycling center to be reopened and said if the town is charged for disposing of trash and unrecyclable items, he would cover the cost himself.
“I keep getting asked about it,” Watts said. “I also said if we get charged that I personally would pay the bill and then it will go after that. We made a big deal about it and I am hoping the town learned a lesson from it. I think a lot of people will keep more of an eye out because a lot of people don’t want to lose the recycling center.”
Powers said even if that is the case, reopening the facility will bring other costs for local taxpayers.
“We are still looking at the expense of putting up a higher fence so people can’t get over the back fence to dump stuff in there at night,” Powers said. “We are probably going to have to increase police patrols in the park to make sure nobody is in there, or put up a surveillance camera, plus pay somebody to man it when it is open.”
At the previous town council meeting the board voted to increase the hours of a part-time town employee to full-time, with his increased duties including both staffing the recycling facility and cemetery maintenance.
Powers balked at the cost of the fence that would enclose the dumpster so off-hours dumping of inappropriate items would be prevented.
“OK, but how do we pay for this fence? Do we expect the other 6,000 people in the town to pay for that just because the handful of people that you talked to want it?” Powers asked.
Cords said there were a substantial number of people asking for the reopening.
“It’s not a handful,” Cords said. “We have had a lot of people come to our meetings to ask for it to be reopened.”
Watts added the county would also look to see if there was old fencing that could be donated to the town for use at the recycling facility.
The vote passed by a 4-1 margin and the facility, which will again be located at Angelo Canna Town Park, could reopen in June, Watts said.
“I don’t think it should reopen until everything is in place,” Powers said, “including the fencing.”