A dispute over the proceeds from a Midtown recycling center has a city consultant asking Keep Mobile Beautiful to prune back one of its branches in the hopes curbside pickup could someday be a feasible option.
Keep Mobile Beautiful is made up of three entities: a nonprofit “friends” group; a commission comprising council and mayoral appointees; and a city department. In the past, the nonprofit arm and the commission have worked hand in hand, but consultant Don Irby has said each of those boards must be more autonomous.
At issue is control of the proceeds from the city’s recycling center on Government Street in Midtown. Previously, those funds have been distributed and used to pay a number of bills for Keep Mobile Beautiful. Irby, by request of Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office, has told the nonprofit the money should be controlled by the appointed commission and used to help bring curbside recycling to the city in the near future.
“The commission is an advisory group,” Irby said. “The issue is, legally, the funds raised by recycling have to go back to the city and be designated for recycling.”
At a recent monthly meeting of the nonprofit board, commission co-chairwoman Devon Ford explained the city’s position further.
“The board hasn’t been bringing in any other money and has spent recycling money on other issues,” Ford said. “The city doesn’t want recycling managed by people not connected to the city.”
Depending on the demand and the volume, proceeds from the recycling center can total anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000 per month, KMB Commissioner Catherine Pierce said. The board, however, recorded a loss of more than $2,000 last month, according to numbers presented at the monthly meeting.
Many board members said they want recycling to flourish in the city, but some expressed concern over the changes the city was making after more than 20 years of operating one way.
“I felt upset over the city coming in and saying ‘what you’ve been doing is all wrong’ … ,” KMB board member Dianne Martin said. “I’m still very concerned about it.”
Others said they just felt left out of the process and wanted to be more involved in decision making.
Irby said he spoke to commissioners before the board meeting about the possible feasibility of single-stream, curbside recycling in the city. One option he noted would be for trucks to pick it up and bring it to Emerald Coast Utility Authority in Pensacola.
Irby said there could be a fee associated with the service and the commission would have to research whether Mobile residents would be willing to accept that as a city service.
At the meeting, the commission discussed possibly paying for a survey through the University of South Alabama to gauge interest in the service.
While some commissioners were optimistic about the prospect of curbside recycling in the city in the very near future, others, like Pierce, weren’t sure it could be accomplished.
“We’ll get curbside when we get a bridge,” she said.
Irby has also been tasked with finding savings within the city’s Keep Mobile Beautiful department. He said $4.5 million has been spent in the department since 2000. Money saved in the department, he said, could also be used toward bringing curbside recycling to the city.
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