Multiple inquiries to the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (RSWA), Charlottesville City, and Albemarle County yielded some interesting information about how much the public is paying to fund the McIntire Recycling Center’s operation: no one, at any of the entities knows!
In what appears to be a case verging on criminal negligence, the very authority that runs the money-squandering recycling facility not only doesn’t know how much they’re losing every year, but, despite having the figures at hand, they also are not interested in “doing the math” to find out.
Judith Mueller, director of Charlottesville’s Public Works Department, reported to Charlottesville City Council on several occasions, between 2002 to 2006, that the facility was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. There was Council discussion during that time about potentially shuttering the operation, but no consensus could be reached.
In order to obtain clarification on the current financial status of McIntire, an initial FOIA request was emailed to RSWA Executive Director, Tom Frederick, on Friday, July 3, 2009 as follows:
I’d like to get a profit and loss statement for the McIntire Recycling Center for each available year since its inception. In other words, I’d like to see how much it has cost to run each year (expenses) and how much money it brought in each year (revenue).
Please let me know if you need clarification on this request. I hope that I have stated it clearly.
On July 10, 2009, Tom Frederick responded:
In response to your request, RSWA has not identified any records in existence that provide “profit and loss”, or expenses and revenues, as you have requested, specifically limited to the McIntire Recycling Center.+ There is a cost center in the RSWA budget and accounting system for “Recycling Operations”, but this center consolidates all RSWA programs classified under recycling, to include the Paper Sort facility and special collection programs such as the Household Hazardous Waste Day events as well as the McIntire Recycling Center.
It is also important to note that RSWA recycling programs such as those mentioned above are provided to residents of the County and City free of charge as public service programs and therefore were never intended to be profitable enterprises.+ There are some recycling services offered by private enterprises for which customers who desire the service pay a fee, but throughout the country most if not all programs that are open to all citizens of that community free of charge are not making a “profit”.
Please advise if you wish to amend your request based on the information above, or you may call me first if you have further questions.+ If you desire further information from us, we will need for you to clarify your request by e-mail or another written form.
Frederick’s reply proffers the following salient points:
- RSWA does not know how much money McIntire costs to run.
- RSWA does not know how much income McIntire brings to the authority.
- RSWA does not know how much money the facility is currently losing per year, or how much it has lost in any past year.
- RSWA does not care how much McIntire costs to run or how much money it is losing, since this is a “free” service to “residents of the County and City.”
On July 13, 2009, a follow up request was made of Mr. Frederick:
Although the documents do not currently exist, is RSWA able to provide “profit and loss” or “expenses and revenues” statements for McIntire Recycling Center operations, based on the information you do have? In other words, can you extrapolate such a statement from the information which you possess? If so, I’d like to have that information.
If RSWA does not know how much it costs to run McIntire Recycling Center and/or does not have means to or is not willing to calculate a profit and loss report, a simple statement to that effect would answer my question.
Thanks for your attention to this request. Please let me know if you need additional information or clarification.
No response was received, so on July 20, 2009, the above request was resent to Tom Frederick.
Two hours later, on the same day, Mr. Frederick responded:
On July 10 we responded to you that our budgeting combines all recycling programs together under what is called “Recycling Operations”, which I believe is responsive to your request.+ You are more than welcome to review our budget document, which is conveniently on our website under ”What’s New” from the Home Page.
It would take many staff hours to go through every detailed posting to the Recycling Operations budget to attempt to discern what expense or revenue is directly associated with McIntire vs. other locations and recycling programs, and frankly, because our personnel work at multiple facilities as the need arises (because it is more efficient), we would still be making some assumptions in attempting to “break out” only McIntire.+ In the past I’ve admired your interest in program efficiency, and therefore hope you can appreciate that assigning our limited staff such additional work does not provide a sufficient return benefit, either for the organization or for the public.
Frederick’s followup clarifies that:
- RSWA is unable to easily ascertain the operating costs of McIntire Recycling Center.
- RSWA does not see value in knowing how much McIntire is losing per year.
In order to determine whether Charlottesville City or Albemarle County had any information on the cost of running McIntire, inquiries were sent to both governments. Neither claimed to have any knowledge of McIntire finances; both suggested contacting RSWA.
Since no one appears to know how much it costs, and purportedly it is losing lots of money, is it time for RSWA to close McIntire Recycling Center?
It makes no financial sense for City ratepayers to be underwriting this facility. They already have “free” curbside pickup for most recyclables.
If County residents primarily are benefiting from this service, shouldn’t it be funded by Albemarle County, not RSWA? And shouldn’t the location be changed to one of more convenience to County residents and of less disruption to City residents?
The current RSWA recycling scheme is a failing business model, partially because of the laissez faire unmindfulness revealed through documented correspondence. Instead of taking decisive action to stem the flow of “green” red ink, by shutting down McIntire, RSWA has chosen to spend over $300,000 on a publicly funded frivolous lawsuit to shut down a privately owned competitor, van der Linde Recycling. That entity’s business model, if successful (and it shows every indication that it will be), would likely bankrupt RSWA.
In spite of being sued by the authority, van der Linde Recycling principal, Peter van der Linde, has generously offered to relieve RSWA of their financially hemorrhaging McIntire Recycling operations. His proposal appears to save a bundle of local taxpayer dollars, while dramatically increasing the efficiency of the operation and the convenience for local recyclers.
Here is Peter van der Linde’s offer to the RSWA:
- Any number of containers in any number of locations at no cost to the City or County
- Since all recyclables can be mixed together (single streamed) in single container, all locations will be unstaffed and open to receive 24/7.
- We will monitor the container levels at no cost and, when full, haul the container to the recycling facility dump and return the container to the receiving sites for $75.
- A tipping fee of $24 per ton would be charged to separate and recycle the container’s contents dumped at the recycling facility.
Sounds straightforward and economical, right? Any takers? Unfortunately not.
Under these circumstances, it is logical to ask why City Council’s representative to the RSWA board, Democrat, David Brown, has not demanded that the Authority drop its van der Linde lawsuit immediately and begin negotiations to implement van der Linde’s proposal. Certainly this would be in the best interests of City residents and taxpayers.
While Brown would not likely answer the question, it could be surmised that he is hesitant to make such a request because the lead attorney for RSWA’s crusade to crush van der Linde, is Jonathan Blank. Coincidentally, Blank is the co-chair of the Charlottesville Democratic Committee.
Something is rotten in Charlottesville, and it’s not the garbage that RSWA collects. The stench is nothing more than the putrid odor of corruption and incompetence emanating from RSWA and their perfidious political partners.
About the Author: Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA's The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.