The start of curbside recycling in Carroll County last week marked the beginning of the end for the 14-year-old recycling center on Route 97 north of Westminster.
The county government plans to close the center, possibly within six months, eliminating the jobs of six developmentally disabled workers and their two supervisors.
"That's going to be a serious, serious setback to Summer Enterprises," said Timothy J. Atkinson, executive director of the Carroll County Association for Retarded Citizens. The association has operated the recycling center since 1984. Summer Enterprises is CCARC's client evaluation, training and employment program.
As curbside recycling becomes widely available, county officials reason, volume at the recycling center will diminish to a fraction of the current 225 tons a month average.
"We feel that people will take advantage of curbside recycling," said Dwight A. Copenhaver, county recycling manager. He said his own reasoning as a county resident is, "I'm not going to continue making a trip to the bin if I can set [recyclables] at the end of my driveway."
Mr. Atkinson said the six recycling center workers will return to CCARC's sheltered workshop when the center closes, not an ideal placement.
The recycling center workers "have proved they can work daily with the public," Mr. Atkinson said. He added that some have difficulty with piece-work jobs performed at the workshop, and may receive lower paychecks if their productivity drops.
Wages at the recycling center are also based on productivity. Mr. Atkinson said five clients are currently earning the $4.25-per-hour minimum wage, one slightly less.
Employment prospects for the full-time job coach and part-time center manager depend on whether CCARC can win another work project contract, Mr. Atkinson said. Summer Enterprises is the apparent lowest of four bidders on a contract to service county parks and grounds. Bids were opened last week and are under review.
Westminster area resident Wayne Cookson, dropping off recyclables at the center Thursday, said he would be happy to leave them at the curb if his refuse hauler would tell him how to handle the items. He said he is happy with his trash collection service, but has not been told anything about how the hauler will handle recyclables.
Closing the center would make a difference to Verlie Benge, a Millers Station resident who arrived with his van filled with bags of aluminum cans.
"I'd want to keep bringing them here [for sale]," Mr. Benge said. He said his refuse hauler has not provided bins or information on recyclables.
The center pays 22 cents a pound for aluminum cans. The figure varies as the price of recycled aluminum fluctuates.
The county government budgeted $22,000 to pay individuals for aluminum cans and $39,500 to cover six months operating costs for the center in the fiscal year that began July 1.
The county has contracted with CCARC to operate the center for the past two years. The contract, $79,000 in 1991-1992, covered operating costs, and the county retained the right to resell the recyclables.
Income from the sales was "minimal," Mr. Copenhaver said. The county was able to sell only the aluminum cans. Plastic and glass bottles and some newspapers went to Phoenix Recycling Inc. in Finksburg at no charge and no reimbursement. Other newspapers were sent to a Hagerstown company at no charge and no reimbursement.
In 1992-1993, the county will pay Phoenix $258,000 to accept and process all recyclable materials.