Dear Editor:

I am writing to address incorrect and incomplete information in your June 21st article about the Fanwood Recycling Center and the discussion about it at the Borough Council meeting.

First, the Fanwood Recycling Center is emphatically not closed.  It will be operating until July 29th, as it had been for the last 30 years, by the Fanwood Scotch Plains Recycling Association. Until then, we know that residents of many communities will continue to use it.  After the 29th, the Center will be run by the Borough, under rules still to be determined.

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The Borough established the Association 30 years ago as a means to recycle funds from the sale of recycled materials back into the community through the funding of various civic organizations who staff the Center on Saturdays -- Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, community and church groups, fraternal organizations -- for their own community-building activities.  

We are ending operations because the Council's decision to move to curbside pickup destroys the financial model and the mission of the Association, which means we need to go out of business. Given we've been operating at a loss for the past several months and the Council has not even declared an intention to help the Association, we had no choice but to give the required 60 days notice to end our contract. It would be financially irresponsible to continue accumulating debt, so the last day of our operations at the Center, as noted, will be July 29th. We regret that this leaves a 6 week gap before the start of curbside pickup.

As to how we got to this point, Mayor Mahr is correct that consideration of curbside pickup was prompted by the Association's temporary loss of its non-profit status four years ago through the malfeasance of a former Treasurer. We worked hard to restore it, and, in fact, by the time the bidding process for recycling services was complete, the Association had regained its tax exempt status. Indeed, the Borough signed a contract with us as a non-profit (and lowest bidder), and we are and remain a 501(c)3 organization in good standing.

I'd like to state for the record that the Borough's funding for the Center has not gone up every year. We are in the second year of a three year contract that started in October of 2014 and would have ended September 2017. The contracted funding level was specified to decrease each year:  $49,700; $42,700; $34,300. In presenting information to the public in February, the Council chose to split the funding into calendar years, with a three month amount for 2014, and an obviously bigger 12 month amount for 2015. They then said "OhI, Look. It's going up every year!" The only funding we have received from the Borough to date is that which is stated in the contract.

It is true, however, that the $42,700 has proven insufficient to cover our costs, because we did not anticipate the collapse of the commodity markets (think price of oil).  So, 10 months ago we did indeed ask for an additional $36,500 help to cover our costs, which is what prompted the Council to revisit the question of curbside pickup.

It has taken the Council 10 months to make decision to move to curbside, during which time the Association has continued to operate in good faith in an effort to serve the public, and in case the  Council’s choice was for the Association to continue to provide services. However, we have done this at an accumulating loss, which as noted, is why we must cease operations before incurring even more debt.

The Council is currently considering is what help it can give the Association in closing its books with all our obligations paid. We have about $40,000 in debt, mainly for obtaining the larger baling machine which was essential to be able to continue recycling plastics, plus our recent operating losses. In its 30 years the Association has provided over $300,000 to civic groups, as was its mission established by the Borough. In addition, we have saved the tax payers of Fanwood over $1.5 million in fees not paid to curbside vendors, and have donated thousands of dollars to the Fire Department, Rescue Squad, Recreation Commission, Channel 24/35, and other Borough organizations.  

The question now is whether the Council can provide back to the Association a small percentage of what the Association has provided to the community in its years of service.

Sincerely yours,

Harold Clark, President
Fanwood Scotch Plains Recycling Association