County officials say there's money to be made in single-stream recycling

The Baltimore County Council on Tuesday discussed a bill that could signal a new era in recycling for the county — and potentially turn single-stream recycling into a revenue stream as well.

The bill, discussed at the council's Nov. 1 work session, provides the means for the county to secure $25 million to renovate its existing Resource Recovery Facility in Cockeysville and build a new single-stream recycling facility at the same location.

County Director of Budget and Finance Keith Dorsey said the project represents an opportunity for the county — which began its single-stream recycling in February 2010 — to take advantage of the current recycling market and produce revenue from the facilities.

Dorsey said the county anticipates being able to generate up to $200,000 a month with the facility.

"That's what the recycling market is right now," said County Administrative Officer Fred Homan. "We'd be handling this operation ourselves, and we're doing this so that we can not only handle our tonnage, but an additional segment of tonnage" which could allow the county to take other county's waste in.

But first, the county has to build it, and Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr. raised several issues at the work session, chiefly the funding aspects — which would allow the county administrative office to go outside the normal purchasing process.

Typically, the county would issue general obligation bonds to fund a project like this, but has used "conditional purchase agreements" in the past on county buildings such as the Drumcastle facility, Jefferson Building and the Public Safety Building.

"In this case, Baltimore County will issue 'certificates of participation' from multiple lenders to borrow $25 million using the equipment and renovated building as collateral," said Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for the county.

Homan told council members that the county's normal bond sale schedule may not work with the project's timeline.

"We will be doing this deal, if the council approves it, 45 days from the executive's signature," Homan said. "It may not be able to be done in conjunction with our other projected bond sales."

Homan said the ability to get the deal done quickly would eliminate delays that could cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Homan said the recycling facility would be the first situation involving a conditional purchase agreement in which the county will be able to produce income from the facility, with the recycling market paying anywhere between $100 and $105 for every ton of recyclables, depending on the material. He said the county could begin seeing income from the facility soon after completion.

The facility would have an expected construction time of 18 to 24 months, with the hope being that it can be completed by the end of the next fiscal year.

The bill authorizing the funding mechanism for the facility is scheduled to be voted upon at the County Council's Monday, Nov. 7, legislative meeting, at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, 400 Washington Ave., Towson.

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