02/20/13 — Center wants county to forget $26,000

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Center wants county to forget $26,000

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 20, 2013 1:46 PM

The Wayne Opportunity Center is having serious financial difficulties and officials with the organization asked Wayne County Commissioners on Tuesday to forgive a $26,000 debt it owes the county as it attempts to work its way back to solvency.

The county has been supplying the center with recyclables, which it, in turn, sells, giving 30 percent of the revenue back to the county. But sales have not generated the money needed to repay the county. Currently, the center is losing $8.50 a ton based on what it has to pay the county and how much revenue it generates from the sales, said Jeff Parnell, chairman of the center's board of directors.

John Chance, the center's executive director, said the center board also plans to ask Waste Industries, one of the center's other large haulers, to forgive approximately $40,000 in debt.

The center also asked the county that the materials be provided free and clear.

Commissioners stopped short of wiping out the debt, deciding instead that they needed to better understand how changing the arrangement could affect the county's money-making solid waste department.

The board will meet as the county's Solid Waste Committee on Feb. 27 at 8 a.m. at the Dudley landfill office to discuss the issue.

"We are asking for debt forgiveness on (the $26,000) and also to continue to handle your recycling needs," Parnell told the commissioners. "We would love to be able to basically have you guys just give it to us. We are looking to still stay in business, help all the people we help. We still have 96 clients and we are committed to helping those people. But we need some help ourselves to alleviate some of our debt."

A decline in recycling prices as well as reduced state funding and an $88,000 annual loss that came when the city of Goldsboro took its recycling business elsewhere hurt the center, Parnell said.

"We have just been trying to hold on," he said.

The organization recently was forced to lay off 18 employees.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said that the county originally made a direct contribution to Wayne Opportunity. Then the county stopped that and instead began sending certain types of recyclable materials to the agency.

"That did two things for us," Smith said. "First of all it gave them a revenue stream. Plus we got money. They are asking for forgiveness of some of that revenue that is supposed to be shared with us. It also saved us in the past years having to hire another (truck) driver because they are centralized in Goldsboro versus going out to Durham Lake (Road) and the landfill.

"It cut down on our cost of fuel about $75,000 to $100,000 a year, so there were cost savings plus there were some revenues. Now, and John knows this, the one thing that the county gives up in this we can go out on the free market. By going out on the free market, I can collect more money. I will collect over $150,000 for these recyclables as the market is today."

However, that could quickly change, he said. Prices go up and down, Smith said.

"It is a moving target," Smith said. "We know we reduce our revenue intake by using the program. However, we did it twofold -- to reduce our costs, $75,000 to $100,000, reduce the driver. Between those two it is about $140,000. Revenues are not coming in as hoped, but it stabilized Wayne Opportunity's program. We tried to balance all of those things and it has worked. But obviously now they are in a different situation.

"I need you to really understand the impacts of the recycling program, solid waste as enterprise, but also the effect on the budget and what it has on Wayne Opportunity. I think you need to see how they come together. Once you understand that, and you have a complete picture of what you can make, then I think you can make a good decision."