WINCHESTER — City Council unanimously agreed to continue its curbside recycling program without charging a $3 monthly fee for residents and businesses.
Tuesday’s decision came in light of a looming July 15 deadline when the firm that processes the city’s recyclables, Southern Scrap Inc. of Frederick County, will stop accepting aluminum and plastic. In January, the company also stopped processing Winchester’s glass and the majority of its plastic products.
Winchester Public Services Director Perry Eisenach told City Council on Tuesday that the short-term solution is to haul plastics and aluminum to a processing facility in Manassas and take paper and cardboard to another recycling facility in Williamsport, Md. The facility in Manassas will charge a tipping fee of $105 a ton, but the Maryland facility will accept recyclables at no expense to the city.
Eisenach said he has not found a facility that will accept glass, so it will not be part of the revamped recycling program.
Continuing Winchester’s curbside recycling program will cost approximately $175,000 per year in tipping fees and vehicle wear and tear. Since the city’s recycling budget for fiscal year 2020 is $50,000, Eisenach proposed the creation of a $3 monthly recycling fee on top of the $5 fee residents pay each month for trash collection.
City Council agreed to move forward with the recycling plan, but unanimously rejected the proposed $3 monthly fee.
“I think our residents are being taxed enough,” Councilor Bill Wiley said.
Instead, council will use $125,000 from the city’s fund balance to cover the extra recycling expenses. Eisenach estimated it could take up to two years to have a permanent solution for recyclables, so the $3 fee could come up again in future council discussions.
Winchester is not the only locality with recycling problems. Other jurisdictions in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including Frederick and Clarke counties, are in a similar predicament because processing firms in the United States became inundated with recyclables after China decided in 2017 to stop accepting materials exported from America.
“I think most jurisdictions are in limbo right now,” Eisenach said.
In other business at Tuesday night’s meeting and work session, City Council:
Unanimously agreed to hire a part-time assistant commonwealth’s attorney to review and manage body camera footage submitted by Winchester Police Department officers and Winchester Sheriff’s Office deputies. The Virginia General Assembly issued an unfunded mandate earlier this year requiring localities to assign a designated person to oversee potential evidence captured by body-worn cameras. The two Winchester law enforcement agencies use a total of 80 body cameras, and the estimated annual cost to hire someone to manage the video footage is $22,500.
Held a first reading of a proposal to reduce the Winchester School Board’s size from nine to seven members.
Unanimously agreed to forward a request from Shenandoah Telecommunications Company (Shentel) to expand its broadband cable, internet and telephone services to Winchester. The approval of a 15-year franchise would put Shentel in direct competition with Comcast.
Unanimously approved an ordinance amendment that clarifies the extent of building expansions that qualify for real estate tax exemptions.
Unanimously agreed to forward a proposed zoning ordinance amendment to clarify regulations for signs outside of athletic facilities.
Unanimously agreed to forward a conditional-use permit request that would allow Greenway Engineering to install a new sign for Shenandoah University adjacent to the intersection of South Pleasant Valley Road and Lowry Drive.
Unanimously agreed to proposed ordinance amendments that would abolish Lee-Jackson Day as a free parking day and replace it with Columbus Day, lessen parking restrictions on utility vehicles, authorize the towing of vehicles that park in city garages for 72 hours or more without a monthly parking permit, and change coin collections from parking meters from daily to weekly.
Unanimously agreed to forward a resolution regarding Winchester Transit’s Title VI program, which ensures the city does not discriminate against people seeking public transportation.
Unanimously agreed to forward a resolution approving the design of a new maintenance facility at City Yards.
Held a discussion about the potential closure of Boscawen Street between Indian Alley and Cameron Street and making it part of the Loudoun Street Mall. Councilors asked Eisenach to return in two weeks with more options that would heighten pedestrian safety along Boscawen Street and the mall.
Discussed the status of City Hall renovations, which Eisenach said are 97% complete. A new heating and cooling system, updated lighting and storm windows in the Treasurer’s and Commissioner of the Revenue’s office still need to be installed.
Unanimously agreed to forward the reappointment of Robbie Marchant to a five-year term on the Board of Zoning Appeals ending July 31, 2024.
Unanimously approved the correction of scrivener’s errors regarding the previously approved reappointments of Casey Stine to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and Michael Elwell and Peter Roussos to the Community Policy and Management Team.
Attending Tuesday night’s City Council meeting and work session in Rouss City Hall were Mayor and council President David Smith, Vice Mayor John Hill, Vice President Evan Clark and councilors Kim Herbstritt, John Willingham, Les Veach, Corey Sullivan, Bill Wiley and Judy McKiernan.