The seven candidates running for three at-large seats on the Killeen City Council and three men seeking Killeen’s mayoral post have varying views on the city’s lucrative recycling initiative.
In February, the current council agreed by consensus to allow City Manager Glenn Morrison to enter into contract negotiations with Balcones Resources for a proposed mandatory citywide single-stream recycling program. The initiative will allow residents to put their recyclables in one can rather than separating them before placing them curbside, as with the existing voluntary system.
In March, the city garnered the council’s approval to hire SCS Engineers to develop a solid waste master plan and rate study, part of which addresses the city’s initiative to launch the mandatory, single-stream program.
Scott Cosper said he’s on board with rolling out a recycling program that’s available to everyone in the city, but not on a mandatory basis.
“I think that our future includes recycling,” he said. “I believe with landfills and the environmental concerns that it’s time that we think into the future and look for ways to reduce what is going into the landfills.”
Cosper said he believes the city is on the right track with conducting a solid waste study to determine what plan will work best and what rate structures will look like.
Richard “Dick” Young said he thinks the city needs to take “a totally different approach.”
“Recycling should not be a mandatory program,” he said. “I would not support it being mandatory in any way. I believe that because of the funds that are available when goods are sold in the commodities market, we should do everything within our power with those funds to reduce the current bills we have today.”
Harold “Hal” Butchart said recycling is “very important,” but he believes the city should look at other ways to protect the environment as well.
“The thing we have to remember with recycling, which is important, is that we do have limited space in the landfill,” he said. “But we also should look at power generation by burning some of this refuse ... also, wind generators. It has to be a combined effort. It can’t be just ‘let’s throw $7.50 on the garbage bill’ and that’s it.”
Council candidates Randy Doyle and Gary “Bubba” Purser Jr. had similar views on recycling. Both agreed that a single-stream program is necessary, but they would like to see it done on an incentive basis.
Doyle said first, the city needs to get its rate study back from SCS Engineers and then utilize it to guide its vision for recycling with Balcones Resources. He said the program needs to be an incentive-based system.
“What I mean by incentive based is a pay-as-you-throw system,” he said. “We need that incentive to do it to where if I recycle and I’m prudent of our resources, then it should cost me less. If I want to waste resources and throw everything into the landfill ... I should pay more.”
Purser said recycling is an initiative that everyone needs to participate in, but it should be by incentive rather than be a mandatory system.
“It’s kind of new for most of us. We’re not really used to recycling, but the landfills are filling up,” he said. “The less material we take to the landfill, the better off we are. If I’m going to go through the effort to recycle my own material, then I should pay less.”
Jared Foster said he doesn’t see the city’s initiative as an additional program, but more of a restructuring of Killeen’s solid waste model.
“I’m excited to get the rate study back from the contractor who is working on it,” he said. “I’m confident that council will be able to look at a lot of options and see if there are some cost savings in there.”
Doris Mims-Owens and Jonathan Okray said they would like to see the matter put before residents to vote on.
“The citizens of Killeen should have an input in recycling rates,” Mims-Owens said. “I think that we need to discuss and find out from other cities what they’re doing about recycling. Let the citizens of Killeen decide on what they would like to do.”
Okray said he doesn’t think a council of seven should make a decision that affects several thousand. “I am for a recycling program of any kind to be on a ballot. Everyone should have a say so in that. People will not do (it) if they’re forced to do.”
Juan Rivera rebutted Okray’s and Mims-Owens’ idea to put the issue to the voters.
“It’s funny how you ask our citizens to put something like this on a ballot, but when they raise taxes we don’t put a vote on it,” he said. “Our citizens have placed us in a position and we should do the best we can for our citizens.”
Rivera said he believes a “good policy” should be put in place for recycling.
Elizabeth Blackstone said she supports a mandatory program. “I think in our case, it almost must be mandatory or people won’t do it,” she said. “We currently have it where people can choose to recycle ... and very few people do (it). We’re way behind. ... The world has been recycling for a very long time.”