|Discusion en concilio de Somerton termina en expulsion|
En una accidentada sesion que termino en la expulsion de un residente, concejales de Somerton duscutieron los resultados del programa municipal de reciclaje.
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Somerton council renews debate over recycling in heated session
SOMERTON — A week before this city's primary election, the mayor and the candidate opposing his re-election clashed Tuesday in a new debate over the value of the city's recycling program.
And the controversy during the Somerton City Council meeting led to Mayor Martin Porchas ordering the police chief to kick a resident out of city council chambers.
The resident, Frank Carrillo, also executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Yuma, had raised his own concerns about the city recycling program, and Porchas ordered Carrillo escorted out of the meeting after previously asking him to stop interrupting him.
Porchas says the program launched by the city in 2010 is saving the city money by reducing trash hauling costs, while Vice Mayor Arturo Magana says his own study of the program shows it's operating in the red. Porchas, seeking his second term as mayor, is being challenged by Magana in next Tuesday's primary.
The debate at the council session came after Public Works Director Samuel Palacios presented a report indicating the program has earned the city $49,923 in revenue in the current fiscal year, resulting from both from the sale of recyclable materials and from reductions in trash hauling costs. Meanwhile, he said, the cost to operate program has totaled $37,182.
Magana said his own cost-benefits analysis arrived at opposite numbers, with expenses reaching $77,029 — an amount that exceeds the program's revenues by $27,105.
“The (city's) analysis was wrong since before the implementation of the program,” Magana said, “and the question arises about the impact that the recycling program has on other city programs, about its sustainability and about its cost to the city in these uncertain times, such as with (the effects of) upcoming sequestration.”
Magana contends that the program requires an outlay of personnel and equipment expenses that were not taken into account when the program was launched — and which were not figured in the financial figures presented by Palacios.
Porchas defended Somerton's recycling program — the first of its kind among any of the municipalities in Yuma County.
“The savings are there,” the mayor said. “If a city like Yuma follows our example and begins (a recycling program) in May, Somerton should be proud. Any program that we begin is going to cost money, but if that's all we look at, we are never going to start anything.”
Porchas had asked for Palacios' report after Magana had raised questions about the recycling program in stories that appeared in the Yuma Sun and Bajo El Sol.
On Tuesday, Palacios said his department began analyzing the costs and benefits of recycling in 2009, after city officials visited Sedona to see that city's recycling program in operation.
The Somerton program collects glass, aluminum, cardboard, paper and plastic from households throughout the city, using inmates provided by the nearby state prison to separate the materials.
Magana continued to raise questions at Tuesday's session about whether all recycling costs are being factored into the city budget.
“My question is whether we are seeing the complete picture of the expenses,” Magana said. “I believe the recycling program should be seen as a department in itself, with its own expenses for salaries, energy and gas. But if you share vehicles or personnel (between the recycling program and the sanitation department), you should also share the expenses. I don't think it's fair to charge those expenses to the sanitation department when those trucks are being used for recycling.”
Councilman Gerardo Anaya said there are no hidden recycling costs that have been overlooked by the city.
“I had been skeptical about this program,” Anaya said. “It took a long time to convince me that it would benefit the city in the way it was operated. The comments that we didn't take time to analyze it are incorrect.”
Porchas argued that recycling costs do not need to be separated from the sanitation budget. “It's trash, it's all the same,” he said.
Magana also predicted the recycling program would jump to nearly $222,000 over an eight-month period in the event the city could no longer use prison labor.
“My question is, what will we do if in a given moment the state decides to cut that (prison labor) program and no longer provides the prisoners?”
In that case, Palacios said, the city would take the collected recyclable to a private company to sort. Even then, he added, the city would still save money through the program.
Porchas said the ongoing debate over recycling is serving to confuse residents about the value of a program that, he asserted, is actually saving taxpayers money.
Carrillo, whose agency recycles aluminum to finance home construction for the needy in the area, echoed Magana.
“What concerns me is whether the city has the ability to sustain the recycling program at a greater volume, whether the program will be able to support itself, or whether it will be bleeding other departments (of funds) and affecting other services,” Carrillo said.
He said city Yuma will not be doing recycling all on its own, but rather is contracting a private company, Allied Waste, which will split the proceeds with the city.
“If Yuma saw that it could not do it all on its own, we should stop and look at that model. We should consider what situation we will be in five or 10 years — whether the community will get accustomed to this type of benefit and suddenly be told that we can't continue it, or whether we add more costs onto the city.”
Porchas said the city has acted transparently by posting financial information about recycling program on its website. That prompted Carrillo to interrupt, saying the posted information is inaccurate.
Porchas warned Carrillo he would be escorted out of the meeting if he continued interrupting. When Carrillo interrupted again, Porchas ordered Police Chief Benjamin Cotman to remove Carrillo from the meeting.