City clarifies recycling issues

Bin schedule controlled by county; camera in place to monitor abuse

by Tom Coombe
Recycling continues to be a messy issue for Ely city officials.
The topic resurfaced at Tuesday’s council session, as clerk-treasurer and operations director Harold Langowski set the record straight in response to calls and questions to City Hall, and reiterated a public call to respect existing rules and regulations regarding the disposition of items.
The center was recently closed for two days and Langowski stressed that it was connected to the availability of bins, which he termed a county rather than city issue.
“The recycling center is area wide,” said Langowski. “The bins are St. Louis County bins. St. Louis County contracts for the bins to be empties. Our involvement with the city is calling for the bins to be swapped out.”
Langowski said city staff and the police department have fielded questions and angry calls from area residents when the center has been closed, but he told council members “they need to understand it’s not under our control.”
The city does control the gate at the center, located on Ely’s western edge, and the center is open only during scheduled hours.
“If we didn’t lock the gate, it turns into a garbage dump,“ said Lanogwski. “If we open the gate its’ pretty hard for us to stop people from dumping things on the ground.”
Even with the current controls, city officials have wrestled with abuses at the center.
In the last year-and-a-half, people have taken recycling items and even household waste to the center, carrying items past closed gates and leaving a mess behind them.
City officials addressed that illegal dumping in 2016 and even threatened to pull the plug on the entire operation.
Several years ago other abuses prompted the city to close its around-the-clock recycling area near Central Avenue in favor of a secured location at its current location.
Part-time staffing, limited hours and the gate have alleviated some of the problems, but the city took another step this year: the installation of video cameras to monitor possible abuses.
Langowski said that those caught on camera will be cited for littering and fined under city ordinance.
Council member Paul Kess noted that people have other options when the Ely center is closed, including a county-run recycling center south of town.
“You can take it to the county site,” said Kess. “Many people do.”