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Major changes suggested for Bethlehem's compost center

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Nov 09 2012 11:00:31 AM CST
Updated On: Nov 09 2012 12:24:36 PM CST
Bethlehem Compost Center

Bethlehem Compost Center, located at 1480 Schoenersville Road

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

A more compact version of Bethlehem's Compost Center may be on the way.

Recycling director Tom Marshall told city council Wednesday night about a two-part plan he is developing that would "cut the Compost Center in half."

The first involves turning over the making of compost at the center, located at 1480 Schoenersville Road, to a private company. That could be accomplished in as little as three months, if city council gives the go-ahead. The second involves the city partnering with a private company to make its recycling business more profitable. That would take about three years, Marshall estimated.

Council members seemed pleasantly surprised as Marshall sketched out his plan during a meeting on capital improvement projects -- especially when they heard about potential savings and earnings it could bring.

Marshall said it would be "a wise decision" to get out of the composting business because the city could save $180,000 of the $350,000 it spends each year on the center. The $180,000 covers maintenance and fuel costs, he added.

Marshall said that after talking with landscapers about the idea, he believes a private company could process enough compost to meet the needs of Bethlehem residents and still be able to turn a profit by selling the rest. Non-city residents would no longer be able to get compost from the center, Marshall noted.

Marshall said that because the city's recycling business has made a profit for the last 15 years, he is proposing a materials recovery facility be built at the compost center. The facility would be jointly operated with a private company, and require a $7 million to $10 million investment by the company, he said.

Marshall pointed out that $125,000 would have to be spent to prepare the site for the new composting process and the materials recovery facility. The money, which Marshall says would come from the state, would pay for a paved driveway through a new fenced entrance into the center; an asphalt pad for compost and mulch bunkers; asphalt pads where composted material will be loaded and brush will be unloaded, and a drainage pipe.

Marshall was encouraged by council to proceed with his plan. "It sounds like a win-win for the city," said council member Michael Recchiuti.