Company’s recycling efforts praised |

Company’s recycling efforts praised

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Jeff Tillman, general manager of South Tahoe Refuse, is surrounded by plastic containers removed from the trash at the facility. South Tahoe Refuse was recognized by El Dorado County for meeting a 50 percent trash diversion rate.

The people of Tahoe may have the comfort of knowing over half their trash isn’t used just once – but they may think twice before taking a handicapped parking spot, El Dorado County officials warned.

Supervisors opened their meeting Tuesday in South Lake Tahoe by honoring the local refuse company for achieving a recycling standard. Then, it decided to explore raising the penalties for violators who park their vehicles where people with disabilities do so.

About 40 people ranging from Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Executive Director John Singlaub to Tahoe pioneering matriarch Marjorie Springmeyer filled the seats of the Council Chambers at Lake Tahoe Airport.

South Tahoe Refuse General Manager Jeff Tillman accepted a plaque for diverting 54 percent of Tahoe’s trash from the landfill that serves Tahoe, Sacramento, Reno, Truckee and Douglas County. The standard applies to the city and unincorporated area, according to the California Integrated Waste Management Authority. The state board may sanction the jurisdiction in the next few months, along with 450 other regions it needs to evaluate.

“I hope people understand the program we’ve developed is working,” Tillman said Tuesday at his Ruth Avenue facility. It reported recycling 40,000 tons of trash a year in its city franchise for mandatory garbage pickup.

Tillman acknowledged the program has had its skeptics because homeowners are not required to separate their trash at curbside. The facility does the job at the conveyor belt.

“We’ve reached a milestone, but let’s not rest,” he said.

With that, Tillman pointed to a section of the facility’s lot where the trash company plans to expand. The building, which will handle organic materials, is due to demolished by next summer. But all of that is contingent on permit approvals from the city, TRPA and California Air Resources Board.

Rates to those homeowners are expected to remain the same, Tillman said.

STR’s recycling manager Jeanne Lear said the expansion plays a critical role in handling a state expectation to force jurisdictions to channel their citizens’ trash into other uses. State lawmakers were even considering raising that rate to 70 percent, but no bill has come before the Legislature recently.

“I think this speaks to the leadership and activities to meet that requirement. It’s important we be as proactive as we can,” Tahoe’s District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago said after the meeting.

To accomplish this, South Tahoe Refuse wants its customers to “stay the course” in bagging up the trash and keeping the recycled goods separate and unbagged.

“It’s actually harder to tear open the bag,” Lear said.

The overall job isn’t easy, given that 72 percent of homeowners in South Lake Tahoe live here part-time.

Be a courteous citizen

That was the message the county supervisors want to send in also deciding to revisit with the Sheriff’s Department the parking penalties for vehicles wrongfully parked in handicapped spots.

County officials and the Tahoe Area Coordinating Council for the Disabled seek universal and higher penalties. The county has set them at $275, and the city imposed $250 fines to its violators.

It didn’t take much coaxing from TACCD’s David Kelly, who said he’s getting calls from the disabled to do something.

“How about we just shoot them?” District 3 Supervisor and Chairman James Sweeney said regarding the increased penalties.

In other business:

— The county supervisors allocated tourism-related funding for its Arts Council, Film Commission, Visitor’s Authority Council and Chamber of Commerce. But a regional marketing strategy may be in the works and could return in February, according to Santiago.

“I’m disappointed Tahoe didn’t get any money in this go-round,” District 1 Supervisor Rusty Dupray said.

Throughout the meeting, the county got a long glimpse of ongoing projects to get the local government better acquainted with Tahoe business.

— Ray Lacey of the California Tahoe Conservancy presented the 56-acre project intended to enhance recreation and culture across from El Dorado Beach.

— Councilman John Upton called up South Shore attorney Lew Feldman and city Housing Director Patrick Conway to share some specifics of the Ski Run Commercial Center, convention center, gondola vista project over Van Sickle property and affordable housing projects.

TRPA Deputy Director Carl Hasty provided a quick look into reducing wildfire fuels and best management practices.

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