Lack of funding jeopardized recycling program |

Lack of funding jeopardized recycling program

by Andy Bourelle

A program responsible for maintaining more than 250 South Shore trash and recycling bins, helping to cleanup after big holiday events and keeping old furniture from collecting on vacant lots is in danger of losing its ability to provide those services, said Brooke Laine, city councilwoman.

The funding for the Clean Tahoe Program hasn’t changed since its inception almost 15 years ago, and if that trend continues the program will have to significantly change or disappear altogether, Laine said.

“We can’t operate the program on (the annual $100,000 budget). We’ve been able to because we’ve been aggressive in getting grants. But when the grants go away, you have to look at reality, and the reality is we can’t operate with that level of funding,” said Laine, who sits on the nonprofit program’s board of directors.

The program recently purchased a new truck; however, Laine said that was only possible through a $50,000 grant from the state of California.

Clean Tahoe maintains more than trash and recycling containers at Bijou Park, the state line corridor, Regan and El Dorado beaches and at bus stops along U.S. Highway 50. It is responsible for picking up trash along a total of 350 miles of roads in the El Dorado County portion of the basin.

After holidays such as New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, Clean Tahoe staff members and volunteers help clean up trash in the streets. The program sponsors a “dump day” each year where residents can bring in loads of trash to South Tahoe Refuse at significantly discounted rates. Additionally, Clean Tahoe workers pick up abandoned refrigerators, couches and other objects left on vacant land.

Clean Tahoe has three paid staff members, two of whom drive the organization’s two trucks and one that handles office operations.

The program started in 1985 and was first operated by the city of South Lake Tahoe. Since 1990, it has been a nonprofit organization.

About $74,000 of the funding comes from South Lake Tahoe, Laine said. About two-thirds of that amount is from $3-a-year surcharge South Tahoe Refuse customers pay; the other third is from money obtained by people bringing garbage or recyclables to the transfer station.

El Dorado County pays for about $26,000, which comes from homeowners paying an additional $3 a year on their property taxes.

Laine said the City Council in 1994 approved a $1.80-a-year increase on refuse bills to help accommodate the funding shortfall. However, that increase was dependent upon an increase of equal size from the county, which has never happened.

“Without those raises, at the end of the year, we will have to consider greatly altering (the program’s) service, reducing it considerably,” said Stan Burton, Clean Tahoe program manager. “That could greatly affect the city and the county.”

Dave Solaro, El Dorado County supervisor, said he would soon be meeting with Clean Tahoe officials to come up with a solution. And, he said, finding a way to increase the funding was a necessity.

“We don’t want to lose that service to our community. They are worth every penny they get,” he said.

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