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Recycling facility plans halted in Zelienople

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 4:33 p.m.

Zelienople will likely return a $248,000 state grant that would have helped with the development of a recycling and composting facility, borough council members said.

“There were so many unanswered questions,” said Councilwoman Mary Hess. “We can't put public money and public property at risk.”

Council last month voted to stop planning the facility, with members saying they weren't receiving enough information about it.

“Problems” arose, said Wes Hamilton, who for a time spearheaded the project through the nonprofit group CHZ.

“I'm not going to deny they existed,” he said, but he did not want to say what the problems were.

The recycling and composting facility was proposed for an area about 30 acres behind the Northgate Plaza in Jackson, on borough-owned property where three decommissioned reservoirs once held borough water.

Community volunteers had been planting varied types of foliage on the land.

Hamilton, 66, of Lancaster Township said the project could have included a classroom for public education, space for the borough to hold safety meetings, a wooded wetland area, a launch for canoes and kayaks into the Connoquenessing Creek and other amenities, and tie into land along the Connoquenessing.

Zelienople, Cranberry and Harmony residents would have used the facility.

“The concept is not a bad concept, but there's an awful lot of questions that couldn't be answered well,” borough Manager Don Pepe said.

Hess said council was concerned that an outside vendor could have made money off the composting.

“Another issue was that Zelienople owns the land, but we weren't sure how the whole agreement would work out with the multiple communities.”

Council also had environmental concerns. Pepe said that Cranberry wanted to use the facility to compost grass.

Without Cranberry's tonnage, Pepe said, the project wasn't financially feasible. But the grass raised concerns about odor and its impact on nearby residents, Pepe added.

The project also lost steam once Hamilton left CHZ, Pepe said.

Hamilton said he'd made no secret that he planned to step down after helping secure the grant, and that the project was taking too much of his time. Hamilton has a law practice in the borough.

“(Hamilton) is a hard-working, driven guy, there's no doubt,” Hess said. “But without him running the show, we weren't sure where it was going.”

The borough has to fill in the three empty reservoirs, but can do so at its own pace, and developing the land isn't out of the question, Pepe said.

“The borough is very interested in doing things that involve recreation and involving the property,” Hess said.

Hamilton added that aside from the grant provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection, another $137,000 in private grant money was available from a source he declined to identify.

“Would I be saddened if this whole thing went to hell in a handbasket? Absolutely,” Hamilton said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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