Efforts underway to help city’s redemption woes

FORT MADISON – The idea of having another redemption center in Fort Madison is being, well….recycled.

Fort Madison Mayor Brad Randolph, who also serves as chairman of the Great River Regional Waste Authority board, has reopened conversations about the possibility of partnering with local businesses and Hope Haven out of Burlington to establish a functioning redemption center, he said.

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The move coincided with a bill introduced Jan. 17 in the Iowa Senate, that would up the amount of the reimbursement to redemption centers by a penny to two cents per beverage container. Currently, reimbursement operations are getting one cent over the deposit refund by distributors, making it difficult to sustain operations out of the 1-cent margin.

The bill also cleans up language and would require distributors to pick up recycled containers at least weekly and provide payment within one week following the pick up.

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Mark Segebart (R-Vail) of the 6th District and was moved to a subcommittee on Wednesday.

Randolph said he’d had a few brief conversations with Wade Hamm, the director of GRRWA, as to whether space could be found to house the operations on landfill property.

Hamm said it might be difficult to find room at the landfill now, and he’s not sure how much room the facility would need and what features would be required.

“Brad Randolph brought the idea to our attention,” Hamm said. “We discussed it a little bit but nothing has become of that yet. Without doing some structural changes I don’t think it’s possible.”

Randolph said he would like to see some businesses get behind the effort to help fund the operation. Specifically, those who sell and charge deposits for cans. Right now, cans are accepted at some of those locations, but on a very limited basis. Cans can also be taken out to P.A.W. Animal Shelter, where volunteers sort and bag the items.

Hamm said last week that Randolph asked to have the idea put back on the GRRWA’s agenda.

“I put it on for discussion purposes,” Randolph said. “I wanted to make sure if I was going to be the point person on this, that we were all on the same page. And after the discussion, I think the board was pretty receptive to the idea.”

He said it would take some investment from area retailers who sell cans to help get the program up and running.

Bob Bartles, executive director at Hope Haven in Burlington, said the organization has an interest in running the facility, but hadn’t spoken with Randolph as of last week. Most of his conversations involved Fort Madison Partners Director Tim Gobble.

“We had spoken about this in the past and the sticking point has always been finding a place for a facility. There would have to be some money put into the program, too, because these operations don’t net a lot,” Bartles said.

Randolph said he asked for a meeting with Gobble to coordinate efforts and see what kind of funding could be obtained. He also said he intended to reach out to Bartles as well.

City Manager David Varley said if a place could be found to house the operation, the project might be workable.

“They need to have a location, but I think if there was a place, Hope Haven would get pretty serious about it,” Varley said.

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