Recycling center reopens but who will operate it up in the air

DULUTH - With hundreds showing up within the first few hours Saturday, Gwinnett's nonprofit Clean and Beautiful organization officially opened the rebuilt recycling bank that it has operated faithfully for 22 years.

But whether or not it will continue to operate that facility past May 9 appears to be a big question mark, acknowledged the group's director Connie Wiggins. She said come May 9, the date the county has asked the group to vacate its offices in the government annex building, the county also plans to evict it from the recycling bank.

"We just want to deliver services," Wiggins said, clearly confused over the mess that has become the county's solid waste program. "We have a lease with the county to be here until 2020."

The county severed its ties with the nonprofit organization in January following a Superior Court ruling in December that said the county could not have the group administer its new solid waste program. Under that program, two haulers would collect all recyclables from residential homes in Gwinnett and would then take them to the Satellite Boulevard facility or to another yet to be built recycling center on Cedars Road. That project has since been put on hold.

Chuck Huckleberry, the county's deputy finance director, said the Gwinnett County Recreation Authority owns the land the facility sits on at 4300 Satellite Boulevard, but that the county owns the physical facility.

"The actual facility is a Gwinnett County asset," Huckleberry said in an e-mail to the Post.

Wiggins said GC&B owns the $4 million worth of equipment and that none of it to her knowledge was paid for with taxpayer money. She said in the early years of operation, the group made the recycling bank work and generate income with large amounts of community service volunteers. Currently, there is only one full-time employee running the facility, with the rest of the labor largely coming from prison inmates and community service workers ordered to be there by the courts. She also said the way she understood things, once the lease expired the county would then possess the facility, but not before.