DECATUR — A special meeting of the Macon County board is set for next Tuesday to delve further into whether the county should move forward with a multi-million recycling campus on the west side of Decatur.
Board Chairman Kevin Greenfield confirmed Tuesday afternoon the board is set to meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at their board room on the fifth floor of the Macon County Office Building in downtown Decatur.
Greenfield said the meeting was asked for by the county’s Environmental Management director Laurie Rasmus and will mostly be a study session to learn about the project and which direction to take it. No vote on the project is expected to occur.
The $7.5 million project was first brought up last year, with the plan to build a 109-acre “sustainability campus.” Initial plans include a drive-thru recycling center, offices for the county's Environmental Management department and a possible compost center, small solar farm and community gardens.
The then-Democratic led Macon County board voted in October to re-zone the site in the 1100 block of North Wyckles Road for the project by a 13-5 vote, with five Republicans voting against it and three other Republicans absent.
With Republicans now holding a 12-9 majority on the board after the November election, the fate of the project has become uncertain as Greenfield and others have previously expressed concerns over its estimated cost.
Rasmus said Tuesday her goal for the special meeting is to “lay on the table” what the proposal is for board members, saying it has not changed much from what has been previously reported.
The department has looked at several different plans for the site moving forward, Rasmus said, which could include shrinking or doing away with the composting site for the time being. Not much could be done to reduce the cost of the recycling facility itself due to construction materials. With interest in recycling events like last week’s pop-up recycling event, which had over 200 people drop off electronics, Rasmus said the prospective recycling facility would allow for regular hours for drop-offs and a move away from event-style recycling.
She repeated something officials like former board Chairman Jay Dunn said in the past that construction costs would be covered through a 20-year bond issued by the Decatur Public Building Commission, which manages county facilities. That loan would be paid off using an existing tax levy and with no increases to existing tax rates.
The county recently finished making payments on the bond for its courthouse complex and office building. Officials have said paying off that debt would result in a property tax bill savings of $12 per year for the owner of a $75,000 home. If another bond is not issued to pay for the recycling facility, that savings would be $18 per year for the owner of a $75,000 home.
Rasmus said, along with information, she hopes the special meeting nudges the board to schedule a vote on the matter.
Greenfield reiterated that, in better financial times, he would probably support such a project. But with the county’s population decline and shrinking sales tax base leading to the potential for steep budget cuts and layoffs, he said he was not sure whether he could see the Republicans moving forward on the campus at this time.
“I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.