County to end commercial tub grinding

Lycoming County Resource Management Services recently announced it will end commercial tub grinding, or wood and green waste recycling, services by June 30.

Tub grinders are machines that reduce wood, shrubbery and other green waste into mulch or fuel.

Jason Yorks, Resource Management Services director, explained the county is ending tub grinding because it’s too costly. He said RMS lost about $45,000 to the service in 2017 after considering maintenance, fuel and manpower.

“The cost of the machine, the fuel, the parts — it was getting to the point where, yes, we could keep increasing rates, but duplicating the services just wasn’t necessary,” Yorks said, adding that Wayne Township Landfill in McElhattan also provides tub grinding. “After two years of running the numbers, we’re still showing a small loss on the grinder.”

Yorks also said, if the county continues to use the machines, at least one of them will need replaced within the next few years. These machines, of which the county has two, cost about $750,000 each.

“The maintenance and repair on these machines is absolutely staggering,” he said. “To keep sinking that kind of money into the machinery and knowing I’d have to sink another three-quarters of a million dollars into another machine in a few years … It’s just a good time for Lycoming County to exit the grinding business.”

Yorks added that another roadblock RMS has faced is, not only are the grinders large, they also can spit materials out up to a quarter of a mile away. It’s getting more difficult to find places to safely run the grinders, he said.

At this time, RMS will focus more on its landfill, recycling center and transfer center operations, he added.

“RMS needs to focus on our core operations and use our manpower where it is needed most,” Yorks said.

The municipalities currently using the county’s service are Williamsport, South Williamsport, Old Lycoming and Montoursville, Yorks said. Loyalsock Township usually uses the county, but lately has been using the Wayne Township Landfill due to difficulties scheduling with RMS, said Bill Burdett, township manager.

Burdett said the township already had concerns because of people outside the community dumping illegally into its brush pile. Tub grinding costs upwards of about $300 per hour, Burdett said, so volume counts.

“A lot of the volume is coming from out of the area,” he said. “We can’t continue to do that.”

Now, on top of finding a solution to the illegal dumping, he said the township is concerned about scheduling with Wayne Township Landfill.

“We only made the switch because it was much easier to schedule with Clinton County,” Burdett said. “Now everybody’s going to have to go there.”

Many municipalities are dealing with illegal dumping, said Robert Whitford, Old Lycoming Township manager. He said the township’s brush pile is temporarily closed because it can’t hold any more debris.

“We’re all in the same boat. We’re reaching out to everybody and their brother to find a way to get rid of it,” he said. “We have it here for free. Come and get it.”

Though the pile is closed for now, Whitford said the township is looking into tub grinding alternatives for when it reopens.

Adam Winder, general manager of the city’s public safety department, said Williamsport has already contacted the Wayne Township Landfill about making the switch. He said he’s not expecting much to change, as the landfill’s rates are comparable to the county’s.

“I’m expecting an easy transition,” he said. “They reassured me that they would work with us very well.”

South Williamsport Borough Manager Michael D. Miller said he’s disappointed the county is ending its tub grinding service, but understands that it’s expensive.

“It was a service provided to the borough that we certainly appreciated and used often,” Miller said.

Once it ends services, the county intends to surplus one of the grinders and keep the other around in case of emergencies, Yorks said.

“If there’s an emergency, if there’s a need, we still will have a tub grinder to bring out on site,” he said. “We’re just not going to keep doing it commercially when it’s not a real revenue generator for us.”