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Neighbors want recycling center moved

The developer of the Distillery District and residents of a nearby neighborhood are trying to make their voices heard as the city evaluates the future of its recycling center.

Lexington is hiring a consulting firm to study its recycling program and to determine whether the existing center will be adequate for the next 10 to 15 years as the city pushes recycling more aggressively.

"We want a picture that will help us develop a road map of where we need to go," said Steve Feese, director of the city's waste-management program "That will help us determine the size and scope of the facility we need."

For 16 years, the city's recycling center has operated on a 7½ -acre tract on Thompson Road — near Manchester Street — a few blocks from downtown.

Barry McNees, developer of the proposed arts and entertainment area on Manchester Street, and residents in the Oak Park neighborhood want the consulting firm to hear their complaints about excessive noise and truck traffic generated by the recycling center.

They want to see the recycling center moved.

But Susan Straub, spokeswoman in Mayor Jim Newberry's office, said, "The neighbors need to understand this is not a site-selection process, but a waste-stream analysis. Period."

That has not kept neighbors' complaints from growing louder since they heard the city was hiring a consultant to do a long-range recycling analysis.

"Recycling centers have no place next to residential neighborhoods," McNees said at a meeting last week of the newly formed Oak Park Neighborhood Association.

Recycling trucks speed down Manchester Street with paper blowing off, McNees said.

John Burton, whose back yard adjoins the recycling center, started circulating a petition over the weekend among his Oak Park neighbors to request the city find a new site.

The petition says the recycling center "negatively affects the quality of life of our neighborhood."

Burton, who lives at 150 Henton Road, said he has complained regularly to the city over the past two years about trash blowing into his yard and recycled glass pushed up against the wire fence that separates his yard from the center.

Those conditions have improved, Burton said.

But noise remains a problem, he said. It is not unusual for the sound of glass being dumped into recycling bins to wake Burton and his wife, Rose, at 5:30 some mornings.

Another problem is recycling trucks cutting through the neighborhood, said Sherry Helfand-Prewitt, president of the neighborhood association.

Burton believes in recycling and said, "I feel like a traitor complaining about the recycling center. But it is the worst neighbor in the world."

The recycling center has been on Thompson Road for 16 years. In that time the volume of paper, glass and metal being delivered there for recycling has increased tenfold, Feese said.

The city has taken a more aggressive stance urging schools, apartment complexes and businesses to recycle.

But right now all the city can provide for non-residential users is 95-gallon carts. A problem for apartment complexes is that cardboard cannot be mingled with other materials such as glass and plastic. It has to be separated out, a problem when space is at a premium, Feese said.

Dunbar High School has more than 25 "Rosies" — the same containers used for households — for recycling. "We need to have a more efficient system for collection where they can commingle paper, cardboard and glass," Feese said.

"We're looking at a processing system that mechanically sorts corrugated cardboard, glass and other materials," he said. With a system like that, the amount of cardboard alone would increase significantly.

The analysis is meant to determine whether the current 7½ -acre site will be adequate in 10 to 15 years, "even five or six years," said Feese.

If the city's recycling efforts grow significantly, the current site does not afford a lot of opportunity for expansion, he said. It is bordered on two sides by railroad tracks, on one side by a residential area and on the fourth side by a street.

"We're landlocked," he said.

How much land will be needed for a large recycling center, "I really don't know," Feese said. "That's the reason we're hiring a consultant to do a study."