News Analysis: Resource Recovery Park is just parked

A Recology dump truck drops off a load of garbage at the John Smith Road Landfill.

After a total expense of more than $287,000 from the Landfill-Solid Waste Fund and months of serious, but ultimately unnecessary, angst among the neighbors, San Benito County’s much ballyhooed Resource Recovery Park exists in name only.
There is no infrastructure, signs, roads, buildings or utilities; in fact it looks exactly the way it always has—just another piece of county grassland along John Smith Road across from the main landfill.
The county is still ready to pounce if an opportunity should show up, with more than $1 million listed as “Future funding obligations”, but no one is betting on it. There have been no takers to date and very few lookers, and infrastructure is extraordinarily expensive.
The original concept sounded good to a revenue-starved county—let’s build a facility dedicated to process recyclable or redirected waste. The planning and environmental funding was spent between Fiscal Years 2010-14, but indications of trouble showed early on.
For one thing, the project always had a tissue-thin business plan that included very little demand analysis or industry scoping. This was noted and pointed out by many county residents, especially those who opposed the project on local environmental grounds. Composting—once discussed—may be a good way to produce fertilizer, but it’s not good for the neighborhood air quality.
Another issue was falling prices, as existing Resource Recovery Parks competed heavily for each other’s business; the last one in the pool is rarely in position to win a price war.
For whatever reason, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors wore “Infallibility Capes” during that period fending off all objections to this poorly planned project as mere grousing. There is a bright side to the story: We’re out only $287,000; it all ground to a halt before we blew the million-dollar backup.
There are some lessons to be learned, for one many of the county’s residents know more than a little something about business and one should never let their Infallibility Cape swing so wildly that it accidently covers your eyes.
Let’s hope for the best because it was their idea, but it was our money.

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