Casper City Council's recent decision to cancel its electronic waste recycling program may have been more of a political ploy than a serious effort to help balance the city's budget, the former vice mayor said Tuesday.

"The citizens asked for the program, so the council at the time tried to enact and listen to the citizens," Steve Cathey told council.

On Feb. 7, council decided against approving a contract with a Colorado business to recycle electronic waste and instead put it in the landfill.

Council member Chris Walsh said at the time the proposed contract was, "a measure that's more politically correct than it is necessary for us."

But Cathey said people wanted electronic recycling and were willing to pay a 12-cent increase to their sanitation bills to pay for it.

An electronics waste recycling program does not rely on general funds, and cutting it has nothing to do with balancing the budget, either, Cathey said.

If the contract was bad, it can be renegotiated, he said.

The reserve fund from the 12-cent fee will either grow, or citizens should receive a rate reduction, Cathey added.

But the motives for not approving the contract may have been more about politics than saving money. Cathey lost his re-election bid to Walsh to represent Ward 3 in the general election in November.

"Otherwise, it starts to wind up looking like this is nothing more than a political matter that is being generated to try to show leadership because the last council was badmouthed for poor leadership," he said. "That this winds up becoming a political issue that 'we're going to show that we are leaders, and we're going to cut budget,' which in essence, this has nothing to do with budget."

Falling sales tax and other revenues have severely crimped the city's budget.

At the Feb. 7 council meeting, city officials said the council passed an ordinance banning the disposal of electronic waste at the landfill in 2009. The city's website about hazardous waste says, "electronics can contain lead, chromium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, nickel, zinc, and brominated flame retardants."

At that time, the NOWCAP nonprofit organization began dismantling and recycling electronic waste but recently lost federal funding for the project, according to the council's meeting packet.

After a request for bids, city staff chose Electronic Recyclers International, Inc., in Aurora, Colo., to dispose of the approximately 164,000 pounds of electronic waste taken to the landfill every year. The cost for a five-year contract would be $57,000 a year for transportation and disposal costs, but that would be paid for by fees paid by the citizens.

Council voted unanimously to not enter the contract.

But two weeks ago, Mayor Kenyne Humphrey said in a council pre-meeting the public's negative reaction to that decision  prompted her to ask city staff to revisit the issue on March 21.

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