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Laurel County Solid Waste Department workers Jeff Blanton, Jackie Buttrey and Delbert Hacker clear out the recycling bins Tuesday morning, one day after they learned they will be laid off due to the county’s budget constraints. Blanton, Buttery and Hacker were three of five workers laid off, which will ultimately force the recycling center to close.

Recycling in Laurel County will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to job cuts that left the Laurel County Solid Waste Department with a crew of just four men.

“Recycling after June 30 will cease,” worker Darrell Osborne said. “We won’t be able to process it.”

Osborne, Henry Inman, Delbert Hacker, Jeff Blanton and Jackie Buttrey were all informed Monday morning they would not have jobs as of June 30. As a result, the work of collecting, sorting through and preparing the recyclables for distribution, which took the efforts of eight full-time employees, will not be able to get done.

Shock, worry and anger was the result of the announcement.

“I think it’s a political thing,” Inman said. “I think it’s a disagreement between the magistrates and the judge. I think they could have come up with a different thing to cut if they agreed on it.”

Questioning the cuts came hand in hand with worrying about the future.

“I just bought a new house,” Blanton said. “I’m married with kids.”

The county has had a recycling program, considered one of the most successful in Kentucky, since 1996. It’s a program the state has enthusiastically supported. Last year alone, $136,000 in state funds were given to the Laurel County Solid Waste Department, 40 percent of which was earmarked specifically for the recycling program.

This year alone, Solid Waste Coordinator Jim Ed McDaniel was able to obtain a $50,000 recycling grant, which allowed him to build a new building on-site to allow for more convenient dumping and purchase new recycling bins, a trailer and recycling boxes for schools. Another $50,000 grant had just been written to obtain more funds.

In turn, Laurel Countians have been active in recycling, with 480,000 pounds of their glass, plastic, cardboard, paper and cans getting remanufactured into useable materials each year. In total, about 75 to 100 people visit the recycling center on McWhorter Road each day.

“We have a lot of people who support it,” Inman said.

A lot of those people are city residents, who were treated to the service though it is run by county-paid workers.

The first thing to go will likely be pick-up at the city’s green bins, which are located on a rotating basis at the Vendor’s Mall and the Farmers’ Market.

The remaining Solid Waste Department workers believe they will still be able to manage roadside litter pickup, dead animal pickup and recycling pickup at area schools.

On Friday, the Laurel County Fiscal Court announced layoffs for 14 county employees, five at the Solid Waste Department, six at the Road Department, one from the Animal Shelter, and two from the Laurel County Courthouse’s custodial staff.

The Solid Waste workers were suspicious as to why their department was hit so hard.

“I don’t think they much care about the recycling center,” Inman said. “Why pick five workers when you know it won’t be able to operate without them?”

Laurel County Judge-Executive Lawrence Kuhl said he plans to meet with all county supervisors to see where things stand after the cuts. Kuhl said he would “be crazy not to be supportive of recycling,” but with the financial situation of the county the program couldn’t continue as it was.

“We have to meet and look at our schedules and what all we’re going to be able to handle,” he said. “I think recycling is very good if we can get the workers to do it. Since we’re down I don’t know what we’ll be able to do, if anything.”

Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at tkaprowy@sentinel-echo.com.

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