The newly remodeled recycling center at Ohio Gulch Transfer Station east of state Highway 75 between Ketchum and Hailey was unveiled to community leaders last Thursday, after five and a half months of construction and more than $1.6 million worth of improvements. The new facility features a 30 percent larger building, streamlined operations for dropping off recyclables and improved working conditions for personnel.
Southern Idaho Solid Waste Department Executive Director Terry Schultz thanked the Blaine County Commission for allocating the funds for the remodel and provided a tour and demonstration of the operations at the new facility.
"This represents a real commitment on behalf of the county to recycling and allows us to do the job more efficiently and more safely," he said.
Schultz pointed out that the project was completed under-budget by Beniton Construction Co., based in Meridian. Schultz also thanked Jolyon Sawrey, of Living Architecture in Ketchum, who oversaw the design and construction of the new building.
"Jolyon worked hard on this and by following the 'form follows function' model, he basically turned a sow's ear into a silk purse," Schultz said.
Sawrey participated in the tour himself, pointing out natural lighting features and a centralized office and kitchenette that he said will make working at the recycling center more comfortable.
"This new facility is designed to accommodate far more than 20 years of expected growth," he said. "There was no insulation here before the renovation. Architecture in a building could and should feel good."
Sawrey pointed out the more efficient flow paths for recyclable materials, which include newspaper, magazines, cardboard, tin, aluminum and plastic. All materials will be compressed into bales and shipped to companies that buy them in bulk. Glass is the only material kept at Ohio Gulch. It will be crushed and placed in the inert materials landfill area.
Recycling plant manager Bret Gelsky demonstrated the new and improved "baler," compressing a heap of cardboard and newspapers into 1,400-pound bundles in about seven and a half minutes, for county commissioners Tom Bowman, Larry Schoen and about 20 other observers. Gelsky noted that the same operation would have taken at least one hour with the old machinery.
"The new system is a lot more efficient, easier to handle and a lot more safe," he said.
Craig Barry, executive director of the Environmental Resource Center in Ketchum, was involved with the original design committee for the recycling center. He said he is impressed with the results.
"These materials will be packed in greater densities and appropriate sizes and this will make them more attractive to the recycled materials market," he said.
The new facility is equipped with streamlined citizen drop-off areas and a commercial unloading area designed with help from Clear Creek Disposal Co. The commercial dumping area allows trucks to unload several different materials while parked in one position. The previous drop-off point had been an earthen embankment where trucks dumped their loads off to workers waiting below. The embankment has been strengthened with concrete reinforcements.