Eel River Buying ACRC Samoa Processing Facility

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Daniel Mintz

Eye Correspondent

SAMOA – The former Arcata Community Recycling Center (ACRC) processing facility in Samoa is being purchased by the Fortuna-based Eel River Resource Recovery company, with escrow on it closing this week.

Also known as Eel River Disposal, the company was expected to close escrow by press time, said its president, Harry Hardin. He said it will start operating as a recycling processor and transfer station in two weeks and plans for it include recycling of construction debris and green waste.

The facility will be modified to perform single stream recycling, Hardin continued, and will also be a “dirty MRF,” the term for a materials recovery facility that extracts recyclables from garbage drop-offs.

Hardin expects to staff the facility with up to 15 workers when it opens. He said his company also plans to carry out recycling education programs.

Sabrina Hancock of Coldwell Banker Cutten Realty is the Samoa facility’s agent and she confirmed that escrow closure was pending as of last week. Neither Hancock or Hardin disclosed the purchase price but it was listed for $2.8 million.

The Samoa facility attracted several interested buyers, including one from outside of California.

The seller is Umpqua Bank, which foreclosed on the facility last December. The non-profit ACRC, the Samoa facility’s previous owner, has been struggling since 2008, when increased interest on its $5 million loan to build the facility and a drastic downturn in the recyclables market converged.

Milt Boyd, ACRC’s board chairman, said ACRC has disposed of its assets but still exists as a non-profit corporation. Eel River Recovery has also purchased ACRC’s former processing center at 10th Street in Arcata and its 9th Street property, which is in operation as a recycling drop-off site.

Boyd said ACRC has “no plans to carry out programs at this time” and its future is “still up in the air.”

Its lawsuit against the Humboldt Waste Management Authority (HWMA) is in a discovery phase. The suit alleges that the authority masked an intent to buy the facility and misrepresented a study on ACRC’s operation of it as an inroad to a long term contract. A bidding process was eventually launched and the complaint alleges that the study revealed ACRC’s inner workings, giving its Mendocino County competitor, Solid Waste of Willits (SWoW), an edge.

The Mendocino company gained processing contracts from the City of Eureka and the county when its bid substantially bested ACRC’s. The cities of Arcata and Blue Lake stuck with ACRC but the lost tonnage led to a shut-down. The lawsuit claims that the HWMA intended for that to happen so it could buy the Samoa facility at a cut-rate price.

The HWMA’s contract with SWoW extends to September 2016 but the agency has an opt-out option with a six month prior notice requirement. The HWMA’s strategic plan emphasizes the importance of locally-based processing and describes the contract with SWoW as “an interim solution.”

“At this juncture, there’s no hurry for us to change anything,” said HWMA General Manager Jill Duffy when asked about potential scenarios. She said the agency will “sit down with our member agencies and start discussing what some future activities regarding recycling might look like.”

The authority’s members have the option of joining together to mass their recycling tonnages, as they do with garbage, which would make bidding for processing more competitive.

Some of the members may want to continue to manage their recyclables on their own, as Arcata does.

The future of recycling will be discussed at an Arcata council meeting later this month. Duffy said her agency will consider what member agencies want and also draw in public participation.

Breaking away from ACRC was controversial for the HWMA and the agency was criticized for contracting with an out-of-county company. Duffy said the commentary was “certainly heard.”



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