Montgomery recycling plant restructures, lays off 21 employees

Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 7:49 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Nearly two dozen people are without a job after Montgomery’s recycling plant, RePower South, announced layoffs.

The company said this comes after stalled conversations with the city, but the mayor painted a different picture.

RePower South’s recycling services are automatic for Montgomery residents. All waste collected by the city sanitation department is taken to the company’s facility where it is processed.

“We’ve actually recycled over 40 million pounds of recycled commodities over the last two-plus years keeping material out of the landfill,” said Brian Gilhuly, vice president of RePower South Montgomery.

Gilhuly said the layoffs are a result of a temporary restructuring plan.

“The plan included a restriction of our operations, which did result in a 21-person layoff, said Gilhuly. “We’re thankful for their hard work and dedication. But we also hope that we’re able to reverse that program as soon as possible.”

Gilhuly said there were a number of contributing factors that lead to the layoffs. He points to increased operational costs, a decline in commodity values and a lack of financial support from the city. He said Montgomery paid $125,000 a month to process the city’s materials.

“We still have an existing agreement. That is a 25-year agreement with the city to provide these services,” Gilhuly added. “We’ve invested over $14 million into this facility. So, we’ve got have an economic interest to try and make this work right. We’re not a private enterprise, you know, we’re a partnership, a service provider, in partnership with the city helping the city provide essential services to all of the community members.”

Mayor Steven Reed said it’s not working, and he made the executive decision to cut ties with RePower South.

“We’ve subsidized RePower’s operational expenses to the tune of $2 million,” Reed said. “But RePower South has not been able to produce a profit under their current operating structure; they have not been able to address our recycling needs. So, we had to make a difficult decision.”

The city said RePower South didn’t fulfill its end of the deal by helping Montgomery get into the recycling business. Mayor Reed says it’s time to look at new opportunities for recycling in the capital city.

“We cannot continue to subsidize this program with this private business year after year on taxpayers’ dime,” said Mayor Reed.

Repower South leaders say they aren’t ready to give up but the city has closed off communication.

“We have presented a plan. We have demonstrated progress toward that plan,” said Gilhuly. “We’re just looking for the city to be a leader in sustainability and remain committed to recycling as opposed to just landfilling waste.”

In a letter sent to employees, RePower South blamed the city for the layoffs, saying Montgomery no longer wanted to pay for recycling and called the mayor’s move “irresponsible.”

The city says RePower South wanted more financial support but added the government can’t continue to float a private company money when it doesn’t offer other businesses the same.

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