The City of Miami is considering a partnership with the Modoc Tribe that would put the community one step closer to a full-scale recycling program and ultimately reduce the city's expense of disposing of solid waste material.

Interim Public Works Director Jill Fitzgibbon approached members of the city's special utility board with a memorandum of understanding that, if approved, would unite the city and the local Native American tribe into a business venture that she said will take the city's recycling efforts to the next level.

In January, the utility board launched the initial phase of the city's recycling effort with a decision to drop the fee for yard waste disposal at the city's solid waste facility.

Interim City Manager Tim Wilson said at that time that the city would seek a $25,000 recycling grant to purchase a wood chipper and make arrangements to hire one full-time employee to be responsible for reducing limbs to firewood-size portions, chipping brush, mulching grass and leaves and verifying identities of people dropping off debris.

Fitzgibbon said Tuesday that the wood chipper is now in place, a person has been hired to oversee the recycling effort, the sale of firewood has begun and the new department is now giving away mulch and chipped wood.

Additionally, city administrators are designing a composting plan to satisfy the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

“We are excited,” Fitzgibbon said. “We are ready now to go to the next step Š a drop-off center for other recyclable items.”

Fitzgibbon said the city does not have the estimated $200,000 in out-of-pocket cash needed to create a recycling drop off center so administrators entered into a dialog with the Modoc Tribe and Red Cedar Recycling and talked about a partnership.

“We spend about $700,000 a year in transportation costs and landfill tipping fees,” Fitzgibbon said. “In Phase II we propose to implement a recycling drop-off center to pull some of our recyclable materials out of our waste stream thereby reducing some of those costs.”

Both entities will benefit from the resale of recyclable items as the revenue would be split equally between Red Cedar Recycling and the City of Miami.

The plan proposed that the city provide the building — a large garage northwest of the existing solid waste facility — as well as maintenance, utilities and insurance of building. City staff will also take care of public promotion of the drop-off site.

The tribe will contribute personnel, equipment, maintenance of the equipment, tools and supplies for operation and office and will take the lead in marketing the recyclable materials.

“The city's initial investment will be $53,000 with an annual cost of $8,000,” Fitzgibbon said. “The tribe will have an initial investment of $19,000 with an annual cost of $22,000.”

City administrators have targeted Sept. 1 as the potential start-up date. Hours of operation will be the same as the solid waste operation — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

“The ultimate goal of the city is to provide curbside recycling,” Fitzgibbon said. “But, after discussions with several other communities, we learned quickly that it is vital to have progressive, small, successful steps rather than to jump into the big curbside program with o experience. We are trying to eat this elephant one bite at a time and do it successfully.”

Utility board members collectively offered its support of seeking a partnership with the tribe but did did not take any action on the memorandum of understanding at Tuesday's meeting. The panel has asked the city attorney to clarify language in the document and prepare a revised agreement to bring before the board next month.