Pictured from left: Barbara Baggett, KUB secretary; Larry Olson, Allan Boutwell and D’nese Fly, KUB board members; Greg Harmison, KUB board chair; Michael L. “Mike” Allen, LCRA Board member; Lauren Salazar, BEC marketing and communications manager; Kate Ramzinski, LCRA Regional Affairs representative; Anne Woodley, KUB board member; and Kate Stanford, Texas Economic Development & Tourism regional representative for Central Texas.
UVALDE COUNTY, Texas – Thanks to a $9,665 grant from Bandera Electric Cooperative and the Lower Colorado River Authority, Keep Utopia Beautiful will expand its recycling operations, helping the nonprofit organization better support its ongoing beautification efforts in the Sabinal Canyon area.
The Community Development Partnership Program grant, along with matching funds of $3,773 from Keep Utopia Beautiful, will pay for the construction of a 27,000-cubic-foot metal building. The new building will be used to store additional recycled materials at the facility, which serves residents of Uvalde, Bandera, Real and Medina counties and is located on the site of Uvalde County’s former landfill.
“We’re just really excited about this grant and this project,” said Greg Harmison, chair of the Keep Utopia Beautiful board of directors. “This will be quite a boon to us because we’ll be able to do some things much more efficiently. Right now, there are times when we just don’t have room to store this, that or the other items.”
In 2021, Keep Utopia Beautiful collected and recycled more than 66 tons of material, including cardboard, plastic bottles and cartons, steel and aluminum cans, batteries and assorted paper products. The service is free to area residents and businesses.
Harmison said the additional building will help Keep Utopia Beautiful operate more cost-effectively by providing more space for storing baled materials that are ready to be shipped directly to recycling mills. By selling directly to mills, Keep Utopia Beautiful can avoid the need to pay secondary sellers to work with mills on its behalf.
“It takes anywhere from 36 to 40 bales to make up a truckload that ships to a mill, but right now once we start getting crowded, we can spend as much time shifting things around as doing things,” Harmison said. “Having this new building will allow us to get material out of the way. As an example, with this new building, we can store enough aluminum cans to get a truckload and then we can sell them at a higher price.”
Harmison said revenue from Keep Utopia Beautiful’s recycling facility covers about a fourth of the organization’s annual operating costs, “but every extra $100 we make off those materials gives us extra money to keep up with our programs.”
Beyond its recycling center, the organization’s beautification efforts include organizing litter removal, emptying trash receptacles along Utopia’s town square, conducting educational programs for area schoolchildren and watering trees alongside RM 187.
“With this new building, we’re hoping to be able to partner with some groups that don’t have their own recycling facility,” Harmison said. “It’s going to add quite a bit of space, alleviate some pressure on us and open us up to doing more recycling in the area.”
The community grant is one of 36 grants awarded recently through LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program, which helps volunteer fire departments, local governments, emergency responders and nonprofit organizations fund capital improvement projects in LCRA’s wholesale electric, water and transmission service areas. The program is part of LCRA’s effort to give back to the communities it serves. Bandera Electric Cooperative is one of LCRA’s wholesale electric customers and is a partner in the grant program.
Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted in July. More information is available at lcra.org/cdpp.
Photo and press release courtesy of LCRA