On Thursday April the 12th I had the privilege of attending the Pueblo County Commissioners meeting on EcoVillage. Executive Director Carolyn Kelly showed off the 3D model and presented her plan of a 40-acre remanufacturing and recycling plant that would provide 450 “living wage” jobs at full operational capacity. County Commissioner John B. Cordova seemed very supportive of the idea, while Jeff Chostner was supportive but seemed somewhat skeptical that some of Kelly’
s claims were possible. (Anthony Nunez was absent due to a scheduling conflict.) After the meeting I sat down with Carolyn Kelly to ask her a few more questions.
PULP: What type of non-profit is EcoVillage?
Carolyn Kelly: EcoVillage is not a non-profit. It is a project under Gaia Institute, which is 501(c)3 [a charitable non-profit –Ed.].
PULP: Where does the project stand now? CK: I don't think I understand this question, but can give some information... The business plan is prepared; there may be a funding source for some of the funding needs (low-interest loan); The property (40+ acres) has been identified; Representatives with the CDPHE and EPA have already been providing guidance; two environmental studies have been conducted on the property - and another study will need to be completed prior to any buildings being built.
PULP: What's the next step? CK: Submitting additional information to the potential lenders. Generating more revenue and raising more money NOW.
PULP: How much money have you raised for EcoVillage so far?
CK: Cash and in-kind contributions are probably at about 1.8 million.
PULP: Of the 1.8 million dollars, how much is still available for the project and what, if anything, is it being used for in the process?
CK: I think I may have been confusing on this point. To date, there has already been approximately that much invested in cash and in-kind donations. This includes items such as land and equipment use, installing utilities, equipment, buildings (Quanset Hut and office trailer), building materials, etc. No, that money is not in the bank - that's approximately what has been invested already.
PULP: You had a study done proving that your worms could remove selenium from biosolids taken from the wastewater treatment plant. Have any further studies been done?
CK: Actually when we did that first study there was more than one study. It was done in series and phases. We ran it four times, tested it and proved that it would work.
PULP: Where did the 3D model come from?
CK: It was built by interior design students at Pueblo Community College.
PULP: How much did it cost?
CK: I believe we paid $1400.
PULP: Where did you come up with the number for 450 full time living wage jobs?
CK: In researching material reclamation facilities across the country and finding communities that had similar demographics to Pueblo and visiting the two MRF’s (materials recovery facility) in Pueblo and Denver and Boulder, we were able to finger how much waste we have how much equipment it would it would take, how much man power would be required to run that equipment.
PULP: Where is the money going to come from to pay the 450 employees?
CK: Money will be generated on both ends; the first will be fees that people pay to bring materials in. Then the materials will be taken and repurposed and the end product can be sold.
PULP: What are the major financial or licensing hurdles? CK: Financial hurdles: We obviously don't have enough money to implement the full expansion as quickly as we would like to or what the community/environment needs. We need to increase revenue through a number of methods, such as product sales, fundraising campaigns, etc. There are definite, and sometimes high, costs associated with diverting waste from landfills. People do not seem to want to take responsibility for those costs - even though they make the trash. Recycling, in the U.S. as it has been typically done, does not generally generate much revenue. Or, rather, enough revenue to do much better than break even. The projected risk with the EcoVillage model is relatively low, as the loans will be secured with hard assets. In addition, at the point in time when virtually any one of the planned phases is completed, a revenue stream will begin almost immediately, especially with the organic waste.
Licensing hurdles: We do not project any (or few) licensing/permitting hurdles, although the process is complex, expensive, and takes quite some time.
PULP: What is the projected opening date?
CK: This will depend on how quickly the funding application gets approved and how quickly they will then disburse the funds. If we had ALL the money today, then we could open in approximately 12-18 months, depending on how long the various permits and licenses take to acquire. I, again, thank you for your time and interest in the EcoVillage project.
By Johnmark Wiley