Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Is Synagro and Waste Management partner Green Knight Economic Development Corporation really "broke"?

Various sources report that Green Knight members have told them in confidence "we have no money" and "we're broke".  Since the landfill has recovered from the downturn in the economy in the late 2000's, this doesn't make sense if Green Knight has its expenses under control.  The landfill is producing plenty of methane - there is more than Green Knight needs because it is being flared off by Waste Management.

Green Knight files IRS form 990 as a 501(c)(3)
Green Knight Economic Development Corporation is required to file form 990 with the IRS as a non-profit.  At the bottom of this post are the 990s for 2013-2015, and the first thing noticed is that Peter Albanese, treasurer, lists 45 N. Lehigh Ave in Wind Gap as his address under "Name and Address of Principal Officer". Wind Gap, Pen Argyl and Plainfield Township were each to have three residents representing their interests on the GKEDC board.  Peter is not domiciled at 45 N. Lehigh Ave.  His residence is in Plainfield Township, on Rudolph Road (which has a Pen Argyl zip code).  Green Knight modified its own charter to accommodate wishing to have Mr. Albanese on its board, even though he does not reside in the municipality he is supposed to represent.  If you examine the IRS instructions for Form 990, the "principal officer" is the big cheese, regardless of title.  So "treasurer" inadequately describes Mr. Albanese's responsibilities and authority.

Another thing to notice is Green Knight's mission: "provide economic relief for poor & distressed local citizens."

Land clerk's record for 45 N. Lehigh Ave Wind Gap

Green Knight forms 990 show stockpiling of cash and slashed return to community
An examination of GKEDC's 990s shows that while it cleared roughly $600,000 to $800,000 ( revenue - expenses ) in each of the years 2013, 2014 and 2015, the amount of grants to the community has only been $20,000 to $25,000.  These went to the YMCA (2013) and to Families First and Blue Mountain Community Library (2014 and 2015).

Specifically, here are those amounts:
  • 2013 Revenue less expenses: $780,867  Community Grants: $24,568 (3.2% of net)
  • 2014 Revenue less expenses: $719,915  Community Grants: $20,000 (2.8% of net)
  • 2015 Revenue less expenses: $585,138  Community Grants: $20,000 (3.4% of net)
Gross revenue is steady at about $1.8 to $1.9 million in the past three years, and Green Knight has reported a bank savings account of roughly $4,000,000.

Green Knight Economic Development Corporation FY2015 EOY savings balance $3,993,803

Can Green Knight be "broke"?  Is a 3% community benefit on net income reasonable?
Given that Green Knight's mission as reported on its form 990 is to provide economic relief for poor and distressed local citizens, it begs the question of what they are doing sitting on $4 million, and should they be returning more than 3% of their net income to the needy citizens of the community?  Up until five or six years ago, community grants from Green Knight were more like $120,000 per year - six times what they are now - and distributed to several more than two entities.

Where is the evidence to support rumors and alleged reports that Green Knight is in dire financial straits?  Is is not seen in the 990s.

What is Green Knight currently doing?  They are involved in preparing the Beers site in Plainfield/Wind Gap to be developed, but they are only preparing the site - at a cost of perhaps $400,000.  With $4 million in the bank, how in heaven's name can they be "broke"?  Something is badly amiss here.

Here is an odd thought.  Is it possible that someone is spreading a rumor that Green Knight is broke to justify why they have to sell their waste heat?  Stranger things have happened.  Perhaps at the dog and pony shows that have been arranged for early January at Wenona Park and the Plainfield Twp Fire Company, officials of Green Knight can explain their financial position during Q&A.

Will the residents in the Pen Argyl Area School District see a significant economic benefit from Synagro?
Green Knight is promoting the Synagro project because it allegedly realizes a 17-year long goal to recover energy from its waste heat.  A closer look has revealed that goal had a low probability of realization from the start, because it relied on the waste heat being delivered to a manufacturer located on the current Techo Bloc property at 852 Pennsylvania Ave   That did not happen.  It could not have been planned to locate the waste heat consumer where Synagro proposes, because the zoning never permitted more than one principal use on that lot.

But assuming they could sell their waste heat to Synagro, it is a fair question what the particulars are - what monthly income does GKEDC expect for delivery of its waste energy?  It has been represented that Synagro is supplying the heat exchange equipment on the energy center's turbines - who will pay for the maintenance of said equipment?  What will be the gross economic benefit to the needy and distressed citizens of Plainfield Township, Wind Gap, and Pen Argyl?  We know there will be jobs in the range of $35K to $100K, which means one person making $100K, and everyone else making $35K to $50K.  16 jobs (advertised).  If you're needy and/or distressed, Synagro has a few jobs to enable you to pull up your bootstraps, pull on your protective gear, and escape your unfortunate circumstances - moving poop around in a closed building you will experience the freedom of the soul that accompanies the opportunity to achieve higher and higher goals.  Synagro's storage silos are 52.5' tall.  It will be good for the entire community - especially the thousands living within a few miles of the plant and adjacent to farms in the Lehigh Valley.  We made that!

The proposed project will doubtlessly be lucrative to investors in Synagro and Waste Management, But will there be an increase in Green Knight community grants due to the added income from Synagro?  It is inexplicable why grants suddenly decreased 85%+ around 2011 and have remained depressed, even though net income is healthy.  Reports that GKEDC itself may be "needy and distressed" seem suspicious both by the evidence as well as the timing..  Unless Uncle Billy dropped a bundle of cash down a hole and nobody knows yet.  It is possible that the added income from Synagro will not influence the bottom line to the community at all?

Winners and Losers
Clearly the big winner is Waste Management.  They lease their land, and may get a per ton or some other volume-based fee.  There is big money here - Synagro would receive about $32,000 per day for the 400 tons of crap it hauls in - $80 per ton is typical for hauling Class B sludge out of waste treatment plants.

Next in line is Synagro.  They would not be doing this if it were not profitable.  They plan to win.

Last is Green Knight, and the needy and distressed citizens this non-profit is to benefit.  Given their recent track record of decreased grants and the lack of transparency as to their plans, should they not specifically inform the community what impact this will have on grants they pledge to provide to the community?  As for jobs - please.  We're already faced with the risk of our children settling for driving forklifts.  Do we really want them ending up as floor-flushing poop-pushers?

Alternate poop-less plan for Green Knight and Waste Management that would benefit the community
Let's do something positive for the community, not something to make it worse

Several citizens have asked why there is so much flaring of methane from the landfill, given that this is wasted energy that Green Knight could be converting into electricity and selling.  There is so much flaring that some are even claiming that Waste Management is "burning sludge", because they smell shit and see the flares.  WM accepts 400 tons a day of sludge according to manager Scott Perin, but it is not burning it.  It is being put in the landfill.

Waste Management could expand the piping system in place that currently supplies methane to the Energy Center, to extend to additional parts of the landfill.  If Green Knight is at capacity, use some of the $4m to add a turbine.  Or take out a loan.  This isn't rocket science.  Put your thinking caps on.

Click here for 2013 Green Knight Form 990
Click here for 2014 Green Knight Form 990

Green Knight Economic Development Corporation IRS Form 990 for FY2015, showing $20K in community grants on... on Scribd
Green Knight Economic Development Corporation FY 2015 IRS form 990

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