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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – New Hanover County Commissioners seem to have taken a gamble last year when they approved a start-up company to take over the county’s garbage needs.

R3 has consistantly asked for extensions since the approval last year … extensions for financing followed by extensions for a business plan.

And now, R3’s leaders are apparently missing. We stopped by the company’s local office on Market Street today and it was locked up and empty. We also left messages Monday on a voice mail system for CEO Robin Grathwol, but she hasn’t called us back.

The Star-News has called Grathwol numerous times since Monday, February 28, but she won’t call them back either. They also stopped by the company’s office last Monday and they reported they were empty then as well.

Since the vote eight months ago, R3 Environmental still can’t get things going. County Commissioners met Saturday to discuss what they would do if the company can’t live up to expectations. The consensus was to do nothing, for now.

First, R3 asked for more time to get financing. The county said okay. Then in December, it said it needed another 90 days to work out a plan. Those 90 days are up on April 2. Now, a month out, R3 says it won’t be able to make that deadline either.

Here’s a time-line of events since last summer:

July 12, 2010 – New Hanover County Commissioners vote to turn over trash operations to R3

September 8, 2010 – R3 asks for more time so it can find financing. Commissioners give R3 until September 30.

September 30, 2010 – County approved R3 contract

December 20, 2010 – R3 asks for another 90 days to work out plan

March 2 – R3 says it can’t meet April 2 deadline

R3 would like to build a $15 million plant with machines that would sort recyclables from trash and convert the organic garbage into a product used as fuel or energy.

Company officials also say it can keep at least 80 percent of garbage out of the county landfill, and eventually start mining it so we won’t need one at all.

There’s a quote on R3’s website (http://www.r3enc.com/) that some would consider ironic. It quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes … “Greatness is not where we stand but in what direction we are moving.”

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