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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006

Financial troubles at ReNew prompt termination of its executive director

BRATTLEBORO—Erich Kruger, who founded ReNew Building Materials & Salvage, saw his position as executive director of the nonprofit organization terminated last month.

Kruger, 41, who lives in Dummerston, said that after a meeting with ReNew’s Board of Directors on July 20, “I was advised with unanimity the position of executive director at ReNew was being eliminated, and that my employment with ReNew Building Materials & Salvage [would] be terminated.”

In a statement released last week, the board said it was “faced with mounting financial concerns” and needed “to make a variety of difficult business decisions.”

The board stated its current financial crisis “is a result of higher than expected costs coupled with an unexpected downturn in revenue and a grave lack of cash reserves.” Thus, the board “unanimously concluded that operations needed to be streamlined, necessitating the elimination of the Executive Director position.”

The board declined to elaborate on ReNew’s financial situation. In its 2008 report to the Internal Revenue Service — the newest report available — the organization reported revenues of $573,534 against expenses of $615,773, for an operating deficit of $42,239. ReNew reported total assets of $1,014,521 — $865,451 in land and buildings — and net assets of $59,215.

Many supporters of ReNew were stunned by the news of Kruger’s termination and have written letters of protest to the Board of Directors.

In a e-mail response to one of those letters that was obtained by The Commons, acting Board Secretary Peter Yost wrote that the board “shares your disappointment in the departure of Erich Kruger. He was a dedicated, dynamic, and valued leader for the organization. His departure, as well as the loss of the position, will be a difficult transition for all.”

The response further stated that “this reduction-in-force was not an easy decision. It was, however, a unanimous one based on financial urgency.”

ReNew is one of only two nonprofit corporations in Vermont — the other is Recycle North in Burlington — that specialize in the careful disassembly of buildings, known as deconstruction, to salvage their reusable materials.

It costs more to do a deconstruction of an old building instead of conventional demolition, but the extra cost can be recouped through tax deductions for donating the salvage materials to nonprofits such as ReNew, and through reduced disposal costs, since the cost of disposing of demolition waste runs about $100 a ton.

ReNew saves the donated reusable materials from its deconstruction jobs to sell in its reused-building-supply store on Town Crier Drive. The rest that can’t be sold is either recycled or disposed.

Kruger started ReNew about five years ago to help put a dent in an estimated 90,000 tons of construction and demolition waste that ends up in Vermont’s landfills.

It’s estimated that deconstruction can divert between 60 and 80 percent of the debris that comes with the demolition of a 2,000-square-foot home. In ReNew’s first year of operation, it prevented an estimated 260 tons of demolition waste from being sent to landfills or incinerators.

Kruger said that he was not leaving with hard feelings, and said he has offered his services to the board, if its members desire, to help with the transition.

“I am passionate about the services ReNew provides the community, and hope that the staff and board will continue to receive the full support of their loyal customers, clients, donors, and vendors,“ he said. “I have known the staff to work tirelessly to support ReNew’s mission, and I see ReNew as a valuable resource and asset in our community.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #61 (Wednesday, August 4, 2010).

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