Plan to Close Bigfork, Lakeside Dumps Draws Ire

By Beacon Staff

Paul Mutascio doesn’t want to “trash talk” anyone, but the Bigfork community leader is frustrated with Flathead County’s plan to close two local green box garbage sites. On Dec. 3, the president of the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork, asked the Flathead County Solid Waste Board to hold off on closing the Bigfork and Lakeside sites.

But Public Works Director David Prunty says the Bigfork and Lakeside green box sites are small, unsafe and need to be closed. If the county does close the sites, residents of Bigfork and Lakeside will have to drop their garbage off in Somers or Creston.

Prunty said consolidating the green box spots would also cut down on people dumping large items that should be brought directly to the county landfill.

“It’s a free-for-all,” Prunty said. “People now dump furniture, tires, demolished homes and the like, and our trucks can’t handle that.”

Trucks haul the garbage from green box sites across the valley to the county landfill just north of Kalispell, along U.S. Highway 93.

But Mutascio says the county’s plan is unfair to the taxpayers of Bigfork and Lakeside. Each household in Flathead County must pay $80.73 annually for garbage services. Mutascio says Bigfork residents will have to spend more on fuel every year to bring their garbage to the Somers dump, along Montana Highway 82. He’s also concerned about additional traffic along that stretch of road and the environmental impact of nearly doubling the amount of garbage at the site.

“The bottom line is this is a heck of a tax increase, a hidden tax, just to get rid of this site,” he said, referring to additional fuel costs. “We need to put the brakes on this plan and take a broader look at how we’ll take care of our trash. And it should look at everyone’s concerns, not just the county’s.”

Prunty said plans to consolidate green box sites in the county were drawn up three years ago. Since then, the Marion and Kila dumps have been combined and this winter three sites along U.S Highway 2 between West Glacier and Marias Pass will be closed and replaced with a new green box site near Essex. Prunty said the long-term goal is to have most of the green box drop-offs staffed, just like the Columbia Falls one.

The Bigfork and Lakeside green boxes are located on land leased from the Montana Department of Transportation and, because of that, Prunty said it would be hard to expand them. He said garbage trucks often have to work in close confines around people dropping trash off.

“It’s just not big enough and it’s not safe for people and our employees,” he said. “Eliminating the sites is still an option, but if the public has a better idea then our board wants to hear it.”

Mutascio is worried the plan to close the dumps will go forward regardless of local concerns. He added that the closure would detrimentally affect Bigfork’s seniors.

Charlotte French has lived in Bigfork for 17 years and takes her garbage to the dump on Montana Highway 83. She said it would be much harder for people like her to travel the five extra miles to Somers, especially in winter. She thinks people might just start throwing their trash along the side of the road if the Bigfork site is closed.

“There would be trash all over the little hills and valleys,” she said.

The Flathead County Solid Waste Board has promised to hold public meetings in Bigfork and Lakeside sometime next year to solicit opinions from the public. Whatever does happen next year, board chairman Hank Olson said the current Bigfork site should be closed.

“Nobody likes change and we understand that,” he said. “(But) the big thing is we just can’t have it where it’s at. It’s just too small of a site.”

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.