A group of Bigfork residents, with the help of the Flathead County Solid Waste District, are looking into keeping the Montana Highway 83 green box site open.
Late last year, Flathead County announced plans to close the Bigfork and Lakeside green box sites. But the plan drew ire from residents who did not want to drive to Somers or Creston to get rid of their garbage.
“We’re looking at any option to expand the current site,” said Paul Mutascio, president of the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork and a member of the four-person committee looking to save the green box site.
Three years ago, Flathead County announced a long-term plan to consolidate green box sites, including the ones in Bigfork and Lakeside, which sit on leased Montana Department of Transportation property. Public Works Director David Prunty said the sites are small and unsafe. He also said people are dumping larger items at the green box sites that need to be taken directly to the county landfill on U.S. Highway 93 north of Kalispell. More than 6,000 people use the Bigfork green box site annually.
But residents of Bigfork, including Mutascio, said it was unfair that locals would have to drive further. He was especially concerned about the town’s elderly population. In December, he asked the Flathead County Solid Waste Board to delay the closing of the two sites. A month later the board decided to postpone the closure for six months and create a local committee to look into the matter.
Since then, the four-person committee has met twice and Mutascio said they are working closely with the solid waste department to get all the information needed.
“It’s really just a matter of making sure everyone is together and we keep at it,” Mutascio said.
Prunty said the group and the solid waste department has reevaluated the site and is looking at ways to expand it. However, he stresses that all options are on the table, including moving it elsewhere.
One option is expanding the green box site about 20 feet toward the highway and building a fence around it. Mutascio said the group plans to talk with MDT about moving closer to the road and even decreasing the speed limit to lessen the chances of an accident.
“Development along Highway 83 has changed a lot since the 70 mile per hour speed limit was put in place,” Mutascio said. “And we just don’t think 70 miles per hour is a reasonable speed anymore.”
Mutascio said he is hopeful that Bigfork residents will be able to continue to bring their trash to the local green box site for years to come.
“I think (the county) heard what Bigfork and the surrounding community had to say. They now know a lot of people were against (closing the sites),” he said.
Prunty said the solid waste district has not decided future of the Lakeside green box site, but he added nothing would happen to it until the Bigfork issues were resolved.
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