Residents Decry Possible Green Box Closures

By Beacon Staff

A vocal crowd of Flathead County residents berated the county’s Solid Waste District Board during a May 29 workshop about the future of the county’s green box garbage sites, saying elected officials aren’t listening to constituents.

The main item of contention is the potential future closures of the Bigfork and Lakeside green box sites, with which residents from both towns adamantly disagreed.

Closing the Bigfork and Lakeside sites has been under scrutiny for at least two years, when the county said the dumpsites are too small and pose safety risks.

Barb Miller, who spoke representing the Lakeside Community Council, said there hasn’t been a resident in favor of the apparent closure and consolidation plan, and that moving all green box activity to the Somers site on Highway 82 is a safety hazard because there isn’t a left turn lane nor a traffic light, and the speed limit is 70 mph.

“This is a fatality waiting to happen,” Miller said.

Miller said residents pay for green box service in their taxes already, and adding the extra cost to drive further to these services puts an unfair financial burden on the taxpayers.

One public meeting on the issue isn’t enough, she said, and one solution isn’t the answer.

“Give the communities a chance,” Miller said. “Give us some options.”

Others spoke about how closing the sites will mean more people will end up dumping their trash in the woods or by the side of the road. If the sites aren’t close and user friendly, the garbage will just be dumped illegally.

“People will use the side of the road,” Bud Sayler of Marion said. “This is not about saving money. In reality, this is about providing a service to the people you are supposed to represent.”

Sayler said he saw improperly disposed garbage when the county closed the Marion green box site in 2009, and that residents had warned the county such behavior would happen back then as well.

“You’re not listening,” Sayler said. “There wasn’t a single person at that meeting that said we want to do this.”

Sue Hanson of Bigfork said the green box site is already so busy, and moving it to consolidate at Somers would not solve the problem. She also said it’s unfair for the county to consider making residents pay for private garbage service or have to drive further to green boxes.

“All we’re asking for is service,” Hanson said. “The sheriff’s department has a huge county to cover too, and they don’t charge us extra to come to Bigfork.”

Recycling was another issue discussed; many residents said they want more recycling opportunities, and that the blue recycling boxes at the drop sites are always full.

Paul Mutascio, representing the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork, said the consultants looking at the future of green boxes – CH2M Hill – have never looked at alternate answers to the growing garbage problem, and have only considered closure.

The county is paying about $70,000 for the study, public works director Dave Prunty said.

There was also discontent about the meeting time and location; it was held at a county parks building on Foys Lake Road at 10 a.m. on a Thursday.

“If customer service was on the agenda, this one meeting wouldn’t be held in Herron Park,” Lakeside resident Dan Benesch said.

After two hours of public comment, the Solid Waste District Board continued with a workshop addressing the issues brought forth, Prunty said.

The board decided that a resident survey – another big topic of discussion – is needed before any sort of decisions are made. Prunty said most of the afternoon was spent creating the survey questions and deciding how to disseminate the survey.

He said the board hopes to have it out by June or July, and it could be mailed, made available online and taken by employees at the dumpsites.

The board is about 25 percent of the way toward making a recommendation to the Flathead County Commission, who would then be responsible for making the final decision, Prunty said.

That means there is plenty of work to do before the board makes up a formal presentation for the commission. All of the comments made at the May 29 meeting were recorded and will be burned to a CD for the consultants, and Prunty said the board addressed many of the concerns during the workshop.

As of May 30, no further workshops were planned, he said.

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