Flathead County is getting closer to developing a new green box site for garbage collection in Bigfork, but there hasn’t been an official decision quite yet.
According to Dave Prunty, Flathead County’s public works director, the county is seriously looking at purchasing a little over 5 acres of land near the intersection of Highway 83 and Highway 35, due north of the Little Brown Church.
The county’s Solid Waste District Board hasn’t made any official decisions about the new site, Prunty said, and the board cannot make decisions related to land use or budgetary issues; those decisions must be made by the county commission.
However, given the county’s interest in the land, the project may be a reality in the near future.
“We found this piece of property, and then the county said let’s get the property purchased, so when you do that it looks strongly like you’re going to put a site in,” Prunty said.
The Bigfork green box site has been part of a community debate for years now, with the county declaring it too small and unsafe. There was a potential closure discussed at solid waste board meetings, and that option was met with ire and sharply rebuked by members of the public at a May meeting.
As part of the discussions around expanding the site, the solid waste board formed a subcommittee to look into forming a special-fee area for a larger green box site.
“There would be a special-fee area created so the folks within that special-fee area, in the Bigfork area, would be covering some of the operational expense and some of the capital expense – the construction – of the site itself,” Prunty said.
Boundaries for the site and how much the fee would be are still undecided, he said, though early indicators show school district boundaries may be used in part. A new Bigfork site would be modeled after the other recently upgraded green box sites, with more space and potentially county employees staffing the site.
The land purchase would cost $150,000, Prunty said, putting the entire project, including a new road to get to the green box site, at about $500,000.
“If everything goes really well, and I mean really well, I would love to have this site constructed next summer and up and operational in the fall,” Prunty said.
A recycling area is also part of the preliminary plans, he said, and would be similar to the facility at the Columbia Falls green box site, with a cardboard compactor run by an employee and two bins. It would be more user friendly and efficient than the current set up, Prunty said.
The Flathead County Commission also approved an addition of four full-time employees for the solid waste department, and one of those employees will be a “rover” who will staff the Bigfork and Lakeside green box sites to help remind people what the sites are supposed to be for.
“The container sites are for general household waste,” Prunty said, adding that people have left couches, hot tubs, trailers, mobile homes and other large items that should be taken to the dump directly.
The future of the green box site in Lakeside is still up in the air, Prunty said, but it will be dealt with after the Bigfork site, and will probably mirror the action taken at the Bigfork site. Lakeside will be a little different because the green box site is leased from the Montana Department of Transportation, and the county will have to work with the state to increase the property size.
A new Bigfork site is still in its beginning stages; the solid waste board’s subcommittee will have to make a recommendation to the board, which will then make a recommendation to the county commission about the issue. Prunty said adding a special-fee area is new territory for solid waste in the county.
“This is a new direction for the solid waste district,” he said.
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