BIGFORK – A proposed plan to move the Bigfork green box garbage disposal site to a new location largely earned support from residents during an Aug. 12 public meeting, despite the proposal containing additional costs for the residents.
The Aug. 12 meeting, held at the Bethany Lutheran Church in Bigfork, consisted of community members voicing their opinions on the newly proposed site, which would be located near the intersection of Highways 35 and 83, behind the Little Brown Church.
To pay for the land purchase, site construction, recycling infrastructure, a well and landscaping, and annual operating costs, the county would create a solid waste special fee area, wherein residents would be charged an annual fee.
Flathead County Public Works Director Dave Prunty presented the proposed special fee district during the Aug. 12 meeting, which also included the county’s Solid Waste District Board.
The special fee area boundaries would run from the county line on the southern end of Bigfork; the border with the Swan mountains on the east side; the border with the Flathead River on the west side; and half way along the section line between La Brant Road and Lindsey Lane on the north end.
There are 3,082 residences in the proposed boundary. The total capital needed for the expanded container site is an estimated $375,000, which would be paid at $18,000 annually over 20 years, along with an annual $104,500 for operational costs.
That equals $39.75 per residence unit per year.
Members of the public who attended the meeting saw a new proposal for the green box site as a victory; the county has discussed closing the Bigfork site all together, which was met with widespread resistance from community members during a May meeting with the Solid Waste District Board.
At the May meeting, public comments included those who said it was unfair for the county to shut down the green box service while continuing to tax county residents $80 for it, and it was also unfair for the county to suggest that residents simply get private trash service or drive further to another green box site.
Residents asked for other options, which the county presented at the Aug. 12 meeting.
Paul Mutascio, representing the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork, said the new proposal won’t be ideal for everyone, but it is a step in the right direction, especially where recycling is concerned.
He suggested that the new site be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to accommodate working families, but otherwise encouraged other Bigfork residents to support the proposal.
“It has been a contentious issue but one that has been carried out with respect,” Mutascio said.
Other members expressed support for the recycling component, which would be similar to the one installed at the Columbia Falls site, with a cardboard compactor run by an employee and two bins. It would be more user friendly and efficient than the current setup, Prunty said.
Some of the public present at the Aug. 12 meeting did oppose the proposed location. Ron Fetveit, an elder on the board of Crossroads Christian Fellowship, said the site would border his church’s land and bring down the property value.
Others noted the proposed site’s proximity to the nearby cemetery, and said they would prefer their loved ones’ final resting places not be neighbored by a garbage collection site.
Prunty said the board would take all of the comments into account and discuss options about the site in coming weeks. The board will then have the choice to either recommend the new site proposal to the Flathead County Commission or not, or the board could choose to keep discussing the matter.
The Bigfork green box site has been part of a community debate for years, with the county declaring it too small and unsafe. Prunty said that if the county does not move forward with the latest proposal for a new site in Bigfork, it is likely the current site will still shut down regardless.
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