Greener BeeGreen HolidaysSites may close on more holidays

Sally Finneran/Bigfork Eagle
Gary Beaudry throws away household trash at the new green-box site.

A plan to close Flathead Countys green-box garbage container sites on more holidays throughout the year is in the works.

Green-box sites historically have been closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but otherwise operate 363 days a year, according to county Public Works Director Dave Prunty. The Solid Waste District board of directors now is considering closing the countys manned sites on more holidays, including New Years Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

The proposal will be an action item on the Feb. 28 Solid Waste District board agenda, Prunty said. Public comment will be taken at the beginning of that meeting.

The impetus for more holiday closures is to allow county landfill employees who service the container sites to spend the holidays with their families. County Administrator Mike Pence said refuse workers have complained for years about having to work on so many holidays.

Green-box sites would be open on a few holidays, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Columbus Day and Presidents Day. During his monthly report to the county commissioners this week, Prunty said the board is still fine-tuning the proposal. Commissioner Gary Krueger, who serves on the Solid Waste District board, has expressed interest in the green-box sites staying open on Memorial Day to accommodate annual spring cleaning, Prunty said.

Employees are paid time and a half for working holidays, but the consensus is those workers would rather be able to spend the holidays with their families, he added.

The county would save some money by closing the green-box sites for more holidays. Right now the total bill to work the two holidays is more than $20,000 for time-and-a-half pay. The savings is relatively small, though, considering the districts $7 million budget, Prunty said.

Solid Waste District Board Chairwoman Susan Nicosia said the discussion has centered on whether or not having the green-box sites open on holidays is a service the county should continue to provide.

Is it an essential service? she asked. Is it worth the extra money?

Green-box users have weighed in on various issues through the years, such as the hours of operation at the sites and past proposals to close or consolidate certain sites. Public input resulted in Bigfork and Lakeside getting new and improved sites, though residents of those neighborhoods pay a special assessment annually.

Hours of operation at the manned green-box sites has been a bone of contention for many users, Nicosia acknowledged. The sites follow regular county hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but users have lobbied for extended hours so they can stop either before or after work.

Two summers ago the city of Columbia Falls asked the county to adjust the hours of the Columbia Falls collection site to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but that resulted in a barrage of phone calls as well, said Nicosia, who is Columbia Falls city manager. After that summer the Columbia Falls site reverted back to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.


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