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Long simmering trash talk reaching a boiling point

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CORE, CLEER funding discussed Nov. 25

John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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The multifaceted questions surrounding the issue of trash pickup in Carbondale, debated for five years now, may finally be headed toward resolution following a decision Tuesday night that it is time for the town’s board of trustees to get to work on an actual ordinance on the topic rather than simply calling for more discussion.

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The actual work, however, is not likely to start until December at the earliest, and perhaps not until some time after the new year begins.

The trustees, along with Jason Haber of the Community Office on Resource Efficiency (CORE) and Jason White of the town’s environmental board (known as the E-board), held a lengthy chat Tuesday about a memo from the E-board outlining that board’s recommendations about how to handle trash pickup in town.

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“This doc attempts to summarize what’s really been five years of work,” Haber told the trustees.

The memo pointed out that there are certain basically dysfunctional elements to the town’s current trash hauling arrangements, including the fact that trash trucks ply the town’s streets “every single day,” bringing noise, odors, pollution from truck exhaust and excessive wear and tear on the streets, as summarized by trustee Allyn Harvey.

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“Frankly, I am sick of it. I am sick of it every morning” Harvey declared, adding that he feels the current arrangement truly “results in people having garbage out on the streets every day of the week.”

All agreed, though, that the idea of consolidating the town’s trash hauling contracts, and paring the number of haulers down from the current five to one probably is not going to happen, since the haulers themselves are solidly against the idea.

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In general, there was agreement that:

• The town’s current fee for a trash-hauling operating permit, a flat $50, is insufficient and should be raised;

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• That the number of haulers operating in town either should be reduced, or the haulers should be assigned to specific “zones,” meaning each hauler would have its own zone of operations and duplication of service routes could be eliminated;

• That haulers should be required to pick up recycling and compost materials separately as a regular service, to keep those two types of refuse out of the landfill;

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• That bear-proof trash containers should be required for every home in town, whether the town helps with the $250 cost per container or not;

• That more public education is needed to ensure residents are not confused about how to correctly handle composting to avoid smelly, messy compost piles that attract wildlife and offend neighbors.

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Recommendations included in the memo called for the town to continue the practice of offering special pickup days for certain kinds of refuse, such as household hazardous material, electronic devices, Christmas trees, pumpkins and yard waste; and to consider adopting a “pay as you throw” pricing structure known as “volumetric” waste management, under which residents are charged only for what the haulers pick up.

This pricing method, according to the memo, should “create clear and significant price signals to decrease consumption and increase waste diversion rates.”

The E-board, as part of the recommendations, offered to work with CORE and the Waste Free Roaring Fork program on such things as educational outreach to residents. The memo suggested that any cost of such educational efforts could be paid out of the town’s “paper bag fund,” which comes from the sale of paper bags at the local grocery store as part of the town’s ban on the use of plastic grocery bags.

Finally, the memo notes that the River Valley Ranch subdivision is acting on its own to arrange for a “single hauler service,” and suggested the town should watch that process for signals about how the town itself might want to proceed.

At the end of the discussion of the memo, mayor Stacey Bernot started to urge the E-board to keep working on the issue, when Haber cut in and asked for more specific “direction” from the trustees, as the E-board appears to be approaching “burnout” in terms of endless discussions on the issue and no real action.

“We don’t have time tonight,” Bernot said, pointing to the clock and mentioning the meeting’s still-unfinished agenda.

It was agreed, though, that the trustees will tackle the issue at a work session in the near future, and then provide the E-board with a more concrete set of proposals to work on.

In other action the trustees:

• Agreed to discuss making a contribution to an area veterans group toward the cost of adding names of Carbondale war veterans to a monument in Rifle. The issue was broached by John Scalzo of Rifle, a veteran and one of those responsible for getting the veterans monument erected several years ago, but bearing only the names of veterans between New Castle and Parachute. The veterans now want to add names of veterans from Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

• Agreed to lease a parking space in the alley south of the 100 block of Main Street, to resident Patti Lecht, on an annual basis.

• Adopted an agreement with local businessman Rick Balentine, amending Balentine’s development approvals for a project known as the Lofts at Dolores Park, permitting Balentine to sell on the free market a condo unit originally meant for the town’s affordable housing inventory, as part of a plan to help him complete stalled portions of the project and subsequently contribute to the town’s stock of affordable housing units.

• Approved a transfer of water and sewer taps from the old, temporary Ross Montessori School buildings north of town hall, to a new, permanent school site that is part of the Thompson Park development off Highway 133 on the south side of town.

• Agreed to hold a discussion with CORE and CLEER, local energy efficiency advocacy organizations, about using the town’s annual revenues from federal mineral lease fee payments and severance taxes. The proceeds come mainly from oil and gas exploration in western Garfield County, and there has been discussion of dipping into those funds to pay for the town’s renewable energy programs. The topic will be added to the regular meeting agenda for Nov. 25.