Some rural Douglas County residents can’t afford to pay more for garbage disposal, but many are willing to pay extra if it means they can keep their rural transfer stations.
That’s the feedback county leaders heard from citizens who attended a meeting at the Oregon State University Extension Office in Roseburg Tuesday on the future of the county’s transfer stations. A couple of dozen community members attended, many of them from Glide, where the transfer station’s future is in question.
Currently, the county operates 11 transfer stations, some in areas with small populations far from Roseburg like Tiller and Elkton.
Tiller, the most expensive of the 11 stations, costs $919 per ton to operate compared with $122 per ton at the Roseburg transfer station. Elkton costs $447 per ton.
Both stations, along with Canyonville, which costs $241 per ton, would be shut down if the county dropped the number of stations to eight.
Another option under consideration is dropping to five stations, leaving open just Myrtle Creek, Oakland, Reedsport, Roseburg and Yoncalla. Yet another option eliminates Yoncalla’s station, to drop the total number to four.
County officials say with 11 stations open the solid waste program is running an annual budget deficit of $1.1 million, thanks in part to work necessary to comply with the Department of Environmental Quality’s standards for leachate management at the dump.
The county’s goal is to have the solid waste department be self-sufficient, taking no money from the general fund and paying for itself with fees.
Even with transfer station closures, those fees would go up to keep the department self-supporting. The price for three cans would need to rise from $9 to $18 even with just four stations left open, according to the information provided at Tuesday’s meeting.
Donna Helms lives up the North Umpqua Highway and takes a small amount of trash at a time, around four pounds a week, to the Glide transfer station on the same days she goes there for a meeting. She’s not sure what she would do if the station closed.
“I don’t know where I would take my garbage. I don’t have that much. I don’t go past any other garbage dumps,” she said.
She thinks closing transfer stations would create additional problems.
“I think it’s a shame they want to close the outlying districts. That will only end up with people dumping it in the woods someplace,” she said.
Bonnie Short has a Roseburg address but takes her garbage to Glide because she likes it better there. She finds the attendant there more helpful.
“I don’t want to go to Roseburg,” she said. “I would pay a higher fee to stay at Glide.”
That was essentially the same feedback that Solid Waste Advisory Committee member Phil Bigler and Solid Waste Division Business Coordinator Linda Mendenhall said they heard.
“The consensus is they’d rather see the rates go up than to see the sites close,” Mendenhall said.
The meeting was decentralized. Rather than a group presentation and comment session, county officials placed three boards around the room laying out the financial problems and the possible alternatives. Community members gathered in groups to speak with county staff and members of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
SWAC member Ellen Porter said she heard complaints about the format of the meeting, chosen by county staff. She said people told her they wanted an informational presentation and a chance for public comment.
“A lot of people drove a long way to be here,” she said. “I’m hearing a lot of frustration.”
County spokeswoman Tamara Howell said staff thought the decentralized format with a chance for one-on-one communication would be better, and that she heard positive feedback about it.
Three additional community meetings on transfer stations and fees are planned around the county. They are at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Yoncalla Community Center, 400 Main St., 6 p.m. Thursday at the Javelin Ormond Community Center, 62 NW Pine St., Canyonville, and 6 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Marina Activity Center, 263 Marina Way, Winchester Bay.