Basalt finds that waste is a horrible thing to mind

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The old saying that waste is a horrible thing to mind is ringing true for some Basalt officials.

Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens is questioning whether the town wants to continue to be designated as the official dumping ground for all recyclables for the entire lower valley.

Carbondale and Glenwood Springs have closed their recycling centers. That leaves Basalt as the only point between Glenwood and Aspen where people can take their cans, bottles, plastic containers and newspapers.

Big bins are placed near the Basalt library on Two Rivers Road. Pitkin County provides the bins and pays to have the material hauled to the recycling center at the dump. There is no direct cost to Basalt or its residents.

The effort is backed by Valley Resource Management, a consortium of governments from Aspen to Rifle. It works on recycling and waste management issues.

Stevens said Basalt should collect the recyclable materials for its residents only and let the other towns establish their own programs.

Basalt public services manager Bob Gish said that’s a major departure from the current philosophy. “We are actively promoting Basalt as a valley drop-off point,” he said.

Councilman Jon Fox-Rubin said it’s appropriate for Basalt to fill that role if it results in more recycling. But the council appeared unanimous that changes in the recycling program must be made.

Various council members, especially Anne Freedman, have frequently complained that Basalt’s recycling center is often unsightly and inappropriate for the western entrance to downtown.

The bins are often overflowing, a testament to their popularity, too infrequent of pick-up or both. There’s also a problem with scofflaws dumping garbage that cannot be recycled. Furniture and used tires appear mysteriously at night. Basalt public works employees patrol the bins and remove the garbage.

The council directed Gish earlier this winter to explore moving the recycling center to a different site. His research showed that it would cost about $20,000 to improve the current location.

A leading alternative is to relocate the recycling center to the south side of the Basalt bypass to a vacant lot owned by the town. The site is next to Big O Tires. The town estimates it would cost up to $38,000 to prepare the site as a recycling center and shield it from view.

However, Gish warned that surrounding businesses might oppose the relocation of the facility to their neighborhood. Council members questioned the legitimacy of the opposition.

Recycling materials are relatively clean and don’t have much of a smell, said Fox-Rubin. Besides, that’s an appropriate use for a area zoned for light industrial, he said.

“It’s not Rodeo Drive over there,” agreed Freedman.

Councilman Leroy Duroux preferred a plan to improve the appearance and safety of the existing site or eliminate it completely.

Stevens also noted that curbside recycling is available in most areas of town for a small monthly fee. He suggested that could be an option if a recycling center was eliminated.

The Pitkin County commissioners struck a nerve earlier this winter when they looked at the future of their recycling program. There was strong public sentiment to continue collecting recyclables. Even vague references to eliminating it drew some angry responses.

Basalt didn’t head in that direction, although board members want further discussions about the future of the program. Fox-Rubin proposed that the council express its intent to move the recycling center to the south side, then hold a public meeting on the idea at a later date. Stevens also suggested that the board meet with Valley Resource Management representatives and talk about Basalt’s role in the valleywide recycling effort.

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