Pitkin County landfill reopens for limit hours as home-improvement projects on uptick during down time
With public health orders confining most Aspen and Pitkin County residents to their homes, focus has naturally fallen on our humble abodes and how to make them nicer.
“(People want to) paint that bathroom they’ve been meaning to paint for a long time but couldn’t find the time,” said Tony Wells, manager of Ace Hardware below Clark’s Market in Aspen. “People are trying to stay sane.”
All that home improvement and spring cleaning, however, caused the Pitkin County Landfill to close its gates to the public Monday after scores of residents showed up with truckloads of junk, which violates public health orders forbidding all but essential travel, said Brian Pettet, Pitkin County public works director.
Landfill employees on Monday turned away 44 people with debris from painting or garage cleanups or minor home construction projects. Some of those would-be dumpers became “irate” after being told they couldn’t deposit their items, Pettet said.
“They’re driving to the scale house and within (more than) 6 feet of the person at the window,” Pettet told Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday. “(They’re having an) angry discussion about why they can’t bring in construction materials.”
The Pitkin County public health order, and a similar state order, now in effect ask residents with “non-essential” jobs to stay home for all but necessary tasks like grocery shopping and medical appointments. All non-essential travel is restricted.
In accordance with the health orders, the landfill has been restricting dumping only to commercial garbage and recycling haulers, as well as county residents without commercial trash and recycling service, Pettet said.
But on Monday, after the repeated incidents involving incensed residents with non-essential loads to dump, landfill and county officials closed the gate to the facility just off Highway 82 in an effort to protect employees and the public, he said.
“Our employees are on the frontline enforcing the public health order,” Pettet said. “We needed some assistance with that.”
Residents without trash or recycling service would have to hold onto those items for the rest of the month until the public health order expires April 30, he said.
But that proposal didn’t sit well Tuesday with Commissioners Patti Clapper and Kelly McNicholas Kury.
“We absolutely have to find an alternative (for residents),” McNicholas Kury said.
The solution commissioners settled on Tuesday — leaving a recycling dumpster and a smaller dumpster for other trash outside the closed gate — was determined Wednesday to be unworkable, Pettet said. Commercial trash trucks turning in to the landfill poses a safety hazard, he said Wednesday.
Instead, the landfill will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for county residents who need to dump household trash and recycling. A landfill employee wearing some version of protective gear will meet those residents at the facility gate, maintain social distancing and inspect the load, Pettet said.
Those with non-essential trash will be turned away, he said.
“This is not for someone doing a remodel or cleaning out the garage,” Pettet said. “We are not open for someone cleaning out their garage.”
The only area facility now accepting non-essential trash is the Garfield County Landfill in Rifle, Pettet said.
Both Wells at Ace Hardware and Jay Montano, manager at the Miners Building in Aspen, said they’ve seen a significant increase in people doing home improvement projects since the public health orders went into place. Hardware and home improvement stores are considered essential retailers because they sell parts and supplies to fix essential services.
Montano said many customers are trying to stay busy and entertain children, making refinishing furniture and painting the most popular projects he’s seen.
“Things they put off, they now have the time to do,” Montano said. “A lot of cleaning (supplies) have been heading out the door left and right.”
Aspen Education Foundation has added a second counselor to Aspen Elementary School, thanks to a donation from private donors Katya and Zach Sternberg.