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Swain County working toward securing trash site

swainBeginning in January, Swain County residents will no longer have 24-hour access to the county’s trash and recycling convenience center. 

At the moment, the convenience center is open around the clock because there is no gate surrounding the site. While placing a fence around the site and setting hours of operation may be a small inconvenience for residents, the county is receiving pressure from the state to make the trash and recycling site more secure.

“I think we’re one of the only counties left in the state that still has 24-hour accessibility — day or night people can go out there and throw away trash, but they can also jump in the dumpsters and anything else,” said County Manager Kevin King. “The state is really pushing us to make our site more secure and more sanitary.”

To meet the state’s standards, Swain County will invest $382,000 to upgrade its trash drop-off and recycling center located on Old U.S. 19 in Bryson City. The county received $132,000 in grant funding from the White Goods Management program through the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the county is taking out a loan for the remaining $250,000 needed for the project. 

A portion of the grant funding — about $75,000 — will help the county purchase a $165,000 roll-off truck, which will primarily be used to pick up and recycle white goods like refrigerators and freezers. The remainder of the grant will pay for new recycling compactors and a surveillance system for the site. 

The project will change more than the operating hours at the convenience center — it will change the way trash and recycling is collected. The county currently has two front-loading trucks that are used to pick up the 60 standard 8-yard trash containers used at the site. Front-loading trucks are very expensive — about $350,000 each — and the sanitation department would be in need of a new one if the county didn’t choose to make these changes. However, the upgrades will allow the county to get rid of the 60, 8-yard containers and replace them with five trash compactors.

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“When all this takes place, we’ll be downgrading all that down to five compactors, which will be a lot more efficient then our 60 dumpsters there now,” King said.  

This change will also have an impact on the school system, which uses 8-yard trash containers at each of its school campuses. Without the front-loading truck, the county will not be able to pick up and dispose of the trash from those sites anymore. 

King said the school system has a couple of options — it can choose to purchase roll-off containers or compactors that the county will be able to collect with its new truck or it will need to begin contracting with a private provider to pick up its containers. 

If the schools choose to contract with a franchise provider to pick up its trash, King said more security would be needed at the school trash sites to prevent illegal dumping by the public. The county convenience center site has the same problem with people dumping illegally in the middle of the night because there is no fence to keep people out.

“We come in in the morning to find loads of construction and demolition debris and we’ve caught people from other counties coming to dump here because it costs them to take it other places,” King said. “We have a guy staffed at the site from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and if people come in with construction demo he can point them to the right place to get scaled and weighed, but we can’t monitor it at night.”

King said the parts of the project supported by the grant will be in place by January 2016 and the rest of the upgrades will be phased in within the next four to five months. In the meantime, the commissioners will be discussing what the hours of operations should be for the new secure trash and recycling site. 

“The commissioners’ big thing is that they want to keep as much accessibility as possible for the public but they realize things have to change,” King said. 

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