Wrenco dump closure stirs resident concern

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

When the Board of County Commissioners voted June 11 to close the Wrenco solid waste refusal site, they noted the county would be taking suggestions for a new site in that general area. Still, without the promise of an alternative and with a general sense they’d been left out of the conversation, many residents are speaking up.

The Wrenco solid waste site. Photo courtesy Bonner County.

Randy Daniels of Wrenco Loop read about the dump site’s impending closure after the fact in a news article and said he immediately sprang into action. Word spread throughout the neighborhood and several Wrenco-area residents resolved to attend the regularly scheduled Solid Waste Advisory Committee meeting Monday. Daniels said the meeting drew a packed audience, the bulk of whom wondered why they hadn’t been warned that their dump was under consideration at a prior committee meeting for closure. With the shutdown of the Laclede site in 2016, Wrenco is considered the dumping locale for a large span of residences along Highway 2 west of Sandpoint.

“I would have put a notice out on the dumpsters that said they were having this advisory committee meeting considering whether they were going to close Wrenco and get some public input,” Daniels said, emphasizing the impressive response seen at the Monday meeting after having only had a couple days to clue his neighbors into the issue. “There would have been a lot of public interest in it.”

Solid Waste Director Bob Howard described the site, which is unattended, as a “nuisance,” and said it needs cleaned up on a consistent basis due to careless and unlawful dumping. He said that without counting the planned expense of having Waste Management haul the site’s garbage, additional care and maintenance of the site costs $12,000 annually.

The closure reflects a larger desire to move away from unattended sites across the county. The hope is that manning a new site would mitigate the misuse that results in that extra spending.

In an analysis of the Wrenco site as part of the recently released 10-year improvement plan, Great West — a company the county contracted to create a long-term strategy for Solid Waste — acknowledges “the site occasionally becomes dirty and requires maintenance.” Under the portion titled “Proposed Improvements” the plan reads “Closure or relocation of the site is in question.”

After a recommendation from the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Howard brought the closures of both the 11 Mile and Wrenco dump sites before the BOCC June 11. Though they voted unanimously to permanently close the problematic 11 Mile site — which had been temporarily closed due to safety issues since the start of the year — commissioners split on the Wrenco issue: Commissioners Dan McDonald and Steven Bradshaw voted in favor of the closure, while Commissioner Jeff Connolly dissented, citing lack of public involvement.

McDonald insisted during that meeting that several residents had complained about the site’s misuse, and that Selkirk Fire officials had “recommended closure.”

In a letter to Howard dated May 23, 2017, Selkirk Fire Assistant Chief Dale Hopkins shared “some issues in relation to the dumpsters on Wrenco loop” presented in a seven-bullet list. Some of the issues included dumpster looting, disposal of appliances and other items not accepted at the site, inappropriate disposal of hazardous waste and other safety issues. The fire department owns the property where the dump site is located.

“We understand this site is valued by the local residents,” the letter concludes. “The Fire Department does not desire to be blamed for removal of the dumpsters, but unfortunately the site is being abused to the point something different should be considered for the local collection of trash.”

Something different might be in the works, according to Howard. He said the county currently has a couple prospects for a new dump in the same general location as the Wrenco site, though nothing is solidified. Ultimately, he said he only needs an acre in order to fence and place an attendant at a kitchen-only site, but part of the challenge lies in the fact that people rarely want to live next to a dump site.

For now, based on concerns from citizens like Daniels, closing the Wrenco site might be postponed until another trash refusal option is secured for those between Sandpoint and Laclede. Though the closure date was originally set for July 31, McDonald said Tuesday that there is “a very good possibility” that the site may remain open until the county secures a new dump location for the area.

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