Dumping a problem at center
Last updated 11/22/2022 at Noon
Numerous complaints and accompanying photographs have arrived in The Nugget office, reporting on the dismaying condition of Sisters Recycle Center located on West Sisters Park Drive.
People are using the location as an unofficial dump, leaving large quantities of discarded oil and other fluids, furniture, copious quantities of styrofoam packing materials, and just general junk that is not recyclable at the center.
Public Works Director Paul Bertagna told The Nugget that, unfortunately, this is not a new problem. When the recycle center was built in the early 2000s, Deschutes County ran the center and had a part-time employee on site to ensure the appropriateness of recyclables, and to reduce contamination of materials.
When the City of Sisters took over, the center no longer had someone on site. Bertagna said his public works crew went by almost every day to clean up non-recyclable materials left by residents of Sisters Country. At that point in time, garbage services were provided by High Desert Disposal, and they hauled away the full recycle bins, and replaced them with empty ones.
According to City Finance director Joe O’Neill, Republic Services took over the garbage franchise from High Desert in March 2019. They service about 2,000 residential and commercial customers in the city of Sisters, which includes weekly curbside recycling, and two large seasonal yard waste collections in the spring and fall.
Those who live outside the city limits don’t have curbside recycling and may account for a majority of the recycled materials at the recycle center. Glass recycling is not provided curbside for anyone, and can be done at the recycle center.
There have been two solid-waste rate increases since the franchise was transferred to Republic Services. In August 2020, there was a nine percent increase due to an increase in costs for providing the services such as wages, disposal/recycling fees, and maintenance. Another three percent increase occurred in July 2021 due to an increase in the franchise fee percentage from five percent to seven percent and additional costs related to maintaining the recycle center in town.
According to Republic Municipal Manager Courtney Voss, the company services the bins and containers, and does their best to routinely clean the recycle center.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in short dumping (dumping of materials that do not belong at the center, like furniture),” she said. “We’ve seen an increase in the amount of fluids, oil, and materials that are being spilled at the site. And we’ve seen an increase in amount of dropped material, generally. The conditions at the site and the frequency of use by the public has outpaced the scope of the current service agreement that we have with the City, so we are eager to work with the City to reevaluate it!”
In order to have an attendant at the center, Republic Services would need to hire a dedicated staff person to fill that role.
Voss said, “Although this is not part of the current agreement that we have with the City, we are eager to work with the City to make a dedicated staff person possible. Republic Services and the City have the same end goal — we want to ensure that the recycle center is open, accessible, clean, and accomplishing the goal of increasing access to recycling services.”
There are cameras at the center, but to use them effectively would require someone monitoring them. If people are observed dumping inappropriate materials, that is a code enforcement issue to be addressed by the City’s code enforcement officer, Jacob Smith.