Waste Management Authority decides against closing Mon Bijou dump site until other options are explored

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ST. CROIX - The V.I. Waste Management Authority on Wednesday night hosted its second of two town meetings called to announce future plans for two of the island's four waste bin sites.

While Wednesday's meeting initially was scheduled to announce the decision to close the Mon Bijou bin site, the authority announced at the start of the discussion that the decision was made to reconsider the closing at least until they have exhausted communication on other possible solutions.

Waste Management officials met Tuesday night with about 150 residents who use the Cotton Valley bin site and announced then that they had rescinded the 30-day notice for termination of services the agency had sent to the contractor and had decided not to make any decisions until they also met with the residents in those areas to discuss an alternative plan.

May Adams Cornwall, Waste Management executive director, said the primary reason for the decision to close the site was because of a lack of funding to cover the operations costs. She said the proposed plan was to close the centrally located site and relocate it by consolidating it with the bin site at the landfill in Estate Anguilla.

"More than 1,700 households in that general area are serviced by our house-to-house pick-ups that we do through contractors and with the open bins. We are realizing that a lot of the use is coming from illegal dumping of commercial trash that should be taken to the landfill," she said.

Cornwall said the house-to-house pick up costs about $1.3 million a year and the cost for a contractor to haul the trash from the dump site is an additional $1 million.

Cornwall said it is difficult to monitor and regulate the dumping at a site that is not manned and is open around the clock, but the funds are not there to fund turning the site into a manned area or an enclosed site similar to the convenience center at Peter's Rest.

She said the Waste Management Authority has continuously seen a steady decrease in its operating budget, and those cuts have directly translated into the agency having to make a decision to cut positions, reduce services or consolidate so they could operate more efficiently.

Cornwall said she believes the cost of disposing of the trash should be paid by the people who generate it, which would mean adding fees for pick-up or dumping, tipping fees or fees for certain products that are purchased.

"Everybody talks about the fact that they pay taxes, but the truth of the matter is that the tax money is just not enough to spread around for all that needs to be done in the territory," she said.

Cornwall asked the residents to think of their tax dollars as being used not personally for services for them, but for community betterment across the board.

She said that at the end of the day, the plan is for the Waste Management Authority to see where it can provide a convenient collection point for residents, and while the most convenient choice is to pick up trash at everyone's house, it is not feasible and those who get the service may very soon have to pay for it.

She said that may make those generating the waste more conscious of how much they actually generate and force efforts to cut back.

During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, residents raised concerns about fees, saying that many families are struggling and cannot afford any additional fees imposed on their monthly budget.

Residents expressed their satisfaction with the way the Peter's Rest Convenience Center is running and asked for the possibility of a similar system at Mon Bijou.

Cornwall said the Peter's Rest site was funded by $1 million in Public Finance Authority funds, but a rough estimate showed that a similar transformation could be done at Mon Bijou for $450,000.

Residents said their biggest concern with the bin site being closed or moved would be the possible increase of illegal dumping in the guts and vacant plots in and around the neighborhoods.

"If that bin site is closed, you will start to see more and more trash along the road and in the bush than we already seeing now," resident Magda Finch said. "We can't afford to have that."

Discussions continued along the lines of finding a solution that would benefit everyone, but Cornwall said she intends to have another round of meetings some time next month to finalize possible solutions.

During the meeting, residents also discussed the need to increase recycling in the territory, the need to reduce illegal tire dumping at bin sites and in the bush, ways to avoid additional fees and the removal of squatters who have set up residence on the western side of the bin site and antagonize some residents as they dump their trash, which poses a safety and security issue when the vagrants rifle through the trash.

Cornwall asked residents to continue the open dialogue with the Waste Management Authority and contact them with additional information by emailing communication@www.viwma.org, calling 712-4962 or 712-4999 or visiting www.viwma.org.

- Contact Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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