Local residents who take advantage of Philomath’s annual “spring cleanup” will need to take note of a few significant changes beginning with this coming year’s event.
First, the period to stop by the city’s public works yard to drop off recyclable materials and junk will be reduced from six days to a single Saturday. Second, the cleanup will now accept appliances with Freon. And third, organizers will limit the event to Philomath residents only, not those living outside of the city limits.
The Philomath City Council unanimously approved the city manager’s recommendation to make those changes to the spring cleanup during its Dec. 10 meeting.
“I think it makes a lot of sense and is much better aligned with the intent of this as opposed for what it’s actually been used for the last couple of years,” Philomath City Manager Chris Workman told councilors.
Kevin Fear, the city’s public works director, said Republic Services discovered a troubling trend among some area residents.
“It seems that we’re taking seven, eight, nine bins of trash out per day and they’ve kinda tracked that back to some of their people that have canceled garbage service and let it pile up for the year before and then bring it in all at one time to the spring cleanup,” Fear said in reference to past cleanup days.
Fear said the franchise agreement that Republic Services has with Philomath calls for a cleanup to be offered to local citizens. The company holds separate cleanup day events in other cities and in the county.
In the past, the six-day spring cleanup has operated on a Monday through Saturday schedule with hours from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Last year’s cleanup began in late April and ran into the first week of May.
The change will reduce the number of labor hours required for city employees. Republic Services will provide the event’s primary labor with a few city staff assisting with checking residency.
“They will be required to show a water or sewer bill or (driver’s) license or something with an address in the city limits,” Fear said. “We’ve been hosting, we’re sure, everybody outside the city, which originally it wasn’t supposed to be that way and then it got more lax and more and more people were coming in and this year, it’s one of the things that we need to crack down on.”
Besides the labor, another benefit that the city identifies involves the asphalt surface in the public works compound. The rolling of 20 to 30 dumpsters each year with tons of trash has taken a toll on the lot as the asphalt deteriorates.
Workman voiced concern that the change could possibly discourage cleanup opportunities for residents that could really use it.
“The police department uses this event to help nuisance properties — properties that have a lot of junk sitting around — this is a tool they utilize by saying, ‘hey, the spring cleanup is coming and we want you to get this stuff cleaned up to improve the neighborhood and the health and safety of the neighborhood,'” Workman said.
As a result, Workman said city staff needs to be very clear about specifics of the event, which will be shared in a future city newsletter and on the city’s website. Those details will include what will and will not be accepted.
“Those that are bringing in, clearly, huge trailer loads full of household garbage, literally garbage bags from out of the house that are getting stowed away for six months-plus and then getting brought in, that’s the kind of stuff we would discourage at this type of event,” Workman said.
The health concerns that the city manager mentioned are real for those who let household garbage sit around for a year. City staff believes those situations could attract rodents and possibly contribute to stormwater pollution.
Councilors asked a few questions about the change, such as the possibility that traffic could be a concern in and out of the public works compound.
“The nice thing about a one-day event is you can get all those bins there and get them set up so you’re not waiting in line as long,” Workman said. “You can pull in, dump your stuff and go because there will be several open bins.”
In the past, one bin has been available and if someone had metal or something a little more labor intensive to dump, the wait for those in line could be substantial.
Workman mentioned that other locations were looked at to help with possible traffic issues. For example, the city’s Skirvin Park, where the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo grounds are located, has more space but in the spring, the ground out there is too soft. Other issues could also come up.
“There would be a tradeoff … we’ll have to see how it goes this next year,” Workman said.
Another councilor asked if it could be shortened to say, three days, instead of one.
“They did not offer us any options,” Fear said in reference to talks with Republic Services. “They said we are one of the very few cities that continues a multi-day event. All of the other cities have gone to a one-day recycling event.”
Although the city will later release details about exactly what will be accepted, in general, the short list includes yard debris, electronics, scrap metal, appliances with Freon and large bulky items, such as couches, mattresses and furniture.