By Coleman Martinson
County residents might have to change how they dispose of their trash as the county closes four unstaffed collection centers.
The Buffalo Creek location on U.S. Route 11 closed Wednesday, and the Rural Valley Road and Bunker Hill Mill Road locations are set to close next week. The Timber Ridge Collection Center will close Dec. 3.
That leaves 17 unstaffed collection centers which are open 24/7, according to the county website.
But the county now has seven staffed collection centers, including a new Fancy Hill center on Route 11 South, near Natural Bridge. (See the map below for all trash collection locations.)
The collection centers that are staffed are now open every day but Tuesday, including Wednesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
To increase access, the board of supervisors voted this week to also open the staffed collection centers on Tuesdays, beginning Dec. 3. County Administrator Spence Suter said the move will cost the county an additional $43,500 annually.
“I have personally found myself [there] on a Tuesday,” Suter said at the board meeting on Tuesday. “We will have to add someone [to the staff] down the road.”
Rockbridge County, with nearly 600 square miles, does not offer curbside pick-up for trash service as the City of Lexington does. County residents have to dispose of their trash themselves.
The county has wanted to close unstaffed dump sites for years because they are roadside eyesores and can attract wild animals. Another concern is that some residents dispose of items that are not permitted, such as tires, dead animals and furniture. Some businesses use them, as well, which is not permitted. Suter said 12 citations for illegal dumping have been issued this year.
A previous attempt in March 2017 to close the unstaffed collection centers was abandoned after citizen backlash.
The new Fancy Hill recycling and trash collection center opened Wednesday for county residents, but some are afraid the closings could lead to more trash on the side of the roads.
“People are lazy, and people will not take the extra time,” said John Crutchfield as he was throwing away trash earlier this week at the Bunker Hill Mill Road Collection Center. “It’s not a huge deal for me, but I’m worried about dumping. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.”
The board and the solid waste and recycling manager hope that the additional hours on Tuesday will provide more access to residents and cut back on illegal dumping.
Some businesses also hope to help fill the void.
“It’s not a huge deal for me, but I’m worried about dumping. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.” – John Crutchfield, county resident
Klean Earth Disposal is one company that picks up trash at county residents’ homes for a fee. The closings could mean more business, a spokeswoman said.
“We’re hoping [that] over time, people see how inconvenient it is and they come to us,” said Kathy Jennings in a phone interview. The business has around 200 customers in the Rockbridge area.