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story.lead_photo.caption Brad Bloss of Centerton drops off scrap metal Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, at the Benton County Convenience Center in Centerton. - Photo by Ben Goff

BENTONVILLE -- The Benton County Convenience Center program appears to be reducing the problem of illegal dumping by offering county residents an easier way to dispose of unwanted items, officials said.

"I was a proponent of it when we were first discussing it," Joel Jones, District 7 justice of the peace, said of the program. "It's definitely easier than the cleanup days."

The county shifted from offering two county cleanup events each year to expanding the number of convenience center locations for residents.

John Sudduth, the county's general services administrator, oversees the planning and environmental divisions and monitors the convenience center operations. Sudduth said the use of convenience centers has grown since two new sites opened since 2016.

"We don't have any hard data on that, it's a complaint-driven process, so obviously we can't know where every illegal dump is," he said. "From what we're hearing and what our people are seeing, it does seem the convenience centers are helping reduce the amount of illegal dumping in the county."

County records show fewer complaints of illegal dumping of electronics, furniture, appliances and tires from 2016 to 2017. All of those items can be disposed of at the convenience centers.

The first convenience center opened at the Benton County Road Department site off Southwest 14th Street in Bentonville. The Benton County Solid Waste District took over center operations after partnering with the county in 2011.

The county, again working with the Solid Waste District, expanded its convenience center program in 2016 from the single location near Centerton to sites in Rogers and Siloam Springs. The Rogers site opened in February and the Siloam Springs center opened in April last year.

Centerton Mayor Bill Edwards said he receives a lot of calls from people asking where they can take unwanted items.

"I always direct people to the center. It's been very popular here in our community," he said.

The expansion was spurred by the growing cost and volume of waste and recycling material taken to semiannual county cleanup events.

The county budgeted $165,000 in 2015 for two countywide cleanup events, according to information from Brenda Guenther, county comptroller. For 2016, the county budgeted about $172,000 for the convenience center program. That amount grew to about $212,000 in the 2017 budget.

Tom Allen, justice of the peace for District 4 and chairman of the county's Finance Committee, said the increasing cost has to be balanced against the service provided to residents and the benefits to the county of reducing illegal dumping.

County Judge Barry Moehring said the centers seem to be achieving their goals.

"The volume of complaints is relatively flat, even though we're a growing county," Moehring said of illegal dumping complaints.

County officials said the amount of solid waste taken to all convenience centers since the additional sites opened was more than double the amount brought to the 2015 cleanup events.

As for drop-off visits, in two cleanups events in 2015, residents brought in 2,697 loads of material. For 2016, with the centers being open only part of the year, the number of loads of material brought to the convenience centers was tallied at 11,330. That number increased to 13,412 through the first 10 months of 2017.

The volume of material dropped off at the centers also has continued to increase in 2017, Sudduth said. The county tracks the number of visits to drop off household hazardous waste, which has grown from 3,701 in 2016 to 3,904 in 2017. The volume of material in every category tracked by the county -- which includes appliances, electronics, furniture, playground equipment, tires, and metal -- have all increased.

The solid waste district has been working to open a Bella Vista convenience center near the recycling center on Pinion Bluff Drive. That center was expected to open in 2017, but Bella Vista Mayor Peter Christie, who is also vice chairman of the solid waste district board, said problems with the site and the different hours of operation for the recycling center and the proposed convenience center delayed the process.

Christie said many Bella Vista residents participated in the countywide cleanup events and want something to replace those opportunities to dispose of unwanted material. He said his city has also had problems with illegal dumping.

"We hope this will help us to reduce the dumping we've had," he said. "We get a lot of tires dumped and some hazardous material, like paints, from time to time. I'm hoping those who are dumping will bring it in to the center instead so it can be kept out of the landfills."

Metro on 12/26/2017

Print Headline: Benton County logs fall in illegal dumping

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