Green Is Out in Glenwood

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City’s recycling drop-off center to close Oct. 1

By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

    The City of Glenwood’s recycling drop-off will close Oct. 1.
    The city council’s 3-0 vote to terminate the city’s contract with Dihne Recycling, which has managed and maintained the troubled recycling drop-off at the city park on Tyson Street for nearly two decades, will permanently shutter the site at the end of this month.

    The recycling center has been plagued by complaints about its unsightly appearance and a failure by Dihne to maintain it for several years, said Jim Webel, Glenwood’s Code Enforcement Officer. Webel presented the council with a letter at its July 24 meeting recommending terminating the recycling agreement with Dihne Recycling owner Diana Konfrst effective Sept. 30. The council agreed.
    “I think a lot of this decision (came down to) people in the community bringing to our attention the condition of the facility wasn’t being resolved in an orderly fashion or on a reasonable time schedule,” Webel said. “Ultimately this was a council decision.”
    Webel said he has fielded calls weekly about the site’s issues, including garbage left strewn about, foul odors and a failure by Dihne to regularly service the location.
    “We were getting bombarded down here,” Webel said. “And 50 percent of it was coming from outside the city limits and the people who were bearing the burden of that was the city taxpayers.”
    Konfrst was informed by letter her contract was being terminated. She said she had no idea the recycling contract was on the meeting agenda nor the contract was under review prior to receiving the letter from city attorney Matt Woods. As surprised as Konfrst was by the decision she sounded almost relieved in an interview last week.
    “I’m sick of fighting with them,” Konfrst  said of her on-going issues with the city on the recycling contract. “If you aren’t going to help me make the site better then I’m not going to put more money out to make it better either. This is a big responsibility. I couldn’t get any respect. No backing. I just got sick of this.”
    Konfrst declined to say if she was bothered by being informed via letter her contract was terminated, but added “I guess it’s par for the course considering the way they’ve treated me. I’ve been doing this almost 20 years.”
    Konfrst said she was told three years ago she could move the site and she even offered to pay for a fence to better control access but that never happened.
    “It took me 10 years to get a sign down there that says what is permitted in the recycling bins,” she said. “Three years ago I was told the containers could be moved. I never got a response why they weren’t moved. The county has basically given no support until this year when they gave me money and wanted to see some miraculous changes. But it doesn’t happen like that.”
    Webel said the city did consider enclosing the Tyson Street drop-off to better maintain the site but that idea was shelved due to cost considerations.
    The city of Glenwood has no formal agreement with the county to provide recycling services, but, as both Webel and Konfrst have speculated, as much as 50 percent of the materials brought to the site is coming from residents outside the city limits. Dihne Recycling collected more than 450 tons of recyclables on the site last year.
    The city paid Konfrst $33,021 in 2011 for recycling services from a fund collected via city resident water bills at a rate of $1.25 per residence per month.
    The county contributed $7,000 to Konfrst in March. The county’s contribution to recycling was its first since 2007, according to the Mills County Auditor’s Office.
    When asked if he saw any improvement in the site’s maintenance following the county’s contribution, Webel replied “Absolutely none.”
    Webel added there were discussions between the city and the county following that March payment, but “we never could come to terms,” he said, with the county on a city-county recycling plan.
    Konfrst admits she sometimes did leave a mess on the site to make a “statement” to the city about the burden of maintaining a 24-hour, un-manned drop-off location. But she doesn’t think she neglected the site.
    “I always cleaned it up,” she said.
Councilman Craig Florian has served on the council for over a decade. And in that
time, he said, the recycling site has been an on-going source of personal frustration.
    “In the many times I drove by the site, I was not proud of it,” Florian said. “I’d received many complaints over the year and after spending money on it year after year and it not getting any better, at this point, with other alterative for recycling with garbage collectors going around, I saw a way for people to have an option.”
    The other alternative Florian refers to is Steve Konfrst Trash Service. Steve and wife Michelle, operate a trash hauling service in southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Beginning late this summer they began offering a curbside recycling program to Glenwood residents as part of their trash service. The program, modeled after  a similar program in Plattsmouth, collects plastic, cardboard, aluminum and tin cans in a 96 gallon cart weekly or monthly, depending on customers needs.
    Webel declined to speculate on the future of Tyson Street drop-off site or the possibility of opening up the site to a new bidder.
    The city will continue to collect the $1.25 per residence tax on water bills per month it had been using to pay Dihne Recycling. Webel said the city is planning to host a spring and fall clean up site each year where residents can bring in yard waste at no charge.
    Webel said the city currently has no future plans to offer a recycling drop off location.
    Diana Konfrst owns the recycling containers at the Tyson Street site. She isn’t sure if she will continue recycling at a new location.
    “I’m at the point in my life I have grandchildren and there’s more important things in life to enjoy than work. This has been two jobs for me.”
    Since the news of the site’s closing circulated, Konfrst has heard from residents asking what they should do with their recyclables. She isn’t sure what to tell them.
    “They’re not happy about it (closing). It’s too bad,” she said. “I think if the city and county and myself could have gotten on the same page this could have possibly worked out. I’m an easy person to get along with. For me to make it easier, I don’t think I was asking for too much.”
    Konfrst thinks her contract with the city came down to economics.
    “I haven’t had a raise in six or seven years so yeah, I think it’s the money. Recycling isn’t a priority for them or they would have made it a priority a long time ago. You can’t fight city hall.”