For the week of August 12 thru August 18, 1998  

Whose trash is that?

Magic Reservoir and Smiley Creek locals contest waste charges

Express Staff Writer

Smiley Creek and Magic Reservoir denizens may live on Blaine County’s fringe, but recent events show they are bound by things universal to the valley—tourists and trash.

For years, Blaine County has subsidized garbage removal from the two areas to the tune of $25,000 to $35,000 annually.

Last week, however, Blaine County Commissioners sent landowners there a letter outlining proposed waste removal costs—minus a one-third subsidy for trash assumed to come from tourists. The Forest Service also provides some assistance as a nod to visitor impacts.

But the landowners, who packed the old county courthouse meeting room in Hailey during a commissioners’ meeting Monday, were not pleased.

Though those from both areas acknowledged heavier year-round inhabitation, they demanded that costs for the waste hauling, for which Blaine pays Wood River Rubbish Company, not fall in their laps. They contended that most of the trash is generated by tourists.

"There’s an undercurrent here of anger," said Smiley Creek resident Bill George. "We’re all about ready to explode.

"I’m just a little puzzled that anyone who drives by can dump their trash in the Dumpster, and we’re being charged."

According to the commissioners’ letter, dated Aug. 3, the yearly sum for Magic property owners totaled $54.90 for improved lots and $27.45 for unimproved lots. Those at Smiley Creek were asked to pay $104.72 and $51.36, respectively for improved and unimproved lots. Those figures came from a formula and statistics provided by Southern Idaho Solid Waste District.

Most who spoke said they wouldn’t mind paying their fair share, but the calculations used to determine future trash charges did not represent the situation at either locale.

Both Magic and Smiley Creek residents figured tourist trash made up between 65 and 75 percent of all the garbage filling Dumpsters, not 33 percent as the county figured.

Apparently, Smiley Creek Dumpsters that were emptied Friday were overflowing again by Monday before residents drove to the meeting. They contended the accumulation was from heavy weekend tourist traffic.

Locking the Dumpsters away from tourists was suggested, but East Magic’s Bob Thomas said he was sure that if he gated his Dumpster, visitors would try to heave their garbage over the fence, to certain unsightly results.

Further, the trash issue hit a nerve running beyond the appropriateness of charges.

"This is an increase in taxes without an increase in services," said Sandy Vail, vice president of the Smiley Creek Homeowners Association. "We’re kind of the poor relation when it comes to services."

Smiley Creek and Magic taxpayers alike told stories of poor road conditions, erratic county attention and the need to hassle public departments to have services performed.

"They forget we exist," Vail said. "We feel like we should be getting more."

The hearing was continued to give residents and officials time to explore options and take a second look at the proposed charges.

Other than locking the Dumpsters, suggestions included posting signs so visitors would take their own trash home from the area, raising the percentage subsidized by the county to reflect heavier tourist use and looking for financial help from Idaho’s Department of Commerce, which collects visitor taxes.


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