Trash “It’s amazing how much trash we produce,” says Fred Mcfadden. Having managed the New Meadows Transfer Site for Adams County since February 2014, he should know.
“Every day is different,” the 38-year-old native of New Meadows says, smiling as he sits in his tiny office near the entrance of the site, wearing typical work attire of bright orange t-shirt, Carhartt work pants and a cap. From this vantage point he counts every vehicle driving in, usually waving as they proceed past his office to throw their trash into a dumpster. He’s checking license plates because only residents of Adams County can use the site, although occasionally Valley and Idaho county vehicles try to sneak in. Fred can see the entire facility from his office. If someone’s about to toss the wrong thing into the wrong container, or dump something the site can’t accept, Fred’s able to spot the error, talk to them and explain the rules.
“I never know what might show up,” Fred says when asked about some of the more unusual items people have deposited at the site. “One guy brought a red bicycle. He tried to make a tandem bike, but a side-by-side rather than one behind the other. The pedals were too far forward – you could tell no one could reach them – and each bike had a handle bar. They’d be fighting each other which way to turn!”
The Mall: One Person’s Trash is Another Person’s Treasure One unique feature of the transfer site is what’s locally referred to as “The Mall.” It’s an open but covered area attached to Fred’s office where usable items as placed for anyone to take. Fred’s not sure who named it The Mall, pointing out that nothing is sold but instead is free to anyone who thinks they can use it. “It’s another way of recycling,” he explains. Items brought to the transfer site and deposited in The Mall are often leftovers from a garage or moving sale. “I let things sit for a month; if they aren’t taken, then I throw them into a dumpster. If I find out someone is taking items from The Mall to sell elsewhere, I’ll tell them no, and if they persist in trying to take them, they’re forbidden from taking anything out of the site.” Fred says that so far, that’s only happened once.
Of course, Fred himself often sees items worth keeping. “I once found a box of Magic: The Gathering cards,” he says. (According to Wikipedia: Released in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast, Magic was the first trading card game created and it continues to thrive, with approximately twenty million players as of 2015, and over twenty billion Magic cards produced in the period of 2008 to 2016 alone.) “I play the game, and I’m a collector,” Fred continues. “This guy brought in a bunch of computer stuff – X-box, computer games. There was a computer speaker box. I thought I might find a nice set of speakers for my computer. I opened the box and saw the cards – best find ever! They were in perfect condition, and only one card was missing. A guy in town had that card and I bought it from him.”
One might wonder how much stuff Fred finds and brings home? “My wife said if I can’t use it within three days, don’t bring it home,” he says, laughing. That rule has served him – and her – well over the years. Some of the items Fred has brought home and used include smokers, barbeques, a couple green houses that now nurture plants year-round, a lawnmower and a weed eater. He also sometimes repurposes 2x4s and plywood.
Decluttering and Organizing Those using the New Meadows Transfer site over the years have likely noticed several improvements since Fred took over. Most obvious: order, and cleanliness. Fred remembers the first thing he cleaned was the site’s office. “Before I was actually hired, I spent two days clearing out the clutter,” he says. The interior of the small space wasn’t finished, just bare drywall, and the former manager smoked two packs of cigarettes a day in there with the door closed in colder months. “It took four coats of paint to cover the tar stains,” Fred says. Now, the space is clean and welcoming, including his great-grandmother’s easy chair for guests. Fred’s other major task was clearing out the covered space that is now The Mall; it was full of unusable junk that had to be tossed into containers and sent to the landfill.
When Fred first started, there were 18 small dumpsters at the site – each holding 10 yards of waste – that were moved around as they filled. There were also two 30-yard containers where furniture and other large waste items were deposited. Adams County was paying $700 to have each large container emptied, and $80 for each small one. In an effort to save money, in 2015 the county extended The Mall area and bought a garbage truck that was parked under a roof extension. Locals might remember when bringing your garbage to the transfer site meant tossing it into the back of that garbage truck. “It would hold about a week’s worth of trash,” says Fred, whose stepfather would drive it to Council to empty it at the county landfill. “It didn’t have snow tires; it had a hole in the floor so you could see the road below; the heater didn’t work. My stepfather didn’t like driving it. Eventually a crack in the back where the hopper is expanded until it failed. The truck went to the county shop and I haven’t seen it since.” (It was sold at auction earlier this year.)
Demand – and Trash – Increasing The garbage truck gone, the site needed a new plan. In 2016 the county hired Tony Meckel of Lake Fork to provide two 30-yard containers. Today, four of those 30-yard containers are needed to keep up with demand, and the site will add a fifth the summer of 2019.
Why? Fred looks at his records and notes that in March 2014 he recorded 689 people bringing trash to the transfer station over the course of 31 days. This past summer, on weekends (Friday through Sunday) he counted over 200 people per day.
Until recently, Fred has tried to keep atop the flow of trash by using a backhoe to smash down the contents tossed into the 30-yard containers so they don’t have to be sent to the landfill for emptying as often. But, as with the garbage truck that left needing repairs, so too did Fred’s backhoe need fixing. “It was a hand-me-down from the Road and Bridge department,” he says. “It’s from the ‘70s, but the arms on the newer ones aren’t as good at pushing down on the trash; they make me feel like I’m going to tumble in. I miss my backhoe.”
The large containers are emptied – taken to the county landfill – every Friday, so they’re ready for the weekend onslaught of trash, and every Monday, getting rid of the weekend’s load so there’s room for the rest of the week’s debris. The site is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Fred and the county do what they can to promote recycling. For one thing, too much recyclable material – e.g., cardboard – in the trash containers means they fill up faster and need to be emptied more often, costing the county money. So, in addition to The Mall, under Fred’s watch the transfer site for a time had bins for recycling materials – cardboard, aluminum cans, etc. – but it quickly became apparent that they didn’t having the staffing resources to move those items from the transfer site to the county’s recycling center in downtown New Meadows. However, the transfer site does accept metal for recycling. Once every year, United Metals Recycling comes and picks up the metal, paying the county for the material. Those bringing metal to the site are directed to add it to an ever-growing pile behind the dumpsters. Fred feels a bit conflicted about how metal is handled. “The Adams County taxpayers pay to use this site through their property taxes. They then pay to dump their appliances. We then sell the metal. It’s like they’re paying three times.” When I ask Fred about a separate area of the site where a collection of old refrigerators/freezers and air conditioners hold court, he says that they charge $20 per appliance. He explained that they used to have a guy certified to remove the refrigerants (CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons) the appliances contain; they paid him $25 per appliance to remove the antifreeze, making the rest of the appliance eligible for the metal recycling heap. Currently they don’t have anyone certified to do that task. Asked if, because of that, he’ll stop accepting appliances with CFCs, Fred quickly says no, because he fears that if he doesn’t take them, for some people the alternative is – sadly – dumping them in the forest.
There are other items that require payment of a fee before Fred can accept them, for example, automotive batteries, oversize tires, large appliances (even without antifreeze), large pieces of furniture such as sofas, mattresses and box springs, and demolition waste.
Those currently utilizing the transfer site can attest to its neatness and lack of odor. By having containers emptied frequently Fred keeps odor to a minimum. This is true even in hunting season. “We used to tell hunters no, they couldn’t bring animal carcasses here, but we found out that where they were told to take them was illegal,” he explains. “We don’t accept road kill, or farm/ranch animals that have died, but we will take hunting carcasses. We don’t get too many.” Wondering whether animal carcasses in the dumpsters and the odor they create might attract scavengers, Fred says, “I’ve only had one bear in five years. I saw his tracks in a fresh dusting of snow. I saw they led into the dumpster, so I got into my truck and drove up to it to check. The dumpster had been empty, except for an elk carcass. He managed to get in and drag the carcass out.” Fred is justifiably proud of the fact that there’s little odor at the site these days, and if one of the containers does start smelling too bad, he’ll get rid of it immediately.
Good Management, Good User Experience Fred’s happy in his position as manager of the transfer site. It provides decent pay, good benefits, and year-round employment. “This is one of the best jobs I’ve had,” he says, his past employment includes the Forest Service, eight years at C & M Lumber, ranching, odds-and-ends jobs, and a short stint at the McCall transfer site. “It’s different every day,” he adds, explaining some of the appeal. “The people stay the same, but the challenges change. I don’t enjoy enforcing the rules, but most people are friendly. Every Christmas, two guys each give me a 30-pack of beer which I use when I go fishing on the Salmon in February.” Fred admits that having good equipment – like a backhoe – would make the job even better. “I look out and see a mess,” he confesses. “It’s organized clutter, now.”
Fred wishes he didn’t have to spend as much time tracking people in and out, and could instead address the clutter. But those of us who have been regular customers of the New Meadows Transfer Site over the years appreciate the work Fred has done minimizing and organizing the clutter, making our trips to the site better with each improvement.