Thanks to a new grant from the Washington Department of Ecology, the brush recycling sites around Klickitat County will be reopening at the start of the new year.
According to Tim Hopkinson, solid waste director of the Klickitat County Solid Waste Department, all four brush sites -- in Bingen, Dallesport, Goldendale, and Lyle, will again be open to the public effective Jan. 1.
Once the sites are open, they will be available to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The DOE grant was for a two-year period. It totals $122,000, which covers the cost of paying a contractor to mulch the material area residents leave at the sites.
For 2002-2003, Klickitat County will get $80,000 as a base amount -- the same figure all counties in the state get -- and another $42,000 based on relative population. The county kicks in a 25 percent match, or $30,500.
The county's match comes out of the Solid Waste Department's budget.
Hopkinson pointed out that the grant covers more than solely the brush sites.
"It also covers planning for solid waste costs, the salary of a recycling coordinator, and programs to take solvents and used oil, for example," he said. "There are a number of different programs we're funding."
Hopkinson said he was concerned for the future of the state grant program that funds the brush chipping projects around Washington. Due to budget constraints, he said he believes many government agencies will have to cut as much as 15 percent of their budgets, and that could hurt grant programs.
"I'm not sure what the grant will look like in the future," he explained. "It looks like DOE is getting ready to strip local governments of grants like this."
However, the funding cycle for 2002-2003 is already in place, and the county's brush site will be funded for at least the next two years.
Hopkinson reminded residents that the sites are geared to handle strictly brush and tree limbs, "or anything that can be chipped up."
"They are not for grass or leaves," he explained. "Christmas trees are fine, as long as all the goo is stripped off them: tinsel and angel hair, that type of thing."
Hopkinson praised the patience of local residents during the closure.
"I'm very glad that when we did have to close the sites down, people adhered to our request not to leave material," he said.