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Illegal dumpers irk businesses

Warren McMannamy expects to have to do a little cleanup after the Fourth of July festivities wind down on the downtown beaches that border Westbay Center.

McMannamy, owner of Hi-Tide Tavern, often spends July 5 picking up garbage and fireworks debris from the parking lot behind the building. This year, however, he said he is taking a stand.

“It’s not just trashed for the Fourth now,” McMannamy said. “It’s all the time.”

McMannamy’s tavern is directly adjacent to South Kitsap Helpline, a nonprofit food bank and thrift store that accepts donations from the public during specified daylight hours. According to McMannamy and Jennifer Hardison, executive director of Helpline, the garage sales and holidays that mark the summer season have increasingly become indicators of large-scale illegal dumping behind Westbay Center, in the wide concrete alley that serves as Helpline’s donation acceptance area.

“It’s just inconsiderate people,” McMannamy said. “There’s no answer to it. It’s an ongoing, everyday issue.”

Hardison said he arrives at work every day during the summer months expecting to see the alleyway trashed.

“(Tuesday) morning I came in and found several old mattresses and some ripped-up dining room chairs,” said Hardison, gesturing toward Helpline’s large yellow truck where the aforementioned mattresses were stacked for a trip to the dump.

“Sometimes it’s worse. Sometimes it looks like someone literally cleaned out their garbage cans. One time I came in and there was a stack of old tires. What do they think we’re going to do with old tires?”

Hardison said she’s extremely frustrated with the individuals who justify their dumping by doing it outside a thrift donation acceptance area.

“The hours are clearly posted,” Hardison said. “People come after hours when they know no one will be here and they leave things they know we won’t accept. They dump things that are ripped up and smelly and they say, ‘Well, somebody can use it.’ Well, that’s not the case.”

According to Hardison, the cost of taking the trash to the dump is putting a strain on Helpline’s already meager budget.

“It’s up to us to take care of it,” Hardison said. “It comes right out of our food bank. We pay our own trash bills. We have to go to the dump sometimes twice a week, paying $50 each time.”

Hardison said when she first started working at Helpline in 2002, dump fees alone were costing the nonprofit $6,000 year.

“We try to work with the health department,” Hardison said. “We try to sift through the trash and if we can find two pieces of mail with matching addresses, we send them in and they issue a citation.”

However, Hardison said it isn’t always that easy.

“Sometimes there aren’t any matching addresses. One time, we came to work and found hundreds and hundreds of car registrations and various pieces of paper strewn all over the alley.

Hardison is concerned that if the dumping continues, Helpline will be asked to vacate the building and will have no place to go.

“We don’t want to take away from the other businesses, especially when they’ve been trying to clean up the building,” Hardison said. “We’ve always cared about it. We don’t want it to be an issue. We don’t want to be unwanted. It’s frustrating for all of us.”

Hardison points out that even good donations, when left in the alley, can cause trouble for Helpline. She said there is a limited amount of space to store donations in and if there is no room, donations can be denied.

“Sometimes we can’t even take donations during our hours,” Hardison said. “We can’t accommodate everything, especially with the dumping.”

Also, good donations that might have been accepted are often ruined when they are left outside and exposed to the elements.

“We don’t have a washer and dryer,” Hardison explained. “We can’t clean things that are dirty. The best way to make donations is during normal business hours.”

Hardison said Helpline cannot continue to pay for dump runs several times a week. She said the donation-based store and the food bank that serves more than 2,500 people a month can’t waste its revenue taking others’ garbage to the dump for them.

“It’s not helping us, it’s only hurting,” Hardison said. “It’s about a community being accountable.”

County Commissioner Jan Angel said she knows how frustrating dealing with Kitsap County’s dumping problem can be.

“As a business owner I had to (deal with that), too,” Angel said. “Honestly, folks are not responsible enough to make a phone call to find out where they can take old mattresses and tires.”

Angel said the problem extends countywide and is not unique to Helpline at all.

“People throw trash on the sides of the roads all the time,” Angel said. “I think if people really want to talk about quality of life and the place they live, they need to be responsible.

“It’s too bad we have to take it to that,” Angel said, “but in some instances, we’ve had vehicles, broken furniture, lots of junk being left in our Illahee park.”

Angel said the county has already taken measures to stop the dumping, but to no avail. County representatives are starting to discuss the installation of security cameras.

“We’ve tried gates, but people have driven through them,” Angel said. “We’ve tried to set up barriers, but people drive around them, knocking down trees.”

Angel said the county has repaired the damage, but the cost of repairs puts a strain on the budget.

“We don’t have the money to keep doing that,” Angel said. “It costs us so much, and that’s taxpayer money. We can only repair things so many more times. It’s a definite problem.”

Because Westbay Center is private property, there’s nothing the county or city can do to stop the dumping at Helpline. But McMannamy and Hardison hope community awareness will stifle it.

McMannamy said his bartenders have been instructed to take down the license plates of cars that pull into the alley to dump, throw garbage onto the beach, or steal gas and slash tires of the Helpline trucks, all things he said have happened before.

Hardison said she will continue to send those license plate numbers and any matching addresses to the health department. Both said they would love to install security cameras.

“People think it’s a dumping ground. They think, ‘They’ll take care of it,’ ” McMannamy said. “It’s just blatant laziness.”

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