Recology - Nature's Needs - North Plains - Washington County Board of Commissioners - Oregon
My input will certainly be discounted because I do not reside in North Plains, but likewise I discount any and all input which comes from those who have not taken the time, or made the effort to visit the facility in person (I have) and to speak directly with their operations manager (John?) [I have] who seemed to me to be welcoming and respectful to anyone from the community, but whose invitations have apparently been rarely accepted.
During the approximate couple of hours that I spent visiting the facility on Saturday, January 12th there were mounds of material, in varying stages of the composting process being moved around, literally within a few feet of me, and the odor was barely discernable. Did it smell like crushed fruit? No, but it was no where near the levels of offensiveness that have been subjectively complained about. The 30 other folks that I was in the company of when I visited the facility, likewise did not express any particular sense that the place stunk. Not that I witnessed anyway. Of course, that fact will be dismissed by all the subjective commentary that I heard last night at the hearing that each nose is different, and the levels of odor vary from day-to-day and time of day, etc, etc, etc.
I spent around one hour last night at the Washington County Commissioner's public hearing and heard the testimony of maybe 7-to-10 North Plains residents because, of course, they are the most directly impacted, and so correctly the WashCo Commissioners gave them the first opportunities to make input. I don't know what transpired after that first hour.
In that hour I did not hear any of the facility's detractors mention their personal experience in visiting the site and speaking with the site's operations management directly. The only 'alternative' solution that I heard any of those detractors offer up was to move it 5 miles farther from their own back yard. That seemed to me to identify what the balance of the night might offer, a typical 'not-in-my-back-yard' whine fest, short on creative solutions, or alternatives and perhaps most lacking any 'real' concern for the really big back yard that we all share, and the greater-good that Nature's Needs seeks to achieve.
I have seen the Nature's Needs facility up-close-and-personal (as the saying goes) and comparative to what I saw of the older version of that same site when managed by Pacific Land Clearing, the site currently looks like a National Geographic episode on doing-the-right-things to improve the environment!
The tone of that public hearing was not enhanced by the Commisisoners' inability to control the time alloted to one of the first speakers, a Commission alumni. Some EX-County Commissioner, EX-State Representative was permitted to run several minutes beyond his alloted time to speak, right at the start, NOT so that he could impress us all with suggested solutions to the problems at hand, but rather to let us know how many times he had been expelled from school for fighting as a kid ... I'm still not sure what that was supposed to be all about except perhaps to demonstrate how he was somehow more qualified to address the assembly than the rest of us great unwashed masses.
I also heard little recognition from any of that first hour's detractors that several businesses in the surrounding area are potential odor producers. By the end of that first hour I was convinced that few of the North Plains residence knew for certain the source of the smells they were complaining about.
I was struck by the perception that even the Commissioners seemed incredulous that Portland residents were not only throwing food scraps into their yard debris roll carts, but that the City was actually 'encouraging' the practice ... like we're all space aliens or perhaps some lower life form than themselves. Then came the obligatory snide comment about Portland's ex-Mayor Sam Adams by one of the N.P. representatives.
That became the tipping point for me. I knew then that the room was likely choked with science denying, flat-earth theorists and that if I were to leave right then, I could be home in time to catch the second half of NCIS on CBS ... so off I went to salvage my night. ;-)
Sometime before I made my exit I had also heard the ever-present concern for 'property values' expressed. No such hearing could be complete without that, and sure enough, there it was in the very first hour.
I left thinking that a greater harm had been done to North Plains property values by the way in which North Plains had allowed itself to be represented on the night. That was the real stinker.
To be fair, if not balanced, I thought that in that first hour Recology did not put their best foot forward either. They sent to the speaker's table a 'corporate' Vice President who made it a point to tell us that he had prepared a Power Point presentation that he initially had intended to share, but then his voice trailed off a bit as he seemed to try to construct an adequate excuse for why he had now decided not to show it. Instead he only offered to answer any questions that anyone might have for whatever he wasn't sharing ... assuming we had somehow already become familiar with it. Knowing this audience I think Recology would have been bettered served to make John, the operations manager, their public face and speaker on this night.
I think that North Plains would be better served to embrace Recology's Nature's Needs composting facility. They have worked hard and spent plenty to evolve that facility and to be a good corporate citizen in that community, in only a short period of time.
I sincerely hope that the tenor of the hearing improved as it went on, and I hope that the Commissioners ultimately decided to do the right thing.