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City committee calls for resident survey on Fort Marcy glass drop-off site

December 6, 2018

A divided panel of city councilors on Wednesday punted on whether to close Santa Fe’s busiest drop-off center for recycling glass, calling for a survey of area residents, a handful of whom have complained about noise from the site behind Fort Marcy Ballpark.

City staff who last month surveyed users of the site found that the overwhelming majority did not hear or were not bothered by the sound of glass bottles being dumped into containers at the only recycling drop-off center and glass depository in the downtown area.

But Councilor Renee Villarreal, who represents the Fort Marcy area, insisted that nearby residents — and not simply site users, some of whom come from elsewhere in the area — be heard before a decision is made.

Her colleagues on the Public Utilities Committee assented, though some made clear they would oppose closing the drop-off center, citing the survey results already in hand.

“Most people seem, actually, not to experience any of those [noise] issues and to be glad the facility is there,” said Councilor Peter Ives. “To me, it appears, we have a solution looking for a problem.”

Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler suggested it would be foolhardy to allow the few-and-far-between complaints about noise to outweigh the city’s commitment to recycling and sustainability initiatives.

“If we want to make noise pollution, which we haven’t really proved here, more important than our [sustainability] plan … I don’t think that really rises to the occasion here that justifies closing the site,” Vigil Coppler said.

North-side Councilor Signe Lindell, who does not sit on the committee, supports closing the site. The disagreement among councilors signals an extended debate is likely before any final action is taken on the Fort Marcy drop-off site.

City staff recommended keeping the Fort Marcy site open. The survey of site users conducted last month drew 167 responses; of the respondents who live near the site, “very few” hear any noise or are bothered by it, according to a city memo.

Respondents, more than 90 percent of whom said they either didn’t hear noise from the site or weren’t bothered by it, called the prospective closure a “huge mistake” and “horrible,” a survey memo said.

“If the site is closed, I will dump recycling on the ballfield,” one respondent said. Others said they would begin throwing glass refuse in with the trash.

“This site is the most convenient, most used and very popular among recyclers,” said Shirlene Sitton, director of the city Environmental Services division.

Staff further recommended opening a new recycling drop-off center on city-owned property on Calle Mejia, just west of North St. Francis Drive, to supplement the Fort Marcy site. Such an additional downtown-adjacent site could “take some of the heat off” the busy Fort Marcy location, Sitton said.

But councilors, while signaling they would probably support an additional site on Calle Mejia, disagreed on whether to begin moving forward there before deciding what to do about Fort Marcy.

“We’ve not only put the cart before the horse; we’ve put the horse in the cart,” said Vigil Coppler.

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