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Willmar 'Going Green' cleanup, collection effort is scheduled for weekend

WILLMAR -- Residents of the city and surrounding area will have a chance to dispose of batteries, appliances, electronics and more during "Going Green,'' a cleanup-your-city-and-recycling-day Saturday.

Organizers say many items will be accepted free of charge. For some items, charges may apply to cover the disposal cost.

The cleanup day is a joint effort of the City of Willmar, West Central Sanitation and KWLM Radio.

The City Council's Community De- velopment Committee had for several months been discussing a community clean-up day.

At the same time, KWLM was interested in doing a cleanup project.

The joint effort was born after Jena Hillenbrand, account manager at KWLM, contacted the city and suggested everyone work together. Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services for the city, said working together makes sense.

"It began as an effort to clean up backyards and grew from there,'' said Peterson. "If they've got extra stuff in the house, it seems to find its way out into the yard behind the house. There is so much of this product that can be remanufactured, recycled and reused that we just need to do whatever we can to make that effort to get that back into the material stream.''

Mayor Frank Yanish he said got the idea for the cleanup from Willmar resident John Sullivan who told him about a successful project in Rapid City.

"I thought with all the people that we have coming into our city through shoppers or workers and MinnWest guests that we want to make a really good first impression on people and that was the reason why and we got this started,'' said Yanish.

KWLM sponsored a cleanup effort three years ago, said Hillenbrand. During that effort, 85,000 pounds of appliances, 75,000 pounds of computers and 8,080 pounds of metal were collected.

Free pickup will be provided by the Willmar unit of the National Guard for residents who are unable to bring their items to the collection sites.

Jim Dokken, chair of the council's Community Development Committee, praised the Guard and thanked member Sgt. First Class David Kauppi for arranging to have three vehicles, three trailers and from six to eight personnel assist with residential pickup.

Peterson said the pickup is geared to people who are elderly, disabled or don't have a means to move their items. Dokken said there will be no charge for pickup, but the homeowner is responsible for any disposal fee.

Persons who are unable to drop off items can call Willmar City Offices at 235-8311 to make an appointment for pickup. Items to be picked up must be placed at the curb. Peterson and Yanish said Guard members will not be allowed to enter homes or backyards to get items.

"We need to make sure that the people who are calling truly have the need for pickup,'' Peterson said. "We want to make sure that we get to those people and the graciousness of the Guard in picking up that product and allowing us to offer that service at no charge because they do it for free is tremendous.''

Student volunteers from Ridgewater College will also be assisting. Their effort was arranged by Ridgewater sociology instructor Lori Park-Smith.

Park-Smith is a member of the Willmar Community and Activity Center Council and she heard about the cleanup from Dokken, city liaison to the Activity Center.

Peterson said the city has never participated in this type of cleanup effort. In the past, city staff would "sweep'' neighborhoods and write cleanup orders.

"This is more a volunteer effort,'' he said. "We're trying to get the community to feel good about doing it instead of feeling penalized.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150