Cooper Parkout Close to Reality, Despite Glitches

Cooper Parkout Close to Reality, Despite Glitches

Don't Trash the Parkout, Citizens Say

It now appears possible that one of the freedoms to be celebrated in McLean on July 5, the day after Independence Day, is freedom of choice in trash collection.

Despite one last-minute glitch that developed with Dranesville Trash and Recyling in Great Falls, a separate private, non-profit trash parkout appears almost certain to launch on July 5 at Cooper Middle School.

John Theon, the organizer, continues to work for viability for the service at Cooper, which already has 150 subscribers, he said.

All that’s needed now is the stamp of approval by the State Corporation Commission in Richmond.

When an arrangement with a private parkout that is starting up in Great Falls began to unravel, Theon said, deliverance for the Cooper parkout came in the form of McLean attorney Pamela Danner.

She had signed up to use the private parkout.

And as they stood in the parking lot at the school during Fairfax County’s next-to-last parkout on June 21, Theon said, Danner volunteered her legal services “pro bono” to quickly organize a non-profit corporation that could initiate trash collection at Cooper by July 5.

“I ran into her at the parkout,” Theon said. “She had mailed in her survey. She walked up and volunteered. She is good for her word.”

Danner said she prepared the paperwork to form a “non-stock corporation,” Virginia’s version of a non-profit.

“We mailed it in today,” she said on June 23. “The turnaround on that is pretty fast. We are looking at one to two weeks.”

Danner said the State Corporation Commission is one of Virginia’s most efficient entities; she’s had a turnaround of one week for previous applications.

In the meantime, Theon has everything else -- customers and a trash hauler -- ready to sign up.

All he needs is a non-profit entity so the Cooper parkout can qualify for an affordable rate for use of the school parking lot for three hours every Saturday morning.

FAIRFAX COUNTY will end its traditional parkout service on June 28, the last Saturday in Fiscal Year 2003. The last two locations in the county are in McLean and Great Falls. The parkouts date to a time when the county was rural, and citizens brought their trash to the truck, rather than the truck calling for the trash at each individual residence as is now the dominant practice.

When the ax fell on the service during the county’s budget process last winter, some citizens in McLean and Great Falls didn’t take it well.

For varied reasons, some residents -- they acknowledge they are a minority -- prefer the parkout to private companies that come to their residences to collect garbage, trash, and yard refuse such as grass clippings and dead branches.

Citizens in Great Falls say heavy garbage trucks destroy the surfaces of their private roads and driveways, and slow traffic to a creep on Georgetown Pike and other two-lane roads where there’s no room to pass.

In McLean, citizens honor the parkout as a way to recycle newsprint and paper, which a group of volunteers called McLean Trees then sells. The profit is invested in more trees for the community.

“I am supportive of the fact that this area has a service like this,” said Danner. “It’s a little cheaper. I think that having the service will mean less trash [on roads] in the area. I also support newspaper recycling.”

WHEN THE COUNTY pulled the plug on its last two parkouts, one at Cooper Middle School in McLean and the other at Great Falls Elementary School in Great Falls, Theon contacted each of 13 companies licensed and bonded as trash haulers in Fairfax County, and found one that wanted the Cooper business.

“It was a ‘no-brainer,’” said Theon; collecting trash from 150 customers at one location would reduce manpower, time, and wear and tear on trucks. “It is going to make someone a good profit,” he said.

Theon asked for a list of 261 present users from Dranesville Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn’s office, and they were delivered in the form of pre-addressed labels. Theon said he appreciated the supervisor’s cooperation, because it saved him time and effort.

On June 23, he mailing applications to each of the customers at his own expense, he said.

Theon said he expects to sign a contract with the trash company soon. After that, every additional person who signs up will increase viability and reduce costs.

“Apparently more people [than 150 who have already signed up] are interested,” Theon said. “A number of people said they thought it [the parkout] was dead, so they didn’t bother to respond.”

Theon will go to Cooper School this Saturday to pass out more applications, he said.

“I have paid for the postage and copying myself. I put up a fee to register the nonprofit corporation this morning; I don’t know if we will have enough money to pay the school board for the use of the parking lot.” But Theon said he stands ready to pay that, too.

“The Great Falls group did us a great service by sort of greasing the skids,” he said.

Now, people in McLean “know [the parkout] is coming under a different name.”