Summit County’s chipping program returns in June, but with significant changes
The chipping business isn’t too hot at the moment. In its sixth year, Summit County’s popular mobile wood chipping program has attracted little interest from contractors.
Now the county has been forced to scale back the program by half of its previous schedule, and there is a chance the program may be abandoned entirely in favor of a cheaper, more common solution.
Dan Schroder, director of the county’s Colorado State University Extension office, gave the rundown about this year’s chipping program to the Summit Board of County Commissioners during their regular work session on Tuesday.
Summit County’s program has a mobile wood chipping truck and crew crawling through the county’s neighborhoods, picking up slash piles cut down by homeowners and set out in piles on the curb. The crews pick the piles up and feed them to the chipper, all without a fee.
Last year, over 32 shift weeks, the chipping program served a total of 2,646 local households, with crews removing 12,015 slash piles and producing 4,420 cubic yards of chips. The chips were then hauled to Climax Molybdenum Mine for land reclamation efforts. The program experienced delays in picking up piles last year as there was much more demand for the program than expected.
Schroder said that due to the amount of work involved, as well as provisions in the request for a proposal that required a maximum cap on liability even if excess piles are picked up, local contractors have not been keen on putting in bids.
“I think we’ve worn out interest in the project as far as bidding,” Schroder said. “We have great level of support from the public, but not from the people doing the work.”
Schroder further explained that the only time a bidder from outside the state put in a bid was a company from Oregon, which offered to do a season for over $500,000, while the program has never cost more than $200,000.
The only options left are local bidders, and it appears that the price is not right. The county only received two bids, with one rejected out of hand because it did not comply with the requirements of the project.
The remaining bidder has only offered to do 16 shift weeks of chipping — eight weeks in the northern part of the county, another eight in the south — with no second pass through neighborhoods. Previously, the program lasted 32 shift weeks, with two eight-week chipping passes in the north and south to pick up any piles missed the first time.
This year’s difficulty in finding bidders and the increasing cost of the program prompted county manager Scott Vargo to question whether the program should be put to bed, and whether the county should do as other municipalities have and have stationary drop-off points around the county that homeowners can bring their slash piles to be chipped. That option would be far cheaper and easier to manage, while taking away the convenience of years past.
The program will also be strict on the timing for piles to be set out this year, with late or improperly stacked piles likely being missed. The chipping crew will also be unable to return chipped wood to homeowners to use for landscaping, as it has done as a courtesy in the past.
Aside from that, the program will remain largely the same. The chipping crews will accept stacked piles of trees, logs and branches up to 12 inches of diameter. The piles must not be more than 5-by-5-by-10 feet in size, and each home will be allowed a maximum of 10 piles.
The chippers will not accept willows and cottonwoods, which have high moisture content and are therefore considered beneficial for fire mitigation. Construction materials, treated lumber, fencing and signs are also unacceptable. The same goes for bushes, shrubs, stumps, rocks and other landscaping items.
Piles must be set out at 8 a.m. on the Monday of the scheduled week for your neighborhood. Piles must be within 5 feet of a roadway, but must not touch the road or drainage ditches.
The first week of chipping collection will be from June 17-21, and will cover downtown Silverthorne along with the Mesa Cortina and Wildernest neighborhoods. The final week of collection will be Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, and will cover all properties north of Summit Sky Ranch.
For the full chipping schedule — which is subject to change — visit SummitCountyCO.gov/Chipping.
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