Fenton takes charge at Mammoth Disposal
There’s a new manager in town, and he’s looking to improve the town’s sole provider of waste collection and recycling. Mammoth Disposal District Manager Patrick Fenton brings a passion for environmental stewardship, and more than ten years experience in waste management to the table.
A far cry from life in the military.
Fenton served in the Air Force for twenty five years, fourteen of which were spent in Germany. “I was there in Berlin when the wall came down,” he said in a telephone interview last Monday. “It was quite a sight to see.”
Fenton retired in 2001, and a buddy of his got him into waste management. He began at Recycle America, an alliance that operates nearly 100 recycling plants and provides marketing services for more than 140 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Fenton worked at recycling facilities that processed 150,000-160,000 tons of recycling for 40,000-50,000 homes per year.
Fenton brings that experience, as well as a passion for recycling, to his new job in Mammoth. “I’m big on recycling,” he said. “I don’t think you should put anything in a landfill you don’t have to.” Mammoth faces unique recycling challenges because it’s so isolated, but Fenton hopes to increase the amount of recycling trucked down to LA, and even exported abroad. And Fenton even hopes to eventually begin recycling steel, with some old steel dumpsters in Town already having been crushed and recycled this year.
Another challenge the new District Manager faces is unique to a small town in the wilderness: the bear problem. Fenton has been in touch with local Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles, and has already enforced a new policy to make sure that everything in Mammoth Disposal’s compactors is compacted by the end of the day. This discourages bears from climbing in to check for loose goodies, although one enterprising bear still took a look in the early morning two weeks ago, Fenton reported. “People were just coming in to drop stuff off,” he said, “and a bear climbed out of the compactor.”
To solve the bear problem in town, Fenton plans to “get hot on over-weights.” When residents fill dumpsters to the brim with trash, the tops can’t close, leaving those dumpsters vulnerable to bears. Fenton also plans to do an inventory of old dumpsters that may no longer be bear-proof, and have them replaced.
A new challenge arose for Fenton on July 1, when Mono County elected to use an out of state waste hauler for remote transfer stations from Walker to Mammoth. Mammoth Disposal formerly provided the waste hauler service for these stations, and in spite of extreme weather, Fenton noted that delivery trucks went the entire past year without accident or injury. “Up here it’s an amazing feat,” he said. Now the change to an out of state waste hauler has forced Fenton to cut back on staff at Mammoth Disposal just when the outlook is bleakest for Mono County’s labor force. “This was very difficult for those employees and upsetting for the Mammoth Disposal Team,” he said.
Fenton has been getting some flak for the same cuts to funding, and subsequent disposal fee increases, that are affecting his own business. Mono County hasn’t raised its disposal fees since October 1, 2009. Now, because of fee increases that began May 1 this year, the cost of service at Mammoth Disposal has risen by 15%. Customers have reacted by cutting back service where they can. Some have even blamed Fenton for the change. “We are the central point for customer frustration and I get that,” Fenton said. “But we will do what we can to continue providing safe and exceptional customer service.”
In the coming year, Mammoth Disposal’s top priority is to raise the tonnage of recycling in the County. This past year, the franchise provider sent 11,828 tons of trash to the landfill, while the total Town Recycling was 1,613 tons. “I’ve been working closely with Johnny Goetz of the Town in diverting waste away from the landfill in addition to the recycling tons,” said Fenton. “Johnny has been fabulous to work with, along with the local contractors who are working diligently to achieve 50% recycling at their job sites.”
Mammoth Disposal also recently helped with Town Clean-Up Day, which was “huge,” Fenton said, with the last bags picked up as late as June 27. For the Fourth of July, Mammoth Disposal provided a dumpster and toilet for the Pancake Breakfast, while Fenton [cooked sausages at the grill]. In addition, Mammoth Disposal provided discounted services for the Mono County Arts Council and the fireworks at Crowley Lake.
One thing is for sure: in spite of the difficulties presented by the County’s decision to raise fees, and choose an out of state waste hauler, Fenton and Mammoth Disposal are “committed to the Mammoth core values of Integrity, Service before Self, and Excellence in all we do.”
Fenton has nothing but positive things to say about his first two months in Mammoth. “It’s not an easy job, as you can imagine,” he said. But, “I love it up here. It’s great being here, and the people working here are great. And there’s no traffic,” he added. “I hate traffic.”