By Don Nelson
When Amanda Tomatich began renovating the house she bought in Twisp, she quickly found that prices at the big-box home stores were beyond her means.
So she became a regular at Methow Resource Recovery (MRR), the Twisp nonprofit that for eight years has been collecting and selling used building materials. “People don’t understand how useful this stuff is,” Tomatich said.
Last weekend, as she surveyed MRR’s offerings for ideas, Tomatich was lamenting the news that the site will close this Saturday (Oct. 19).
The main reason for the closure, MRR board chair Nancy St. Clair said this week, is that the organization can’t afford the cost of a “visual screen” of some kind around the 100- by 200-foot lot on Wagner Street that MRR leases from the Town of Twisp.
The board received a letter in late September from residents and businesses in the surrounding neighborhood, asking MRR to construct something around the site to block views of what is, to be sure, a hodgepodge of materials – albeit grouped and gathered as neatly as possible on the ground, in sheds and in a large tent.
The letter indicated that the town building code could require a screen around the industrially
zoned property. Although the letter writers indicated they might go to the town with their concerns, St. Clair said, the letter apparently never made it to Town Hall in any formal way, according to Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody.
“The MRR board reviewed the options for responding to the neighborhood concerns, including the cost of the barrier relative to its assets and relative to the long-term fit with the area, versus liquidating and vacating the yard and moving on as an organization,” St. Clair said in a news release this week. “At the same time, MRR’s small board took a hard look at its membership and ability to carry on and grow in the short-term. They found it would be most prudent to leave the area and to work toward dissolving the organization, meanwhile looking for other groups that might carry on MRR’s goals and function.”
St. Clair said estimates for a visual buffer ranged up to about $20,000. “We can’t see spending the money on a fence” when MRR’s future location might be uncertain, she said.
“It could have put us in a not-good position,” St. Clair said.
Ing-Moody said that she was aware of the letter to MRR but that it had not been sent to Town Hall. Her reading of the letter, however, leads her to believe that the codes cited are accurate and the appropriate code would need to be enforced, Ing-Moody said.
MRR was started in an old Army tent in 2006 founded by Mary Thompson, Greg Hardy, Laura Schrager and Brandon Sheely.
Materials salvaged from construction jobs, business overstock, remodels, burn piles and from people emptying their garages have been the sources of MRR’s inventory.
The items were generally priced at 30 to 40 percent of retail prices or lower, St. Clair said.
MRR now operates under the nonprofit umbrella of The Cove in Twisp. St. Clair said MRR is debt-free, self-supporting and has been able to make contributions to other local causes from its proceeds.
The organization “has created a cycle where everyone wins: The donor receives a tax deduction and the knowledge that he is not being wasteful; the landfill is spared tons of waste; people have an economic alternative to purchasing new materials; and the money generated in sales is turned back to community non-profits and projects,” St. Clair said in the press release.
MRR will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. After that, St. Clair said, the organization may lease the lot for another year to continue cleaning up what’s left. St. Clair said she’s working with Methow Recycles to make sure as much material as possible ends up in the recycling stream rather than a landfill. For more information, call 997-5643.
St. Clair hopes another organization will come along to continue MRR’s work.
“I’d like to see that,” she said. “We’ve sown the seed of the idea.”