After the fire that ravaged the Exchange recycling center at the transfer station in early February, there was a major cleanup ahead.
“It was quite desolate,” said Mark DeTray, executive director of Orcas Recycling Services, which runs the Exchange. “It went from this vivacious, eclectic structure and operation to blackened earth and burned wood.”
The fire was ruled accidental and likely started after someone put a burning object in a trash can. Forty-five Orcas Fire members and 10 units responded to the incident that lasted more than five hours.
After receiving a permit in late March, the cleanup took place on April 1 and 2. Community members and businesses stepped forward to help clear out huge piles of mangled metal and debris. Ray Brogi gave his time and dump truck for just the cost of fuel. Island Excavating provided an excavator and an operator, Tim Holmes, at a significantly discounted rate. San Juan Sanitation gave containers and trucking for scrap metal at no cost and San Juan County provided disposal at a 65 percent discount, which DeTray says saved a “tremendous” amount of money. The total cost of the effort came to $6,753.
“Getting that cleaned up was psychologically and literally a big step forward in getting the operation back up and running,” he said. “We trucked out 26 loads and 43 tons of material. It was far more than I anticipated.”
DeTray says ORS’s primary focus right now is getting everything in order for taking over the transfer station by June 1. The nonprofit received a unanimous vote from the county council in November to be the sole operator of the Orcas Island transfer, recycling and reuse facility.
“We recognize the Exchange is the heart of the transfer station, but garbage and recycling are the blood that flows through the system,” DeTray said.
But ORS has every intention of getting the beloved Exchange back to its former glory. DeTray says they are “raising the standard a bit” and have plans for a new, inviting building and more parking. The previous structure went up bit by bit in the early 1980s. Now with a clean slate, ORS is approaching the development with care.
“We hope it’s a space that is inviting to the community,” DeTray said. “The previous building had a lot of heart and magic to it, but it wasn’t the most welcoming space.”
The first step is building a pole barn structure in the lower part of the property that will be temporarily used for the Exchange. Long-term, it will be storage for larger goods like furniture and carpeting.
In the upper section, a new building will be designed by a community process, which will start towards the end of April. Watch for more information in the Sounder.
“That structure will take longer to get permitted and designed,” DeTray said. “Our aspiration is that it reflects the artistic and innovative side of the community … We, as an organization, have changed. The board wants to formalize things and have structures that are ADA-compliant and insurable. That’s been a general trajectory of the organization. We are in lockstep with the county. So now we are just going through the process.”
Since the Exchange’s demise, the community has stepped forward to help. During its production in March, the Actors Theater passed the hat and raised $1,435 from their audiences to support reconstruction of the facility. The Orcas Island Community Foundation has opened a fund to support the rebuilding of the Exchange on Orcas. It has been named the Exchange Phoenix Fund, in the belief that a new form will rise from the ashes with increased capacity to better serve the community.
“The community response has been very heartening,” DeTray. “People want to volunteer their time and materials.”
To contribute to the Exchange Phoenix Fund, donate at www.oicf.us, or to OICF, PO Box 1496, Eastsound, WA, 98245. Make checks payable to OICF with the Exchange listed in the memo field.
For more information about the Exchange and Orcas Recycling Services, contact Mark DeTray at email@example.com or 360-472-0177.