Volunteers picked up 49.4 tons of trash during the Rally in the Desert litter cleanup in September.
Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful Coordinator Koryn Misbach presented the results of the four-hour cleanup at the Rio Rancho Governing Body meeting Thursday night at City Hall. In addition to the litter the 225 volunteers picked up, 493 Sandoval County residents took advantage of a free dumping day at the county landfill to properly dispose of 257 tons of trash.
Misbach said fewer people volunteered this year, probably due to the pandemic. City employees also found more illegal dumping sites, which she attributed to COVID-19 and employees more often being out in the desert, where they might stumble across more sites.
The three teams that collected the most trash received prize money, donated by Waste Management trash-collection service. They were:
• First place: Rio Rancho Search and Rescue, collecting 5.82 tons to win $500;
• Second: Mesa Hawks, collecting 4.99 tons to win $300; and
• Third: Territory Scouts, collecting 4.34 tons to win $200.
Misbach said the amount of trash removed from the desert and roadways was the same weight as 7.6 African elephants or 3.8 school buses.
Mayor Gregg Hull said he appreciated Misbach bringing up elephants because, according to the saying, how you eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
“We had a lot of partners out there helping us to eat that out-of-control elephant situation that we do call illegal dumping,” he said.
Illegal dumping is unacceptable, harming the environment and costing a lot of time, effort and taxpayer money to clean up, he continued.
“If you’re illegal dumping, stop it,” Hull said.
Rio Rancho residents who have Waste Management trash service can use the company’s landfill for free once a month any time it’s open. They just need to bring a utility bill with them to prove residency.
Misbach said city staff members and volunteers clean up about 500,000 pounds of illegally dumped trash throughout the year.
Sandoval County Commission Chairman Dave Heil participated in Rally in the Desert, and the county organized its own cleanup. Over a week to 10 days, Heil said, volunteers collected 20 tons of trash outside Rio Rancho city limits.
In other business, governing body members:
• Said goodbye to City Councilor Jennifer Flor, who was attending her last governing body meeting remotely, and thanked her for her service. She had resigned to focus on taking care of her family, with three young children.
• Awarded a $2.36 million contract for improvements to the solids-handling facility at Waste Water Treatment Plant 2 to RMCI Inc.
• Approved a budget resolution allowing the city to accept CARES Act money for reimbursement of previously unbudgeted expenses incurred in responding to COVID-19.