Who should clean up abandoned donation bin?

Ionia, donation bin
The messy site of a defunct donation bin in Ionia. (Aug. 6, 2017)

BERLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A donation box near Ionia is overflowing, surrounded by a smattering of rubbish — piles of clothes, a tattered book, an old TV, a broken couch.

“Nobody picks it up. They just keep dropping off their trash. What do you think of it when you drive by? That it looks tacky, that it looks nasty,” area resident Kristina Traster said of the mess outside the vacant former Kmart off S. State Road.

“Sad. People abuse it. They shouldn’t but they do just to get rid of local garbage out of their house,” resident Russell Misner added.

It’s not a new problem. The bin was an eyesore in October 2014, too. At the time, 24 Hour News 8 reported it was owned by California-based Childhood Disease Research Foundation. Target 8 had found two years prior that most of the money that organization took in through donations was going to the people raising the funds, not charities.

Residents say it has been quite some time since anyone picked up the items left at the bin and many wonder if the clutter will ever be cleaned up.

Sunday, 24 Hour News 8 called the Childhood Disease Research Foundation to get answers and was directed to an automated recording.

“As of Sept. 9, 2016, The Childhood Disease Research Foundation no longer has a clothing bin program,” the voice on the line stated. “And anyone calling regarding a bin should contact We Care Recycling at 630.283.3093. Thank you for your past support.”

24 Hour News 8 called the number for We Care Recycling, but it was after business hours and a recording said no one was available to take the call.

So with the program discontinued, who’s responsible for picking up the donations removing the bin?

Not the city of Ionia, one city councilman says. The property in question isn’t within the city limits.

“It is often confusing in a smaller community what a city issue is, what a township issue is, what a village issue is. Ionia County is a relatively small population. Because of that, our borders kind of blur, I think, for anybody who lives here,” 3rd Ward Councilman John Milewski said.

He said the property is actually in Berlin Township, which puts the problem on that municipality’s shoulders.

But Berlin Township passed the buck, too. Township Supervisor Robert Bennett told 24 Hour News 8 the property was bought in August 2015 by a company based in Wyoming and it is therefore that company’s responsibility to remove the bin. 24 Hour News 8 found out Monday that company is based in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Bennett said there has been no word on what the company plans to do with the property.

Milewski noted the city of Ionia has an ordinance that prohibits donations bins specifically to prevent them from becoming disorderly. The township does not have any such rule.