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Agencies say no thanks to ragged goods

Social service agencies in Citrus County love getting donations of used furniture, clothes and household items for people in need. But not on their front doorstep. And only during regular business hours, please.

It may sound like a minor detail, but for a non-profit organization on a tight budget, removing goods that are not, well, any good can be costly.

"We do sometimes get stuff left for us that we just can't use," said Jean Sweeney, a volunteer with the Daystar Life Center in Crystal River. "So we have to take it to the landfill."

And that costs money _ money that could be spent helping people, said Nola Patterson, executive director of Citrus United Basket in Inverness.

She once arrived at the CUB office to find a rain-soaked sofa-bed in front of the door.

"When it rains, it's twice as heavy and costs twice as much to dump," she said. "We want people to bring things, but only when we're open for business."

Leanne Hadsell, the president of Citrus United Basket, said she doesn't blame the people who leave the donations. Perhaps they can't afford to dump it themselves and think they're doing a good deed by donating, she said.

She would like the county to consider waiving the tipping fee at the landfill for non-profit agencies.

"It amounts to a lot of money," she said. "We don't have it, but I'm sure the people who left the stuff behind didn't have it either."

Hadsell said she has written a letter to county officials about the matter but was politely told there was nothing they could do.

County Commissioner Gary Bartell said it's not the first time he has heard the complaint. The Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranch also has approached the commission about the issue.

Bartell said he understands the predicament but doesn't think the county can afford to waive the fee for every non-profit group.

"I have compassion for them, personally, but depending on the volume, it could be very costly to the county," he said. "The board thought it would open the door to more problems."

Bartell has suggested that agencies post signs asking donors to wait until business hours to leave their goods.

Dawn Arline, executive secretary for the United Way of Citrus County, said she believes an exemption makes perfect sense.

"I don't understand why (the county) wouldn't agree to it," she said. "These are non-profit agencies, and the money could be put to much better use."