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Commission not allowing public comment on library issues

The Campbell County Commission will no longer be taking public comment relating to the Campbell County Public Library.

For the last three months, commissioners have listened to hours of public comment at their meetings from residents about the library, in particular with the teen and children’s sections containing books that deal with sex and LGBTQ+ issues.

The commissioners also have had two joint public meetings with the library board to address the topic.

On Friday, the county posted the agenda for Tuesday’s regular meeting, and while the public comment section is scheduled for 9:40 a.m., it includes a note saying “Public comment will not be taken on the Library and the issues that have arisen surrounding the Library.”

Commission Chairman Bob Maul wrote a letter explaining the decision. He said he recognizes that it is an important issue for the community, but that people must trust the process.

“The library is engaged in its book challenge process and although some may be displeased with the length of time required in completing this process, this process must be allowed to proceed to completion,” Maul wrote.

Maul was the only commissioner to sign the letter, which did not state when public comment on the library would be allowed again.

It is the second change the commissioners have made to their meetings in response to the library discussion.

Several weeks ago, they had moved the public comment period to the end of their meetings to allow them to conduct their regular business before moving on to public comment. Their meetings were attracting dozens of attendees, and the public comment period would usually last close to an hour.

Maul’s letter was shared on the county’s Facebook page.

“Thank you! This should have came out months ago but thank you for taking the stage away for the political theatre! Great move to help bring our community together!” commented Matt Heath.

Local pastor Scott Clem said he found the situation ironic. He wrote that when a group of people wants the library to “move sexualized perverted adult materials ... out of the children’s section and into the adult section,” it’s called censorship.

“And now in a twist of irony, the same ‘no censorship’ crowd is applauding the county Gov’t as it actually tries to censor the public, telling the public that they can’t speak on the county library during the ‘general public comment’ section at public meetings. You can’t make this stuff up,” he wrote.

Calls to Maul were not returned as of press time Monday.

Loving the dirty jobs
Nasty garbage cans can’t compete against Thomas Dodge’s good humor when it comes to cleaning the trash

Trash cans were just meant to be dirty. Each week, they’re filled with leftover food, liquids, things that are slimy and squishy and gross. And each week, they’re emptied out by the garbage collectors, only to be filled with trash again.

Over the years, the trash bins collect dirt and grime and mold, and they develop a pungent odor made from the assortment of smells that inhabit the container.

For many people, having a stinky, dirty garbage can is just a fact of life, and there’s nothing they can do to get it clean.

mmoore / News Record Photo/Mike Moore 

Thomas Dodge of Bubbly Bins emerges from one of his freshly cleaned garbage bins at his Gillette home Friday afternoon.

But Thomas Dodge, a Gillette native, believes trash cans can be cleaned. That’s why he started Bubbly Bins, a company that specializes in cleaning residential rollout trash bins. He takes the dirty bins and cleans them until they look brand new.

When Dodge was a kid, he was in charge of taking out the trash at his home, and he didn’t mind it. At the time, he didn’t realize the reason he was given that privilege was because no one else wanted to do it.

As an adult, Dodge said cleaning, especially pressure washing, fascinates him. He loves seeing the before and after pictures of a job well cleaned.

“I can watch those transformation videos of car detailing or patio cleaning and I’m just like, ‘That’s so cool.’”

Dodge, a detention officer at the Campbell County jail, has lived in Gillette his entire life. He graduated from Campbell County High School in 2003, and he soon started working for the U.S. Postal Service. He delivered mail for 14 years before taking a job at the jail.

mmoore / News Record Photo/Mike Moore 

Bubbly Bins owner Thomas Dodge demonstrates how his garbage bin cleaner works Friday afternoon. Dodge recently started up the business of bin cleaning and has found a good deal of success in Gillette so far.

In his years in Gillette, he’s seen many people start their own businesses. It was something he always wanted to do.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I want to keep living here, and I wanted to create a service that people could benefit from,” he said. “And one of my goals is to be a business that people trust.”

But he didn’t want to step on another entrepreneur’s toes.

“I wanted to find something that I could do that no one else (in town) had really thought of yet,” he said.

About a year and a half ago, he found that something. He watched a video on TikTok of a trash bin being cleaned, and he was hooked.

He learned that trash bin cleaning was a popular service in the South, but it’s not as common in cold weather states. After watching that video, he began researching the viability of starting up a trash bin cleaning service in Gillette.

This summer, he ordered a unit from a South Dakota company. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply shortages, a new unit is three months out. It just so happened that he was able to get a used one in the color that he wanted within a month.

The unit arrived July 14, and he started running Bubbly Bins the next day.

Since that time, Dodge has built up a base of about 65 recurring customers, and he’s cleaned out about 500 trash bins. Dodge has been doing most of it himself, but he has some help from his girlfriend, Abby Erickson, and his teenage son.

Erickson said that when Dodge told her about his business idea, she went into it with an open mind. Now, she’s completely sold on it, and when she has the day off she’ll join Dodge on his routes.

“I never thought I’d be so excited to jump out of the truck and look inside a garbage can,” she said.

So many people have just become accustomed to having a dirty, stinky trash can, Dodge said, and they don’t realize that it can ever be clean. Often, they’ve never seen their trash bin clean.

Many people aren’t sure about the service, so they’ll pay for a one-time cleaning. Sometimes they end up signing up to be a recurring customer.

Erickson said it’s something people don’t realize they’ve been missing out on until they actually experience it for themselves.

People can sign up for a cleaning through his website, Bubbly-bins.com. It only takes a few minutes, and that was done on purpose. Dodge wanted to make it as user-friendly as possible.

Dodge’s schedule follows the city’s trash pickup schedule, so that the trash bins are guaranteed to be empty. It also keeps him in the same general area, and he’s not having to drive from one side of town to the other.

He usually makes 15 to 25 stops per day. He’ll budget 30 minutes per bin, recognizing that some stops might take a little more work.

“Some trash cans are literally caked with garbage and I’ll have to shovel them out by hand before I can even start,” he said.

At the end of the day, he’ll usually ends up with two kitchen-sized bags full of trash from other people’s bins.

mmoore / News Record Photo/Mike Moore 

Thomas Dodge sprays each can down with peppermint to keep bugs away from cleaned trash bins, along with making the garbage bins smell nice for customers.

Once the prep work is complete, the bin is picked up by grabbers and lifted into the air. The bin is spun around and washed with 200-degree water sprayed at 3,500 psi. The cycle takes 20 seconds. Dodge then takes a wand and gets the rim, the lid and the outside of the trash can.

Then he dries it up with a mop and sprays it with an organic peppermint bug repellent.

When Dodge first started, it took him 45 minutes to clean a bin, but now he can clean one in as little as 10 minutes.

There isn’t a day where Dodge goes out dreading the trash bins he has to clean. Part of the reason he enjoys it is that he doesn’t know what he’ll run into on any given day, he said. He keeps a close eye out for a really dirty trash bin, which if it’s lucky will receive the honor of “Bin of the Day.” He’ll take pictures throughout the process and post them to social media.

“Even I’m like, ‘I can’t believe I got it that clean,’” he said.

Running a business on top of his job at the jail keeps Dodge very busy, and there have been times where he’s gotten stressed or worn out.

“He makes it sound like, ‘Oh, it’s just nothing, I’m just working at the sheriff’s office and working here,’ and I have never seen someone work so hard,” Erickson said.

Dodge and Erickson said they’ve been blown away by the support that he’s received from the community. They said people will approach them in public and thank them.

“It happens much more frequently than we would’ve thought,” Erickson said, adding that the community support “has been really amazing.”

“He sees people that are really excited to see him, that have known him since he was a child,” she said.

Customers in the Foothills area will remember him from his days as a mail carrier, Dodge said. And the business has even gotten him recognized at the detention center.

“I’ve also had people come into jail who are like, ‘You’re the Bubbly Bins guy!’” he said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I am. So anyway, let’s do your fingerprints.’”

Dodge has some ideas for the future of Bubbly Bins, and that includes expansion.

mmoore / News Record Photo/Mike Moore 

Thomas Dodge offers customers freshly cleaned bins to make taking out the trash easier on the eyes and nose.

He’s going to run a full season in 2021, from March through November, and then he’ll look at what it will take to expand into surrounding communities, such as Rozet, Wright, Moorcroft, Sundance and Upton.

“It’d be nice to get out to them,” he said, adding that right now, he’s focused on taking care of Gillette’s customer base.

“I couldn’t do it without my community,” Dodge said. “This is my home, I love Gillette.”

For Dodge, Bubbly Bins is a way for him to give back to the town that raised him. He’ll clean people’s trash bins with a smile on his face, because he knows it’ll put a smile on their faces as well.

Camels freshman quarterback Mason Drube runs the ball after scrambling from the pocket Friday evening against Sheridan at home.