The existing transfer station, located north of Elkins Way, where waste collected from brown, blue and green cans is taken to be sorted before it’s removed from the city, is outgrowing its location. City staff began planning for an expansion of the current site, but later determined that building a new station on a new site, while the current station continues to operate, would be a better solution.
Assistant Public Works Director Paul Eldredge told the council at its Feb. 24 meeting that the proposed design process is estimated to cost more than $200,000, part of the $7.4 million budgeted for the expansion. Funding for the project has been part of the city’s garbage rates for years, and therefore will not require an increase in current rates.
The proposed site will be more efficient because it will be a fully-enclosed station, unlike the current station that is open to the elements and subject to delays due to weather conditions, Eldredge said. An enclosed facility prevents waste from blowing around or becoming saturated with rain water, which makes waste materials more difficult to load into removal trucks.
“We’ve adapted to these conditions over the years, but we can’t stay at this location forever,” Eldredge said. “The weather conditions slow the operations down and impact the overall efficiency of the facility. With an enclosed facility, we wouldn’t have that problem.”
An enclosed facility would also limit noise pollution and the odor emitted outside to the nearby ball fields.
The new site would also feature a drop-off recycling area for use by the public, and allow for city-sponsored Free Dump Days, where residents could drop off specified waste. The existing site is closed to the public.
The new facility is proposed to be built 1,000 feet north of the current site, expanding the facility from 2.8 acres to 5.7 acres. Since the proposed site is so close to the existing location, the city will be able to save on an environmental impact report, since staff will be able to utilize most of the key information from the report done for the current site.
While the proposed expansion and relocation will improve the transfer station’s efficiency, moving the site to a new location will also reduce the current facility’s aesthetic shortcomings. If the transfer station is moved, the current site could be cleaned up and used for an expansion of the sports complex.
After 30 minutes of discussion, the council approved the proposal with a 4-1 vote, Councilman Brandon Richey opposing.
Richey said while he supports moving the transfer station away from the ball fields, he was unsatisfied with the unanswered questions presented in the proposal regarding the project’s ultimate cost, questioning whether approving the proposal was the financially responsible move. He suggested that the city consider contracting with a regional transfer station rather than spending the money to build a new facility.
“There are some questions being asked tonight that we flat out don’t know the answers to,” Richey said. “I love the idea of getting the transfer station out of the ball fields – that’s unquestionable as far as one of our priorities – but with that said, I have to look at the totality of the circumstances here … Is this the financially responsible move to make right now?” Richey said he couldn’t support the current proposal until his questions were answered.
Councilman Chris Becnel said that while looking at regional collection might be something for the future, now isn’t the time to pursue that possibility. “That raises the bigger issue as to whether the city should be responsible for its own waste collection. That’s beyond what the city needs at this point.”
Vice Mayor Erick Stonebarger said he was on the fence after hearing the staff report. While he thought it was “fantastic” that the proposal suggests a new site away from the ball fields, he mentioned he too was concerned about the costs of the design project.
“I thought you (staff) were going to say it would be something like $50,000 (for design costs) but I guess that was the pie in the sky for me,” Stonebarger said.
Mayor Bob Taylor said in support of the proposal that since the city already owns the land of the proposed site and there is no need to conduct an extensive environmental impact report, the proposal’s economic benefits can’t be ignored.
City staff plans to contract the design project by the end of the month. After the design is 50 to 60 percent complete, Eldredge said the design process will pause, as city staff reviews the design to make sure it works within the city’s budget. If the project is approved after the milestone review, the complete design is expected to be finished by the end of the year.