Grand County officials explain trash transfer station rationale
February 10, 2009
Once criticized for keeping citizens in the dark about locating a trash transfer station in Hot Sulphur Springs, Grand County commissioners provided a wealth of information Monday about the proposed facility.Citizens filtered into overflow areas of the crowded commissioners board room to digest the countys proposal. Supplemented by handouts and maps, a virtual presentation of the Highway 40 corridor modeled with a transfer station shown as life-like as possible from various angles grabbed viewers attention. The transfer station is proposed four-tenths of a mile east of Hot Sulphur Springs at least 200 feet off of Highway 40 and 1,546 feet from the Colorado River. One virtual image showed a generous row of trees and a 6-foot fence disguising the solid waste campus a 9,200 square-foot containment building, a 2,400 square-foot office building and a small scale house built behind a berm and elevated from the highway. Doors of the building would strategically face north, county officials informed the audience, away from town and residential areas and with consideration of prevailing winds. Another image showed the buildings proposed facade with a nod to western-ranch style. As many as 90 to 100 vehicles would haul Grand Countys 100-plus tons of total solid waste per-day to the site during peak times, the county reported. The county will be seeking Colorado Department of Transportation permission for Highway 40 accel, decel and turning lanes. Recycling components of the facility have yet to be determined.County Engineer Tim Gagnon outlined how drainage and storm runoff would be managed, saying detention and sediment ponds and grass swales are conscientiously designed. Its as much as a bullet-proof water-quality design as possible, he said.County officials also addressed noise, litter and odor control.Citizens learned that the BOCC will not give Waste Management a permanent contract, but will put the operation up for bid about every five years. Building and owning the transfer station allows for more control over fees, county officials said.At an estimated $1.7 million to build, the countys stance is that a transfer station is cheaper than spending $4 to $6 million for a new landfill (the Granby landfill is still experiencing a slide at its base and has two more years of use) or expansion of the Kremmling Landfill, which would accommodate county-wide waste for only three months.These impending closures were used as reasons for the countys interest in expediting a new trash plan. The county recently acquired a well permit from the state, but before them lies a Colorado Department of Health and Environment permit review. Selection of a general contractor and a construction timetable of six to nine months puts the county on the fast track, they said. Not without our sayBut that fast-track should not compromise the publics will to have a stake in the stations operation, aesthetics and process, said attorney David Michel, retained by the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs.The transfer station is a use that requires a special use permit with conditions developed through citizen input, Michel said. Michel stated that since a transfer station is not a use specifically itemized in the countys business zone, it should in the least be subjected to a public process because of its potential hazards. Comparatively, transfer stations are listed as needing special review under the countys forestry and open zone. Lets just remember this is going to be a use by right in all county business zones anywhere in the county, Michel said, right outside of Fraser, right next to the Fraser Elementary School, is business zoning … Another competitor could theoretically look at the haul times and say, I dont have to haul trash all the way to Hot Sulphur Springs and back. I could put a transfer station right in that business zone in Fraser and I could cut my haul times to Denver.By setting a precedent that transfer stations are allowed in business zones without public review, now the county is saying they have absolutely no say, whatsoever, how that transfer station is run; theyre just going to leave it up the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, Michel said.County Commissioner James Newberry responded, saying commissioners have already muddied the waters by participating in public meetings about the transfer station, which means they could not act as impartial judges for the countys own transfer station in a special permit hearing.To that, Michel said he had full confidence commissioners would be fair if given a chance to review their own proposal. Emotional issueThroughout the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, which at times was emotionally charged, even heated, speakers consistently complimented the countys presentation. Some said they believe in the countys ability to make the transfer station the best it could be. But the uncertainty of how future commissioners might oversee the transfer station, the possibility of transfer stations in other parts of the county and citizen research about poorly operated transfer stations elsewhere in the state, have motivated them to seek a review process. No other transfer station in the state has been approved without local permitting, citizens told county officials.On Tuesday, county landfill consultant Dave Douglas responded that five transfer stations in the state have been implemented without a local review process, including the City of Rangely, Teller County, the City of Sheridan, the Town of Meeker and Weld County.Hot Sulphur Springs resident Linda Troccoli offered commissioners several manuals provided by state and federal agencies with guidelines for transfer stations including one manual used in Australia. In all of them, she said, community involvement is mentioned throughout, as well as references to public benefit. Hot Sulphur resident Joe Reyfield brought up possible effects on property values in Hot Sulphur. He recently built a new home that now sits closer to the transfer station than any other building. He wondered how the county would make up for a potential loss, but no satisfactory answer was provided him, he said after the meeting. Fostering mistrustMr. Newberry, Mr. Bumgarner, Ms. Stuart, if you do not foster this communication, you will lose our confidence, create suspicion and rumors, not just by the community here, but the county as a whole, said Hot Sulphur resident Ken Anderson. I submit to you that you must include community response, and my question to you is why have you not done it? To that, Newberry provided the third public apology from commissioners. We got in a rush, we thought we were doing the right thing, but we forgot the communication, said Newberry. There was a timetable.Its still no excuse for no communication, he said.Commissioners did not say whether they would apply for public review of the transfer site, although Commissioners Newberry and Bumgarner hinted they may look into it.I believe its a good place, but I still have to get you convinced, and if this hearing process is part of that, well work on that, Bumgarner said. But part of that comment did not sit well with Fraser resident Michelle Kloss.We elected you. Its not up to you to convince us. Please listen to us with an open mind and not just tell us what you want and shove it down our throats, she said. We want our voice to be heard, she said.Other points The county states in a handout that it will solicit bids for the transfer-station project. The person who sold the land to the county for the station will not automatically be selected to pour the concrete. Explaining why a zoning designation for an auto-service station was made the same day commissioners agreed to buy that property for a transfer station, Commissioner James Newberry said the Planning and Road & Bridge departments werent aware of each others courses of action.According to the county, Waste Management will truck the trash to whatever landfill it determines to be the most economically feasible. The cost to the county wont go up depending on Waste Managements choice of landfill. Since this process has begun, as many as 30 county-owned properties have been rejected for a transfer site for various reasons. County officials said a meeting with Scenic Byway representatives revealed they had concerns about the transfer-site location. The Scenic Byways own charter says it is for recognition, not regulation, county officials pointed out. According to the countys landfill consultant, the State of Colorado would inspect the transfer station site at least twice per year. Resident Steve Ditto pointed out that effective recycling measures and a change in citizen mindset will mean lower trash costs for all in a transfer-station system. Since the transfer station controversy, both commissioners Stuart and Newberry have said theyre starting to question whether the county should continue to be in the trash business at all. Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.