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City transfer station met with skepticism from county

The city of Powell’s proposal for a planned garbage transfer station came under fire at the Park County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week.

Planning and Zoning board members criticized the city and its engineers for not submitting more detailed plans for the transfer station, while the chairman of the commission, Alan Siggins, also questioned the need for such a facility. Nearby landowners, meanwhile, said they didn’t want the facility near them, just south of Lane 9 on Road 7.

City representatives said the site was chosen after a lot of review, that the facility would have little impact and is needed. The proposed station would receive and prep the city of Powell’s trash for transport to the regional Cody landfill.

The rough draft of the site plan had been submitted at the encouragement of county planning staff, but commission members said they needed more information.

The commission delayed a decision until Dec. 13, at 7 p.m.

“I do not think this is an adequate site plan at all. Period,” said Siggins on Tuesday of the “preliminary” site plan submitted by the city. Referring to the county’s application standards, “Why didn’t you use it?” he asked.

Justin Marchant of Sage Civil Engineering, retained by the city on the project, said they had been planning to wait and submit the site plan at a later date. County Planning Director Linda Gillett, however, had encouraged the city to submit the site plan at the same time as its other requests for a zoning change (from transitional to industrial) and special use permit. That’s how the county has always considered such proposals, and planning staff believed the city’s preliminary site plan would work.

“We felt there was enough information, but I can understand your concerns,” Gillett told the planning commission.

“That will suffice, except that we may turn you down,” Siggins told the city representatives. He said the city should have plotted out where the septic system was going and where parking would be, among other items.

Commission member Fred Howard noted the lack of information about the stormwater drainage system, the impact of new traffic or other details that would address concerns raised by neighbors.

“A site plan would help us with that,” he said. “Not having any of that and asking questions and making suppositions doesn’t put us in a good position.”

As an example, the county Public Works Department estimated in the staff report on the project that the site would draw an average of 920 vehicles a day. That’s not because the city will actually have that much traffic to the site — Powell city Engineer Sean Christensen said it will average three garbage trucks and one semi-truck per day — but rather because the city hadn’t provided any traffic data and “very little information” to the county, said County Project Manager Mike Collier. The figure of 920 daily vehicles came from a traffic formula for an 8,000 square foot commercial building.

Sage Engineering’s Jim Adams said the company had been trying to save the city money by presenting a rough plan — not wanting, for example, to go forward with expensive soils tests to plan a foundation if the site isn’t going to be approved by the county. A review by the state Department of Environmental Quality after county approval may also result in design changes.

But the planning and zoning commission wanted more detail before they signed off on the plan.

Howard said rushing wouldn’t benefit anything. Gillett said the county frequently needs information that’s expensive to get.

Commission board member Marie Fontaine said she wanted to look at the area, as well as an alternate site near the current Powell landfill that the county has offered to the city, before making a decision.

“I just have some questions,” she said. “I can’t picture all of it.”

Christensen said the site near the current landfill won’t work because it’s too small and on a slope.

Commission Board Member Nancy Bailey asked several questions about what the city did to gather public input before going forward with its plan — something neighbors have complained about.

Christensen noted there was a public meeting and said there was quite a bit of review done by the city, the state Department of Environmental Quality and the supplier of the planned transfer station.

“A lot of it was selected because it’s currently city-owned,” he added. The site is currently being used to stockpile gravel.

“We tried to pick an area that was both used for industrial-type stuff already, as well as try to fit into the buildings that were in the area,” Christensen said, comparing the proposed building’s appearance to that of an old machine shop. It would be roughly 8,000 square feet and, in preparation for the future, big enough to handle upwards of 6,000 tons of trash a year, he said; city of Powell residents and businesses currently generate about 5,000 tons a year.

The city says it will cost $1.23 million to build, with half of that money coming from the state.

Some nearby landowners attended the meeting in opposition.

Clarence Anderson, speaking on behalf of the Crown Hill Cemetery District, noted that hundreds of people own plots at the cemetery.

“I have not had any saying that they want this monstrosity of a building sitting out here,” Anderson said.

“It’s really kind of disrespectful where they’re putting it out there. It really is,” he said while speaking for himself. Added his wife, Colleen Anderson, “I don’t want to bury my loved ones across from a dump (the transfer station.)”

The old Powell dump, now reclaimed after closing several decades ago, is located southeast of the proposed transfer station site. The cemetery lies to the east, a commercial property is to the southwest, to the northeast is a paving plant, there is one residence to the north and another to the south. The property is currently used as a city gravel stockpile.

Clarence Anderson said other transfer stations in the state have odors, flying trash and pest problems and said the city council had given the public “a snow job” by saying those things wouldn’t be problems.

Christensen noted that Powell’s transfer station will have all the garbage contained in bins — unlike other stations in the state that involve dumping garbage on a floor and sifting through it.

Another resident, who lives roughly a half-mile southeast of the site, expressed concern about his home’s property value.

“It’s right on the hill there, and I sure wish it had a set of axles on it if this goes through,” said Mike Birdsley.

Julie Thomas, who lives just north of the intersection of Lane 9 and Road 7, said the city had not been a good neighbor. She said the site was once proposed for a jail decades ago.

“Compared to a jail, I guess we’d rather have a transfer station, but we really don’t want either,” Thomas said, concluding, “Every person would say I don’t want this in my backyard, that’s just human. So I guess I don’t want it in my backyard, and we’ve been there a long time.”

Thomas’ father, W.R. Groen, has a home about 700 feet northeast of the proposed site, according to rough drawings. Groen submitted written comments against the proposal.

Siggins noted the people who spoke against the transfer station — four at the meeting and two letters submitted to the board — and questioned the need for it.

“In theory, one way to be thinking of it from your guys’ (the city’s) standpoint is you’re helping the whole city of Powell, however ... they still have some way to get rid of garbage right now that might not require this type of facility, so that’s part of the mitigation process,” Siggins said.

Park County commissioners are closing the Powell landfill next September because they found the costs of upgrading the site to meet new state and federal water quality regulations would be cost-prohibitive. A solid waste study commissioned by the county found the most cost-effective option was to build one regional landfill in Cody. Commissioners refused to build a transfer station in Powell because the study found it was cheaper for the city to directly haul its trash to Cody.

The city has disputed those figures and notes that a transfer station would save hundreds of trips to Cody each year.

The Park County Planning and Zoning Commission plans to take a trip to the site. After members consider the transfer station proposal, it goes to Park County commissioners for consideration.

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