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Transfer station gets thumbs down

The Park County Planning and Zoning Commission is unconvinced that the benefits of the city of Powell’s proposed garbage transfer station outweigh its impacts to nearby residents.

The planning commission voted unanimously last week to recommend Park County commissioners deny the city’s request to rezone its property near the intersection of Lane 9 and Road 7 from transitional to industrial zoning. A rezone and special use permit are needed for the city to build and operate the proposed 8,000 square foot indoor transfer station at the site.

City officials say that when the Powell landfill closes to household trash next year, building and running a transfer station will result in lower garbage bills than directly hauling loads to the regional county landfill in Cody.

Powell officials contend the site east of town is the only good option it has, but nearby residents and property owners objected to the trash facility, voicing concerns at the Dec. 13 meeting and at an initial hearing on Nov. 22.

The Park County Commission will have the final say on whether the project gets a green light.

Planning Commissioner Marie Fontaine said in a Monday interview that she didn’t believe the station’s operations and its industrial re-zone fit in with the area.

“We just felt that it was a major change for that area for the people that are living there — at least that was the way I felt about it,” Fontaine said, citing the noise and traffic.

The city property, now used for gravel storage and transfer, is bordered by residential properties to the north and south, the Crown Hill Cemetery to the east and agricultural land to the west. The old, now-reclaimed Powell landfill lies to the southeast, while a former asphalt mixing plant now used as a construction company’s staging area is just north of Lane 9.

“It would change that area, I think, immensely,” Fontaine said of the proposed transfer station. She joined with fellow planning commissioners Tom Flack, who was absent for the first meeting, and Fred Howard in voting no. Planning Commission Chairman Alan Siggins wasn’t called upon to vote, but had questioned the facility’s need at the earlier meeting; Nancy Bailey missed last week’s meeting.

Flack said in an interview after the vote that he’s in favor of a transfer station, but not the location. He said “one of the biggest things” was that the city didn’t seem amenable to changing the transfer station’s location on the property. Fontaine also echoed that concern Monday, about putting the building “so close to the neighbor.”

The city has proposed building the station near the property’s northern boundary — about 700 feet from Dick Groen’s residence.

During the meeting, Flack asked the city about moving the facility to the center of the property; the city said it wanted to leave that area open so it didn’t impact its ongoing gravel stockpiling at the site or the potential for expanding the transfer station.

Jim Evans with Sage Civil Engineering, retained by the city on the project along with Inberg-Miller Engineers, said if it was his property, he’d much rather have the transfer station near his land than gravel storage and handling.

But that’s not where Groen wants it.

His attorney, Joey Darrah of Powell, said at the meeting that if the transfer station is built, Groen would like it placed further south and not on the property line.

“Maybe they could have asked where we would have liked it instead of just assuming we’d like it on the property line,” said Julie Thomas, Groen’s daughter, who lives just north of the Lane 9/Road 7 intersection.

On Monday, City Administrator Zane Logan said the city is going over the site plan to see if the station can be put where the impacts are lessened.

“We’re going to try to mitigate their (Groen’s) impact as much as we can,” Logan said.

The city argued at the meeting that a transfer station wouldn’t bring many impacts.

“It’s been an industrial site for many years and it will continue to operate that way regardless of what happens here,” said Evans.

City Engineer Sean Christensen said the city hauled 1,359 loads of material in and out of the site between summer 2010 and October this year. That breaks out to an average of not quite three and a half trips per day, with a peak of 20 loads.

The city said three trash trucks and one tractor trailer would generally enter and exit the site each weekday if the transfer station is built. On Saturdays, one trash truck would arrive and depart.

Evans said Road 7 currently sees about 90 cars per day and said the increase of four trips a day “is probably pretty insignificant.”

The plans would mean approximately 1,100 more trips to the site each year — not quite doubling the city’s truck traffic.

At the outset of the meeting, City Public Services Manager Gary Butts expressed dismay about Siggins questioning the need for the station at the earlier meeting.

“I have to ask myself, is that typical? If a business comes in front of you, do you tell a business, ‘We’re not sure you need it’?” Butts asked.

He said the station was “very much needed by the citizens of Powell.”

“My concern is: Do we meet the requirement of zoning, or are we trying to convince everybody it’s a great deal, for you, too?” asked City Councilman Myron Heny later on.

City officials did tell planning and zoning commissioners that using a transfer station instead of direct hauling to the regional landfill in Cody would save Powell residents between $9 and $11 a ton. That figure is based on the fact that if the project goes forward, the State Loan and Investment Board has saved Powell residents $652,502 on the $1.23 million station by pledging that amount towards its construction.

A reduction of about 150 miles of travel per day would trim highway traffic, save wear and tear on city trucks and — by contracting out the trailer hauling — save staff time, city officials said.

After the meeting, Flack said questions about the savings played into the equation as he weighed the project’s impacts and benefits; Fontaine said that didn’t play into her vote.

The Planning Commission decision found that the proposed rezone “does not address a public purpose or need that outweighs any detriment to the rights of neighboring property owners” and that the station is not consistent with the residential area.

Neighbors told commissioners a transfer station would damage their property values.

Clarence Anderson, a Crown Hill Cemetery District trustee, said the transfer station would cost the cemetery hundreds of thousands of dollars since they wouldn’t develop plots across from the station.

“Maybe it won’t smell,” Darrah said of the station. “I take these folks (from the city) at face value ... but there’s a reputation thing that goes into the valuation of property or devaluation of property, and trash is inherently offensive.”

Mike Birdsley, who lives about a half-mile southeast of the site, said realtors told him he’d lose 20 percent of his home’s value if the facility is built.

Identifying them only by address, Birdsley read off the property values of the personal homes of Mayor Scott Mangold, Logan, Butts and Christensen “just so these people could see” what a 20 percent property deduction would be.

The city disputed the facility would damage values.

“I think the city of Powell takes a lot of pride in our facilities,” said Logan, pointing to the award-winning landscaping around the Vining electrical substation in town.

Trees and other vegetation are proposed to surround the station.

“I think that 10 years from now there’d be the obvious pride in this facility, same as we take in other ones,” Logan said.

Butts had said at the outset that “the problem that we’re facing is not concerns, it’s fears.”

An increase of rats, maggots and birds — a specter raised at the first meeting — was one Butts put in the “fear” category.

Powell Sanitation Supervisor Darrell Rood said he’s been to many stations around Wyoming and “I haven’t seen any maggots, rats, blackbirds, anything like that. I haven’t seen it.”

Steve Moldt of Inberg Miller said the station was “really clean way to transport waste.” He narrated a video showing a similar set-up in operation in Glenrock.

Evans stressed that all the containers would be sealed — from the trucks to the trailer. Fluids in the station itself would drain to a central point, then be pumped to a tank. The fluid would then be disposed of and treated in the city’s septic ponds, said Christensen.

Powell officials pointed to several transfer stations around the state that are located within city limits and apparently aren’t causing problems.

As currently planned, the facility would only be open to city of Powell garbage trucks, being closed to Powell residents hauling their own trash or rural Park County residents.

“Since it is the city of Powell’s transfer station, it should be placed in the city of Powell. It’s only the residents of the city, which I am one, that’s going to be allowed to use this, so it shouldn’t be placed on county residents, who aren’t going to be able to use it,” Colleen Anderson, a city resident and Clarence’s wife, said at the meeting.

The city offered to partner with the county on the facility, but commissioners have not expressed interest. It’s unclear what options, if any, the county will offer rural residents for household trash disposal at the Powell landfill after it closes next year.

“In the future, with the right cooperation, this could benefit the entire eastern Park County,” said Powell City Councilman Don Hillman, saying that details could be worked out with commissioners to let rural citizens use the facility.

The Commission is scheduled to consider the city’s request on Feb. 7.

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3 comments

  • posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    December 22, 2011 7:39 am

    GM,your idea actually involves planning and thinking outside the box.Something that is severely lacking in Powell anymore. Good idea though.

  • posted by GM

    December 21, 2011 12:12 pm

    Has anyone at the city looked into having yard compost only dumpsters? In the summer once a week, my home dumpster is full of nothing but grass clippings. If we don't have to send compost to Cody, won't the cost of these extra dumpsters be canceled out by the tonnage we won't be hauling over there? Other cities, like Gillette, separate their garbage this way and they turn around and use the compost instead of just dumping it at the dump. Seems environmental AND economical in our case.

  • posted by TN

    December 20, 2011 1:53 pm

    One way or another,expect garbage rates to go through the roof.

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