Powell transfer station gets another shot

Posted 9/30/10

Aiming to construct a transfer station in Powell before the 2012 landfill closure, the city recently submitted an application to the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) for a $990,000 grant to fund such a project.

“We can't just wait for …

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Powell transfer station gets another shot


City applies for nearly $1 million grant for transfer stationAnticipating the Powell landfill's closure in 2012, city leaders see two basic scenarios: No. 1 — trash is hauled directly to Cody's lined landfill on a daily basis using local collection trucks; No. 2 — trash is stored and processed at a Powell transfer station and then larger quantities are transported to Cody in a compaction trailer a couple of times a week.Overwhelmingly, Powell leaders prefer the transfer station scenario.

Aiming to construct a transfer station in Powell before the 2012 landfill closure, the city recently submitted an application to the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) for a $990,000 grant to fund such a project.

“We can't just wait for our landfill to close — we have to do something now,” said Mayor Scott Mangold. “We're trying to solve the problem before it becomes an emergency.”

The application is slated for consideration at the SLIB's January 2011 meeting, and local leaders hope to apply for a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permit and start construction next year, pending approval.

“If we're fortunate enough to receive the grant, we'd like to start next summer or fall,” said City Administrator Zane Logan.

The city would be required to provide a match to the grant if it's approved, but Logan said that could come from in-kind contributions, such as engineering work on the project or land.

For several years, Park County and municipal officials have grappled with how to manage waste following DEQ regulations requiring landfills to install liners and other infrastructure to prevent liquid garbage runoff from reaching groundwater. In a study, Park County found lining only the Cody landfill was the most cost-effective way to meet DEQ requirements.

The county plans ultimately to close its other landfill sites to household waste — leaving the municipalities of Powell and Meeteetse responsible for getting their trash to Cody; the fate of the Clark landfill has been uncertain.

“We're running into a deadline, and we don't want to run into the same situation as Meeteetse,” Mangold said.

Meeteetse began direct hauling to Cody after its landfill closed in June.

If Powell built a transfer station, perhaps the county would consider working on a transfer station for Meeteetse, too, Mangold added.

Though Powell councilmen resist the idea of direct hauling to Cody, county commissioners have resisted the idea of building transfer stations. An Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan for Park County, put together by private consultants — and required and largely paid for by the Wyoming Legislature — found hauling was the most cost-efficient option for Powell and Meeteetse.

“There isn't a lot of anecdotal evidence that says it (a transfer station) will pay for itself, just from a bottom-line point of view,” said Commissioner Bucky Hall on Wednesday. And because of the economics, Hall does not support having the county build a transfer station in Powell.

However, he said from a perspective of convenience, a transfer station can be a good thing. If Powell can come up with its own alternate funding, such as the State Loan and Investment Board, Hall said he's “totally supportive of it.”

“Just because it's not economically feasible doesn't mean it's not worthwhile,” he said.

Estimates say direct hauling will cost Powell about $100,000 annually, and based on numbers from consultants who developed the waste management plan, operating a transfer station could cost twice that.

Some Powell officials question the county's figures and believe in the long run, a transfer station is the most cost-effective solution.

“It's a lot cheaper,” said Councilman Don Hillman. “And it'll save on the wear and tear on our trucks.”

The city's collection trucks are designed to pick up local garbage — not for highway hauling, Hillman said.

The city's research shows a “significant cost to haul it to Cody, above and beyond the cost of fuel,” Logan said of direct hauling.

Direct hauling also would entail additional costs in operating, maintenance, insurance and, likely, new or replacement trucks, Logan said, emphasizing that the city's local garbage trucks aren't designed for highway travel.

Direct hauling also would add wear and tear to the Powell-Cody highway, he said.

“There's going to be a lot of trucks on the road,” Logan said.

City Sanitation Superintendent Darrell Rood said direct hauling would mean an average of 14 trips per week to Cody; a transfer station would drop that to three to four loads per week.

Each year, the city transports about 5,000 tons to the Powell landfill, and at a cost of $90 per ton, pays about $450,000 per year to the county.

Rood said depending on the day, local collection trucks aren't always full when they head to the landfill. With direct hauling, they would have to drive all the way to Cody even with a truck that's half full, because “you wouldn't have any place to store it,” Rood said.

A transfer station could also accommodate garbage from rural residents, further reducing the number of trips to Cody, Hillman said.

“A transfer station would eliminate a lot of those trips back and forth,” Hillman said.

He said he'd like to see a transfer station serve residents outside city limits, too. Once the Powell landfill closed, rural residents in the area might have to hire private haulers or drive to Cody themselves, though county landfill officials have mentioned the possibility of installing roll-off bins for rural residents after the local landfill closes.

“The rural community is a big part of the community here, and we need to take care of them,” Hillman said.

Ideally, a transfer station would be a joint effort, rather than just owned and operated by the city of Powell, Logan said.

“There's a reason to work together, financially and practically,” Logan said. “It's a county-wide issue, and we still have the opportunity to work together on this.”

Powell councilmen plan to meet with Park County commissioners in a work session after November's election to discuss the transfer station grant and plans, Mangold said.

The mayor said he'd like to see the county involved with a transfer station in Powell.

“If the county does run it, fees for people in eastern Park County would be cheaper,” Mangold said.

County commissioners have said they plan to provide reduced tipping fees for communities that have to start hauling to Cody, though they've said it will be a relatively small break.

City leaders plan to discuss the transfer station's location with commissioners in November. A transfer station could be located near the current county-owned Powell landfill or on city property off Cemetery Road. The city also considered other options, such as land near the wastewater lagoon.

A transfer station located near Powell also would be more convenient than driving to Cody and would serve Garland, Ralston and Willwood residents, Mangold said.

He added that a transfer station also would put Powell a step ahead if the state went to centralized landfills in a different location.

“We'd be able to haul our garbage anywhere,” Mangold said.

Earlier this year, Powell councilmen discussed an $18-million landfill tax proposal to help pay for landfill tipping fees and transfer stations in Powell and Meeteetse.

Without support from a majority of commissioners, advocates of the 1-cent landfill tax didn't officially propose the measure to the county, and it never advanced to the ballot for voters.

Last spring, Mangold spoke with leaders of other cities and towns about looming landfill closures during a Wyoming Association of Municipalities board meeting. There, it was suggested that the Legislature get involved. Mangold said Powell had considered that route, to no avail. Someone suggested SLIB funding, and Mangold brought the idea back to Powell.

“We aren't getting a lot of help from anyone else, so we thought, ‘Let's try it,'” he said.