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County seeks new transfer site

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

The Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously last week to re-launch the search process for a new solid-waste transfer station site.

In addition, commissioners decided to contract with a consulting firm to identify and evaluate potential transfer station locations.

Earlier this month, the board reopened the search for a waste transfer station site, citing social justice reasons and outcry from the community. Commissioners had voted in March to locate the transfer station on Eubanks Road, near the site of the county’s 35-year-old landfill, which is expected to reach capacity in 2011.

County staff had proposed a site search process that includes both technical and community-specific siting criteria determined by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste. Because the meeting ran late, commissioners said they would discuss siting criteria at a later date.

Commissioner Mike Nelson on Monday said he would like to remove the Eubanks Road site from possible consideration, adding that he would prefer to use a site in the southern part of the county, where most of the county’s waste is generated.

In addition, Nelson said he would like to hear more input before determining how to prioritize site criteria.

“We need to sit down and do it as a group,” he said. “We need input from citizens and the Solid Waste Advisory Board.”

Commissioner Barry Jacobs also said the northern part of the county should not have to host the transfer station, since two-thirds of the county’s garbage comes from the southern part of the county.

“If you really want to talk about environmental responsibility, Chapel Hill and Carrboro are going to have to step up and help us in this search,” he said. “Both have property. They have not offered it.

“It’s a copout, frankly,” he added.

Board Chair Moses Carey also said he would like to gather public input regarding site criteria before determining priorities.

“I don’t want to bias the product,” he said. “I’m willing to listen to what the public has to say.”

Carey emphasized that he would like the board to select a site for the transfer station by the end of November 2008 so that the new board would not immediately be faced with the task of determining a site.

At last week’s meeting, several members of the community thanked the commissioners for reopening the search, but encouraged the board to remove the Eubanks Road site from consideration.

“Eubanks Road should not even be a part of this  conversation,” said Rev. Robert Campbell, a longtime leader in the Rogers Road/Eubanks Road community. “Why hold a carrot before a donkey to motivate it when you know you’re not going to give him the carrot?”

Campbell also said the county should work toward improving waste management and recycling before sending the county’s garbage to other communities.

“Why do we want to send our trash into somebody else’s backyard and contaminate their groundwater?” he said.

Jack Sanders, chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, said the county should continue to work toward improving the quality of life in the Rogers/Eubanks neighborhood regardless of whether or not the transfer station is located there.

“The explicit recognition of principals that protect the well-being of all communities, regardless of their economic status and political clout, is important,” he added.

Commissioner Valerie Foushee agreed.

“It seems to me that regardless of what we set in criteria, that it should not affect the work of the [Rogers Road Enhancement] Task Force,” she said.

Because the landfill is expected to reach capacity in early 2011, the county faces a tight construction schedule for the solid-waste transfer station. County staff will determine the cost of hiring a consultant for the site search and will report to the board in January of next year.

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