After considering four scenarios for long-term solid waste disposal, the Amherst County Board of Supervisors on May 2 voted to move forward with plans to open another cell in the county’s landfill, shifting away from a previous plan to haul trash elsewhere through trucks.
A transfer station on the site of the landfill on Kentmoor Farm Road in Madison Heights so far has been used to only haul waste to the landfill, an arrangement that could continue if the board so chooses. The board also is considering using it as a solid waste convenience center for residents to use like six other similar sites scattered throughout the county, or deactivating it and potentially using it for storage, according to supervisors’ discussion.
According to a financial analysis before the board, transferring waste out of county from the transfer station is less cost efficient than operating Cell 2 at the landfill, which already is permitted through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
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The four presented scenarios included closing the landfill and transferring waste to a site outside the county through county employees; outsourcing the hauling and trucking, or building Cell 2 and keeping the transfer station open for all traffic and hauling to the landfill. The fourth option, the least expensive, is building Cell 2 and turning the transfer station into a convenience center for residential traffic and hauling waste to the landfill.
The option to use the transfer station with outsourced trucking is estimated to cost $57.8 million from fiscal year 2028 to 2040 and the same use with county employees is projected at $45.4 million in the same span. The measure that County Administrator Jeremy Bryant said he recommends, building Cell 2 and using the transfer station to haul waste to the landfill, is set to cost $42.2 million and converting it to a solid waste convenience center is estimated at $41.3 million for the 13-year stretch, the analysis shows.
Bryant said the analysis assumes a waste intake rate of 124 tons per day, about 38,200 tons per year. The 2022 tonnage was the highest in the landfill’s history, according to Bryant.
“We do anticipate with future developments that could increase,” Bryant said. “It’s certainly something to consider.”
Bryant said the redevelopment efforts at the Central Virginia Training Center property on Madison Heights, a former state-run facility on Colony Road that now is a surplus property, would bring more use to the landfill if many buildings there are torn down as planned.
After a lengthy review and debate several years ago, the board voted in early 2020 to borrow $2.6 million to build the transfer station with the intent of closing the landfill and hauling waste elsewhere, but the county changed course in keeping the landfill going longer than expected.
Supervisor David Pugh said he supports mothballing, or no longer using, the transfer station and selling equipment and trucks that would have been used for transferring waste. He said the transfer station route for waste disposal is not financially feasible for the county.
“We really do not need to have the tractor and trailers if we are not hauling waste to another facility.”
The forecasted construction cost for Cell 2 is $3.2 million, according to the analysis.
Public works director Brian Thacker in December asked for funding to hire two landfill operators, which if approved would have recurring costs of about $110,000 per year. Using the transfer station as a solid waste convenience center would use part-time staff that would be save the county about $29,000 per year, according to the discussion.
Thacker said the transfer station’s current use allows for more flexibility in performing other tasks throughout the county that saves tens of thousands a year if continued. That argument, Supervisor Claudia Tucker said, has her leaning toward Bryant’s recommended option.
“I think that moving our trash by tractor-trailer somewhere else right now in this environment probably does not make sense,” Tucker said. “I like the fact our landfill crew are doing double duty and helping in other departments.”
Supervisor Drew Wade said he supports anything the county can do to minimize or remove the extra movement in disposing of waste, including a transfer station hauling waste within the landfill site.
“I am not on board with the transfer station option,” Wade said.
Chair Tom Martin said the additional work the current public works staff does is much appreciated but he opposes adding two more county positions because it wasn’t formally part of recent fiscal year 2024 budget review process, which is scheduled for a board vote May 8.
“It’s not even adopted yet and we are talking about two new positions,” Martin said. “I can’t support that. A convenience center, I could support that — if there is enough support to mothball it, I could do it too.”
Pugh motioned to shutter the transfer station but rescinded after the board decided to discuss the transfer station’s ultimate use at an upcoming meeting.
Thacker said making the transfer station a solid waste center will make it last longer but the county loses the interchangeability the current arrangement offers, adding: “It’s a give and a take.”
“We believe that the flexibility of having two full-time employees that can operate heavy equipment makes a difference in terms of the service we can provide both at the landfill, at the convenience center, as well as externally to other projects,” Bryant told supervisors.
Pugh, who in 2020 voted against closing the landfill, said if the transfer station is not used at all no new employees will be needed.
“We borrowed $2.6 million of our citizen’s tax money to do this,” Tucker said of the transfer station.
“I thought it was going to be a bad deal,” Pugh said in response.
Thacker said deciding on Cell 2 is the main priority because only a few years of airspace capacity is left and the county needs to begin the steps to begin construction with DEQ’s approval.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt we are going to move forward with opening the landfill’s Cell 2,” Martin said.
The board later this month is expected to get more information on how the transfer station operates and scenarios for keeping it going, changing its status to a solid waste center or shuttering it.
“To me it’s almost semantics on what we call it,” Martin said.