Trash talk

A psychological construct has it that some people who have a hard time enduring separation will pick a fight before leaving. Stalking off angry provides a cushion against the loneliness of being apart.

That could explain the near unilateral churlishness of council members at their June 26 meeting. Or maybe the sour note they ended on as they headed into their summer break was due to the frustration of the Charterwood vote. Or maybe the conundrum that awaits them in the fall: what to do with our garbage.

Now, there’s a fight. Think how roiled people get at the prospect of living next to a brand-new apartment building. Imagine how they’ll take the threat of a solid-waste transfer station moving into the neighborhood.

Orange County announced it will close the Eubanks Road landfill at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, so a year from now we’ll have to take our garbage elsewhere. But where to haul it, and how far? Durham offers the closest and least expensive option, but driving fully loaded garbage trucks down the highway presents some safety issues to the trucks’ drivers (picture the slow-to-accelerate trucks merging onto I-40) and costs associated with every fuel-inefficient mile.

A transfer station would allow trucks to empty their daily loads where the garbage could be compacted and stored until transported to its final resting place. But Chapel Hill has few parcels of suitable land. The vacant lot between Whole Foods and the liquor store on Elliott Road? Obey Creek? Rogers Road? Public Works director Lance Norris welcomes your suggestions.

Public Works crunched the numbers and said that hauling our trash to Durham would save money over paying the dumping fees at the Orange County landfill. Norris suggested switching over as early as October. After all, the town is no longer bound to the town-county landfill agreement, given that the county violated the contract by not providing sufficient notice that the landfill would close.

Orange County manager Frank Clifton, listening in the audience, furrowed his brow. In planning its budget, the county had counted on dumping fees from Chapel Hill all the way through next June. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt offered a classic “it’s not you, it’s me” response to soften the breakup, assuring Clifton the town was not acting out of spite by considering options that would take revenue away from Orange County and send it to Durham County. Chapel Hill had its own tight budget to consider.

Norris ended his presentation by showing a couple slides of lovely transfer stations, and urged council members to visit transfer stations wherever their travels took them this summer.
– Nancy Oates

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10 Comments

  1. DOM

     /  July 2, 2012

    “Chapel Hill has few parcels of suitable land. The vacant lot between Whole Foods and the liquor store on Elliott Road? Obey Creek? Rogers Road? Public Works director Lance Norris welcomes your suggestions.”

    How about the much-contested parcels of land that run along Estes up to MLK? Isn’t that just about the geographic center of Chapel Hill? It would certainly make sense from an economic, fuel-savings point of view.

  2. Nancy Oates

     /  July 2, 2012

    Good point, DOM. A couple dozen garbage trucks going in and out would be preferable to 800+ cars. People who have lived along Rogers Road can hire themselves out as consultants on how neighbors can cope with the noisome ancillary aspects of living next to trash. The rest of us can buy stock now in the company that makes Febreze.

  3. DOM

     /  July 2, 2012

    Febreze – love it. But the neighbors who have lived back there totally undisturbed for the last twenty years would probably prefer trash to student riffraff.

  4. Terri Buckner

     /  July 2, 2012

    The proposal for October is not for all loads, just those from the routes closest to Durham, ostensibly to work out in the kinks in the route. The problem with going to Durham anytime before June is that the town helped create the problems along Rogers Road. For the majority of the landfill’s life, it was owned by the town. So for the town to withdraw early in order to save money, when the additional fees at the Orange County landfill go to reparations for the Rogers Road community seems more than a little churlish.

  5. SDP

     /  July 3, 2012

    As someone who has been involved in various ways in this contentious issue for a number of years and also one lives close to the Rogers Rd neighborhood it is with sadness that the trash debate in Orange County has come down to a do nothing answer. Therefore, we close the landfill with no solution in sight and by doing so force us citizens to look at our trash and imagine if there is nowhere to put it and force a last minute decision. WE HAVE HAD YEARS OF WARNING!
    I admire elected officials who work hard for little praise and much abuse but the failure of leadership in this case is embarrassing. What I kept looking for was elected officials who would stand up on this issue. All I have seen for years is bob and weave. I also blame us citizens of Orange County who have refused for years and continue not to see the reality that we must have a transfer station and or a new landfill very, very soon. No one wants either in their back yard but eventually it will come to some place near you. My bet is the CH town operations center on Mill House.

  6. Ed Harrison

     /  July 6, 2012

    The Orange County administrator who was sitting in the audience, and whom I invited to speak (over Mark’s objections, it seems) was not Frank Clifton. It was Solid Waste Management Director Gayle Wilson.
    And, in regard to a comment in this thread, I asked GIS and Planning staff to find the geographic center of Chapel Hill when time was available. The result was a bit downhill from where my pencil and ruler estimate had put it: just west and north of the Franklin/Estes intersection, behind Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen on the Bolin Creek Greenway. The Town’s “centroid” for solid waste would be southwest of there, to account for the UNC generation of waste. It’s probable that UNC will make its own arrangements, as it has been doing.
    A location which Public Works has designated at the TOC for a potential transfer station has already been presented to Council and public.

  7. Don Evans

     /  July 6, 2012

    So, Ed, you’re saying we should put the transfer station behind Sunshine Biscuit? That’s going to upset a lot of bicyclists!

  8. DOM

     /  July 6, 2012

    I still think a tract of land near the Estes/MLK is the solution. Obey creek is too far way.

  9. Matt Czajkowski

     /  July 7, 2012

    According to my GIS pencil the centroid is Town Hall!

  10. DOM

     /  July 7, 2012

    Perfect spot!

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