by Matt Saldaña
The Charlotte-based consultants overseeing a 16-month long site-selection process for a waste-transfer station in Orange County (see the March 11 Indy cover story, "Trash Talk") have estimated that building and operating a station at one of two sites along N.C. Highway 54 will cost Orange County taxpayers roughly $55 million, over 20 years. Olver, Inc. will deliver the report (available here, along with supporting materials here) to the Orange County Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB) tonight at 7 p.m., at the Solid Waste Management office at 1207 Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill.
The report compares the estimated cost of an Orange County waste transfer station to that of two other alternatives: direct haul to transfer stations operated by private haulers in RTP, and direct haul to a transfer station in Durham. According to Olver, paying private contractors to haul trash to Durham would cost the county $64.6 million over 20 years, while paying contractors to haul to RTP would cost $62.2 million--more than the cost of building, and operating, a transfer station in Orange County combined. No other scenarios (such as regional partnerships, or alternative transfer-station sites) are considered in the report.
"The hauling costs will be significantly more, and outweigh the cost of development," Orange County Solid Waste Management director Gayle Wilson said in an interview. "You're spending more money [on private contractors], but you're spending it on gas, rather than on concrete and asphalt."
Olver wrote that it also estimated "certain operational risks associated with different alternatives," and other intangible impacts, including "loss of economic benefits from having local employees" and "less influence on the disposal site operations to ensure environmental protection and community health and safety." It is unclear whether these "costs" figured into Olver's financial analysis.
By contrast, Orange County Voice, an advocacy group that has organized opposition to the proposed transfer-station sites in Bingham Township, estimates that a county-run facility would cost as much as $108 million to build and run over the next 20 years. The group's conservative estimate for private-hauler costs is $72 million. (View the O.C. Voice report, and accompanying press releases, here.)
We'll be at the SWAB meeting tonight, and will attempt to determine how Olver arrived at its figure, how much it estimates for construction costs, and whether it included intangible factors in its financial analysis.