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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Engineer suggests three main changes solid waste system

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

The current layout of the Linn County solid waste handling site at Prescott. Currently trucks back into the transfer station to dump their load on concrete floor. (Pfefferkorn Engineering and Environment LLC draft report)

MOUND CITY – The Linn County Commission has been guarded with giving out any more of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the county has received, holding onto it until commissioners received the cost/benefit study on running the county solid waste system. Pfefferkorn Engineering and Environmental LLC, the county’s contracted engineering company, was working on that report.

On Monday, March 6, the commission’s caution appeared to be justified.

Gabe Pfefferkorn gave the commissioners the summary of the cost/benefit study of the Linn County transfer station.

The Executive Summary lists three main issues:

  1. Switching to the Allen County Landfill would save Linn County $54,000 annually with no changes to existing operations.

  2. Regardless, the existing transfer station is structurally compromised and will require $465,000 in repairs and upgrades to continue existing operations in the foreseeable future.

  3. The county could save $91,000 per year by consolidating waste transfer operations at the Linn County Transfer Station; however this would require a $960,000 investment to convert the current facilities and equipment to a top-load tractor-trailer-style system.

Pfefferkorn said that the mileage, time and dumping fees were compared for both the Crawford County and Allen County landfills, and the county would save $54,000 annually by changing their dumping location to Allen County. The study points out that the county could save another $23,000 annually by consolidating waste collection operations at the Linn County Transfer station.

He pointed out that the dumping fees would be less, the mileage and time would be less going to Allen County.

The commissioners discussed their contractual obligation to Crawford County. County Counselor Gary Thompson told the commissioners that Linn County was required to give a 180 day notice if they decided to not use Crawford County’s landfill.

But Thompson said that there might be an argument that allows them to negotiate those terms.

The commissioners asked Thompson to review this so they could begin cost-saving changes at the landfill.

Photos of deteriorated and damaged building components at the county's transfer station. (Pfefferkorn Engineering and Environment LLC draft report)

Next, Pfefferkorn told the commissioners that the current transfer station building has considerable wear and tear which was natural considering the caustic environment and the equipment used in the building.

Pfefferkorn reported that the engineering analysis showed that the structural steel was rusted at the bottom with some places not even touching the concrete. He said the overhead doors and steel columns inside of the stem wall were also in bad condition because of numerous impacts with equipment and vehicles.

He also told the commissioners that the caustic environment of the transfer station makes the floor-level base plates more susceptible to rust and deterioration.

According to the report, the impacts on the walls have caused various areas of structural damage that have left that portion of the building structurally compromised.

Pfefferkorn explained that the building either needed to be upgraded or replaced.

“I’m really not sure what is holding it up,” said Pfefferkorn.

His company estimated that to remove and replace that building in kind (or as it is now) would cost $465,000. He told the commissioners that the recycling side of the building was in great shape and was not compromised.

Pfefferkorn then told the commissioners that in the analysis, he had observed the workings of the transfer station and how it took two people to operate the compactor and the skid loader. He told them that if they went to a top-loading system it would only take one person to do that job.

He recommended removing the existing transfer station, not the recycling part, and putting up a building that would allow the space needed for top loading trailers, which are much more efficient. He said the cost of purchasing two walking floor trailers and one tractor to pull them would be $410,000.

He said the total cost would be about $1.2 million to tear down the existing transfer station and build a new top loading station but that the savings per year for using the top-load trailers would be about $68,000.

Pfefferkorn said that if the building were upgraded for top loading, containers from all 10 compactor sites across the county could be brought to the upgraded transfer station and be dumped into a top-loading trailer. The county would be making two trips weekly to the landfill compared to 22 trips. At present, each compactor site is taken to the landfill in Crawford County twice a week from its location.

Pfefferkorn told the commissioners that the compactor site system was unique to Linn County. He said that in his study, he found that about half of the citizens of Linn County use a trash pick-up system rather than taking trash to the compactor. He said that more typically trash haulers would pick up trash from dumpsters and then bring it to the transfer station.

Pfefferkorn said that in doing the study, he had learned that the citizen’s of Linn County really appreciated the compactor sites and switching to a commercial hauler would be a political decision rather than a dollar-and-cents decision.

Commission Chair Danny McCullough questioned Public Works Director Shaun West about the condition of the compactors at the sites if they were going to have to be repaired or replaced in the near future.

Discussion was held on whether a new transfer station across the road from the old one would be beneficial since the construction debris (CD) land fill cells will be opened over there in the future.

Pfefferkorn told them there would be a benefit to tearing down the old building and replacing it in the same location and that is all of the services, water, sewer, and electricity are already there.

He also added that he did not think the plan would work unless the noxious weed building was torn down and the scales moved so that the trailers could maneuver into the loading area. He said that if tearing down the noxious weed building was not an option, it would probably be better to put the transfer station at a new site.

The county has been working with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to get permission to raise the side of the existing cells at the CD landfill in order to extend the life of the landfill before having to move across the road to build more cells.

Public Works Director Shaun West outlined the next steps to be taken. Those include working out the legal issues regarding canceling the contract with Crawford County and having work sessions regarding steps to be taken and look at the availability of funding and grants to finance the project.

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