Waste district plans landfill in Williston

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The Chittenden Solid Waste District's plan to build a regional landfill in Williston has moved from a vague idea to a project in motion.

CSWD released a tentative timeline last month that targets a July 2008 opening date for the landfill, which has been on the organization’s radar for several years. At its Jan. 26 meeting, the CSWD board of commissioners reviewed two feasibility studies that private consultants completed on the landfill proposal, according to Tom Moreau, general manager for CSWD.

Both studies, he said, suggested a landfill was a viable addition that would save millions of dollars in costs currently associated with moving waste through the county’s two transfer stations, both of which are located in Williston, to private landfills. The new landfill in Williston would need to meet the solid waste disposable requirements of the 18 municipalities that are members of CSWD.

“The feasibility studies basically showed that the landfill was economically feasible,” Moreau said. “We’re just now starting the more formal process of planning it.”

Previously, the landfill had existed only as an abstract concept planned for the unspecified distant future. However, the release of the timeline and feasibility studies indicates a shift toward making the landfill a priority for CSWD.

Moreau said the waste district would formulate its requirements for the landfill in the coming months and then hire a design engineer for the project. He said CSWD aims to start the design process in April.

CSWD is seeking public comment on the landfill proposal, Moreau said. The waste district’s Web site, www.cswd.net, includes links to the timeline, the two feasibility studies and a place for the public to post comments.

Moreau said all plans for the project are in a preliminary stage. He said CSWD must consider a variety of possible models for the landfill, and there are numerous obstacles the project will encounter between now and the start of construction. The project will need to receive state and local permits.

“That timeline is very tentative,” Moreau said. “Do I expect it could get done any faster? Probably not. Could it go slower? Certainly.”

One critical aspect of the plan that has not been settled yet is the property where the landfill would be located. CSWD’s plan is to develop most of the landfill on a 76-acre parcel off Redmond Road near CSWD’s Williston transfer station. However, Hinesburg Sand and Gravel owns the land and currently operates a sand pit there.

After Hinesburg Sand and Gravel declined to sell the property to CSWD, the state had the land condemned for the landfill project. A December 2003 jury trial set the price CSWD would be required to pay for the property at $8.8 million.

“We’re not satisfied with that figure,” Moreau said. “From our perspective, it is too high.”

CSWD asked Judge Matthew Katz, the presiding Vermont Supreme Court judge, to reconsider his motions pertaining to the case in March 2004. CSWD and Hinesburg Sand and Gravel still await a judgment from Katz.

Ultimately, the court’s ruling could prompt appeals from either side, delaying acquisition of the land and moving back the timeline for the landfill.

A message left at Hinesburg Sand and Gravel seeking comment Tuesday was not immediately returned.

However, even with the $8.8 million price tag, Moreau said the feasibility studies suggest the landfill is worth pursuing. In addition to the land purchase, Moreau said, the construction of the landfill would cost somewhere between $20 million and $30 million. CSWD plans to seek approval from voters for a bond to fund the construction in either March or November 2006, according to Moreau.

Moreau said the landfill’s footprint would cover 55 acres — most of it on the Hinesburg Sand and Gravel land, but some on adjacent lands CSWD has already purchased. He said the project would require ancillary buildings and other considerations like roads, buffers and stormwater ponds.

Moreau said the landfill would not be built all at once, but in phases that span years. As one section fills up with waste, it would be closed and a new section would be built.

“It’s a controlled way of doing this,” Moreau said.

Under the landfill scenario, Williston would continue to benefit financially from the activity in town, Moreau said. He said the town currently receives $1.75 per ton of waste that runs through the transfer station. If the landfill were built, the town would receive $3.50 per ton that is deposited there, Moreau said.