Georgetown’s waste transfer station sees constraints on capacity

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With the city’s waste transfer station meeting capacity constraints, Georgetown City Council will consider whether to spend more than $8 million to build a larger facility at the same time it will evaluate cheaper upgrades to the existing station.

City Manager David Morgan said capacity constraints at the station are largely an effect of the city’s growing population, which, according to the latest U.S. Census data released May 23, is now at 70,685 residents.

“It’s just the growth we’ve seen in the community,” Morgan said, regarding the need for evaluating the station’s future.

Located at 250 W. L. Walden Drive, Georgetown, the transfer station opened in 1984 fit to serve a population of 16,000 people. Improvements to the station were last made between 2006 and 2009, according to the city.

Georgetown contracts with Texas Disposal Systems to provide city disposal services and to haul garbage from the transfer station to a landfill in Creedmoor, which is located east of Austin. Last fall the city renewed its contract with TDS through 2022 for disposal services for Georgetown customers living within city limits as well as customers living in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The evaluation compares financial factors and other elements City Council will need to consider when deciding on improvements to the city’s transfer station, which would include building canopy structures over the station’s loading and self-disposal areas. The evaluation also explores costs and benefits of building an entirely new facility adjacent to the existing station, according to the city.

Along with looking at solutions for the transfer station, Georgetown officials are also completing a solid waste master plan effort that is designed to provide a long-range strategy for Georgetown’s garbage, recycling and other waste-management services over the next 20 years, according to the city.

Meeting Capacity
Based on its design, Georgetown’s waste station can only handle so much capacity at one time, said Mike Babin, deputy general manager for Georgetown Utility Systems. City estimates put the station’s unloading capacity at about 50 tons of solid waste per hour.

The station meets its capacity about one hour every day of operation, according to the most recent estimates. By 2028, the station is projected to meet or exceed capacity about four hours every day, estimates show.

Measurement of the station’s capacity refers to the facility’s capability of handling the unloading of trash trucks as they come in after completing their collection runs, Babin said.

When the station’s capacity is reached, trucks must wait in line to be unloaded, he said.

“The full trucks start queuing up, [and]a line starts forming,” Babin said. “The rate of collection will start slowing down once you hit that [capacity]constraint.”

Without addressing capacity constraints, the city’s trash trucks would likely have to begin collection runs earlier in the morning, and collection would also need to continue later into the day, Babin said.

Octavio Garza, public works director for the city of Georgetown, said trash and waste collection is more efficient when trucks can complete their runs at times of the day when fewer cars or other vehicles are on the streets.

Garza said broadening the collection trucks’ time schedules to work around capacity issues would disrupt that system and would likely lead to an increase in traffic and noise-related issues surrounding truck collections.

Decisions ahead
Morgan said building a new facility would allow the city to plan ahead should population growth continue.

“We believe that we need to be looking at a facility to meet our needs in the future,” he said.

Morgan said construction proposals will be included in the city’s next five-year capital improvement plan, which is included with the city’s annual budget each year.

City Council will begin budget discussions in July for fiscal year 2018-19. A new budget should be adopted by council members in early fall.

The city’s solid waste master plan is expected to finish by the end of the year.

Babin said developing the master plan will allow the city to assess disposal needs as Georgetown’s population has grown over the years and is likely to continue to grow.

“We’ve never really developed a strategic direction for solid waste,” Babin said.

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Evan Marczynski
Evan Marczynski is editor of the Georgetown edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He joined Community Impact in 2016 as a reporter in Northwest Austin and previously covered Austin-area health care and Round Rock ISD. Evan is a native of the Pacific Northwest, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Washington University in 2012 and worked as a newspaper reporter until he moved to Texas.
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