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Transfer station talks continue
transfer station 2022
Graphic courtesy of Dawson County Board of Commissioners.

Four months after staff shared the challenges present at the transfer station off of Burt Creek Road, County Manager David Headley presented a possible two-part solution to the Board of Commissioners on July 7. 

Detailed problems with the trash disposal and recycling site revolve around “significant damage” caused by the change from acceptance of just household items to the inclusion of all commercial debris, according to a memo included with the meeting minutes. Resulting safety concerns as shared by previous Public Works Director Denise Farr at the March 3 BOC work session prompted the county to take another look at transfer station operations, Headley said. 

Currently, he said that Dawson County has limited what it can accept at the transfer station to residential items. He added later that with only certain materials being taken, recycling has become “more of an inconvenience at the household level” as far as people trying to discern what they can and cannot take to the transfer station, only for items to then go into one bin (the single-stream method). 

As part of the county’s research into how to better handle commercial, residential and recyclable materials, multiple commissioners and BOC Chairman Billy Thurmond visited Pickens County’s Recycle Convenience Center and its main recycling/processing center back in May. 

The first phase of transfer station improvements would entail the Dawson site being retrofitted with a pull-in and drop-off system, similar to Pickens County, that would allow for a “much broader recyclable operation than what we currently have in place,” Headley said.

Customers would have separate areas to dispose of household trash and place recyclables. Specifically, recyclable bins or divided compactors would bear signage showing what is and isn’t acceptable.

As part of the proposed project, roofs and wingwalls on the transfer station’s main rectangular structure would be extended to help facilitate the new setup. Plans would also encompass repairs inside the existing transfer station, like for the affected I beams and rebuilding of the floor area. The first phase’s projected budget is around $250,000. 

The project’s second phase, which Headley estimated as being several years out, would entail a retrofit to better handle the acceptance of commercial materials, which are not being processed at the transfer station now. 

That phase would also include rerouting traffic patterns within the Dawson site to promote a better vehicle flow given a greater expected amount of vehicles. A rough estimate wasn’t given, but Headley did suggest that SPLOST VIII could help finance it. 

The county has been in conversation with Green Waves Recycling for insight on how to proceed with the first phase of the project. A representative from that company, Taylor Burgess, attended the July 7 work session and explained that they’ll rent out a series of containers and compactors for the endeavor and provide the county with recycling banners to help educate customers on what they can recycle in each of the different bins. 

Between several months and a couple years from starting the project, Burgess estimated the rental costs for the compactors, material transport, equipment and/or fuel maintenance could be offset by fees the county makes back from recyclable tonnage. As with other municipalities, the money in waste disposal can be found in recyclables, namely having recyclable materials be transported to another facility where they’re weighed and then sold on the open market. 

Burgess mentioned the benefit of potentially also having trash disposal on the same side as recycling receptacles, although he clarified his purview right now is helping counties like Dawsno more with recycling.

County commissioners were generally receptive to the first phase of the project. District 4 Commissioner and BOC Vice Chairman Emory Dooley said that people who want to recycle should have the opportunity, and he subsequently pointed out that with the new setup, people would have a better idea of where their recyclables are going.

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines spoke on the financial potential of recycling, stating the importance of “partnering with somebody who’s dealing in volume and already has those distribution channels established,” referring to Pickens County.

Gaines even mentioned that if the county breaks even on the recycling fees received back, the prospect of building another transfer station down closer to Ga. 400, perhaps near Fire Station 2 and in conjunction with a fueling center, which is a SPLOST VII project. 

The commissioners and Headley also discussed the importance of dialoguing with community entities like the school system to ensure the success of any recycling collections on their sites. Burgess said he’d be open to helping contribute to the educational component of the first phase by going out to talk to the schools. 

Headley reiterated the first phase’s potential to encourage and educate Dawson County residents and the wider community to recycle and cut the waste to a landfill. 

Thurmond praised the forthcoming project’s details as a “good step forward for our citizens,” later elaborating that many of them do want to recycle. 

“We have a good idea of what’s happening in the single stream…it’s all junk. It just flat don’t work. Nine out of 10 are contaminated containers,” Thurmond said. “You’ll get the buy-in once people see it works. If it works, people will do it.”