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Albemarle may miss waste center deadline

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Albemarle County is running out of time to break ground on the first of three new convenience centers before its contract with the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority expires.

The  Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in October to dump the Rivanna-operated Ivy Transfer Station — a facility with growing maintenance costs and a shrinking customer base — in favor of hiring a private contractor to run “convenience centers” at a cost savings of $240,000 per year.

Currently, the solid waste authority is contracted to operate the Ivy station through June 2014, when supervisors planned to have the first of three convenience centers up and running.

But, after the board on Wednesday night failed to approve a site for the first center, county officials said Albemarle may miss its July 1 deadline.

Supervisors said there was just too little public input on the project to continue in confidence.

Since the board’s vote last month, director of community development Mark Graham, and county staff have been reviewing county-owned properties for potential fits. The frontrunner was a seven-acre tract of land on Esmont Road just off Route 20 in Keene.

 “There was no perfect site,” Graham said. But, after much consideration “this was the best we could find.”

Supervisors, however, disagreed.

Supervisor Duane E. Snow, who held a town hall on the matter last month at Red Hill Elementary School, said a number of county residents were concerned that a convenience center on Esmont could considerably back up traffic on Route 20.

“A lot of people don’t want it there,” Snow said. “I know time is of the essence, but I think we’re going down the wrong path if we don’t give people the opportunity to weigh in on it.”

Supervisors Jane Dittmar and Dennis S. Rooker agreed.

“To increase traffic anywhere on [Route] 20 in the rural area is going to be a hardship on anyone who travels that road,” Dittmar said.

Instead, Dittmar encouraged the board to reconsider a location on Mill Creek Drive near the Monticello Fire Station.

“We visited this in July and we discounted the Mill Creek area only because it was in the northern part of the service area,” Dittmar said.

Mill Creek’s size and proximity to Interstate 64 makes it a better option than Keene, she said.

County residents attending Wednesday’s meeting agreed.

“We need a site like Mill Creek,” said Albemarle resident Barb West. “It has the acreage and space for expansion and could accommodate future growth.”

“I’m sure there might be some more science to this,” Dittmar said, “but I would like us to take some more time to look at Mill Creek.”

The supervisors unanimously voted to suspend any decision on the matter until the public had a chance to provide input. A potential date for public comment is at the board’s Dec. 4 meeting.

The board additionally directed county staff to contact the solid waste authority and extend its contract past the original June expiration date.

Graham estimated the cost of extending the contract with the solid waste authority for another three months to be about $75,000. Graham said he was not certain if the authority would agree to the extension or would have a response by December.

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