Knox transfer station in disrepair; town board considering path forward

The Enterprise — Noah Zweifel
Knox Deputy Supervisor Dennis Cyr, left, and John Furlong, right, brainstorm with a Knox transfer-station employee on how to address fundamental problems with that facility.

KNOX — The Knox Town Board has a big question to consider after learning that the town’s 40-year-old transfer station is in a state beyond repair. 

At a special meeting held at the transfer station on Sept. 6, senior forensic analyst John Furlong, of Nolan Engineering, summarized for the board members a report he put together following a June inspection of the facility at the town’s request, which revealed serious foundation issues that make the facility unsafe. 

“It is Nolan Engineering’s opinion, based on the information available to us at this time, that the building foundation and retaining walls are in a state of failure,” the report states. “It is further our opinion that the foundation system can not be economically repaired due to the severity of cracking, the noted inward displacement, and bowing of the foundation walls. 

“Therefore,” it goes on to say, “based on the current condition of the foundation, the retaining walls, and the wooden structure, the best option would be to raze the structure and construct new with the foundation/retaining walls properly designed to divert water away from the retaining walls properly and to allow for proper drainage.” 

Knox’s transfer station has two levels: a top level, upon which is a one-story pole barn that houses the employee office and a hopper that leads to a large waste bin in the lower level. The facility is supported by retaining walls. 

The report suggests that the problems are caused primarily by water that is directed toward and behind the retaining wall by the station’s sloped parking lot, which is becoming more and more pitched as the level slowly collapses. 

It notes that Deputy Supervisor Dennis Cyr, who oversees the transfer station, was concerned about cracks and inward displacement that he found, the existence of which were confirmed by the inspection. 

Those concerns were noted as long ago as 2016, when former Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis entered office; he said then of the transfer station, “The big problem is this wall bows five or six inches under the transfer station itself.” He also showed places where the parking lot is buckling.

The same concerns were brought up again the following year on a tour he led of the town’s facilities. At the time, repairs for the highway garage were seen as the most serious, while issues at the town hall were seen as the most manageable. All repairs were considered beyond the town’s ability to fund on its own. 

At Tuesday’s special meeting, the town board indicated that it was hoping to use the town’s approximately $272,000 in COVID relief funds to carry out any necessary repairs — but that hope was dashed once the extent of the damages were laid out by Nolan Engineering, with all present at the meeting figuring that expenses would reach seven figures. 

Councilmembers June Springer and Karl Pritchard further opined that a rebuild of the transfer station would take at least two years, with Pritchard noting that the town is still repaying a bond it took out to build a $1.4 million town hall early last decade, with two years of annual payments left to go — not including this year, Supervisor Russell Pokorny said. 

Any new transfer station would likely need a bathroom for workers — beyond the portable toilet at the current station since the town recently installed a full-time worker there, pulling different regulatory oversights down on itself. 

Further complicating matters, at least as far as Councilman Ken Saddlemire is concerned, is that ever-changing county laws regarding transfer-station functioning — what can be commingled, etc. — make it difficult to design a multi-million dollar facility without worrying that some elements might soon fall outside changing regulations.

“How do you build a facility when the parameters keep changing all the time?” Saddlemire asked. 

With that in mind, an idea was floated — apparently generated by Pritchard, though brought up by one of the transfer station employees — that, rather than build an all-new transfer station and the infrastructure that would go along with it, the town could shift its trash-collecting to the highway garage, which is reportedly in mediocre shape (but adequate for the transfer-station employees) and build a new garage for the highway department. 

The idea seemed well-received by all present. 

But, that would still be a long-term project with no obvious source of funding, so the board ultimately concluded that it would look into purchasing two compactors and an office trailer so that the transfer station can still operate, without putting town employees and residents at risk.

Details of that stop-gap plan will be hashed out at the town’s next meeting on Sept. 13, though preliminary estimates of the cost suggested that it would be easy to cover with a portion of the relief funds.

The board also acknowledged that it has to give some thought to how exactly to justify using the COVID money, which comes with certain loose parameters.

“That should get us at least through next summer,” Pritchard said. “We’ve got to discuss this way more and figure out what we’re doing.       

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