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Editorial: Will NIMBYs once again trash transfer station plan?

After spending $4 million and months getting the city’s solid waste headquarters in the North Valley ready for a transfer station that would save wear-and-tear on garbage trucks as well as reduce the city’s carbon footprint, Albuquerque has two promising alternative locations.

And while the waste of public time and money on Plan A is unfortunate, let’s hope all involved learn a little something from it for Plan B.

Former Mayor Richard Berry’s administration had planned to build a transfer station next to Solid Waste’s existing facility at Edith and Comanche. It would have allowed garbage trucks to dump their collections at the site so larger trucks could move it to the West Side landfill 20 miles west of Downtown, saving the public an estimated $2.5 million to $4.5 million in fuel costs annually.

And it would also have saved wear and tear on the vehicles, not to mention reduced the city’s carbon footprint.

Around $4 million from a rate increase was spent on the project. Then there were vocal protests by residents in the area, a new administration came in, and Mayor Tim Keller nixed the plan.

And the garbage trucks have continued to drive all the way to the West Mesa and back with every load of city trash. For a year.

Now the city is proposing two sites for a “reduced scale” garbage transfer station, one just south of the Albuquerque International Sunport’s rental car services lot on Spirit Drive east of Interstate 25, the other north of Milne Stadium on Langham Road, near Avenida César Chávez. Officials have not set a timetable for making a decision.

The Solid Waste Management Department says the “two finalist potential locations” were among seven sites evaluated. The review considered factors like each location’s “centrality,” size, zoning and transportation compatibility. The two purportedly fit the criteria that ensures they are not in close proximity to residential areas.

Solid Waste Director Matthew Whelan says in a news release “the right location is key to the success of this project. We’ve had a team of experts working diligently to narrow down this search.” The department says the two Southeast sites have the highest ratings based on those criteria, availability (the city owns the Sunport area site, the University of New Mexico owns the land near Milne) and community impact.

The site the city owns might be the easier of the two choices. It would not involve a transfer of ownership. It would not be in an area as congested with traffic.

And yet.

The department has not spoken to the public during the site reviews. And while the public will have a chance to provide input next year – though no specifics are available yet – we know how that ended regarding the Edith site.

So here’s a bit of unsolicited advice for the city – tap those air brakes before forking out any more public money on a plan that a small but vocal group of NIMBYs has the power to park permanently. Because while the city needs a transfer station, it does not need to spend millions more on a site only to again decide to throw that proposal in the trash.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.