Rural Nelson regional director Ron Mickel deposits a ceremonial first bag of garbage into one of the new bins.

Grohman Narrows transfer station unveiled

No one is more thrilled to see the new Grohman Narrows transfer station open this week than rural Nelson regional director Ron Mickel.

No one is more thrilled to see the new Grohman Narrows transfer station open this week than rural Nelson regional director Ron Mickel.

“It sounds strange but I can cross something off my bucket list,” he told assembled dignitaries ahead of the facility’s official opening tomorrow.

Nearly 20 years ago, while working for the Ministry of Environment, Mickel proposed moving the transfer station off Nelson’s waterfront. Back then, however, the Regional District of Central Kootenay viewed the idea with suspicion.

Later, as a contractor for the regional district, he brought the issue up again, but it didn’t gain traction until he was elected to the board in 2008 and became chair of the central waste committee. Not that he did it alone, he hastened to add: “Without the savings we managed and staff we had, this would not have happened.”

Located on Insight Drive off Highway 3A west of Nelson, the facility replaces the old transfer station on Lakeside Drive. It’s been in the works for over three years and came in on time and under its $3.1 million budget.

According to regional district staff, the operation is more efficient due to new equipment. It’s also far more spacious, improving both traffic flow and site safety.

Recycling facilities are on site, although the primary depot for public drop-off of blue bags and cardboard remains on Lakeside Drive.

The two sites will have the same hours — Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. — but Mickel said the board plans to extend hours at the new transfer station until 5:30 p.m. at least in the summer. The change is expected to take effect in about three months.

The new site wasn’t without controversy: the regional district paid Pacific Insight $117,000, recognizing it was benefitting from a road the electronics company built. Insight complained the transfer station could hurt its corporate image and affect traffic safety.

Mickel also anticipates push-back from residents who will have to drive further to drop off garbage. However, he says the new site’s advantages and anticipated cost savings — primarily an 80 per cent reduction in fuel — couldn’t be ignored.

“I don’t think you’ll see more than one or two trucks a day [heading to the transfer station],” Mickel said. Garbage will then be sent to the Ootischenia landfill, rather than Salmo as has been the case until now.

Mickel predicted the new transfer station would pay for itself in five years, after which property owners can expect a slight tax reduction.

An additional benefit, he says, is improved working conditions for staff, who didn’t even have a washroom at the previous location.

Mickel expects “significantly” fewer visits to the new transfer station than the old one, whose location was so convenient it may have discouraged city residents from relying on curbside pick-up.

Nelson mayor John Dooley saluted Mickel’s efforts: “Without his leadership we wouldn’t have been able to make this happen. It’s just not acceptable in 2014 to have a dump on a waterfront. It’s a huge step forward.”

RDCK chair John Kettle called the move a “monumental exercise” and said he was impressed with the finished product. “It’s out of the way, handy to get in and out, and blends in with its surroundings. It’s one of the best I’ve seen. I don’t think the board could be any more proud.”

Mickel also noted Grohman Narrows is the first phase in a plan that will see transfer stations in Kaslo, Salmo, and Balfour similarly redeveloped.

“This is the template. They will all have the same kind of bins. I’d like to see our facilities user friendly and clean. We have such a tough time locating these things because people are used to the old ones. It’s time we change that perception.”

He doesn’t plan to run for re-election in November but is glad to see the first major step become reality. “I’m just happy it’s done. Now I can retire.”

Old depot continue to take recycling

The new Grohman Narrows transfer station accepts garbage and recyclables except for commercial cardboard.

The main recycling depot for blue bags and cardboard remains on Lakeside Drive in Nelson. Both depots take paper, consumer cardboard, newspaper, tin, glass, and plastics, including plastic film. They don’t accept styrofoam or aerosol cans.

Both sites are open Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thirteen transfer station employees, including drivers, operators, and attendants, have themselves transferred to the new location. Five to eight are on site at any given time.

All regional district recycling depots continue to operate despite the launch in May of Multi Material BC’s packaging and printed paper stewardship program. The RDCK doesn’t expect any changes to its depot program until mid-2015 at the earliest.

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