LSJ News

Lee’s Summit City Council moves forward on landfill transfer station

The Lee’s Summit City Council voted Thursday to continue negotiating to build a transfer station at the landfill.
The Lee’s Summit City Council voted Thursday to continue negotiating to build a transfer station at the landfill. File photo

With the Lee’s Summit landfill expected to close in the next 12 to 18 months, city officials are working on a solution that could potentially avoid requiring residents and commercial haulers to go elsewhere to dispose of their garbage.

The City Council on Thursday voted 6-2 to ask staff to continue negotiating with Summit Waste Systems LLC, the company currently operating the 36-year-old landfill, to build a transfer station at the landfill once it closes. A transfer station is a structure where trash would be collected and loaded onto semi-trailer trucks for delivery to distant landfills.

City officials have planned to build a transfer station at the landfill at 2101 S.E. Hamblen Road for at least six years and set aside $1.15 million for construction. Recent construction estimates, however, have the structure costing almost $2 million.

Even with Summit Waste Systems agreeing to contribute money to the project, the city would have to provide an additional $439,000 to build the current design.

Summit Waste Systems has proposed a modified design for the transfer station that would be cheaper to build, lowering the city’s shortfall to $144,000. But Deputy Public Works Director Bob Hartnett said changing the design would also require new engineering plans, public hearings and other steps, as well as additional costs.

In addition, Summit Waste Systems CEO Larry Giroux told the council he is working with an unnamed third party on another plan to provide future disposal service, although he provided no details. He said that plan would also be part of the negotiations.

As part of his motion to continue the negotiations, council member Rob Binney said he was asking staff to focus on building the modified transfer station plan but “with the understanding this council has no appetite for any additional city spending.”

Since Summit Waste Systems took over landfill operations in 2016, the company has increased landfill traffic, more than doubling the facility’s daily trash intake to more than 700 tons a day. At that rate, Hartnett estimated, the landfill would be full sometime next year.

Without a transfer station or other solution, commercial haulers would probably have to drive their garbage trucks to landfills or other facilities as far away as Harrisonville, Sugar Creek or Sedalia, potentially leading to higher prices and service delays. Residents who regularly drop off yard waste or household debris at the landfill’s public disposal area could also have to find an alternative.

“Our citizens are used to a convenient, local disposal option,” Hartnett said. “That could go away, will go away when the landfill closes and the transfer station is not built.”

The council members debated the various options at length, with some saying they were willing to move ahead with the original plan, regardless of the price.

Council member Bob Johnson, for instance, noted he was among those pushing for the transfer station during his first time on the council in 2012. He expressed frustration that the project remained in limbo.

“This should have been resolved in the last two years,” Johnson said. “We can’t start over.”

But Mayor Bill Baird, who along with council member Phyllis Edson voted against moving forward with the plan, said he opposed building a transfer station. Instead, he favored building a more limited facility at the current public disposal area that would serve only residents dropping off yard waste, bulky items and trash. Commercial haulers and residents from outside the city would have to go elsewhere.

“I’d like to see all of those big disposal trucks go straight to those (outside) facilities instead of Lee’s Summit,” Baird said.

That statement drew applause from a group of residents who live north of the landfill and told the council that they oppose the transfer station as unnecessary and a continuation of the odor and traffic problems they said they have dealt with for years.

“It will be a landfill on wheels parading through our neighborhoods to get to Sedalia, which doesn’t make any sense to us,” said Deb Calhoon, a resident of the Newberry subdivision. “The proposed transfer station is not compatible with the community.”

In other business, the council considered presentations about two residential developments whose backers plan to ask the city for public tax incentives. Bob Johnson, an attorney representing Bloom Living LS LLC, said the company wants to build a 95-unit apartment building at the southwest corner of Shenandoah and Battery drives that would be limited to residents 55 years and older. He said the company would like a sales tax exemption on building materials and for the city to grant a 10-year “payment in lieu of taxes,” or PILOT, instead of standard property taxes.

Jim Thomas of Cityscape Residential said his company plans to redevelop the Summit Church site at 114 S.E. Douglas St. in downtown Lee’s Summit to create a four-story, 275-unit luxury apartment complex. The company plans to request tax increment financing to help build the complex’s 400-space parking structure.

The council recommended the developers continue working on the projects and bring back formal incentive requests.

The council also voted unanimously to give preliminary approval to rezoning 97.3 acres at 500 S.E. Missouri 150 Highway for a mixed-use development. The project, proposed by JCM Development LLC, would include 186 single-family lots, 44 duplexes and four commercial sites including two restaurants, a bank and an assisted living facility.

David Twiddy: