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Neighbors of potential transfer station say 'no'

Cindy Puetz and her son, Conor Carrol, brought signs to the City Council chambers Monday to express their displeasure with the prospect of having a transfer station as a cheek-by-jowl neighbor. In the foreground is Glenda Carino, public affairs and marketing manager for the City of Auburn. - Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter
Cindy Puetz and her son, Conor Carrol, brought signs to the City Council chambers Monday to express their displeasure with the prospect of having a transfer station as a cheek-by-jowl neighbor. In the foreground is Glenda Carino, public affairs and marketing manager for the City of Auburn.
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

Neighbors of a potential transfer station King County may build one day just off West Valley Highway in northwest Auburn expressed a resounding "no" to the idea at Auburn City Hall on Monday evening.

Overflowing the council chambers and boiling into the hall, people were riled and ready to lay it on the line for City leaders: it'd be ecologically unwise, it'll reek, it's poorly thought out, it's crazy, West Valley Highway couldn't  bear the congestion.

Kathleen Cummings, a resident of the Meredith Hill area of West Hill, delivered a tidy summation.

"It just makes no sense to anybody who has been around that area — traffic congestion, children, habitat, wetlands," Cummings said.

Cummings suggested the county reconsider expanding the current Algona site at 35315 W. Valley Highway and asked councilmembers to refuse to support the county in the proposal.

Council members listened for almost two hours then passed a resolution asking King County's Solid Waste Division to extend the comment period on the proposed recycling and transfer station site for another 30 days beyond the present April 5 deadline. The resolution also asks King County to enter Monday's testimony into its records.

Upon the completion of a study of its transfer sites in 2012, King County announced that it would replace a number of stations, including the aging, outmoded, cramped and crowded transfer site in Algona, which was built in 1964.

Two other sites in Auburn, one on C Street Southeast and another north Auburn had been among the top three original alternatives but are no longer on the list, City officials announced Monday. The owner of the C Street site has indicated he does not want to sell, city officials said.

Late last year county officials announced that the 28721 W. Valley Highway N. site, just north of the 37th Street Northwest intersection, was the new preferred alternative. A site, at 35101 West Valley Hwy. S., in Algona remains among the top options.

West Hill resident Jon Lindenauer said he felt blindsided by the news, and he faulted King County for failing to communicate what was going on to the people who would have the most to lose should the county elect to build a transfer station at the site.

The site is a wetland he said, and, as such, it should be protected.

Cindy Flanagan, a West Hill resident, drew a comparison between the City's negative reaction to the C Street site and the West Valley proposal.

"Like your arguments for refuting a dumping station at C Street, the environmental impacts for 28721 W. Valley Highway are equally as serious," Flanagan told councilmembers. "How can the site be viewed by King County and the City of Auburn as a buildable site, when previously the same site was denied development because the property was declared more than 80 percent wetlands? It is public record that this site has three code violations for tampering with a wetland."

Tom Souply, COO of Span Alaska Transportation company south of the preferred alternative, said West Valley Highway's two lanes, already carrying more than they can handle at times, could not accommodate the additional daily traffic load of trucks and ordinary vehicles coming to the station.

One woman, noting that Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis had spoken out in favor of the site and publicly made himself a booster of it before the City has even taken an official position, suggested that the proposed station be named "the Pete Lewis … garbage dump."

Others complained that the stink would waft up West Hill, that the station would lower the value of surrounding properties and that it would irreparably damage a fragile ecosystem.

Sarah Juchems, 11, drew applause by predicting that increased traffic, light pollution and habitat loss would drive away the wildlife. "I speak for the owls, they live here too. … This site is a wetland, and I don't need a Ph.D. or to spend thousands of dollars to know that," Juchems declared.

Kevin Kiernan, the assistant division director for King County Solid Waste, has said by the close of 2013 the county hopes to announce the location of the new transfer station.

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