BY GINNY HOYLE : The Herald-SunDec 14, 2007 CHAPEL HILL — The Orange County Commissioners are one step closer to restarting the search process for a controversial waste transfer station. After interviewing two in-house consulting firms last week, the board has unanimously selected Charlotte-based Olver Inc. to help locate a site for the new facility. The commissioners felt that both Olver and the other consultant on retainer to the solid waste department, Draper Aden Associates, could complete the project. But Olver “really hit a lot of the key issues that the board will be looking at,” County Manager Laura Blackmon said. The consulting firm — which is experienced in both transfer station siting and design — has a well-established relationship with the county, Blackmon said. “They know the community and they know the commissioners,” she said. “There’s a lot of trust built in, and it saves us time in the process.” It saves about two and a half to three months, to be exact. Starting from scratch to search for a new consulting firm would have slowed down an already rushed process — the county is under the gun to make a decision after strong community opposition to the original proposed location on Eubanks Road. “I think [hiring an in-house consultant] will let us hit the ground a lot quicker, rather than spending the first two or three months going through a purchasing and acquisition process,” said Orange County Solid Waste Director Gayle Wilson.”With time being a very important factor in this process, three months could make the difference between having a new transfer station ready in time and not.” Based on a Solid Waste Management Department estimate on surveys of existing facilities, the transfer station will have to be permitted and ready to accept waste around May 2011. “If you look at the whole process, not just site selection but local and state permitting and construction, it’s going to be very difficult to meet that deadline — but not impossible,” Wilson said. County officials estimate the site will have to be selected by fall of next year, Blackmon said. “That’s kind of a broad deadline, but that will depend on how often the board can meet on the issue, what other issues might come up and making time to hear from the public along the way,” she said.”And they really haven’t even thought about all of that yet.” The department will conduct another waste survey this spring, but the results aren’t expected to add to or take away more than a few months of the landfill’s capacity. “At this late stage in the landfill’s life there won’t be any gigantic changes,” Wilson said. “It wouldn’t be a year or even six months — it would only be incremental changes.” The technical process of locating potential sites for the transfer station should be fairly straightforward, Wilson said, and could possibly be completed in two or three months. “What takes the most time is to discuss the issues and respond to inquiries and to take those additional sensitivities that are necessary when working with the public on a very important and controversial matter,” he said. The board originally voted to build the transfer station on Eubanks Road, the site of the county’s landfill, but after much community opposition commissioners decided last month to start the search process over. Olver’s Ed Shuffler, the project manager, said he knows there will be a lot of local eyes monitoring the search process, but that’s true when planning for and locating “just about any solid waste facility,” he said. Shuffler and Olver’s Robert Salllach both have 30 years-plus experience, and “because of the nature of this project, we felt that would be advantageous,” Shuffler said. Olver representatives and the county’s planning department will meet to review permitting and land use in the county “that would be essential for moving through the process,” Wilson said. “No doubt we’ll have some bumps along the way, but that’s sort of the nature of the beast,” he added. “Ultimately I think they’ll be very responsive to the board’s needs and requests.” The commissioners, who will have the final say on the location of the new site, will meet with Olver next month to convey the type of process they want, including the manner in which to approach public information and input.