More than 50 people attended a community meeting March 11 to discuss the installation of a stop light on Highway 12 and a new solid waste transfer station at Clemons Road in Montesano.
Waste Connections is planning to build a new transfer station on a private road off of North Clemons Road west of Montesano. To mitigate traffic concerns, the company will install a traffic signal on the highway at the intersection. The company funded a private traffic study that was approved by the state Department of Transportation.
All community members who spoke during the March 11 meeting were opposed to the project for one reason or another. Concerns voiced at the meeting ranged from traffic and property values to smell and pest control.
“Our major concern at this point is the traffic,” meeting organizer Nicole Popowich said.
Primary traffic concerns with the project arose not so much from the transfer station itself, but from the stop light at the top of north Clemons Road that would accompany it. Locals say visibility at the top of the hill can vary drastically throughout the day, and are therefore concerned about how traffic will be slowed as drivers try to safely make their way over the hill.
Additional traffic and visibility concerns arise when traffic from the would-be transfer station is taken into account. At the meeting it was explained that Waste Connections estimates there will be 1,000 in and outs per day, which includes transfer station and private traffic. That estimate concerned many of the community members. Opposition intensified once concerns about visibility over trucks, in addition to previous visibility concerns, were addressed.
Despite the overwhelming opposition during the meeting, one citizen did note the importance of a stop light if the transfer station is constructed.
Larry Jernigan, long-time truck driver who has traveled throughout 48 states and most of Canada, said he has seen what happens when big projects are not accompanied by improvements to traffic safety. Specifically, he warned against the dangers of putting in a roundabout.
“You may not like a light, but you want a light,” Jernigan said.
Another issue, as put forth by resident Roseanne Reed, was the lack of notification of the project.
“I’m gone 12 hours out of the day and don’t have much time to watch or read the news,” Reed explained, “I don’t think they gave enough notice, I didn’t even know about it until I recently heard about it on the radio.”
As explained by Grays Harbor County Commissioner Vickie Raines, who spoke at the meeting, the project did not have to pass through public outlets, as it is a privately-funded project.
All necessary steps in the project have been completed by Waste Connections in compliance with the law. However, community members at the meeting stressed that it may not be enough.
Organizer Peter Rieth and other members of the community said the time and manner of the traffic study does not accurately reflect the impact the station and light will have on traffic.
“The traffic study was done over one day, on a Wednesday,” Rieth said. “We’d like to see a real study done on the impact.”
Citizens also were concerned about the smell and noise from the facility.
Randy Gibson, a resident who lives off of Clemons Road, noted his issues with the project being too close to residential areas.
“There is too much residential area around, I’m concerned about the stink and the noise and they should find a site away from residential areas,” Gibson said.
Rieth stressed that to halt the project the community needs to focus on more than emotional pleas.
“We need to address technical issues with the plan — nobody cares what we want or don’t want” Rieth said.
Rieth said worries relayed to legislators and representatives in regards to the smell or noise of the transfer station would get the community nowhere in their efforts to ward off the project. Rieth encouraged community members to look in to the project for themselves to find real issues within the related documents, for example, the State Environmental Policy Act.
“We can’t get emotional, we have to have specific issues laid out,” Rieth continued.
Raines further stressed the importance of having concrete and justifiable issues with the project when relaying concerns to representatives.
“One-thousand (1,000) emails about the smell and noise would go nowhere,” Raines explained. “All I need is one good email with one good point.”
Raines suggested that the community get together to draft a letter outlying justifiable concerns about the project.
Rieth urged residents to be as involved as they can be, calling on the community to use all resources at its disposal.
“We need attorneys, we need engineers,” Reith said. “If you know some, reach out.”
A meeting to further discuss the project is set for March 30 at 6 p.m. in the commissioner’s office in Montesano. The community can attend and relay their concerns. For those unable to attend, a live stream of the meeting can be found at the “Dump the Clemons Hill Stop Light” Facebook page.
On Monday, March 13, Raines updated her fellow commissioners about the meeting during the morning commission meeting.