It's no mystery as to why transfer stations are popping up as landfills close, but if you don't prepare properly, the process may unfold as a mysterious adventure you're unprepared to tackle.
The city of Sacramento, Calif., survived a two-and a-half-year process to develop a transfer station agreement beginning in 1996, and along the way, its staff and elected officials learned some important lessons - including how to make such a project successful in 10 steps.
* Know your goals. Having objectives is one of the most important steps to remember during any part of siting a transfer station or negotiating an agreement. The city of Sacramento's goals were to find a long-term, environmentally sound and cost-effective solution for handling its solid waste. To achieve this, the city needed either to own the facility or have a contract guaranteeing price and disposal capacity. The process included many details but the goal remained paramount.
* Prioritize your battles. It's important to strive toward your goals, however, remaining flexible is critical. Details may become overwhelming. Prioritize which details need immediate attention without forgetting the ultimate goal.
* Take risks. Siting a solid waste facility or securing a solid waste agreement isn't recommended for the weak hearted. Taking risks will bring highs and lows. Play it smart but be willing to step outside your comfort zone to achieve your goals.
* Be prepared. Preparing for bumps in the road is critical, as is responding quickly and effectively. While you cannot anticipate every challenge, preparing for the unexpected is an important step.
* Know your key players. Today, the solid waste industry continues to undergo rapid changes - companies are merging and evolving. In this dynamic environment, you must know who is important locally and nationally in the industry. Also remember that a transfer, processing and disposal agreement will be long-term. This means that all parties will be "living" with each other for many years. Hence, it's important to build a solid relationship with your partners from the start.
* Involve the stakeholders. After a project like this, the most commonly asked question is, "what you would do differently if you could do it again?" The answer is to identify and involve stakeholders or anyone you believe will be affected in the process - as early as possible. For this project, the stakeholders included the city of Sacramento (staff, executive management and the city council); the solid waste companies participating; the media; and neighborhood residents.
* Keep elected officials and executive management informed. While solid waste programs may not interest most, it is important to keep key elected officials aware of your progress. One strategy the city of Sacramento used was taking city council and community members to visit competing contractors' facilities. The strategy built support for the project and proved invaluable.
* Never underestimate the power of competition. The city of Sacramento's $80 million to $100 million 20-year contract with BLT Enterprises for solid waste processing, transfer and disposal is one of largest solid waste-related projects ever undertaken by the municipality. The level of intense lobbying and the amount of pressure on city staff and elected officials was significant. Everyone involved in this process, from executive management to elected officials, should prepare for intense competition.
* Use all available resources. Consider your potential allies and the resources they can provide. Also, use education, outreach and dialogue with the project's greatest detractors to convert them to supporters. These people can be extremely effective because they can relate to the concerns of those who still oppose the project.
* Remember to breathe and to laugh! The final step in this process is to remember to keep your life in perspective. A successful project requires focus, but it cannot take over your existence. Taking care of yourself is key when taking care of business.