By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
The location for Del Norte County's future transfer station became a little less certain yesterday, and possibly a little more costly.
As purchase-price negotiations with property owners Ali and Malihe Hooshnam drag on, the Board of Supervisors hesitated when it came to considering an eminent-domain action.
"My concern was with the process," said Supervisor David Finigan. "It wasn't about building the transfer station or that it shouldn't be located there ... the thing that bothered me is they need to negotiate it through with the landowners first."
Supervisor Jack Reese, who is the current chairman of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, said the county is at a stage where there are few options left.
"If we don't use this site, if we're not allowed to use this site, this is going to set us back three to five years," said Reese. "The landfill will close and we'll have nowhere to take our garbage."
However, Reese said he was confident a solution will eventually arrive. "In my opinion, I think we will come to a settlement before anything catastrophic happens."
At issue was a request from Director Kevin Hendrick of the solid waste agency. Hendrick sought the consent of the board to exercise eminent domain over the Hooshnam property, located on Elk Valley Road, if purchase negotiations break down.
A decision to grant the solid waste agency the authority to exercise eminent domain was tabled until the next Board of Supervisors meeting.
Yesterday, Malihe Hooshnam told the board they were originally offered $45,000 per acre for the property from the agency, which she called a fair price. Hendrick said that was never an offer, and the standing offer is $25,000 per acre, the value placed on the land after appraisal.
Hendrick added "we are far apart in price."
Finigan said he didn't believe steps to acquire the property were taken in the proper order, and the Hooshnams shouldn't be forced into a sale at the last stage.
"Speaking as someone in the real-estate business, you don't go ahead and pick a piece of property, do the due diligence, and then negotiate a price on it," said Finigan. "You should have negotiated for the piece of property before you decided it was your best location."
Hendrick said he needed to bring more clarity to the board about how the agency arrived at this stage. "I think we can provide more information on the steps we've taken and the order in which they were taken."
Hendrick said he hopes the supervisors will agree eminent domain is a reasonable option at their next meeting. He said the agency needs that option to keep the negotiations fair.
"People need to remember these are public funds. We have an obligation to the community to be responsible how we handle those funds. We also have a responsibility to offer the fair market value for the property," Hendrick said.
The transfer station will replace the county landfill after it reaches capacity and closes next year. The transfer station will be a stopover for garbage before it is trucked out of the county.
The solid waste board was scheduled to rule on eminent domain at tomorrow's meeting, but that will not take place now, Reese and Hendrick said.