Waco City Council agreed Tuesday to spend an additional $150,000 to cast a wider net and look into three potential landfill sites, in addition to the city-owned land next to the existing Waco Regional Landfill.
The council voted 6-0 to amend its agreement with SCS Engineers, spending another $100,000 to ensure that the study considers an additional three sites, at a total cost of $991,000. The council also authorized an additional $50,000 to the law firm Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend for permitting work, for a total of $200,000.
The council agreed not to seek a new state landfill permit until the evaluation of alternative sites is done, likely this June.
City Manager Dale Fisseler said the alternative sites have not yet been identified, but they will not include any former landfill sites, despite rumors to the contrary. The engineers will look at each site’s geology, buffer zone potential, highway access, distance from Waco, proximity to neighborhoods and cost implications.
Councilman Jim Holmes, who has sided with opponents of the original proposed new landfill site off Highway 84, had asked for the evaluation.
On Tuesday, Holmes also voted with Councilman Wilbert Austin against authorizing a $75,000 payment to two law firms to defend a lawsuit filed by neighbors over the proposed site. He said the city instead should seek to put the case on hold until the council chooses a landfill site.
Opponents from the surrounding subdivisions thanked the council Tuesday for considering other options but reiterated that the 270-acre site the city has set aside for a landfill is unacceptable. Some 1,500 people have signed a petition against that site.
“We are encouraged by the fact that the council has decided to pursue the consideration of other alternatives,” said Kent Keahey, a longtime Hidden Valley resident and a former Providence Healthcare Network CEO.
“We believe you should consider what Waco will look like in 10 to 20 years. . . . Do you really want the new landfill to be built in the middle of the current and future residential growth?”
Other opponents chided city officials for seeking to replace the existing landfill with a new one next door, despite a 1992 settlement in which the city promised not to expand Waco Regional Landfill, known as 948A.
Sam Brown, homeowners association president at Twin Rivers, said putting a new landfill next to it violates the common understanding of that agreement. Brown said he and many others bought homes with the understanding that the landfill would be closed and reclaimed as parkland within a decade or two.
“We’re not a bunch of folks complaining that we don’t want a landfill next to our house,” he said. “We already have one. . . . We have lived up to our end of the deal, and now it’s your turn.”
In a departure from usual practice, Mayor Kyle Deaver engaged Brown in dialogue, rebutting his points one at a time.
Deaver said that despite statements from the Citizens to Save Lake Waco group that is suing the city over the landfill, the 1992 settlement was not with that group but with one person, Wanda Glaze. City officials attempted to get Glaze to amend the agreement in 2005 and allow an expansion, but Glaze declined.
Deaver said the agreement referred specifically to the landfill permitted as 948A, and council members at the time noted that it would not prevent a new landfill in the same area.
“When you say we’re not keeping our word, I want citizens to understand, that’s what the council knew then, and that’s what the plaintiffs knew,” Deaver said.
“I want to be clear that the city is very serious about pursuing other options,” he said. “But there’s been so much misinformation that I felt compelled to give the city’s position and give factual information.”
Brown countered that the city in his experience has not been forthcoming with information about the case.
Also Tuesday, the council discussed increasing funding for alley cleanups. Councilman Dillon Meek had raised alarms about the trashy state of many residential alleys since the city stopped providing alley trash pickup.
Acting public works director Chuck Dowdell suggesting spending an extra $36,000 for alley maintenance, as well as a $50,000 addition to the contract with Goodwill to clean up junk in alleys and other rights of way.
Dowdell said the $36,000 was based on 10 percent of the amount spent on street maintenance.
Councilman John Kinnaird said he was surprised that the city is spending only $360,000 on street maintenance. Kinnaird said he would like to focus more effort on formally abandoning alleys with the consent of adjacent property owners.
“It’s 60 miles of alleys, and it’s going to take a long time to get it done,” he said. “I know there are some we have to maintain, and we need to do a good job with those.”
Meek said the need for safe, clean alleys is immediate.
“I think abandonment is a long-term solution, but right now we need to move forward with this.”