The alternatives to building a new landfill near Highway 84 West involve shipping Waco’s trash out of the county and increasing residential garbage bills by 84 percent, staff and consultants told Waco City Council on Tuesday.
But the council told them to look harder.
The council in March had asked SCS Engineering to look at three alternative sites after an outcry from residents in the Highway 84 corridor over a proposal to put a new 270-acre landfill on Old Lorena Road, adjacent to the existing Waco Regional Landfill. SCS looked for sites of at least 250 acres, with a distance of at least four miles from neighborhoods of 50 or more homes, and outside of wetlands and floodplains.
The consultant came back with three sites, ranging from 27 to 36 miles away, with an estimated land cost of $840,000 to $4.8 million. But the real cost would be in operating a transfer station and a fleet of 18-wheelers to haul the trash to the distant sites, said Kevin Yard, an SCS engineer.
Yard said it is impractical for residential garbage trucks to haul trash more than 15 miles. Instead, they would need to offload their garbage at a transfer station, which would cost an estimated $26 million to build. Labor, fuel and maintenance for the transfer and trucking operation would cost up to $4.5 million, and the city would have to double the size of its trucking fleet.
Covering those added expenses would require the city to bump its monthly residential solid waste bill from $14.20 per month to $26.13, city public works director Chuck Dowdell calculated. Commercial rates also would increase by about 38 percent, Dowdell said.
He said the current rate, which is the lowest among Waco’s “peer cities” in Texas, would increase by only 42 cents if the landfill is sited at the Old Lorena Road tract, which the city already owns. SCS estimates the new landfill will be needed in the next seven years, based on the remaining capacity of 2.4 million tons.
SCS and city officials said they are already on a tight schedule to get a new landfill permitted by then, and a site decision needs to be made this year.
Councilwoman Alice Rodriguez said she couldn’t justify a big solid waste rate increase to her constituents.
“There are some on a fixed income, and there’s no way they can afford $26.13,” Rodriguez said. “I know that’s not a lot for some folks, but it can make the difference between buying a loaf of bread or prescription drugs. I’m hoping you’ll go back and look at something closer.”
Other council members agreed, asking SCS to look for sites within 15 miles of Waco, even if it means siting the landfill closer than four miles to the nearest neighborhood.
“I can’t imagine our citizens would find an 84 percent increase acceptable,” Mayor Kyle Deaver said. “The main thing we want to see is if we can find alternative sites close enough that we wouldn’t require a transfer station.”
Councilman Jim Holmes, who has sided with residents in the Highway 84 corridor against the Old Lorena Road site, agreed that the projected rate increase would be unpalatable to Waco customers, though some rate increase may be justifiable. Holmes supported the request for SCS to look at closer-in sites.
SCS will report back to the council July 18.
The current landfill is about a mile from the closest subdivision, Badger Ranch, and the Old Lorena Road site would be slightly less than a mile from the closest homes in the Twin Rivers subdivision.
Hundreds of residents in the fast-growing Highway 84 area have organized and petitioned against a landfill in that location, arguing that a new landfill would degrade their lifestyle and property values with smell, vibrations and truck traffic.
They also have pointed to a lawsuit by Wanda Glaze, a neighbor of the existing landfill, that argues that the city is breaking a promise made years ago not to expand the landfill. City officials say the existing landfill would be closed in accordance with state regulations and at considerable additional expense, and the Old Lorena site would be a new landfill.
Jackson sworn in
In other business Tuesday, Noah Jackson Jr. was sworn in as District 1 councilman, filling the year left in the term of Wilbert Austin Sr. Austin resigned in May, and the city council appointed a replacement last week. Austin, who had served 11 years on the council, died late Monday after a long battle with cancer.
“I hope and pray I can do close to what Wilbert Austin did,” Jackson said. “We lost a good man today, and I lost a good friend from years ago.”
Also Tuesday, the council designated the ALICO Building at 425 Austin Ave. as a local historic landmark property. American Amicable Life Insurance is considering restoring the facade of the much-modified building to its original appearance from 106 years ago, representatives said. Mayor Deaver encouraged the work and offered the city’s help.
“I would love to see that,” Deaver said. “It’s a beautiful building, but that facade doesn’t live up to the rest of the building.”