While a Citizens Against the Highway 84 Landfill ringleader told us recently she wouldn’t trust anything Waco’s City Hall said in the ongoing landfill uproar, that’s no reason for city officials and consultants to go blank under close questioning from Waco City Council members today, especially in explaining how collection rates could vary significantly dependent on where the next city-run regional landfill is placed. They must be able to justify rate projections with credible, transparent facts. It follows, too, that council members should bear down hard in their questioning.
That said, constituents are at the mercy of their elected council members as the latter prepare to vote tonight on a city staff recommendation placing the next landfill on a controversial, city-owned, 290-acre site at Old Lorena Road near U.S. Highway 84. The state of Texas allows governmental entities to discuss possible real-estate transactions and legal matters in executive session for obvious reasons, so three of the four sites under consideration for the next landfill remain unknown to the public (and the press).
However, considering the months-long rancor from some of the residents living in attractive subdivisions nearest the Old Lorena Road site, it’s also logical to assume city leaders would happily place the landfill elsewhere if they easily could.
As Trib staffer J.B. Smith reports, the city says using the proposed site would raise monthly rates by only 30 cents, while other sites could raise collection rates as much as $3.58. Mayor Kyle Deaver, while declining to say how he’ll vote tonight, stresses that other factors must be considered as well. One site, for example, is closer to another neighborhood than the proposed landfill is to subdivisions along Highway 84. One site, he said, “would require us to drive [garbage trucks] through a neighboring city.” Other sites might require use of eminent domain. And there’s the purchase expense for any of the optional sites.
This much we know: The Old Lorena Road site rates consideration based on its rock-solid geological foundation (complete with 400 to 600 feet of blue shale). And no reason exists to assume risk of runoff into Lake Waco will increase through a new landfill governed by similar, state-endorsed protocols as the current landfill. And while critics cite operational problems at the current city landfill in the early 2000s that led to its being branded as in “poor” state compliance, the landfill reportedly has had no problems since. The city even hired state environmental officials to help ensure future compliance.
Perhaps this is why Councilman Jim Holmes, who represents the district where most public opposition is based, has wisely grounded much of his fight against the landfill in economics, including the adverse impact a new landfill might have on Waco’s west edge, which has seen much business and residential growth in recent years. However, given that a busy landfill operates next to the proposed site, one wonders why area property values have generally risen instead of fallen. Perhaps Holmes can better explain this incongruity. Indeed, let us hope for a day of clarity, facts and resolve rather than the ugly rhetoric and misinformation we’ve seen and heard this year.