The Waco City Council is continuing to consider alternative sites to the city-owned land on Old Lorena Road for a new landfill.

The Waco City Council appears to be far from consensus on any of the four potential landfill sites they have been studying.

The council informally agreed during a Tuesday work session that the staff should continue looking for sites beyond the 15-mile radius of the last search. They also allowed engineering work to continue at the Old Lorena Road site, though Councilman Jim Holmes objected.

“I think we have enough evidence that there are viable alternative sites that at some point we need to hit pause,” Holmes said. “At some point we owe it to the taxpayer not to be spending money on the Old Lorena Road site if we’re not sure that’s where we’re going to go.”

But other council members said the three alternatives to the Old Lorena Road landfill site have their own problems.

“I’ll take the position that we do need to continue to work on that site,” Mayor Kyle Deaver said of the city-owned site on Old Lorena Road. “I do not personally believe any of the other three sites are viable sites. That’s why we’ve asked to expand the distances.”

Deaver said one site in particular, an undisclosed location referred to in a report as Site 21, has “safety issues that cannot be overcome.”

He appeared to be referring to an at-grade railroad crossing that garbage trucks would have to cross to get to that site.

“There’s no way I could vote for Site 21,” Councilwoman Alice Rodriguez said.

On the positive side, Deaver said the rate study released last week by the NewGen firm suggested that there could be cost-effective alternatives to the Old Lorena Road site. The three alternatives would add between $1.29 and $3.58 to the average monthly residential bill, the firm estimated.

“The difference in rate impact are less than many of us expected,” Deaver said. “Because of that it makes sense to look a little further out.”

Holmes questioned how the 15-mile radius would be calculated, saying the center of town is several miles north of the Highway 84-Highway 6 intersection that consultants have been using as a center point. At Holmes’ suggestion, staff agreed to calculate the geographical center point of residential users.

“I really think in any scenario we lay out someone could find something wrong with the way we’ve done it,” City Manager Dale Fisseler said. “But that will be one of the options.”

In an interview, Councilman Dillon Meek said he’s hopeful the city can find an affordable alternative to the Old Lorena Road site.

“I’m not for taking it off the table, but I am in favor of trying to find a better site,” Meek said. “That’s where I fall. I want to do everything we can to find a better site, but at the end of the day I don’t think taking it off the table is an appropriate step.”

He said the rate gap between Old Lorena Road and the other sites was much less than he anticipated, though none would be an easy solution.

“Every one of these sites has some disadvantages politically or technically,” Meek said.

Janitorial services

Also Tuesday, council members appeared split on the question of outsourcing janitorial services to a private company, as staff has recommended over the last year and half.

After a request for proposals process, the preferred company offered to take on the cleaning for $582,291, a savings of about $428,000 compared to the current in-house cost.

The contractor would offer hourly wages of $10 to $13, close to current wages, while offering health insurance and five vacation days a year. The company has also said it will do most of the work using full-time employees.

Councilman John Kinnaird supported the move as a prudent budgetary measure that wouldn’t be an undue hardship on workers.

“I think we are looking at the human side of this, making sure our employees are taken care of,” Kinnaird said.

Staff members said current employees have been offered training and education opportunities and encouraged to apply for other city jobs or jobs with the new contractor.

Councilman Noah Jackson said he is concerned about lost jobs.

“If these people are not relocated, what is our responsibility to them?” he asked.

“I don’t think it’s our responsibility to guarantee anyone a job until they retire, or that their jobs will remain the same,” Fisseler replied. “Our entire transit operation is private. A lot of people on our garbage trucks are temp employees. Many of our jobs have been farmed out to private companies.”

“I’m not for it at all, period,” Jackson said. “We should think about our fellow men and not money all the time — money, money, money.”

Rodriguez also indicated she is opposed to privatizing janitorial jobs.

Staffers plan to bring a formal recommendation to the council Jan. 6, and the transition could start as early as February.

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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