Mayor Kyle Deaver and City Council members:

Landfill decisions should not divide a city. The process of developing a new landfill should be done openly, above the table and with input from all stakeholders. That is your responsibility as our city leaders and that method will yield results that everyone can accept. Unfortunately, Waco has done exactly the opposite in developing the U.S. Highway 84 landfill site. The time has come for you to take the Highway 84 location off the table.

Quite simply, extension of the landfill at the Highway 84 location doesn’t make sense for many reasons. Why put a 290-acre landfill within a mile or two of 1,500 residential homes, two airport approaches, two public schools, five churches, a hike/bike trail and along the most vibrant economic corridor in the county? In a land-rich state such as Texas, we do have other options.

Why has the City of Waco for years quietly and secretly spent millions of dollars buying and preparing land for the “new” landfill site when there has never been even one vote selecting this site? The topic was never discussed or voted on by the City Council, it was never presented to the Plan Commission. Even the Waco Solid Waste (Sustainable Resources) Committee never considered this decision.

These entities — the ones we have in place to ensure democratic governance and outcomes — have been excluded from the location decision, and that’s why it has turned out so badly. This decision is too important and expensive to leave to a relatively new city manager and unelected city staff.

Waco finally seems to be breaking the bonds which have historically hindered economic growth and is moving forward. However, the Highway 84 landfill location is a step backward. You say we need a site that will last for 40 years, but just imagine the growth that will continue to take place along Highway 84 in the next 40 years without the landfill.

Highway 84 is to Waco what MOPAC is to Austin — one of the busiest non-interstate veins into Waco, not a place for a landfill. One old-timer told our group that the intersection of Highway 84 and Speegleville Road reminds him of the intersection of what Highway 84 and Estates Drive looked like 40 years ago. Ponder what would’ve happened if we had placed a landfill where the Hewitt Drive Walmart is now (that’s roughly analogous).

Since many of the Waco Industrial Foundation and Waco Economic Development Corporation future sites are along Highway 84 and toward the city of McGregor, Waco should not put a landfill in the middle of its most attractive growth opportunities.

Cost is important to us, but the city’s current lines of thinking — statements made in the mayor’s July 16 Trib column — do not address true costs whatsoever. Why has the council not looked at the impact to city tax revenues if the Highway 84 location proceeds? The McLennan County Appraisal District has already gone on record, giving a 12 percent landfill nuisance reduction in property values. If that’s applied to the existing homes, and if further development of the nine potential neighborhoods around Twin Rivers and Sun West is deterred because of the landfill, the City of Waco will lose between $49 million and $271 million over the next 40 years. That’s a huge cost that will be shouldered by every Wacoan and is much larger than the cost of a remote-site landfill. This consideration is also why the Waco Association of Realtors and the Heart of Texas Home Builders Association now oppose this landfill site.

The City Council was told on June 20 that it will cost every Wacoan $11.91 more a month (an 84 percent increase) to have a remote-site landfill. This calculation also included raising commercial rates 38 percent. On that date, Charles Dowdell, the solid-waste manager for the city, reported to you that only 43 percent of the trash coming into the current landfill is from Waco residences and businesses. Our regional landfill accepts waste from 11 other cities and counties. Putting the bulk of the cost on Wacoans instead of focusing the increases on non-Waco municipal users seems patently unfair. We believe that the cost of a remote landfill should be largely levied on out-of-town commercial users. This would allow only small increases in the residential fee, which is already well below our state average.

A new Highway 84 landfill would hurt our airports and airport safety significantly. Both the McGregor Executive Airport and Waco Regional Airport have approaches directly over the new site (not the old site). Mayor Deaver, as a pilot yourself, you know that vulture strikes at 800 to 1,500 feet are a serious safety risk. That’s why the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the National Business of Aviation Association said this landfill site is dangerous.

The council has not considered the impact on Waco’s commercial air service if both these airports become known as “bird-strike airports” that are dangerous. Consider the cost if American Eagle were to pull out of Waco due to this threat. The Chamber of Commerce has worked diligently to improve our air service, and their efforts should not be jeopardized by the landfill location.

The Highway 84 landfill site would hurt our schools and that’s why the Midway ISD school board voted unanimously to oppose this site. Midway ISD would lose huge tax revenues from the impact of the landfill on surrounding commercial and residential real estate values. In fact, we conservatively estimate that the loss of income to Midway ISD would be between $79 million and $471 million over 40 years.

Further, the threat of hundreds of trash trucks being rerouted to the same intersection as our parents and school buses puts children’s safety at risk. The fact that South Bosque Elementary and River Valley Intermediate are within 10,000 feet of the proposed new landfill should take this site out of consideration.

Mr. Mayor and Council Members: It is not too late to stop this bad decision and find a more acceptable alternative.

Kent Keahey is retired president and CEO of Providence Healthcare Network and past chairman of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; Todd Behringer is president of The Behringer Group and a downtown developer as well as vice chair of the Greater Waco Sports Commission; David Littlewood is president, First National Bank McGregor (TFNB Your Bank For Life); Joe Nesbitt is president, Central National Bank Tower; Brad Holland, MD, is a physician and chairman of Citizens Against the Highway 84 Landfill; and Sam Brown is president of the Twin Rivers Homeowners Association and senior vice president of Extraco Banks.