Very Sorry. In EOW’s haste to get the story posted we forgot to give huge congratulations and credit to the Hutto Citizens Group, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Mount Hutto Aware Citizens, A Better Wilco, and Eye On Williamson for spreading the word on this and getting this victory for the citizens of Williamson County.
[UPDATE]: Hutto Citizens Group reporting [.PDF] on today’s landfill vote. The operative phrase seems to be “indefinitely delayed”.
AAS has the story, Williamson commissioners delay landfill vote again.
After several minutes of debate about a controversial landfill operating contract today, three Williamson County commissioners said they had concerns and wanted to put the vote on hold.
“It appears to me this contract is probably going to fail today,” said County Judge Dan A. Gattis.
Commissioner Ron Morrison told the court â€” and the dozens of spectators in the standing-room-only crowd â€” that the pending permit to expand the landfill and the contract are intertwined, and he wanted to wait for the permit hearings to finish before he signs a contract.
Commissioners Valerie Covey and Cynthia Long agreed. They named the length of the contract, 40 years, and discrepancies between the permit application and the contract as reasons for their concern.
Closing arguments in the expansion permit hearings are expected later this week.
Today’s non-vote was the latest in a string of postponed votes on the landfill contract. Commissioners have come under increasing pressure by citizens groups to turn down the contract. Some have even threatened to sue the county if the renegotiated deal passes.
Gattis supports the new contract and said today that commissioners who feel otherwise had plenty of opportunities to bring up concerns during negotiations.
Commissioner Lisa Birkman sided with Gattis today, saying, “If y’all want to vote it down, then that’s your choice.”
But Birkman ended up siding with Covey, Morrison and Long in a 4-1 vote to table the vote on the contract.
Thank you Commissioners Morrison, Covey and Long. Cooler heads have prevailed it seems, at least for now. The words and then actions of Commissioner Birkman are quite humorous. I guess she wanted to make sure she wasn’t on the wrong side of one of those infamous “3-2″ court votes that were talked about so much during the 2006 campaign season.
There’s no mention in the article of the major sticking point of the Hutto Citizens Group which is the fact that Waste Management, Inc. (WMI) is still on the contract as the operator which, if allowed to continue, would give WMI complete control of the landfill for the length of the contract.
Today’s vote delay means there’s quite a bit riding on the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) permit case regarding whether to allow WMI to expand the landfill. This will again shine a spotlight on the WMI, their lawyers from Vinson and Elkins, along with County Attorney Jana Duty’s brief denying the commissioners the ability to use outside counsel without her permission. My recommendation to the commissioners and Judge, not that they’re looking for EOW’s advice, would be for them to get a disinterested third party to evaluate the contract on their behalf. If WMI doesn’t get the expansion permit it’s likely the contracting process will stall or end altogether. All eyes will now shift to the SOAH permit case.