01.27.09

New landfill contract ready for scrutiny

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, County Judge, Landfill, Precinct 4, Williamson County at 11:19 pm by wcnews

From the county web site (best viewed in Internet Explorer):

Williamson County Judge Dan A. Gattis made the announcement after Executive Session of Commissioners Court today that the Landfill Subcommittee will present an agenda item next week, February 3, 2009, to discuss a proposed contract with Waste Management regarding the landfill.

A copy of that proposed contract is available here.

A comparison to the existing 2003 contract is available here.

Via the AAS, New Williamson landfill contract proposed.  Here are three of the dozens of changes in the new proposed contract.

The proposed draft, released by the commissioners Tuesday, would make dozens of changes to the 6-year-old agreement with Waste Management of Texas, which operates the landfill. The new contract would:

Give the county nearly three times as much revenue as it currently receives.

State that Waste Management does not have any legal interest in the landfill property or an expansion permit that is pending before the state.

Give the county authority to hire an oversight inspector to monitor daily operations at the landfill at Waste Management’s expense.

County Judge Dan Gattis, Sr. seems pleased with it.

“What we’re looking for is more control, which means more citizen control and more accountability,” County Judge Dan A. Gattis said.

WMI hasn’t made up it’s mind yet.

Steve Jacobs, Waste Management’s Central Texas landfill manager, said Tuesday that the company needs time to review the draft before commenting on it.

“There’s still things we’ve been in discussions for quite some time and will continue to be in discussions about,” he said. “We’re not in agreement on a lot of the issues.”

Gattis again professes his pleasure with the contract and makes a pre-emptive strike against any “citizen” that would dare criticize the new contract.

Gattis said the proposed contract, versions of which have gone back and forth between the county and Waste Management, addresses many of the residents’ concerns.

“Any prudent citizen reading this will be pleased by this contract,” he said.

Nice try.

Jeff Maurice, chairman of the Hutto Citizens Group’s landfill committee, said he had not read the revised contract in detail yet and was worried that residents won’t be able to review the proposal effectively in one week.

After a cursory look, he said the proposal does not seem to address three major concerns: that the contract lasts too long (the current version is for 25 years, the proposed revision for up to 40), that the landfill height will not be limited, and that trash from other counties would be brought in.

“For them to say that the new contract is better than the 2003 contract is not saying much,” Maurice said. “That one was so horrible that virtually anything would be better than it, but it does not mean that the new one would be better for the county.”

Exactly, the contract couldn’t possibly be worse than the current one. But if the new contract is too unfavorable to WMI they can decide to stick with what they currently have.

From the Hutto Citizens Group’s (HCG) press release [.pdf] on this news it appears the county is trying to rush the new contract through in order to have it done before the February 11th Texas Commission on Environmental Quality(TCEQ) hearing on the landfill expansion permit.

Maurice said that the HCG and citizens would try to analyze and prepare comments on the contract in the short time frame available. “All members of commissioners court are aware that citizens asked for at least 30 days to review this contract proposal, and the Hutto City Council even passed a resolution to that effect, but we were ignored—a disappointment on such an important matter controlled by members of commissioners court,” Maurice said. “We’ll do the best we can to do a thorough analysis of the contract despite the unfair, short, time frame.”

As discussed at numerous HCG meetings, citizens fear that the county won’t finalize an agreement with WMI that cures problems associated with the landfill permit application before it is considered by TCEQ in two weeks.

“The county has made a very unwise decision about moving forward on the permit process, and we can only hope that if no acceptable contract is negotiated and signed by both parties before February 11, then the county will do what it promised and pull the permit down—or at least have it postponed until the contract issue is resolved,” Maurice said. “If the 2003 contract is as bad as Judge Gattis says it is for a 202-acre landfill, it’s substantially worse for a 575-acre landfill,” he added. “Why would an elected official want to make an already bad situation that much worse.”

The HCG and citizens have said they intend to make sure the message to Morrison is simple and clear.  “He’s being asked to keep his word about pulling down the permit if there is not an acceptable, new contract,” Maurice said. “His constituents are desperately counting on him to do that.”

Should be a fun time and the commissioners court next Tuesday.

2 Comments »

  1. gregry17 said,

    January 28, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Our Court here in Williamson County continues to provide proof of their superior intelligence. I am never dumbfounded or amazed at the audacity of dope they exhibit. As a business owner I am often approached by client’s exhibiting ‘buyer’s remorse’ for a bad deal. Unfortunately, once you’ve entered into a valid contract there are little avenues available to extract your committment. This bad deal was laid in their lap by the previous crooks on the Court and they better learn to live with it. Sell it to Hutto. Let them deal with it. The County has no business in profit generating excursions anyway. County government is a Public Administration being run by a majority of nincompoops who think they’re running a business. I urge the few liberal minded citizens of Williamson county to become more involved in the political process. With enough grit, determination, and communication, we may be able to take this county back over the next few years.
    It would be nice to imagine that WM would consider a different contract. And maybe they will, who knows what was paid to whom. But its my guess the big wheels at WM are sitting around the Houston break room laughing their asses off.
    Greg Windham

  2. wcnews said,

    January 28, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Good points. The “Limmer Lemon” lives on. Not only are the liberals becoming more involved, but so are the formerly silent citizens of Williamson County, that cross all political and ideological subdivisions. Whether it’s T. Don Hutto, SH 29, the landfill or those that just want an accountable government that’s responsive to it’s citizens. As President Obama said last Tuesday, “the ground is shifting under their feet”. The feet of the WCCC that is.

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