It’s looking like nothing has changed as far as the Williamson County Commissioners Court (WCCC), Waste Management, Inc. (WMI) and the county landfill are concerned. Last year when the new landfill contract was signed between the county and WMI part of the agreement was that within a year the Master Site Plan and Master Recycling Plan be developed. These plans were presented at the Tuesday March 9th WCCC meeting, and as yet, have had no public input or scrutiny.
In advance of the meeting the Williamson County Public Policy Coalition (WCPPC) recommended that the commissioners not accept the plans submitted on Tuesday. They would like them to wait until “..there has been time for the WCPPC and interested citizens to study the plan AND subsequent public forums or workshops to be held which provide the public the opportunity to dialogue with members of commissioners court about both plans”.
That seems like a reasonable request. But we know that the WCCC doesn’t care much for involving the citizenry in the decisions in this county once they’re elected. Anyone who owns land or a home can understand that those who live closest to the landfill have a stake or vested interest in that land, and should be allowed to be part of the planning of the landfill. It would also seem that our elected officials would want to work with these people to make the plan as beneficial as possible to all involved.
From last year, via the WCPPC [PDF], the question of public meetings and input was posed to Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison:
The contract calls for a master site plan to be developed for the landfill within a year of signing the contract this past March. Will there be public meetings to receive input from the public regarding the structuring of that site plan? If not, why not?
Morrison’s answer: “ … a master site plan will be developed for the landfill. Public input will be sought on the master site plan.”
Morrison’s response ducks the question regarding whether there will be public meetings to discuss structuring the site plan. And he doesn’t even commit to a process of reasonable dialogue about the process—only that citizens will provide “input”. The absence of real discussion has been a longstanding problem with regard to landfill issues, including the process by which the present contract was devised. “Input” is not the same as having a seat at the table with real two-way dialogue and compromise.
On Tuesday the WCCC did not approve either plan but instead formally received them. This action by the commissioners court, and the related comments during the discussion, caused the WCPPC to raise numerous questions [PDF] about the plans and the planning process thus far. Several are listed here:
- When will the public forums to discuss these plans be held?
- If no specific dates are designated now, what is the specific time frame within which they will be held?
- Inasmuch as the county did not “approve” the plans on March 9, why was it necessary to formally “receive” the plans?
- Why has there been no public discussion on this issue during the past year?
- What has kept that from happening?
- Why has it taken so long to get to this point?
- Why were citizens not invited to participate in those “working jointly” discussions so that substantive issues could have been processed before Waste Management rolled out its “official” plan to comply with the contract?
- What is the position of each county commissioner regarding the plans’ contents?
The WCCC appears to be repeating the same disturbing cycle of ignoring the citizenry. Thus far the WCCC has not changed how it will proceed with the landfill and WMI, in relation to the people they represent. At this point it doesn’t appear they have an interest in working with the people who live near the landfill, or the citizens of this county, to come up with a plan that everyone can live with. We will have to wait and see if only token input is sought, or if once the public gets their chance if any of their ideas will be implemented.