Commissioners Soften Tone On Landfill

Posted in Commissioners Court, Hutto, Landfill, Williamson County at 4:19 pm by wcnews

What a difference a week makes. At the June 3rd meeting of the Williamson County Commissioners Court (WCCC) it looked like the county was finally ready to use it’s power over Waste Management Inc. (WMI). After having 100,000 tons of Killeen garbage sprung on them, they acted none too happy. There was talk of breaking contracts, putting the landfill contract out for bid, while they pouted over their lack of control - which they’ve willingly ceded in the past. Going so far as to request delaying [.pdf] the final hearing regarding the expansion of the landfill.

Then on June 9th the Hutto Citizens Group (HCG), in their newsletter [.pdf], warned that a deal between the county and WMI was in the works.

Two days after the June 3 commissioners court session, Commissioner Morrison spoke briefly at a “power breakfast” hosted by the Hutto Economic Development Corporation, and told community leaders that WMI has been making plans to bring recycling to the WilCo landfill (in addition to the county’s small recycling center operating there now), which included amending or modifying the landfill permit. According to various other reports, it was suggested that WMI could offset the approximately 100,000 tons per year that would be imported from Killeen through this recycling initiative.

The Hutto Citizens Group strongly cautions Williamson County and its citizens against viewing this somewhat vague promise (with no written details) as a panacea for the approximately 100,000 tons per year that WMI wants to import from Killeen.

All of the sudden we hear about plans for recycling, that’s convenient. It’s right for the HCG to recommend caution.

And at the June 10th WCCC meeting the tone was completely different, and it appears they were placated by an asphalt shingle recycling deal.

How much construction and reroofing goes on in Williamson County and Central Texas? So much that about 100 tons of old, discarded asphalt roofing shingles end up at the Williamson County Landfill every day.

That amounts to 100 tons of asphalt per day or 36,500 tons annually.

On Tuesday, County Commissioners approved a plan - submitted by landfill operator Waste Management, Inc.- for the recycling of those asphalt shingles.

“Anything we can do on the recycling effort is something we need to pursue,” said Steve Jacobs, Waste Management’s director of operations at the county landfill in Hutto. “We would have a marketable, recycled product on the back end of the process.”

To put that annual tonnage of 36,500 in perspective, the landfill currently takes in about 250,000 tons of trash annually. Waste Management is considering bringing in another 100,000 tons of trash, annually, from Killeen.

“It’s a pretty big chunk,” Jacobs said of the average daily shingle dump. “When we get a big hail storm it goes up more than that.”

Jacobs explained how the recycling of asphalt roofing shingles would work. Decomposing garbage at the landfill generates methane gas, which Waste Management collects and burns off.

In the future, Waste Management will use that combustion to melt down the shingles, which are about 30 to 35 percent asphalt and can have future life in road paving mix.

“Any revenue we generate would be included in landfill revenue,” Commissioner Lisa Birkman of Brushy Creek noted. (See comment for more).

If my math is correct that’s still 63,500 tons short of making up for the 100,000 tons coming from Killeen. As you can see above, Birkman’s tone has changed. Now check out what County Judge Dan Gattis, Sr. had to say.

Although last week county officials publicly said they might just walk away from the Waste Management contract - and risk getting sued - Gattis said this week he does not think that is going to happen.

“We’re probably going to be sitting down and negotiating the contract,” Gattis told the Leader.

Gattis said he does not want the county landfill to take in more garbage than all of Williamson County generates in a year.

Since Round Rock, Georgetown and Cedar Park do not use the county landfill, even the addition of trash from Killeen would not cause that to happen.

“It would not even bring us close,” Gattis said.

But Gattis said - and members of the Hutto Citizens Group have also said - they don’t want the Hutto site to become a regional landfill.

Gattis said Waste Management also operates Travis County’s landfill - and Travis County government might take the Killeen situation to mean Williamson County has got plenty of room for everybody’s trash.

“That’s the biggest fear I have, ” Gattis said, “that if we don’t get something negotiated [with Waste Management] Travis will just shut it down and move it our way.”


But Gattis also said the county does not enter these negotiations completely unarmed.

Gattis said the county’s leverage in this is its willingness to still go along with a landfill expansion permit application, which the county and Waste Management have pending with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Although the contract length is in dispute, Gattis said there are other issues as well.

He said Williamson County wants to reinstate a provision present in an agreement predating the 2003 contract: that the landfill takes in no more trash than is generated countywide.

Also, Gattis said, he wants a new provision added: that the landfill only accept trash from Williamson and contiguous counties.

First he says he doesn’t want it to be a regional facility. And he finishes by saying he only wants the landfill to accept trash from contiguous counties. There are only SIX (Burnet, Bell, Milam, Lee Bastrop and Travis) contiguous counties. Depends what your definition of regional is it would seem. That being said the county seems to have been cowed over the last week and is now, once again, willing to sit down with WMI to negotiate a contract.

At this point it’s hard to understand why. WMI has not dealt in good faith with Williamson County in the past and let’s hope they’re not expecting them to now. It would seem that the county would lay out some terms to WMI, in private, and say it’s either this or we’ll kill the expansion, and put a new landfill contract out for bid. It’s long past time for our elected county officials to use their power in the process.


  1. wilcowatcher said,

    June 13, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Hmm. Well, the asphalt shingle recycling makes sense… so Birkman’s husband can have the illegal aliens he brags about hiring ship all the shingles they must deal with to the dump. I’m sure he gets something out of that.

    Oh, and don’t forget - the recent $1,000,000 “public affairs” contract awarded after a mere, non-competitive Request for Qualifications to our old pals Martin and Salinas (of CTRMA notoriety), facilitated by good ol’ boy Mike Weaver (of CTRMA notoriety), has named as partner for their “services” to Wilco, Linda Rife, recent former “Community Affairs Director” for WMI. At least I presume she’s former - her name still appears on documents downloadable from the Wilco Landfill web site. Maybe she’s double dipping… wouldn’t exactly be a pioneering practice here, now would it?

    Coincidence? I think not.

  2. FedUp said,

    June 14, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Wilcowatcher, would love to hear more on all of Wilco’s “coincidencs”. There are so many, EOW does a damn (can I say that) good job of researching and reporting the stories, but there are those of us out here that know a lot more. And you and I both know what these Wilco “Syndicates” are capable of. With the help of websites like these and some, we can start to make change for the better. Keep it coming.

    Keeping an………eyeonwilco

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