More on the new landfill contract

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, County Judge, HD-52, Hutto, Landfill, Precinct 4, Williamson County at 1:44 pm by wcnews

From more reports on yesterday’s WCCC action on the landfill contract, the commissioners are going out of their way to emphasize how much listening they did to citizen input on the new contract. Despite the fact that they actually used anything they heard in the new contract. Not to mention that much of that listening wasn’t’ done until after their previous attempt at a new contract was scuttled by citizen outrage. It appears their strategy to blunt similar criticism was to listen and not much else.

From the RRL, Final approval needed from landfill operator.

Tuesday’s court action marks the latest chapter in what has been a lengthy and often contentious process.

“I can guarantee you I have had more public input on this issue than on other issue during my five years on the court,” Pct. 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman of Brushy Creek said.

“A lot of that public input has gone into the contract,” Gattis added.

While not citing anyone by name, Gattis also chastised those who he said have “hyped” the controversy with “misinformation.”

Tuesday’s 5-0 vote came after a closed-door executive session of more than two hours, as well as public comments from contract opponents.

In the TDP’s article, New contract creates Hutto fund, we learn about a fund that the City of Hutto and Hutto ISD may some day receive.

Williamson County Commissioners altered a proposed landfill operations contract Tuesday to create a fund for the benefit of the City of Hutto and Hutto Independent School District.

The contract would replace a 2003 operations agreement for the Williamson County Landfill between the county and Waste Management that many critics and commissioners view as a one-sided, poorly written document.

Based on last year’s total garbage intake, the fund — two percent of dumping fees — would generate about $220,000 annually for the city and school district. That money would be doled out at the discretion of the commissioner’s court.

More on the meeting:

The meeting was well-attended by stakeholders in the outcome of the contract dispute, including Bob Gregory, president of garbage disposal rival Texas Disposal Systems, Hutto City Councilman Felix Madrid, counsel for interveners in an ongoing lawsuit over the validity of the 2003 contract Jim Hemphill and longtime critic of the landfill and Hutto resident Jeff Maurice.

The commissioners decided to hold off on an order of execution for the agreement until Waste Management and Williamson County can come to a consensus. County Judge Dan Gattis commended the international waste disposal company for being “good corporate citizens” because of company officials’ continued cooperation in contract negotiations, despite the county’s unsuccessful attempts to void the 2003 contract.

The new contract aims to push recycling as much as possible, commissioners said. It contains incentives for construction companies to recycle their debris. According to commissioners, construction-related waste accounts for about half of waste deposited at the facility.

Commissioners also altered how revenue will be calculated, basing their figures on dump charges instead of gross receipts. Gattis said the change will make accounting for charges an easier process.

Critics of the facility continued to chastise the court for what they view as shortcomings. Most agree that the draft contract is better than the 2003 contract, but said it does not address some serious issues. Madrid said commissioners should heed Hutto City Council’s most recent landfill resolution, asking for a 30-day period of review for the contract.

That Gattis fawns over the corporation’s “citizenship” is laughable, but probably says more about why he’s been so tin-eared to the citizens concerns, than anything else. Here’s what Mahlon Arnett had to say about the fund in a letter he sent [.doc] to Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison.

The only bone you tried to throw our way was including a provision that a paltry 2% of tipping fees would be set aside for the benefit of Hutto and the Hutto ISD. However, the court was quick to provide that these funds would be used at the complete and sole discretion of the county, meaning that you decide when they are used, what they are used for and even if they are ever used. If you use the funds for parks or similar uses, you will be simply benefiting yourself by using the funds on things that would have otherwise had to come out of the county parks funds or similar funds. Perhaps most importantly, the small amount of this fund will quickly be offset by the first good development project that Hutto loses because of the massively expanded landfill. The cost of what you are doing to Hutto far dwarfs this little fund.

It was a unanimous decision by the court to approve the new contract. Therefore no one can hide and it will probably have a serious impact on Morrison and Gattis’ support in Precinct 4, should they decide to run again.

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