By Kathi Bliss
As opposition grows against a proposed project in central Caldwell County that includes a 250-acre landfill, the Caldwell County Commissioners Court took a unanimous step on Monday morning to protect the county’s environment and watershed.
After a nearly hour-long public hearing and 30 minutes of consultation with their attorney, the Commissioners Court voted unanimously to pass a “landfill siting ordinance,” which specifically prohibits solid waste disposal in Caldwell County, with the exception of an 18-acre site east of Seawillow Road and generally known as the “county gravel pit.”
Although neither the ordinance nor the Commissioners specifically addressed the project, dubbed the 130 Environmental Park proposed by Georgia-based Green Group Holdings, many of the 21 speakers who addressed the Court during the public hearing geared their comments toward that facility.
“The dump will ruin the drive into Lockhart,” said Cynthia Rivera, who lives on nearby Barth Road. “Please don’t allow industrial development in our neighborhoods.”
Other residents of the rural area near the site at the intersection of SH 130 and FM 1185 expressed concerns that their quality of life would be affected by a “mountain of trash” impacting their sunsets, and the traffic the development would bring to the area, and said they were worried about the proposed site having a negative impact on their property values.
“These are homesteaders,” said Jesse Bertram, who lives on Homannville Trail near the proposed landfill site. “If people move in by an airport, they know what they’re getting into. But no one here chose to live next to a dump.”
Others, including Robin Schneider with the Texas Campaign for the Environment, warned the Commissioners that the landfill would eventually leak, potentially impacting the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer, a portion of which lies beneath the proposed landfill site.
Although representatives of Green Group Holdings were on hand for the public hearing, they chose not to speak during the meeting.
“It’s our position that this does not affect our facility,” said David Green, the Vice President of Project Development and Acquisitions for the company. “Therefore, we chose not to address the ordinance during the public hearing.”
Green’s position is based on Section 364.012(e)(1), which specifically states that a county “may not prohibit the processing or disposal of municipal or industrial solid waste in an area of that county for which an application for a permit or other authorization under Chapter 361 has been filed with and is pending before the commission.”
Green Group Holdings began the application process with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to acquire permits for the facility in September.
Though the County’s civil attorney, Mack Harrison, has previously said that his legal opinion is the Green Group facility would be grandfathered under that statute, he declined on Monday to address whether the facility would be impacted by the County’s passage of the sweeping, prohibitive ordinance.
Still, the group known as EPICC (Environmental Protection in the Interest of Caldwell County), comprised in part of residents of the area surrounding the proposed site, has called the permitting process into question, and vows to continue fighting the proposed landfill site.
In other business, the Commissioners discussed and appointed a project manager to oversee the renovation of the Caldwell County Judicial Center (formerly the “old WalMart building”).
County Judge Tom Bonn, who led the selection team along with Oscar Fogle, of GBRA, Hye Brown of the Caldwell County Appraisal District, and Lockhart City Manager Vance Rodgers, made the recommendation to enter contract negotiations with Les Reddin, who noted he has been involved in government contracting projects for several years.
Commissioner Alfredo Munoz questioned the selection committee, specifically why no other Commissioners had been involved in the interviewing process. Bonn responded the interviews had been public knowledge, but that the Commissioners had chosen not to participate.
Munoz and Bonn will work together to negotiate a contract with Reddin, who expects to start work in the next few weeks.
In brief news:
The Commissioners heard reports from several department heads, and were asked to consider updated job descriptions for several positions.
They read a proclamation recognizing the Pegasus School for their contributions to the community.
The Court discussed and approved improvements to several County buildings, many of which were change orders under 2010 bond projects.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month in the Conference and Training Room of the LW Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St., in Lockhart. The meetings are open to the public and are webcast at www.co.caldwell.tx.us.