By Kathi Bliss
During an otherwise brief meeting of the Lockhart City Council on Tuesday, members of the community made their voices heard regarding the proposed construction of the 130 Environmental Park, a multi-use facility planned in rural Caldwell County, which will include a landfill.
Although the City of Lockhart has no “dog in the hunt” in the negotiation process with Green Group Holdings, LLC, the developer of the project, several citizens wanted to make sure that the council understands their objections not only to the project itself, but also their objections to the proposed Host Agreement, the contractual deal proposed between GGH and Caldwell County.
As the conversation began, City Attorney Peter Gruning reminded the Council that the City of Lockhart is not a party to the agreement, and as such would have no place in the negotiation process.
However, Councilmber John Castillo said he had put the item on the agenda in an effort to make sure that the citizens of Lockhart had the opportunity to educate themselves about the facility.
Without saying so directly, Castillo made it clear that he is opposed to the project.
During nearly 45 minutes of citizens’ comments, almost a dozen members of an opposition group known as Environmental Protection in the Interest of Caldwell County (EPICC) came forward and asked the council to consider the ramifications of having a landfill at “the gateway to Lockhart.”
Among their concerns, they reminded the councilmembers that landfills can leak and catch fire, citing at least one example from the Chicago area, where a landfill fire has been burning for nearly a year.
They also expressed concern about the proposed Host Agreement, which opponents say would bind future County Commissioners and city council members to assisting GGH and any future owner of the landfill facility, even in litigation against the citizens of the county.
From truck traffic to air pollution, the concerns ran on and on; high on the list is the position of the landfill, which opponents say rests over the Carrizo-Wilcox and Leona aquifers, making the proposed landfill a danger to the watershed.
GGH representative Mack Reynolds closed the public comments, reminding the council that the proposed Host Agreement is not required by law, and in fact is a “good faith gesture” on behalf of Green Group, which he said wants to be a good neighbor.
Additionally, Reynolds said, the four-part application for the landfill has been filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and declared administratively complete; he noted ultimately, it is TCEQ, and not the city or county, that will grant or deny the permit. He encouraged individuals who are concerned about the engineering or technical aspects of the facility to contact TCEQ.
“TCEQ was not elected by this community,” Castillo said. “The people that elected us come to us wanting a resolution, and we’re going to do what’s best for this community.
No other members of the council expressed an opinion on the issue.
It took only moments for the council to complete the rest of their business on the agenda for the evening, which included taking time to express appreciation for the members of the Downtown Revitalization and Beautification Committee (Keep Lockhart Beautiful).
The group has been working for more than two years now on a variety of projects in the downtown historic district, including installation of a pocket park, upkeep of the planter boxes and periodic trash pickups and beautification projects.
City Manager Vance Rodgers announced that the City of Lockhart has acquired funding from CAMPO in the amount of $2.8 million, to complete underground drainage on the massive Highway 183 renovation project, slated to begin work later this year.
Because of errors in the original engineering of the project, funding for the drainage had become a cause for concern, because it was outside the scope of the original project budget. However, CAMPO agreed on Monday evening to provide the funding.
Rodgers said the city will begin the bidding process this week for relocation of the underground utilities and begin moving the project forward.
The Lockhart City Council routinely meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. on the Glosserman Conference Room at Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public and are televised on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10.