On split vote, Commissioners kill landfill talks
By LPR Staff
Bowing to pressure from a vocal group of opponents, the Caldwell County Commissioners voted on Monday to halt potential negotiations with a company proposing to build a multi-use development, including a landfill facility, in north-central Caldwell County.
After spending time reviewing a proposed c
ontractual host agreement from Green Group Holdings, LLC, the Commissioners voted 3-1 on Monday morning to stop talks, and rather continue with the process of litigating a Contested Case Hearing in the hopes of blocking the permitting process for the landfill.
The proposed development site, which would include not only the landfill and a recycling center, but also possibly an industrial park component and a community center on par with the Texas Disposal Systems pavilion in Creedmoor, has drawn fire from opponents who believe the site, off FM 1185 near Highway 183, is ill-suited for a landfill.
“The footprint [of the landfill] is surrounded by flood plain,” said Robert Kohler, speaking against the project on Monday morning. “We know [in light of recent flooding events] that their water containment system wouldn’t have held. It’s a huge danger, because pollutants would then be coming downstream.”
Supporters of the project, however, suggest that the Court’s resistance serves to benefit only the competitive landfill in Creedmoor.
“[This is] a highly-regulated industry,” said Tom Schaefer. “Why are we spending county money to fight one private industry, when the fight will only benefit another private industry, in another county?”
After hearing from attorney Eric Magee, who has reviewed and summarized the host agreement changes proposed by Commissioners last month, Commissioner Alfredo Munoz made the motion to halt negotiations, which never really started. Magee came to the Court on Monday to ask for instruction as to whether he should approach Green Group with the summarized changes. The Commissioners voted “no.”
Munoz, in his motion, referenced a recent decision by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding deficiencies in Green Group’s permit for a similar facility in Waller County, Texas, as his reason for halting negotiations, and instead continuing with the contested case hearing. It is his hope, he said, that the hearing will reveal if there are similar problems with Green Group’s Caldwell County application.
County Judge Kenneth Schawe said he was “not going to argue” with his colleagues on the point, but noted that through the course of the contested case hearing, Caldwell County has only received one billing statement from Allison, Bass and Magee for expenses related to the case.
“The last thing I want to do is have the attorney keep spending time going around and around,” he said. “We need to decide, if we want him to sit down with [Green Group] with these changes, and see what they’re willing to do.”
Schawe did not cast a vote in the 3-1 decision to halt negotiations. Munoz, along with Commissioners Joe Roland and Neto Madrigal, who have been steadfast against the development, voted to halt the negotiations, while Commissioner Eddie Moses voted against the measure.
In other business, the Commissioners spent a great deal of time talking about the available reserves in the General Fund, as Auditor Debra French cautioned them they were nearing the threshold of their minimum balance of 3.5 months’ expenses in reserve.
A portion of those reserves, some $17,400 for a swift-water rescue boat, as requested by Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Ritchey.
The boat, Ritchey said, was originally proposed for purchase prior to the end of the last fiscal year, and the money had been allocated through unspent funds in the maintenance budget. However, because the purchase was not completed before the end of the fiscal year, those funds were returned to the “reserves” in the General Fund and required a budget amendment to release the funds.
Ritchey noted the county presently has three swift-water boats available, but in the face of flooding events such as the county has recently survived, additional boats were necessary.
“We don’t want to take resources away from Luling to help Martindale [for instance], and leave them without a boat,” he said. “But during the Halloween flooding event, we weren’t able to get help from Hays County or Bastrop County, because they needed all the resources they had.”
The Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the purchase of the boat, which will be fully equipped with a motor, personal flotations devices and a trailer. The boat will be available for use throughout the county, with its use authorized solely by the Office of Emergency Management.
The County authorized still more use of the available reserves to assist with recovery efforts from the Halloween 2015 flooding event.
According to Ritchey, although Caldwell County reached its own threshold for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it was unclear whether the State of Texas would reach the damage limits required for a Federal declaration of disaster.
“We haven’t received our declaration yet, and I don’t know that I can say if we will,” Ritchey said.
If the State of Texas does not receive a Federal declaration, FEMA funds will not be available to assist in flood recovery. However, that does not change the fact that Caldwell County residents need the help.
“Our volunteer numbers are lower than they were during the May flooding event,” he said. “And so we may not be able to have the same kind of numbers for in-kind contribution as we did then. So, it’s likely there will be some expense to the county this time.”
The Commissioners voted to move forward with informing the community how debris should be separated and sorted for disposal (see attached graphic), as well as to amend the current contracts with the haul-off vendors originally hired during the Memorial Weekend flooding event.
The County will also negotiate with the City of Martindale to assist the municipality with their flood recovery.
The Caldwell County Commissioners routinely meet on the second and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Second Floor Courtroom of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public and can be viewed online at www.co.caldwell.tx.us.