Over objections, Court gives thoughts on Host Agreement
By LPR Staff
With opinions that vary from a complete refusal to discuss negotiations, to preparation for the perceived “inevitable,” the Caldwell County Commissioners court expressed a broad range of thoughts during a workshop to discuss a proposed Host Agreement with Green Group Holdings on Monday.
posed agreement, which has been available in draft form throughout the community since September 2013, has been a major point of contention since it was first proposed to the court; members of the community, as with the Court, vary in their opinions as to whether the agreement should be discussed at all.
Outspoken landfill critic Leslie Holder reminded the Commissioners of an Indian parable about a boy that agreed to help a rattlesnake, under the guise that the snake would not bite. When the snake did, eventually, bite the child, it said, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”
That notion was echoed by Commissioner Joe Roland, who said his colleagues needed to “stop playing with ourselves… They’re not going to do anything they say they’re going to do.”
Others, however, including Commissioner Eddie Moses, noted that, while they would rather a landfill not be built in Caldwell County, he believes the Commissioners should make an effort to get whatever benefits the County can glean from the project, in the event the permit is approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the facility is built.
Among the concessions the Commissioners asked for, Moses said he would like to see Green Group Holdings purchase two brush trucks per year, for the next 11 years, until each Volunteer Fire Department in the County has received two new brush trucks.
Further, he said, he would like to see the Ed Nickels Library in Luling included in the concessions being made for donations to public libraries, as well as donations made to the Lockhart, Luling and Prairie Lea ISD library programs.
Commissioner Alfredo Munoz took a harder line, including asking for a $3 million up-front cash payment to the County when operations begin, and a $2 million per year contribution, over and above any host or “tipping fees” paid by Green Group. Additionally, he said, he would like to see a concession that no “liquid waste” would be accepted.
It was unclear whether he was referring to the liquid waste that is often included in common household trash.
County Judge Kenneth Schawe gave an extensive list of items he would like to see addressed in the agreement, including increases in host fees, a reduction in the maximum elevation of the landfill facility, and an increase in the setbacks that would remove the active landfill footprint from the residences and properties in the surrounding area.
Additionally, he said, he would like to negotiate payment of a percentage of any sale of captured landfill gas in the future.
Like Roland, Commissioner Neto Madrigal said he was unwilling to discuss terms of the host agreement in any way.
The workshop does not indicate that the Commissioners are going to begin actual negotiations with Green Group; rather, they have instructed counsel to prepare an overview of the demands the Commissioners would like to make, prior to moving forward with any negotiation.
Green Group principal David Green remains undaunted by County’s hesitation to enter negotiations.
““Green Group remains ready and willing to negotiate with the County in good faith on a Host Agreement that results in the best possible outcome for all parties, and that includes legal protections for the County,” he said on Tuesday afternoon. “We look forward to receiving the County’s written counter offer to start the conversation.”
As their meeting wound down, the Commissioners convened in executive session to discuss the legal ramifications of the contract, as well as to hear an update on the progress of the Contested Case Hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings regarding the landfill permit.
In other business, the Commissioners drew fire from the public and from employees regarding their decision last week not to honor a promise to increase the salary of the County Auditor to $70,000.
The decision, spurred by concerns about budget cuts and the fact that the County offered no other pay increases this year, was berated by those in the community who believe that the Commissioners should honor the promise made by the District Judges when they hired County Auditor Debra French in January.
In fact, the Commissioners unanimously offered their support to seeking a resolution from the Texas Legislature to increase the salary earlier this year, with the understanding that the increase would be offered at the beginning of the Fiscal Year.
Schawe brought the discussion back to the table this week, and Roland, who voted against the measure last week, was the first to voice his support.
“I was raised up being told that ‘if your word ain’t nothing, then you ain’t nothing’” he said. “I’m going to make the motion to [raise the salary] to $70,000, because I don’t go back on my word.”
Schawe seconded the motion.
After discussion about the measure, including Madrigal noting that he did not agree with the salary increase, but believed that the Court should keep their promises, the Court eventually voted 3-2 not to offer the salary increase. Only Roland and Schawe supported the pay increase as promised by the District Judges.
Presently, French draws a smaller salary than former County Auditor Larry Roberson did when he left the County’s employ in early 2015.
The Commissioners have changed their meeting schedule, per a vote taken on Monday morning. Going forward, they will meet at 9 a.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month in the second floor courtroom of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings will continue to be open to the public and webcast at www.co.caldwell.tx.us.