Talking Trash With the City Manager As She Looks At Ways to Generate Additional Revenue

Categories: City Hall
trashdump.jpg
In a few weeks, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm will present to the city council some revenue-generating brainstorms she hopes could offset some of this year's $60-million-and-maybe-more budget shortfall. Among her proposals, she tells Unfair Park, will be one familiar to anyone paying attention last year: flow control, which involves the city telling solid-waste disposal companies where they can dump their trash. Suhm said last year that directing 'em all to the McCommas Bluff Landfill could make the city anywhere from $14 mil to $17 mil in extra revenue.

The city's looking seriously at insisting solid-waste disposal companies keep their garbage in the city limits rather than schlep it out to one of the dozen other regional landfills. Which, as we noted a couple of weeks back, has the membership of the National Solid Wastes Management Association up in arms. As Tom Brown, chair of the group's Texas Chapter, wrote to the council only last week in a letter forwarded to Unfair Park: "Flow control would require that all commercial waste generated in the city be transported to Southern Dallas even when more economical and efficient options are available for our customers."

The group's latest batch of concerns -- everything from increased traffic to "negative impact on efforts to develop Southern Dallas" -- follows. And you'll note: They say if the city wants to up the franchise fee, fine, just don't tell 'em where to dump. But Suhm, so far, is undeterred in at least considering the option.

"The people that are talking to you make their living this way, and it's a public responsibility to gather up trash," the city manager says. "That's our responsibility. What we're doing is looking at the way it's done. In the middle of June we'll look at several [revenue-generating] options, including flow control. It's done different ways in different places. But waste will be a resource because you can turn it into energy in the future. Do you want resources your community is producing going outside the community?"

Suhm says she's more than willing to listen to the solid-waste industry, but one idea she's vehemently opposed to is privatizing the landfill or trash collection. She says that when the city tried that years ago in Northeast Dallas, "we got rid of all our equipment, and the citizens and council members had a fit." And that was that.

The National Solid Wastes Management Association's letter to council -- "The Problems With Flow Control" -- follows.
The purpose of this document is to share with you information provided to the consultant retained by the City of Dallas to obtain industry comments on flow control. The NSWMA members represented here are responsible for the collection of approximately 70% of the commercial waste stream in Dallas.

Problems with Flow Control

The city's consultant mentioned utilizing three transfer stations would help address concerns about travel times and traffic to Southern Dallas. In fact, this would add an additional cost of between $3.6 and $5.4 million dollars to the cost of handling and trucking and negatively impact traffic. The bottom line is that 900 thousand tons of waste would still be trucked to Southern Dallas using up the city's landfill capacity and requiring millions of dollars in equipment upgrades and additional staffing by the city because commercial waste operations run on a 24/7 basis throughout the year. The city's transfer stations are currently open during the day. The other disadvantages of flow control include:

  • Shortens the life of the city's only landfill
  • Reduces price competition thus raising costs for commercial customers
  • Has city taking over a function already provided by private industry
  • Increases traffic on city's busiest highways I-35(E), I-30, U.S. 75, U.S. 45
  • Has a negative impact on the environment
  • Has a negative impact on efforts to develop Southern Dallas
  • Is difficult or impossible to enforce
  • Higher landfill prices encourage illegal dumping and cheating
  • Possible business loss and income of smaller haulers
Adjusting The Franchise Fee is a Better Way to Address Budget Issues

Our members strongly recommend that the city consider raising the current four percent franchise fee, if additional revenue is needed. The franchise fee is:

  • A proven process that is already in place and working
  • Preserves competition and the free enterprise system
  • Enforceable through audits
  • Requires no additional investment by the city
  • Preserves valuable space in city's only landfill
  • Has no negative impact on the environment
  • No negative impact on Southern Dallas
In the longer term, we urge the city to review all Sanitation Department operations to see if they meet today's best practices. Possible options include outsourcing residential trash pick-up and recycling. Most major cities have sold their landfill operations to avoid future environmental liability and generate hundreds of millions of dollars to fund city operations. The same option is available for the City of Dallas.

NSWMA members are world leaders in recycling, residential and commercial waste collection and landfill operations. NSWMA stand ready work with you to make dramatic, long-lasting improvements in city operations that will help address budget issues now and in the future.
My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
Kenneth Council
Kenneth Council

Support the District Attorney Watkins and help get millions from MERS. 

HotBat
HotBat

The Queen has spoken but it is obvious that she is spitting out the crap that the Sanitation Director - Mary Nix - is feeding her. I bet M Nix showed the queen all kinds of nice looking numbers that she made up and fudged using "Nix math." The reason the landfill doesn't make money anymore is because of the rate increases a fee years ago, the contracts offered to large haulers that were ill conceived and not enforced so the city lost money, poor billing practices, allowing haulers who were not paying their bills to continue using the landfill and too much spent on administrative costs for an organization that is very top heavy and provided very poor customer service, That is why no one wants to be forced to use the city's landfill because, when given a choice in the FREE MARKET, no one would want to do business with the City of Dallas Sanitation Department. You provide a terrible service, your department leaders are callous and condescending, you give preferential treatment to "certain" haulers (non minorities like rest of the landfill/department's leadership) and you just flat out lie to everyone including the Queen and the Dallas City Council (do you read me loud and clear, Ms. Koop and Ms. Medrano?). The landfill is losing money because your expenses are bloated and your customers have walked....some without paying!! Someone call on the auditor!!

Angela
Angela

the citizens should really be concerned about filling up the Dallas landfill any faster than the current rate.  The city is very short sited in the flow control proposal.  Look at Ft worth , they dont own a landfill, they are at the mercy of the private landfills, owned by the big 3 haulers. There are very few small haulers in FW area because those private landfills dont allow other comapnies to dump there.  Unless they sign a guarantee of how much tonnage they will bring in, which is impossible at the rates they charge.  They squeeze out any competitors. Mccommas Bluffs landfill may be Dallas' best asset.  It keeps competiton alive and rates low.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

"But waste will be a resource because you can turn it into energy in the future. Do you want resources your community is producing going outside the community?"

Let me get this straight, on the one hand, Queen Mary Suhm is trying to chase all the privately-owned recycling businesses out of Dallas, because they are somehow evil; yet, on the other, she wants to monopolize and increase the size of the city dump (and perhaps add three waste transfer stations elsewhere in the City in the process)?!?!?

I am so tired of Suhm and here lying, sneaky ways.  JonnyDallas' assessment is dead on correct.

matilda of tuscany
matilda of tuscany

This has all the makings of a Dallas-based Sopranos sequel.  Let me give you the plot in three acts:1)  City declares they will have Flow Control2)  "Waste" management hands cash to Dallas politicians--North Dallas pols get away with it, 50% of Southern Dallas City Council members get busted.3)  Meanwhile, Flow Control is completely forgotten about as an initiative

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

60 Million shortfall-!?!?!?!?!?    Why then did the city squander 10 million on attempts to redesign the McDermitt Suspension bridge?  It seems to me if you are cash strapped then you don't waste money on such foolishness. While the trash idea might have merit I seriously doubt any ability of the city or the staff to manage the cities affairs.   Look at the past record.  It speaks for itself.  Each time they deal with a budget shortfall afterwards they go on a spending/squandering spree.

Montemalone
Montemalone

I thought flow control had something to do with lady parts.

Trashtalk
Trashtalk

The most interesting thing about the city manager's comments are that she seems to feel she is the decision maker on these key issues. Was the council asked about selling the landfill or privatizing residential pickup? I thought elected officials set the policy on major issues facing the city?       

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

So it's come to this, to keep from going broke we have to FIGHT to build a mountain of trash in our own city?

Dallas is fucked.

Goodcitizen
Goodcitizen

Why should local businesses pay millions of dollars in extra costs to transport waste so that perhaps the city can use it in the future? That idea defies common sense. The cost of hauling 900 thousand tons of material to Southern Dallas will far exceed any money the city might someday generate from turning the waste into energy.  They city gets very little money from the gas produced there now. Fort Worth seems to be able to outsource its residential waste collection so why can't Dallas. Perhaps it is time for new leadership in the city manager's office. This type of thinking went out with the Model-T Ford.    

JonnyDallas
JonnyDallas

"But waste will be a resource because you can turn it into energy in the future. Do you want resources your community is producing going outside the community?"That is a straight up bullshit argument.

Angela
Angela

actually you are wrong, the BIG 3 trash companies ( IESI, Waste management, Republic) own their own landfills. those 3 haul 80% of trash in the metroplex. they want to take trash to their landfills and be charged much less than the city charges.  they will lose revenue at their landfills and have to raise their rates.  It will create a more even playing field for all trash companies if they all must go to the same landfill and pay the same rates.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I was just looking at some bond documents the other day--- did you know the City spent roughly $60 MILLION EXTRA, when they refinanced the Convention Center (a year before they had approval to build the hotel)?

Did you know that the City spent $42 million for the Convention Center hotel land, yet only got reimbursed $30 million when they did the bond issue, leaving them stuck with a remaining $12 MILLION LOSS on the land?

Did you know that the City spent $13 MILLION for a fountain in Fair Park; and they can't even afford to operate it?

Mary Suhm has completely torn apart the City's finances through wasteful spending that boggles the mind.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Mary Suhm likes to make her own policies, then just make up a bunch of facts supporting her argument and then try to slip them by Council.

You know the current controversy over natural gas drilling-- that all came from an idea that Mary Suhm pulled out of her *ss--- she came up with idea of allowing drilling all over the City to make money; now Council members are the ones having to deal with it.

Angela
Angela

FW has no choice but to outsource its residential ( and accept really crummy service).  FW doesnt own a landfill.  the landfill owners demand they haul and get paid for hauling the trash to their own landfill.  landfill owners wont allow FW to bring its citizens trash to their privately owned landfills.

matilda of tuscany
matilda of tuscany

Actually, we should be bypassing the waste entirely and capturing most of it as compost at home.

matilda of tuscany
matilda of tuscany

Angela, those 3 corporations have every incentive to "persuade" voting Council Members to keep the status quo, not that stuff like my hypothetical Sopranos episode ever happens in Dallas.  Ever (Inland Port, Dallas Development Boards, yada yada yada).

I appreciate the cost and quality initiative, just have cynicism over the end result.  Maybe I'm wrong--we seem to finally have voted 2 Council Members with both a soul and sound mind onto the Council this go-round.

If the vote doesn't go the way of business, there will be lawsuits.  I expect there will be Council Members who will try to go out of their way to keep that from happening.  Maybe they'll even stay out of prison.  Maybe, sigh, we'll hire a consultant.

Nature, Waste Management and Power--all abhor a vacuum.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...