Before the Council Talks Trash This Morning ...

Categories: City Hall
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No doubt most of you aren't all that concerned where your garbage gets dumped, so long as it's picked up and hauled off on time. That said, the subject's slowly but surely becoming a hot topic at City Hall, as City Manager Mary Suhm and Sanitation Services Director Mary Nix make their solid-waste case to keep all of Dallas' trash in the city limits beginning with this morning's council briefing.

For one, they insist the methane-capturing technology at the McCommas Bluff Landfill is only going to increase opportunities to convert garbage into gold. And, they say, forcing trucks to dump at Dallas-owned facilities, rather than allowing them to go to one of the dozen other landfills outside the city limits, will bring in an additional $13 to $15 million annually. The solid waste industry disagrees. Strongly. But those folks aren't alone.

Last night, Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell told KXAS-Channel 5 that having all those extra trucks heading to the landfill won't do the school any favors: "No one wants to live close to a great big garbage dump. If they did, all the folks that are talking about doing it would put it in their neighborhood." In a press release that follows, Gerry Henigsman, executive vice president of the Greater Dallas Apartment Association, says "the cost of trash collection is a major budget item for our members who do not want to pass higher costs on to our residents in terms of higher rents."

And council member Vonciel Jones Hill writes in an email to city staff that was forwarded to Unfair Park that she is "absolutely and adamantly opposed" to directing all trash to McCommas because "it is detrimental to the economic enhancement of our southern sector." I tried to talk to Hill about this yesterday, but was told she's unavailable till tomorrow due to her son's graduation today. Anyway. The industry's call for a task-force review of City Hall's trash pick-up practices follows, as does the Channel 5 piece.

View more videos at: http://nbcdfw.com.

Industry Leaders Call for Task Force to Review City of Dallas Sanitation Operations

Study Would Include Flow Control, Outsourcing Residential Collections and the City Landfill

Dallas, Texas (June 1, 2011) - Industry leaders from the solid waste disposal industry say Dallas officials have underestimated the costs of implementing flow control. They have called for a task force to review the city's Sanitation Department to see if privatization of all or part of its functions could save the city as much as $15 million a year.

The flow control ordinance being proposed by the city staff would require that all commercial waste be hauled to far Southern Dallas even when less expensive and more convenient disposal sites are available. The region is currently served by 12 state licensed and regulated landfills geographically dispersed throughout the region. Many are less expensive to use than the city's single landfill at McCommas Bluff. The extra cost for needless miles driven and higher disposal fees would significantly raise the cost of disposal.

"The city staff presentation supporting flow control is based on wishful thinking, rather than hard facts," said Tom Brown, Texas President of the National Solid Waste Management Association (NSWMA). "The problem for local businesses, schools, hospitals and other generators of commercial waste is that the proposal takes millions of dollars out of their pockets immediately."

"In addition, the city staff has ignored industry experts who say the city could save an additional $15 million a year by continuing the nationwide trend of privatizing solid waste collection services," said Tom Brown, Texas president of the National Solid Waste Management Association (NSWMA), whose members serve thousands of commercial customers in Dallas. "The presentation being made to the city council today does not provide enough detail or options to help the council make an informed decision that will be good for the future of the entire community."

Industry Experts Dispute City Figures

City staff claim flow control would capture 850,000 tons of additional waste that would generate $18,000,000 in revenue. However, waste industry experts say it will take an estimated additional $6,000,000 in capital expenditures to handle the additional volume created by flow control in the first year and then approximately another $2,000,000 in operating expenses every year thereafter. The additional material would also require new cell construction costing about $3,000,000 per year. After all of the expenses all that remains is $7,000,000 in profit for the general fund in the first year, not the $14 to $17 million that staff represents.

NSWMA Offers A Better Solution

The NSWMA is recommending the city adjust the current franchise fee. Adjusting the franchise fee from 4 percent to 12 percent would generate an additional $8,000,000 per year with no additional capital investment from the city. In addition, unlike flow control, the franchise fee is easily enforced. "Council members requested that we help them identify ways to generate additional income for the city," said Brown. "Our industry has done that in a responsible manner that does not have unintended negative consequences for the entire community."

"The most disturbing part of the city presentation is that it ignores serious problems flow control will create on day one of its implementation," said Brown. "It does not address the environmental impact of hauling 850,000 tons of waste on some of the city's most congested highways or the impact of higher transportation costs and landfill fees on businesses, schools, churches, hospitals and others in the community. In addition, the city staff has not addressed the concerns expressed by Southern Dallas council members about the impact of flow control on their communities."

"In today's difficult economic times it is vital that we look at a department this large from every angle including whether its work would be more efficiently performed by the private sector," said Brown. "While the city should be rightfully proud of some of its accomplishments in this area there is no independent review to show citizens are getting the best value for their hard earned tax dollars."

"Suggesting that privatization doesn't work because of events that took place several decades ago is ridiculous," said Brown. "Dallas should be looking toward best practices which for most communities includes privatizing sanitation services."

"We are very concerned about the potential cost increase flow control would create for our members," said Gerry Henigsman, Executive Vice President of the Greater Dallas Apartment Association. "The cost of trash collection is a major budget item for our members who do not want to pass higher costs on to our residents in terms of higher rents."

The Reason Foundation estimates that competitive delivery of solid waste services typically generates cost savings on the order of 20 to 40 percent because private companies have the economies of scale to spread investment, environmental protection and procurement costs. Most major U.S. cities have turned over ownership of their landfills to private enterprise, including Houston, San Antonio, Austin, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Fort Worth and Arlington have private management of their facilities.

According to a 1995 study done by the Reason foundation, 120 local governments in 34 states found that between 1987 and 1995, the percentage of cities contracting out for solid waste collection increased by 20 percent and that 100 percent of participants saw cost savings from this approach.


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12 comments
waste transfer stations
waste transfer stations

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Trashtalk
Trashtalk

The transfer station doesn't have the ability to separate anything. That may be true someday in the future but it isn't the case today. Right now everything would be trucked to the South at great expense to businesses, schools, churches and the enviornment.

Abby Standing
Abby Standing

Listen to Pete y'all.  1.  The transfer station, after the trash is separated will only move 20% of the trash to the landfill; all the rest is usable.  Fifty percent of all the garbage is paper, plastic, and metals, which can be sold.  The 30% left is organics which can be transformed to methane, just like in the landfill now, but above ground.  Twenty percent is unusable and goes to the landfill.  No EXTRA trucks, they are already moving to the landfill and the transfer stations.  The college president is in a position to have lots of money to help him clean up his neighborhood and add programs in science, biology and engineering to his curricula, because of this separation technology.  PLUS, add approx. $10 million annually for every 2,000 tons per day of waste.  Without flow control, it equals about 5,000 tons per day.  It's more than double that with flow control.  You do the math!

Trashtalk
Trashtalk

Pete is missing the point.  Even if haulers take some material to the Northwest Transfer Station the city will then have to spend millions of dollars buying trucks and hauling it South to McCommas. How does that make sense? Who do you think will pay for all those trucks and the cost of hauling to the landfill. Transfer stations within 50 miles of a landfill are wasteful, inefficient and are costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Haulers would prefer to leave the system and franchise fee the way it is. But if the city needs additional funds raising the franchise fee avoids all the traffic, pollution and enviornmental problems for the Southern sector cause by flow control.  In addition, if you check carefully you will see the city got the short end of the gas contract as well. 

Pete
Pete

First, it is disingenous of the waste haulers to say flow control would result in higher rates passed on to their customers and not admit that their idea of raising the franchise fee would raise those rates even more, especially when those franchise fees would have to be raised to 24 percent of revenue to make up for the lost income. Second, not all the trucks have to take their trash to McCommas Bluff. Those collecting in the northern part of the city could take their trash to the Bachman Transfer Station. And, what the waste haulers are not telling you is that right now, most of them take their trash even further south, to a landfill in Ferris. Third, if you listened to the speakers before today's presentation the resulting environmental programs at the landfill would create hundreds of much-needed jobs in the southern sector of the city. For the life of me, I can't see how anyone who cares about our environment or our economic well-being can oppose this idea.

LaceyB
LaceyB

All of this trash talk reminds me of living on campus at UTD around the time that the Observer covered the article about Waterview and how totally unmonitored and sorta unsafe/racist the landowners were.

Not sure if they covered the garbage element, which was only picked up every two weeks, but, we used to drive by and laugh, bc it would be overflowing. During summer, the apartments 50ft away from the dump would complain that their houses "smelled like a sewer". The apartment said it was the city's issue--the city blamed the apartment.

It still makes me bust up laughing inappropriately.

cp
cp

Fine then. Build a new landfill somewhere NOT in the Southern Sector. 

lorlee
lorlee

We already hardly pay our garbage people -- Imagine if we privatize, they will get even less.

Downtown_resident
Downtown_resident

So by 2015 we will be powering our cars with trash? Finally, a Back to the Future prediction that comes true! Now I want a hoverboard.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Let me get this straight--- Mary Nix's rationale for this crazy scheme is that some unidentified CEO of a major company supposedly said that at some point in the future, this trash could become so valuable that people would be paid for their trash.  As a result, Nix wants to establish a trash monopoly and charge all trash haulers mandatory fees to bring their trash to the city dump.  Maybe it's me, but I'm having a REALLY hard time understanding her logic.

Also, her statement that the trucks are "already within the city" misses the point entirely.  The concern is that every trash truck operating anywhere within the city limits of Dallas (even all the way up north in Collin County) will be forced to make a daily trip to single collection point in South Dallas.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

It's solely about the fees.  No concern about the extra costs involved for the non-city trucks or the wear to the city streets.  Or the neighborhoods where the transfer stations would be built.  And in the future, if there really is a viable source of energy coming from methane generation, hasn't the City already signed a contract with T. Boone Pickens giving him the rights to the methane?

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

So, why does she have to make up a silly story?  It seems like everyone in the City's senior management takes their cues from Mary Suhm and just instinctively chooses to lie and/or obfuscate the truth.

They should really try being honest and forthcoming--- it actually has a lot to recommend itself as a successful means of behaving.

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