Knee-Deep in the Waste Stream as Sanitation Services Head Mary Nix Talks Flow Control

Categories: City Hall
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Reason I missed Sanitation Services head Mary Nix last week was because she was on a plane bound for California -- Roseville, specifically, site of a "resource recovery" facility that converts trash into renewable energy. Which means ... get ready ... we're about to talk about flow control, the proposed ordinance that would direct all solid waste collected in the city of Dallas to the McCommas Bluff Landfill or the Bachman Transfer Station.

A year ago this was a proposed revenue-raiser that went nowhere at council. But on August 17, following a contentions back-and-forth at City Hall in June, it returns to the horseshoe. City Manager Mary Suhm told us last week's she balancing the budget, which debuts Friday, without adding in flow control. But as far as she and Nix are concerned, the council would be wise to get into the "trash-to-treasure" business sooner than later, despite the concerns of trash-haulers who say that'll lead to myriad unforeseen problems.

"It has a lot of good benefits for the city from an environmental perspective," Nix tells Unfair Park. "To recover waste and reuse it has both an economic and environmental impact. ... We're getting value from methane, the degrading waste, which is sustainable and reusable energy. We wouldn't be able to do that if we weren't enforcing a strong environmental ethic in our administration, and that's what's driving us."

Speaking of driving, on the other side Nix addresses the issue of increased trash-truck traffic to the Southern sector -- a concern of a few council members and some local leaders, among them Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell, who's in the path of that traffic on Simpson Stuart and who recently said, "Economic development can come in many forms, but it starts with people being properly nourished -- that's food, not refuse." Let's jump, but watch where you step.

I asked Nix why flow control went nowhere last year when it was originally proposed and why it's being pushed now. Why is it so imperative to get this done now?

"It may look like it's become important in the last few months because it's gotten more scrutiny, but it's been an interest from our department and the City Manager's Office in the last couple of years," she says. "Our interest in trying to regain as much of the waste stream to be reused had increased once the Supreme Court upheld decisions in other parts of the country that allowed a municipality to govern its waste stream.

"I am not sure it's an imperative. [Suhm] offered it to council as an idea, and they have provided her feedback as to their interest in pursuing it, and once they said, 'Go tell us more,' that's when she said, 'Put together information to tell the council more.'"

I also asked her about the solid-waste haulers' concerns that the city was already negotiating with some businesses, among them one headed by former Dallas City Manager Richard Knight and another called GCI, which appear in those emails procured under their open-records request. She says Knight "initiated contact, and the city manager indicted there was a meeting to be had. But it's not like there's a head-of-the-line deal. Anyone who has something valid to speak about, she'll speak with. GGI, which was a separate corporation, they made a request and had a valid request, and we've meet with them and every corporation that comes forward and says, 'We have an interesting idea about what to do you with your rubbish.'"

It's unclear where the council is on the issue. A couple of members to whom Unfair Park has spoken are back and forth on the issue: They like the concept of turning trash into a energy they can sell, but share some of their colleagues' concerns about the increase in trash and traffic to the McCommas Bluff Landfill. I asked Nix whether she's been trying to sell the council on the concept.

"I don't persuade them," she says. "My job is to provide them with information and give them as much information as possible to let them draw their own conclusions. I am one of many information sources they seek."

As for that traffic issue: Yes, she acknowledges, it's real. Suhm said the same thing when we spoke last week: "That's the most challenging thing." What says Nix?

"The question is, will they go north or south on Central or south or east and west on I-20?" she says. "There may be 200, 300 more trucks a day entering the landfill, maybe less if they use Bachman Transfer. The council needs to decide: Is that a significant number, a noticeable number, or well worth the value or not? The roadways affected would be I-45, I-20, the exit off I-45, which is Simpson Stuart, and the parallel street to 45, which is 310, or old Central Expressway.

"They would see a significant amount of truck traffic associated with the Inland Port that would be far more significant. I-20 is a truck route. So the number of trucks there seems rather a small fraction. The landfill already takes in 1,000 to 1,200 trucks a day -- an additional 200 300 is notable, but our trash trucks operating in that area are a small minority of the truck traffic in that part of town. But, yes, it's noticeable."
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Tree Service Roseville MN
Tree Service Roseville MN

   This is a really good read for me. Must agree that you are one of the coolest blogger I ever saw. Thanks for posting this useful information. This was just what I was on looking for. I'll come back to this blog for sure!

W W
W W

Hmmm.. Clean ? Dirty ?This 8-4-11 Schutze excerpt (Price Investigation..)  makes me think we SHOULD swing a deal with Allen.. If for no other reason, than to cheer Jim up.. and who knows.. maybe others.

___________________________________________________________________________

"This guy saying that he was pressured is just a bunch of crap," Ravkind says. "This guy didn't have any money. That was the main problem he had with the Inland Port. He couldn't have pulled it off in a thousand years."

Allen is out of bankruptcy now and has told me the Inland Port project is back up and running, open for business. I understand Ravkind's strategy: If this is all going to be about the Inland Port and the way Price treated Allen, then Ravkind has got to dirty Allen up in order to make his own client look better.

My heart sinks a bit at what Ravkind is telling me, however, because it means Allen is in for another round of horse-whipping when Price gets indicted, which everyone including Ravkind agrees will happen at some point.

Man comes here and buys 5,000 acres, tries to create 60,000 clean, well-paid jobs in southern Dallas — I don't know if what happened to Allen was political or criminal. It was just bad.

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scottindallas
scottindallas

Are there other dumping stations?  Am I right that this is about closing Fair Oaks?  (which is more a way station for the city than private citizens and contractors, who only have access to the facility on Wed, Sat and Sun.)  Rob't, what do all those words you keep writing mean?  What does flow control mean?  Forcing people to go to either Bachman or McCommas Bluff?  Again, since all our trash goes there, save the wood that is mulched at Bachman, how does this change a thing?  It seems the FO station saves miles and time for the city trucks operating in N. and N.E. Dallas.  Sorry, but the article uses Nix's jargon and never defines/describes what is being proposed.

Trashman
Trashman

"I don't persuade them," she says. "My job is to provide them with information and give them as much information as possible to let them draw their own conclusions. I am one of many information sources they seek."

BS. Nix has been trying to sell this idea to the council since 2010 and was taken by surprise when the media and council members found her presentations lacked real facts or substance. When she couldn't carry the load an assistant city manager was sent into the fray for the next briefing. When that didn't work they scheduled still another briefing. Council members have confirmed that Mary Suhm is trying to sell them on flow control with private meetings...probably holding the budgets for district projects hostage as a strategy to gain support. In the meantime businesses are getting the message - it is less expensive to do business anywhere else in the region.

W W
W W

I could envision a place.. maybe South of I-20..(someplace that has rail lines.)that would act as a "sorting" location. (That would be the first step, right?)The un-useable stuff could be put in special "compactor" railcars, (complete with an ejection device)..The contents then delivered and buried at the methane producing site.The stuff that can be re-cycled would be shipped to specific processors of that material.

W W
W W

The McCommas Bluff Landfill is scheduled to close in 2042..

With all this far-sightedness, where is the next Landfill going to be located?What can be done to make it more " recycle ready" ??

Trashman
Trashman

Like a crooked used car salesman Mary Suhm is trying to push this through by claiming the city will loose something valuable if the council doesn't act now. I saw the same act at a pitch for time shares. Dallas has lived without flow control for decades and doesn't need to suddenly push through an unvetted process offered by a few insiders.  Exactly how much would the city lose? Almost all the profits from the methane gas go to the company that operates a plant on the landfill. Dallas receives peanuts. Why no hearings before the enviornmental affairs committee, economic development committee or traffic committee? Why no RFP to make sure Dallas is getting the best technology available and taxpayers are getting the best deal? This smells to high heaven. Wouldn't be surprised to see the FBI showing up some day to examine exactly how this deal was done.    

scottindallas
scottindallas

So, all this is about closing Fair Oaks?  FO is only open to the public on Wed, Sat & Sun.  If Bachman is left open then I don't understand the big deal.  Is there another place to dump?  I wish FO had a space for plant/wood waste to be mulched up, though, I usually have to go to Living Earth over there anyway, so Bachman works ok for me.  I really don't understand what the hell she is talking about.  We've been drawing methane from the McCommas Bluff landfill for over a decade, all the trash from Fair Oaks and Bachman are taken to McCommas Bluff.  It can't help to force the bulk trash haulers to drive not to FO but McCommas, that would increase miles, gas wasted and non-productive time. 

ThatGuy
ThatGuy

No! Please don't close Fair Oaks.  It's all we have in the East for household detritus, limbs, etc.  They are no longer open on Sundays.  Three years ago, they diverted all wood  products down the hill for mulching.  I don't know why they stopped. 

Cityhallinsider
Cityhallinsider

Mary Nix belongs in Washington where there is little relationship between a politician's statement and the truth.  The more lies she puts on the record the more likely it will be that she "decides to spend more time with her family" when flow control turns out to be a huge waste of taxpayer dollars and a very limited source of new revenue. This issue isn't going away and there is going to be accountability when the promises made turn out to be untrue.         

Abby
Abby

OK insider... Do you know any of the numbers?  Do you know what a "tipping fee" is?  I didn't think so!  Flow control means the 5,000 tonsper day of waste which is transferred out of Dallas to private landfills is mandated into McCommas at $20 per ton.  You do the math if you can, which I doubt!  There are no taxpayer dollars at stake, and the $15 million per year to the city's budget is real!  Can you put water in the pools they're closing?  Can you make up the difference in the fee increase for landlords?  Nix went to a Materials Recycling Facility in California that takes about 50% of the recyclables straight from the garbage.  Did you know Dallas spends $12 million on their curbside program and sells $2 million worth of recyclables?BTW,  I thought your name was Cityhallinsider?  It seems all you are inside of is your own imagination.  Come on out and join the fun!

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