Divided Dallas Council Approves Trash Plan

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011  |  Updated 6:46 PM CDT
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A small victory for neighbors of the McCommas Bluff Landfill near I-45 and I-20 who wanted a grocery store instead of more garbage truck traffic.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

A small victory for neighbors of the McCommas Bluff Landfill near I-45 and I-20 who wanted a grocery store instead of more garbage truck traffic.

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All Dallas garbage must now go to the city's McCommas Bluff Landfill, doubling truck traffic to the area, after a sharply divided City Council vote Wednesday.

The "Flow Control" plan first unveiled in May forecasts that Dallas trash will be treasure in the future as recycling technology and methods for turning waste into energy improve.

City officials say high-tech businesses would spring up around the landfill in the future with the additional volume of garbage. The size of the landfill may actually decline over time as stored garbage is used as fuel, the city says.

Private haulers collect commercial waste in Dallas, much of which is taken to private landfills outside the city limits.

City officials estimate it costs Dallas taxpayers up to $18 million that would otherwise be collected in landfill fees at McCommas Bluff.

"That is the fundamental issue," Mayor Mike Rawlings said. "I am going to vote for the taxpayers."

Private haulers and landfill owners lobbied heavily against the change.

"All the community and my clients are asking you to do is put this on hold and look at all of the options," public relations consultant David Margulies told the council. "It's going to turn out to be a bad decision, it will generate more negative press, and there are better things you can do to ease your concerns about having money for parks."

Neighbors around the city landfill near Interstate 45 and Interstate 20 complained that increased truck traffic could further discourage development in the already blighted area.

"It does not promote, in my opinion, economic development," Councilman Vonciel Hill said. "In my opinion, it stymies economic development."

Paul Quinn College is on Simpson Stuart Road on the other side of I-45 from the landfill. Dozens of students wore T-shirts that read, "We are not trash," to the meeting.

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Nash of Mount Tabor Baptist Church said the neighborhood has heard promises of economic development for many years.

"It's insulting when our economic development project for our community is the same old same old, and one that North Dallas wouldn't tolerate," he said.

To appease critics, the city also promised $1 million of the additional landfill money each year for a community improvement program, and Nash supported the deal.

"Let's not get amnesia about our community partnering once the deal is done," he said.

Councilman Tennell Atkins said discussions are underway with a developer about a new grocery store on Simpson Stuart Road.

Rawlings promised to form a task force with "the best and the brightest" to see that the environmental and economic development promises of flow control are met, and that the community is involved.

"This is a moment of truth for the city of Dallas to decide whether we're going to find something to improve Southern Dallas or if we're just going to talk a good game," Rawlings said.

The City Council approved the trash plan by a 9-6 vote. The council rejected a motion 8-7 to delay the plan for 90 days of additional study.

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