WACO, Texas (KWTX) A public meeting on a future landfill for the City of Waco didn't turn out the way many residents anticipated.
(Photo by Rissa Shaw)
"There's a lot of people walking out of here mad saying this was a complete joke," said Brad Holland, chair of the Citizens Against the Highway 84 Landfill.
It was advertised as a "public meeting about 'Landfill Future Planning'" at the Bledsoe Miller Community Center, leading people to believe it would be in the traditional format of a public forum where city officials field questions from a crowd.
Instead, the event was held in the facility's gymnasium where city and county employees were stationed at tables with posters about various garbage-related topics, answering questions from citizens one-on-one.
"They wanted a time to come and say that they are opposed to the landfill, and this is just a propaganda session," said Holland.
City leaders said they wanted to not only discuss the landfill, but also educate the public about the entire solid waste process, and correct any false or misleading information about one of the proposed landfill sites that's come under the microscope.
"There has been a great deal of misinformation, but there are valid concerns out there and we want to try to address those the best we can," Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said.
"No one wants a landfill near them, I do understand that, and that's what makes this process so difficult."
The event was held in preparation of an upcoming decision on the future site of the city's next landfill.
One of the four proposed sites, located off Highway 84 and Old Lorena Road, and the only site that's been made public, has drawn much controversy, particularly from nearby neighbors who have already had to live next to the city's current landfill for decades.
"We're not too proud or too haughty to say we don't need a landfill, it's just a question of placing that in Waco's greatest asset for a direction to expand," said Bob Kromer who lives in the Twin Rivers neighborhood.
Those against it say it's not just a "not in my backyard" issue.
"We understand that we need a place to put trash, it doesn't need to go 15 miles from our city center, and it doesn't need to go in an area that sacrifices our city, and that's really what we're saying," said Holland.
While one group has been especially outspoken, Deaver said the landfill affects the whole city, not just one neighborhood, and they have to take other people into consideration, too.
"The city council has to balance the interest of the neighbors who live in the vicinity of the landfill, and all the residents of the city of Waco, and it's not an easy task, and we're doing the best that we can to try to sort that out," said Deaver.
Some people at the meeting were concerned that the three alternative sites, (which were recently presented to council members by engineers during a closed session Deaver said had to be confidential by law because of the potential for entering into financial negotiations if a site had to be purchased), were not being made public to be discussed, and that other options, like using a landfill outside of the city, weren't being seriously considered.
"Like anything else, I think when we do this, we should look at all the alternatives to this, I don't think one solution is always the best," said Shane Allen with the Waco Association of Realtors.
Deaver said the council had not made a decision yet and were still considering all four options.
However, the city's current landfill only has a life left of six or seven years, so a decision would need to be made soon.
Holland wasn't optimistic.
"I wish the city would listen, but with meetings like this, we get the idea they're not listening whatsoever," he said.