City of Waco clears hurdle in bid to build new landfill next to historic Central Texas cemetery

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 5:38 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The City of Waco struck a deal with a cemetery association and cleared another hurdle as it moves to build a new landfill near Axtell.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, the City approved a proposal to spend $200,000 for improvements to a cemetery that will eventually be surrounded on three sides by the new landfill on FM 939 near State Highway 31.

Bill Kirkland, who has a number of ancestors buried in the TK Cemetery, is also on the cemetery association. Initially, his family was vehemently opposed to the landfill project but relented when they realized they were probably fighting a losing battle.

“We would have never thought that something like this would have come along. I guess you have to say progress. Unfortunately, it was progress in the wrong direction for us,” said Kirkland, who now lives in Temple.

“At one point, all the land in this area belonged to my Great-Grandfather. He donated the land for the cemetery and the town of Tekay. It was eventually shortened to TK,” said Kirkland.

“With the railroad coming thru, they needed a way to get their cattle to market. It was something that all the families in the area would benefit from.”

The cemetery is all that remains of the long forgotten railroad town. Kirkland’s great-grandfather, Thomas Augustus Kirkland, is buried prominently in the cemetery. So are his grandparents and his parents.

One day, Kirkland, his wife, and his son will be buried there too.

“It’s still our cemetery. That’s just a resting place for this old human body and we all know that. We can deal with that,” Kirkland said.

$170,000 will be spent on new fencing, vegetative barriers and trees that will be planted around the perimeter, among other things. $30,000 will be given to the association to spend as they see fit.

Kirkland doesn’t see this as selling out his family legacy, rather, it’s a way to continue the family tradition of making sacrifices to help others.

“That’s the way my great-grandfather was, and my grandfather. I remember if someone needed something my parents would get us all to pitch in to help. That’s just the way we did things,” Kirkland said.

After all, cemeteries and gravesites are really for the living. Kirkland believes who you’re buried next to matters more than what you’re buried next to.

“Number one, I won’t care. Pile rocks on top of me. It really doesn’t matter. Would I prefer different? Yes. Anyone would. But I’m not really going to care. Number two, this will be our final resting place. I just want to be close to my family,” Kirkland said.

The final decision to drop the opposition came when the association was approached by the City in what Kirkland says was a thoughtful, considerate way.

“We had reconciled ourselves to the fact that this was coming. We had no idea that the City was going to approach us in a neighborly fashion and give us this proposal that they did,” Kirkland said.

“We discussed this and talked about trying to pay our own lawyer and fight this. There are a few lawyers in our group. So they were saying it’s not something that’s going to do any good. I really feel bad for the families who are still living out there who will be effected in a lot of ways.”

Mayor Dillion Meek and Assistant Waco City Manager Paul Cain were instrumental in hammering out the details of the proposal that they say they wanted to do as an effort to be good neighbors.

“We’re thankful to have had the chance to sit down at the table and work toward solutions with neighbors. This moment represents a commitment to developing strong partnerships,” Meek said.

Agreements still need to be reached with a handful of families who live in the area, but the City continues to seek the necessary permits from the state to build the landfill.

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