SAN ANGELO, TX — City leaders want to move the San Angelo landfill from its current location at 3002 Old Ballinger Highway on San Angelo’s northeast side. The landfill has been owned by the City of San Angelo since 1984 who hired Republic Services (and two previous companies Republic bought out years ago) to manage it. The old landfill has less than 10 years of life left as it is filling up according to schedule. Now, City officials are in the process of studying moving the location of the landfill to a City Farm tract located near the Tom Green County Detention Facility.
City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said it was too soon to publicly announce the plans and remained mum on the anticipated move. Mayor Brenda Gunter said the move should be considered because the landfill is approaching a critical milestone as all cells currently licensed by the TCEQ have only a few years of use. She views the real estate near the proposed Interstate 27 that is projected to follow a path slightly north of FM 2105 as an opportunity to attract more commercial business. The landfill, though not adjacent to FM 2015, is still in the way of her vision.
The new landfill location will also benefit the City in road usage. Bell Street, undergoing its recent renovation, sits in the pathway of the existing landfill and large trash trucks are tough on the pavement that City taxpayers are on the hook to fix. At the proposed and new location, trucks will traverse a county road and then feed onto Loop 306/Houston Harte Expressway. Neither roadway is maintained by the City roads department. Instead the County and TxDOT will maintain the roads.
Relocating the landfill is not without its challenges. The first is cost. As shown to us, the City is required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to study the soil at the proposed new landfill location — a siting and hydrogeological study. Studies like these are expensive and the risk is spending a small fortune before failing to gain State of Texas approval for the new location. The cost of opening a landfill once permitted can run as much as $500,000 per acre, or in San Angelo’s case, about $10 to $12 million. On the other hand, adding height to the existing landfill by licensing with the State for the capability to pile trash and dirt up 50 feet higher than the current permit allows may offer a 30- to 50-year life extension to the existing landfill at a reduced cost.
Where there is risk, there is also conflict.
Mayor Brenda Gunter has the appearance of a conflict of interest when considering moving the landfill. She owns 96.063 acres between the former Martifer-Hirschfeld windmill manufacturing facility and the Paul Ann subdivision. The existing landfill sits just north of the Old Ballinger Highway across and north from Hirschfeld’s facility. Brenda Gunter’s late husband Ken owned land all over the county and Brenda has continued participating in some development projects. I asked her about those 96 acres.
“Ken and I had our last big argument over this property,” Gunter recalled. The land was purchased in March 2009 from Max Jacobs’ Frontier Real Estate and is now is owned by Gunter & Jacobs Holdings Co LLC. Gunter recalled that at the time of the land purchase Ken was thinking the Martifer Hirschfeld joint venture would expand thus making the land more valuable.
“Of course, we all know how that turned out,” Gunter said with a tinge of sarcasm.
Text messages detailing the Gunter land near the landfill have landed in the cell phones of fellow City Council members, but Gunter is undeterred. The land was purchased in 2009 long before Gunter thought she’d consider running for mayor.
“That this is being used against me is another reason why I really hated this land deal,” Gunter said.
Gunter said her only motivation for considering the landfill move is for the City Council to make the best decision in light of the proposed routing of the interstate. More valuable commercial and industrial property along the interstate fulfills Gunter’s principle self-described mission: More planes, trains and automobiles reduces the tax burden on residential property owners. The area north of the existing landfill along the interstate can usher in a golden age of Buc-ee’s, truck stops, and freight haulers. What’s more, there is already a rail port near there, too.
The City of San Angelo trash collection contract went into effect August 1, 2014 after a lengthy battle with competitor Texas Disposal Systems and is in effect for the life of the landfill. The contract states that Republic Services will pay for the closure and post closure requirements and this can be expensive. Republic will also be held liable for any issues that come up after the landfill is closed. Meanwhile, landfill closure means Republic will likely have to re-compete for the contract to manage the new landfill. You can imagine Republic is against the idea.
Permitting the landfill to a greater height that adds to the lifespan is therefore likely in Republic Services’ best interest. Republic representative Joseph Spano would not comment on the issue but a detailed proposal to add lifespan onto the existing landfill by permitting it to a greater height has been delivered to the City. None of the City Council members we talked to had seen the proposal, however.
For now, the prospect of moving the landfill has not been mentioned publicly but many who watch the City are talking about it.