Last June, we took a look at some moneymaking brainstorms Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm presented to the city council, which Suhm hoped would offset some of the $131-million budget shortfall with which she was faced at the time. Among them was one in particular that didn't get very far, or so it appeared: flow control, which ... all right, stop laughing ... involves the city being able to tell folks where they can dump their solid waste. Suhm said that by redirecting dump trucks to the McCommas Bluff Landfill from the dozen other regional disposal sites, the city could make anywhere from $14 million to $17 million in additional revenue.
The idea didn't get much traction at the time, but that doesn't mean it disappeared. Far from. With the city facing yet another budget shortfall -- anywhere from $60 to $100 million, depending on the state and feds' give and take -- flow control's still very much alive. In fact, I've spent the last day or two looking at some emails exchanged amongst city officials and waste-management execs in recent months as they try to figure out what next. Like, here's one from landfill manager Rick White, sent to City Hall colleagues back in November:
We can disguise and misdirect the issue all we want but the reality is the 6th bullet. .. "Increase revenue to Sanitation Services". In a city that used to take pride in being business friendly this might not fly as the primary reason to implement flow control. At some point the council needs to understand that this is a revenue enhancement that might not be very popular with business owners. I don't think this briefing is the place to do it though.
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Which brings us to today: The National Solid Wastes Management Association is in town through Thursday for its annual convention -- one of the Dallas Convention Center's biggest, with some 11,400 in attendance. And the group's president, Bruce Parker, took the occasion to meet with Mayor Dwaine Caraway this afternoon about flow control. The group sent a press release documenting its concerns, and Chris Heinbaugh in the mayor's office confirms he met with Parker today. Long story short, says the NSWMA North Texas president Tom Brown, flow control comes with unintended consequences: "High landfill prices lead to smaller companies illegally diverting their waste to other landfills or dumping it illegally. In addition, material from outside the city now going to the city landfill will be diverted to other less expensive facilities."
Jump for the whole release, but mind the mess.
Waste Industry Experts Meet With Top Dallas Officials to
Offer Alternatives to Controversial Flow Control
Dallas, Texas (May 10, 2011) - Leaders of the solid waste disposal industry told Dallas city leaders today that a proposal to force use of the city's McCommas Bluff landfill would cost local businesses millions of dollars in unnecessary expenses. City leaders were urged to look at an alternative program better for the business community and the environment.
The City of Dallas is considering imposing a process called Flow Control that would require all commercial waste collected in the city to be hauled to the McCommas Bluff landfill in Southern Dallas even if there are less expensive and more convenient landfills available. Currently 12 landfills serve the region.
"Our industry already contributes more than $10 - $15 million to the city budget," said Bruce J. Parker, president & CEO of the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA). "Adjusting the city's franchise fee would generate additional revenue without any additional infrastructure costs to the city and without the traffic and environmental problems caused by forcing millions of tons of waste into Southern Dallas. We can support such an increase.
"We are asking the city to work with our industry to achieve a solution that will be good for the economy, maintain competition and not create a city monopoly on disposal, which has been shown to drive up prices by as much as 40 percent in other cities," said Parker.
"Flow control is likely to have the unintended consequence of actually decreasing the city's income," said Tom Brown, NSWMA North Texas President. "High landfill prices lead to smaller companies illegally diverting their waste to other landfills or dumping it illegally. In addition, material from outside the city now going to the city landfill will be diverted to other less expensive facilities."
NSWMA experts caution that flow control is virtually impossible to enforce. "There is no way the city can follow every one of the 180 or so companies that currently use the city's landfill to see if they are complying with the law," said Brown.
"We are offering to work with the city to develop the most cost-effective sanitation department possible," said Parker. "We believe there are millions of dollars that can be saved by implementing best practices being applied successfully throughout the world."
"We are offering solutions to avoid a controversy that council members have told us they do not wish to see," said Parker.