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Staff proposes backup recycling facility

Monday, June 27, 2011 by Michael Kanin

Solid Waste Services director Bob Gedert told Council Members on Thursday that the construction of Balcones Resources’ new recycling facility on Johnny Morris Road is on schedule. Should it remain that way, it would be completed by July 31, 2012.


However, in the event that Balcones is not ready to process its portion of the city’s residential single-stream recycling, the Council will consider using its Todd Lane transfer station as an interim solution. On a motion from Council Member Laura Morrison, Council delayed any formal action until a later date. Gedert estimates that he’ll have an idea sometime next April whether the Johnny Morris Road plant is still on target to open by October 1, 2012.


Balcones is scheduled to first accept its portion of the city’s residential recycling on that date. According to a deal finalized in April, that company will process 60 percent of that waste stream for at least three years. Texas Disposal Systems (TDS), which currently processes all of Austin’s residential single-stream recycling, will continue to handle 40 percent of the city’s glass, paper, and plastic.


TDS CEO Bob Gregory emailed a request to Council members on Monday morning that asked them to hold off on designating the Todd Lane facility as a back-up plan for Balcones. In the email, Gregory detailed seven concerns about that potential action.


The purpose for this email is to formally request that the City Council not give final approval to the City staff’s request for the City’s Todd Lane Transfer Station to be designated and used as the Balcones Resources Transition Facility to process the City’s residential single stream recyclables beginning October 1, 2012, until City staff has brought before Council the specific contract conditions related to the facility’s use,” he wrote.


Gregory’s worries included the fees that Balcones would pay to the city for the use of the Todd Lane facility, how long it might serve in that capacity, and that Balcones receive proper approval from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, if the firm was to use Todd Lane. Gregory further suggested that the city could simply extend TDS’ current contract if the Balcones facility wasn’t ready.


“We submit that the City does not need a Balcones Transition Facility, since it has access to the TDS facility until the Balcones Johnny Morris Road Designated Facility is operational, or as long as necessary,” Gregory wrote. “Further, it is the opinion of TDS that Balcones should not be entitled to receive any of the City’s recyclables volume until it upholds its end of the bargain by completing construction and testing of its Johnny Morris Road facility; especially since a Council approved Transition Facility could be used, instead of the Designated Facility, for an indefinite amount of time.”


Gedert said that if Balcones uses the Todd Lane facility, the company will reimburse the city for any costs it would incur. “It’s totally cost neutral for the city,” he told In Fact Daily.


Gedert also said that the TDS contract could be extended. However, he added that “Balcones would pay the agreed upon contract price for the recyclables,” a situation that would result, he says, “in more revenues.”


“If there is a need for a transition facility, we’ll look at all of the options and do a cost-benefit analysis,” he said.


Meanwhile, Gedert reported that the new contract between the city and TDS is finally completed. Gregory confirmed that the parties had agreed to all of the deal’s provisions. However, he noted that the city was still working on a handful of typos in the document.

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