Regional leaders appear to have formed a consensus on how best to distribute more than $2.6 million in expected profits from a regional landfill. The decision, which has not been formalized, comes as the Texoma Area Solid Waste Authority has seen a recent windfall and is projected to be generating more money than needed for operations and planned future growth later this fall.
The consensus was made during the Texoma Area Solid Waste Authority’s board of director’s meeting last week following about 10 minutes of discussion.
Going into the meeting, local leaders debated on if the surplus should be distributed based on usage or evenly split between the three partner cities. Ultimately, it was a combination of both options that leaders ultimately agreed on.
“We are not ecstatic about the agreement, but we know Denison isn’t ecstatic either,” Sherman Mayor David Plyler joked Monday afternoon. “So, it is likely a good agreement.”
TASWA was formed in the mid 1990s when the cities of Denison, Gainesville and Sherman came together as equal partners with plans to develop a regional landfill. These plans culminated with the opening of the landfill in 2005 along Highway 56 in Whitesboro.
Multiple factors led to the landfill seeing significantly more use than anticipated in recent years, with annual tonnage of more than 200,000 accepted at the site. Since around 2015, the region has seen an increase in building and construction, which has generated heavier and bulkier waste products than traditional municipal waste. TASWA saw competition close their doors in 2018 when Hillside Landfill ceased operations amid capacity concerns.
Due to these and other market factors, local officials estimated that the landfill could see more than $2.6 million in revenues over expenses within the next year. The landfill’s expenses include operations, but also account for operators setting aside a portion of the revenues for future growth and development.
The TASWA bylaws gave some guidelines on how a funding surplus could be resolved, but did not give firm direction. The funds could be retained by TASWA to provide a reduction in tipping fees, which currently sit at about $35. The funds could also be distributed between the three partner cities who helped form TASWA.
The bylaws are not specific in how these funds would be distributed, but instead note that it should take into consideration “the relative use of the facility and the initial capital investment of the respective local governments.”
As the group was formed by equal partners, Denison argued that the surplus should be distributed equally. However, the city of Sherman, who makes up nearly 50 percent of the member usage, argued for a model that favored the landfill’s heavier users.
Going into the meeting, Sherman representatives expressed concern during a recent budget retreat that representatives for the two smaller cities would vote in favor of the equal split. However, Grayson and Cooke counties also have seats on the board.
The winning solution appears to feature qualities of both methods.
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers’ relationship with TASWA goes back nearly to its origins. As the mayor of Sherman in 2005, Magers represented the city during its first board meeting upon opening for business. He suggested a method that combined aspects of both proposals.
Denison City Manager Jud Rex said two-thirds of the funds would be distributed based on equal representation while one-third would be based on usage by the three partner cities. For Denison, this equates to about 28.1 percent of any generated revenues.
“We plan is to continue to use the landfill we invested in and we hope the other cities continue to do the same,” he said.
Rex was hesitant to commit any funds raised through TASWA to any one project, as any revenue is based on the market, but said the funds likely will be used to fund one-time expenses for the city that are not otherwise included in the budget.
“We wouldn’t want to utilize this as a regular funding source,” he said.
The city of Sherman stands to collect 41.6 percent of any surplus revenue generated by the landfill. Despite officials expressing belief that Denison would vote for the flat split, Plyler said he was not surprised by the compromise.
“Once you get everyone in the room and reach out to everyone involved, it was fairly easy to come to a consensus,” he said.
During the city’s budget talks, Sherman officials contemplated using the revenues from TASWA to reduce the monthly solid waste fees it charges its residents. This in turn would offer taxpayers some relief from proposed seven cent increases to the city’s property tax rate.
Despite these early talks, Plyler said that there were too many factors involved to accurately predict how much relief the city could offer on its solid waste fees. In addition to the whims of the market, Plyler said there have been rumors that Hillside may soon resume operations, which could take business away from TASWA.
“We know that is out there, but we just don’t know when,” Plyler said.
The board is expected to take up the distribution and formally vote on the topic when it meets next in mid-September.
What do you think about the compromise? Let local government reporter Michael Hutchins know at MHutchins@HeraldDemocrat.com.