August 4, 2006

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					                           August 4, 2006

Pat Evans
  Mayor                    Ms. Nancy Fuller
                           Chair, Opinion Committee
Scott Johnson
  Mayor Pro Tem            Attorney General of Texas
                           P.O. Box 12548
Sally Magnuson             Austin, TX 78511
  Deputy Mayor Pro Tem

Shep Stahel
                           Re: Plano’s Response to Request for Attorney General Opinion
  Place 1                  No. 0508-GA concerning Municipal Composting Programs
Loretta Ellerbe
  Place 3                  Dear Ms. Fuller:

Harry LaRosiliere          Thank you for this opportunity to respond to the issue raised by
  Place 5
                           Representative Bonnen in his request for an opinion from your office. This
Jean Callison              response includes a historical overview of the Plano composting program
  Place 7                  as well as a response to specific items questioned by Representative
Lee Dunlap                 Bonnen.
  Place 8
                           The City of Plano began operating a composting program in 1992 as part
                           of our integrated solid waste management plan to divert recyclable
                           materials from the landfill. In addition to the collection of refuse,
                           recyclables, bulky waste, and household hazardous waste, Plano provides
                           a weekly collection of yard trimmings, clean wood and cardboard.
Thomas H. Muehlenbeck
  City Manager
                           In 2001, Plano added a food waste collections program for commercial
                           customers in order to increase landfill diversion and provide an additional
                           feedstock high in nitrogen. This benefits our composting process, as the
                           yard trimmings tend to be high in carbon. Currently, we are servicing 88
                           customers including schools, grocery stores, florists, hospitals, and
                           corporate cafeterias.

                           In 2004, Plano became the contractor for the North Texas Municipal
                           Water District regional composting program. Plano accepts material from
                           Allen, Frisco, Richardson and McKinney residential collections and
                           residential drop-offs. In addition, Plano accepts wood from Green Builder
                           programs operating in Frisco and Plano.

                           Recycling programs were implemented to assist the state in reaching their
                           recycling rate of 40% by 2000. Currently, the city’s residential program
                           diverts 38% of its waste stream from the landfill. Last year, the regional
                           composting operation diverted 48,696 tons from the landfill. The area is
     P.O. Box 860358
                           experiencing dramatic population growth and economic activity. The
 Plano, Texas 75086-0358
      972-941-7000
      www.plano.gov
                           population is expected to reach 904,900 by 2025 and the regional
                           composting program is expected to divert 18-20% of the waste stream.
Pat Evans
  Mayor                    Marketing: As with any recycling program, the material diverted from the
                           landfill has value. Revenue derived from the sale of recyclable material
Scott Johnson              offsets the cost of diverting the material and helps reduce the cost passed
  Mayor Pro Tem
                           on to the local citizen for operating a recycling program.
Sally Magnuson
  Deputy Mayor Pro Tem     It is the responsibility of the local government to ensure the materials
Shep Stahel
                           separated for recycling are marketed for the highest use. For years,
  Place 1                  materials recovery facilities (MRF) have been built to market aluminum,
                           paper, glass and metal collected from curbside recycling programs.
Loretta Ellerbe            Municipalities have determined whether or not they will operate their own
  Place 3
                           MRF (Austin) or contract with a private company (Plano). Compost
Harry LaRosiliere          facilities have been built to process the yard trimmings and clean wood
  Place 5                  and the beneficial product produced must be marketed as well.
Jean Callison
                           Municipalities may choose to contract this services (Arlington, Austin) or
  Place 7                  market the material themselves (Plano).
Lee Dunlap
  Place 8                  Plano’s composting facility produces compost, topdressing, soil blend and
                           mulch and markets the material as Texas Pure. Texas Pure represents a
                           completely finished and stable product. Plano certifies its products by
                           participating in the United States Composting Council Seal of Testing
                           Assurance program, which requires ongoing testing, disclosure of test
                           data, and providing educational information to customers.
Thomas H. Muehlenbeck
  City Manager
                           Plano is dedicated to raising awareness of the value of compost in our
                           area, especially as it pertains to water conservation and storm water
                           management for residential customers. In addition, it has also increased
                           awareness of the benefits of using compost as an erosion control
                           measure. Examples of ongoing education and public awareness include
                           YardWise Series classes, Master Composter training, Texas SmartScape
                           Lawn & Garden event, Compost 101 classes, development of organic
                           erosion control manual, and operation of an environmental discovery
                           garden that includes backyard compost demonstrations and children’s
                           gardening activities. In addition, over 15,000 pieces of literature and
                           collaterals are distributed each year. In the last eight years, Master
                           Composter volunteers have dedicated 18,915 hours to the composting
                           education program. Education benefits all compost producers, both public
                           and private.

                           Plano Environmental Waste Services Division operates under the
                           guidance of a Business Plan. The Business Plan includes five specific
                           goals:
     P.O. Box 860358
 Plano, Texas 75086-0358
      972-941-7000
      www.plano.gov
                              1. To maintain or improve the current level of customer service,
                              2. To provide the defined level of customer service at a competitive
                                 net cost as compared to both private and public sector providers,
Pat Evans                     3. To maintain employee satisfaction at a consistently high level to
  Mayor                          enable service and net cost goals,
                              4. To provide opportunities for diversion of residential and commercial
Scott Johnson
  Mayor Pro Tem                  waste from landfill disposal, and
                              5. To incorporate public awareness, education and community
Sally Magnuson                   involvement regarding solid waste and environmental issues as an
  Deputy Mayor Pro Tem
                                 integral part of doing business.
Shep Stahel
  Place 1                  Plano’s composting operation has had a positive impact on all five goals
                           and will continue to be a vital part of our future.
Loretta Ellerbe
  Place 3
                           As to Representative Bonnen’s arguments that municipalities are, or
Harry LaRosiliere          should be, prohibited from selling compost in or outside their city limits
  Place 5
                           and that it is a proprietary function are in error and insupportable for the
Jean Callison              following reasons:
  Place 7

Lee Dunlap                 First, activities relating to composting and its disposal are integral to the
  Place 8                  solid waste operation. By law, solid waste operations have long been
                           considered a governmental function under the Texas Tort Claims Act
                           (TTCA) and interpreted the same by the judicial system. See section
                           101.0215(6), TTCA; De La Garza v. City of McAllen, 881 S.W.2d 599
                           (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 1994, writ granted). Thus, Representative
                           Bonnen’s assertion that this is a proprietary activity is incorrect.
Thomas H. Muehlenbeck
  City Manager
                           Further, there is no restriction for a city to engage in activities of this
                           nature even if the private sector is also engaged in the service. There are
                           many examples of cities providing services that are also found in the
                           public sector such as ambulance services, animal control services
                           including vaccination and neutering, recreational services, etc. These are
                           but a few examples where cities commonly provide services that may be
                           duplicated in the private sector. To prohibit a city from engaging in any
                           activity because of the fear there may be competition with the private
                           sector is unwarranted and is a disservice to the public.

                           Please do not hesitate to contact us if we could be of further service.

                                  Very truly yours,



                                  Thomas H. Muehlenbeck
                                  City Manager
     P.O. Box 860358
 Plano, Texas 75086-0358
      972-941-7000
      www.plano.gov
Pat Evans
  Mayor


Scott Johnson
  Mayor Pro Tem

Sally Magnuson
  Deputy Mayor Pro Tem

Shep Stahel
  Place 1

Loretta Ellerbe
  Place 3

Harry LaRosiliere
  Place 5

Jean Callison
  Place 7

Lee Dunlap
  Place 8




Thomas H. Muehlenbeck
  City Manager




     P.O. Box 860358
 Plano, Texas 75086-0358
      972-941-7000
      www.plano.gov

				
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