Environmental concerns comprised the bulk of the Waxahachie City Council’s public hearings during its meeting Monday.

The council heard a proposal by director of health Sonny Wilson to exempt business and industrial recyclable materials from a 10 percent franchise fee on materials hauled by IESI Solid Waste Services, the city’s contracted waste disposal company.

Wilson said exempting recyclable materials from the fee would encourage Waxahachie businesses to recycle.

“They want to recycle. They want to reduce their waste, but they’re being taxed this 10 percent franchise fee when they do it,” he said.

Wilson said the new exemption would not alter the city’s income, as IESI began hauling recyclable materials in the past few months and companies not under contract with the city do not charge the franchise fee. However, since IESI has begun hauling recyclable materials, mostly metal, Wilson said, he has heard complaints from local businesses and industries about the cost.

City Manager Paul Stevens said after the meeting that as part of IESI’s contract with Waxahachie, the company has sole rights to all solid waste disposal in the city.

The contract began in 2001 with Best Disposal, which IESI purchased. Until recently, the company chose not to haul recyclable materials, so local businesses went to other companies for recyclable disposal.

“It’s probably only been the last few months that the switch happened where IESI started handling some of our businesses’ recycling,” he said.

Stevens said the city has received some revenue this year from the fee and city staff will work to compile specific numbers for the council.

Council members requested more information regarding the benefits and costs to each of the three entities involved: the city, IESI and local businesses and industries.

Wilson said the franchise fee did not have to be levied by the independent companies who previously handled the hauling and specific numbers on the projected impact of the exemption aren’t available.

“We haven’t been doing it and I have no idea what those numbers would be at the present time. I don’t think it’s anything large volume,” he said.

Other council members said the proposed exemption needs to define “recyclable materials,” and council member Joe Gallo noted the issue may have bearing on city legal matters - and the council should consider discussing the issue in executive session.

Stevens said although there is no financial benefit to the city to enact the exemption, it would help businesses reduce recycling costs.

“It gets to the point for some of them it makes just as much sense to throw it in the trash and not recycle them,” he said.

The council will not take action on the proposal until at least January.

The council also heard a presentation by local architect James Gleason and builder John Ed Justice, who invited them to visit and learn more about the first “green” home in Waxahachie. The team plans to build the structure in the Enchanted Gardens subdivision on Jasmine Lane, and construction should begin next year.

Gleason said the home will be about 1,550 square feet and meet four criteria: durability, healthiness, energy efficiency and friendliness to the environment.

“When it really comes down to it, all we’re doing is building a home correctly to have those four aspects in it,” he said.

In order to be considered green by the Green Building Council, Justice said, a home must be 3,000 square feet or less and be close to shopping and businesses to reduce fuel costs. Gleason said his design for the home will incorporate as much natural lighting as possible to reduce electricity costs and Justice will also build the home with recycled material and recycle as much of the building materials as possible.

“It’s a very small amount of the money added to the house to make it green,” Justice said. “It takes time and effort, not money.”

Justice and Gleason plan to open the home to the public during construction to raise awareness of green building practices.

In other business, the council unanimously approved specific use permits for a winery at 106 N. College owned by Rogers Hotel Holding LP and for the Waxahachie Preparatory Academy to conduct private, nonprofit classes in University Assembly of God facilities. The council also unanimously approved a final plat for Massey Place Phase Two.

The city honored several community members for their service. Waxahachie Police Chief Chuck Edge honored community services officer Wes Winn for his work with National Night Out - Waxahachie won a National Award for Outstanding Participation from the National Association of Town Watches.

“We’re proud to be back in that tradition and keep going forward,” Edge said.

The city also honored Betty Getzendaner for serving 29 years on the Parks Board, from which she retires this year.

The council announced Elizabeth Getzendaner Cunliffe will take the vacant seat on the Parks Board and John Wray will take an empty seat on the Cemetery Board.

In other business, the council unanimously approved a permit for a Mardi Gras parade downtown Feb. 8 and heard a report on the Downtown Victorian Christmas.

Director of downtown development Anita Kornegay said that despite cold, rainy weather, between 5,500 and 6,000 people attended the home tours and about 25,000 went to Bethlehem Revisited over the three-week event.

“There were big crowds downtown and everybody was having a good time,” she said.