This time next year members of the Waxahachie Senior Citizens Center should be meeting in a new facility.

During Monday’s Waxahachie City Council meeting, members of the council unanimously approved the solicitation of construction bids for the planned $6 million facility to be located on Highway 77 South near Dunaway Elementary School.

“With your approval tonight to solicit bids, we should be coming back to you in November to award the contract,” said City Manager Paul Stevens. “If we get decent weather for the construction, the facility should be completed by this time next year.”

Land for the center was donated by Ken Mitchell, whose company is in the process of constructing a senior residential development that will be located around the new senior center facility.

John Hamilton, a member of the senior center advisory panel, praised the city’s involvement in the project.

“Five years ago the Rotary Club began work on a new senior center as its Centennial Project. As we gained momentum, the city stepped in and through your involvement, have made this dream a reality,” Hamilton said, drawing applause from the capacity crowd in the council chambers, which included numerous members of the Waxahachie Rotary Club. “We are extremely grateful to the city.”

Speaking on behalf of the Waxahachie Senior Citizens Center membership, Elmo Reeves also praised those involved for making the project a reality.

“John, while you’ve been working on this for the past five years, we’ve been dreaming about this day for at least 15 years, but we weren’t able to make much traction,” Reeves said. “On behalf of everyone at the center, we want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the council for everything you’ve done to make this happen. We are very excited about this project and we are very grateful to the city for stepping in and taking this project from a dream to a reality. While I know y’all often hear a lot of criticism from this podium, we wanted you to hear something positive.

“Thank you — each and every one of you on the council. We also want to thank the Rotary Club, the Optimist Club, the Lions Club and (architect) Anthony Mottla who worked with us on the design of the new facility and incorporated most of our desires into the design,” Reeves said. “All of you have done a wonderful job. We also want to thank Ken Mitchell for donating the land. Everything is sincerely appreciated.”

The Waxahachie Senior Citizens Center is currently operated as an independent non-profit organization totally dependent on funding from the United Way, city and fund-raisers for its operation. For decades, the Waxahachie Optimist Club has provided the facility for the seniors to meet at Optimist Center on Patrick Street.

Once the new facility is complete, the city will oversee operations of both the center and facility.

Two years ago the council authorized $600,000 in funding for the facility as part of the 2005-2006 budget and later that year, Mitchell donated land for the facility valued at $1 million. Earlier this year, the council allocated $3.5 million in the recent bond package to go towards the center’s construction. The senior center advisory center said the remaining funds will come from grants and donations from the community.

Tax rate, budget approved

During Monday’s meeting, the council also adopted the tax rate and budget for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Following two public hearings held in August and September, the city’s tax rate will remain the same at .615 per $100 assessed value.

The city’s total budget will increase to $46,791,611 — an 11.6 percent increase over the current fiscal year budget.

While the tax rate will remain the same, the additional funding will be generated primarily through new development taking place in the city. During the past year new development has added more than $85 million in value to city’s tax base.

Waste collection increase

Under the terms of the contract with IESI, the private firm that handles the city’s waste collection and Republic/CSC, the landfill which accepts city waste, both entities are authorized an annual rate increase adjustment based on the consumer price index of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the adjusted CPI for the area rose by .825 percent.

In June, both IESI and Republic issued letters to the city formally requesting the increase — Republic requesting an .825 percent increase and IESI requesting a 1 percent increase in rates charged to the city for services.

Prior to Monday’s open meeting, the council met in executive session to discuss pending litigation with the IESI, who has been serving as the city’s waste hauler since 2001 and is under a 10-year contract to provide services.

When the council reconvened in open session, Mayor Pro-Tem Ron Wilkinson informed the members of the public the city has received correspondence from IESI and a motion was made to instruct the city attorney and special counsel to provide a written response to that correspondence.

Without further discussion due to pending litigation, the motion was seconded by Councilor Joe Gallo and was passed by unanimous vote of the council.

In a press release issued to the Daily Light on behalf IESI prepared by the public relations firm The Margulies Communications Group, IESI has notified the city of its intentions to terminate its agreement to provide solid waste services because of the city’s breach of contract.

“Under the current contact (sic), IESI is the only solid waste provider authorized to serve 7,100 homes and approximately 500 businesses or commercial accounts in the city,” IESI Vice President and Regional Manager John Gustafson is quoted in the release. “The city has allowed other haulers to serve industrial customers in violation of the agreement making the overall contract unprofitable. These violations have cost us more than $250,000 in lost revenues since the start of 2007.”

Gustafson noted in the release the company has attempted to get the city to enforce the contract since last April, yet “unauthorized haulers continue to serve numerous customers without city intervention.”

Later in the meeting, when the issue of the annual CPI rate increase was brought forward by Waxahachie Director of Environment Health Sonny Wilson, Wilkinson asked for the letter from IESI to be read on the record.

“IESI would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for your business. Per our contract with the city of Waxahachie we would like to present to you our annual request for the 2007 rate adjustment. The amount is based on the published Bureau of Labor Standard Consumer Price Index/Urban Consumers (CPI-U Dallas/Fort Worth) May 2007. The amount of the request for 2007 is equal to 1 percent,” Wilson read, adding they rounded up the rate increase to a full 1 percent opposed to the .825 percent.

“When was that letter dated?” Wilkinson asked.

“June 20, 2007,” Wilson responded.

“Did they ask for anything else or note there were any other problems or concerns with their contract to the city?” Wilkinson asked.

“No, sir,” Wilson said. “As far as I knew everything was going fine.”

The motion was made by Wilkinson and seconded by Gallo to approve an .83 percent rate increase adjustment for both IESI and Republic as outlined under the terms of the contract. The motion was passed by unanimous vote.

With possible litigation pending over the matter, Stevens preferred not to comment on the issue at this time, other than to say both the city staff and council is continuing negotiations with IESI while working to find an equitable resolution.

E-mail Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.