By Bill Spinks

Almost six months after yet another huge fire at the Oak Cliff Recycling complex, the Waxahachie City Council on Monday night took steps to address problems associated with that facility.

The council, meeting as a body in Council chambers for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, approved a new specific use permit for the metal recycling plant to replace an existing permit. A new development agreement for the site was also approved.

The new permit requires the recycler to cease using a metal shredder that has been cited as the source of the Dec. 18 fire and other fires at the facility, which is located west of Interstate 35E at 500 Brown Industrial Road.

According to the agreement, the Harris Model 6090 shredder that was damaged in the fire will be scrapped or sold for parts. City planning director Shon Brooks said removing the shredder will reduce noise and will also remove the production of piles of combustible “fluff” which is believed to have sparked the December fire.

Among other stipulations, Oak Cliff Recycling also agrees to not operate outside of the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; maintain 24-foot fire lanes throughout the property; conduct twice-yearly training and inspections on workplace safety; discuss with its neighbors the cost of bringing city services — e.g. water, sewer and street maintenance — to the area; and limit piles of materials in size.

The main problem identified with the recycling facility is the lack of fire hydrants on the property, which forces tanker trucks to be brought in to extinguish fires. Six different fire departments responded to the December conflagration.

Because the site is zoned Heavy Industrial, other machinery used at the facility will not be restricted.

According to its website, Oak Cliff Recycling processes steel, rebar, iron stainless, aluminum, brass, motors, aluminum, copper and other ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

The fire a week before Christmas Day broke out at about 4 a.m. at the recycling facility, and put out a plume of acrid smoke that stretched for miles. The smoke forced the cancellation of classes at Life Schools Waxahachie for the day, forcing the school to reschedule its semester final exams.

The Dec. 18 fire was just the latest in the facility’s history, which dates back to its opening in 2011. A similar large fire broke out at the same facility in August 2013, resulting in requests for numerous tankers from neighboring departments. That fire took several days to fully extinguish.

At the time, Waxahachie Fire Chief Ricky Boyd said piles of shredded recycled materials on the property ignited and did damage to equipment from radiant heat, though no buildings were damaged.

In July 2014, a reported pipe explosion at the plant resulted in one injury where a worker was airlifted to an area hospital. One month later, another fire at the plant resulted in an injury to a Waxahachie firefighter. And in January 2015, a fire broke out in a pile of ground-up metal but was put out fairly quickly.

Other items

• The council approved a resolution directing publication of notice of intention to issue Certificates of Obligation, Series 2020 Bonds. These bonds, which have not yet been issued, would go toward water lines, street repairs and other city needs. A vote on an actual bond issuance is expected in August.

• Councilmembers OK’d an agreement for professional engineering design services with Freese and Nichols, Inc. for Phase II of the College Street drainage improvement project. The council also approved reimbursing the city’s general fund with proceeds from future debt.

• A request for a detailed site plan review for the proposed Dove Hollow subdivision adjacent to and south of Grove Creek Road was continued, as well as a zoning change for the property.

• Consent agenda items OK’d by the council included an application for a seasonal vendor permit at Lake Waxahachie; supplemental appropriations of three impact fee funds associated with the five-year impact fee update; a one-year contract extension with Evoqua Water Technologies and a bid award to Brenntag Southwest and Chameleon Industries for various chemicals; and amending a Chapter 380 Agreement with Crepe Myrtle Enterprises and Showbiz Cinemas.

• Police chief Wade Goolsby announced that Sgt. Josh Oliver would be promoted to lieutenant on Tuesday afternoon.

• Assistant city manager Albert Lawrence introduced Warren Ketteman as Waxahachie’s new director of economic development. Ketteman comes to Waxahachie from Forney, where he had served as that city’s EDC director since 2015. Ketteman replaces Waxahachie EDC director Doug Barnes, who retired earlier this year after 18 years in the position.

• Mayor David Hill had kind words for longtime city finance director Charles Harris, who is also retiring.