Confrontation is being replaced by communication.
Issues over how to share costs of funding a new municipal landfill, which threatened to turn into a war of words between Big Spring and Howard County officials, have not been resolved, but an encouraging sense of cooperation was evident following a meeting between representatives of the two entities Wednesday.
Big Spring Mayor Tommy Duncan and County Commissioner John Cline, along with City Councilman Marcus Fernandez, Commissioner Jimmie Long and several city staffers, met to discuss the potentially divisive issue.
Afterward, Duncan and Cline said no solutions had been reached, but promised further cooperation between the two entities on the landfill and other major issues which will face this area in the coming months and years.
“I believe we had a very productive meeting,” Duncan said. “We're … working together to find solutions that are in the best interest of both the city and the county.”
Cline echoed Duncan's encouraging words.
“We made some pretty good strides today,” he said. “The city shared a lot of information with us that will be very helpful.”
No concrete agreements came out of Wednesday's meeting, but Duncan said further talks will be held between the city and county in the coming weeks.
“We're starting to come together,” the mayor said. “I believe we provided the county with all the information they requested. Now, they'll take that information back and see where they want to go from here and we'll all meet again next week.”
The issue over how to share costs of opening and expanding the new landfill had threatened to drive a wedge between the two entities. The city wanted the county to contribute $1.6 million this year to help with landfill costs, while the county balked at that idea because no extra money was available in its current budget.
County officials were particularly angered over what they considered an ultimatum from Duncan that if the county didn't share costs, county residents wouldn't be allowed to use the new landfill.
After Wednesday's meeting, however, the talk was all about working together and finding common solutions.
“The goal is for this to be a joint landfill between the city and county,” Duncan said. “We are going to be working together on an issue of joint interest to both entities.”
Cooperation between the city and county will be of vital importance in the near future as the area braces itself for growth associated with exploration and drilling of shale oil formations in this area.
“We're anticipating huge growth, and the truth is, we're not prepared for it,” Duncan said. “We have infrastructure needs that demand immediate attention. We have to all come work together, not just the city and county, but the school districts, the hospital, the college and other agencies as well.”
Duncan announced a meeting will be held Monday between representatives of the city, county, Forsan and Coahoma municipal offices, school districts, Howard College and other interested parties to begin laying the groundwork on how this area will handle the expected growth.