The city manager has apparently selected a vendor to remove Shingle Mountain, pending City Council approval. Councilman Tennell Atkins, who represents the southern Dallas district that houses the 70,000-ton pile of shingles, sent an email on Tuesday afternoon announcing that City Manager T.C. Broadnax is “recommending the lowest responsible bidder.” At $450,000, it’s about a quarter what the Council thought it would cost to haul away. It is typical for the lowest responsible bid to get the nod from the city manager, per a spokesperson.
The pile of shingles has been there for about three years, blowing tiny shards of fiberglass around Marsha Jackson’s adjacent property.
“They have told us so many times that it will be removed,” says Jackson, who says she now suffers respiratory ailments and rashes because of the particles that get blown around her home. “I try to be excited, but I can’t see it.”
Atkins says the City Council will vote on the matter on October 13. There is no timeline yet for removing the dump, which has been there since January of 2018. Atkins had said it would cost $2.1 million to haul it away. It’s not clear why this bid is so comparatively low; it might bypass the nearby city dump and its tipping fees altogether. We’ve asked the city for more information. Previously, the city had wanted the landowner to pitch in to help with removal.
Jackson in July sued the city to remove the illegal shingle dump and rezone the land so that other industrial uses can’t go in next to her home or nearby the other 22 that are in her neighborhood. City Council and staff have been careful in what they’ve said regarding the matter since the lawsuit was filed. Jackson says she hasn’t been contacted by any city officials and was unaware of the bid until former Dallas Morning News columnist Robert Wilonsky tagged her in a Facebook post.
In unveiling the budget in mid-August, Broadnax said there was no line item for its removal, but “I know we are committed to resolving that issue both in court and, once that is completed, to determine how in fact we go about cleaning up that particular nuisance in our community.”
For once in this matter, things moved quickly. The city requested proposals on September 10 and cut off the application period on September 24. On September 25, the city’s procurement services read off nine vendors that had applied in a streamed meeting. We don’t know which one is Broadnax’s preference; the city did not answer that question, and Atkins’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
“I have worked tirelessly to gather together parties to resolve this issue and supported the city when the issue needed to be escalated to get things done,” read a statement from Atkins. “This is a win for southern Dallas, environmental justice, and reaffirms our commitment to protecting the environment.”
Jackson maintains that the city turned a blind eye on this for years. In June of last year, I spoke with Atkins after a court hearing in which Blue Star Recycling, the company responsible for Shingle Mountain, was again ordered to remove the shingles. Carl Orrell, one of Blue Star’s founders, told the judge he’d run out of money. Afterward, Atkins told me he was adamant he would have Broadnax find money to have it removed. It took more than a year for the city to ask for bids.
“Why are you putting all these press releases out there when you won’t even talk to the residents?” Jackson asked.
In the meantime, someone keeps putting tarps around the shingles. Jackson thinks it’s the city. The tarps can’t withstand much wind and frequently rip. She’s still seeing a pulmonologist and her voice sounds better, but it still cracks every few minutes.
“I’m tired of straining with my voice,” she says. “People don’t understand; to go home to clean air, man, it’s almost like living in a luxury compared to what we have to go through down here.”
Downwinders at Risk and Southern Sector Rising, the environmental advocacy groups that have rallied for the removal of Shingle Mountain and the rezoning of the land upon which it sits, both say they will continue protesting. Last week, the groups brought a replica of the mountain to the doorsteps of Locke Lord, the law firm that employs Mayor Eric Johnson.
“It’s so freakin’ cruel,” read an email from Jim Schermbeck, the director of Downwinders. “Two to three years of unnecessary toxic exposure for a lousy half million.”