Mansfield News-Mirror

Church, pastor crowd council to oppose RedAway

A weekend street protest of a proposed medical waste facility moved into City Council chambers Monday night where opponents of the facility urged council members to step up opposition to the project.

The Rev. Michael Evans, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, president of the Mansfield ISD school board and an advocate for lower-income neighborhoods along West Broad Street, said that permitting RedAway LLC to open its waste processing operation in a nearby industrial park would harm residents’ health and the city’s economy.

“It seems as if a dream long deferred is again on the verge of being denied,” said Evans, who said he interrupted a church service to bring a sanctuary-full of concerned neighbors to the meeting. They occupied at least 80 of the 100 seats in the chamber — a much larger number than the 20 people who lined East Broad Street in front of City Hall on Saturday, some waving posterboard signs at motorists.

The council and the Mansfield school board have approved resolutions opposing a state permit, citing noxious emissions near a school and hundreds of residences, inadequate security plans and other concerns about the current proposal.

Nevertheless, the staff of the Texas Commission on Environment Quality last week recommended that its executive director approve the permit.

“We want you to know,” Evans told the council, “that you have our full support in fighting the matter, all the way to the steps of the state Capitol.”

When Evans finished his brief remarks, those with him all stood and left, he said, to resume church services.

Even if the state agency director approves a permit for RedAway, the company still must abide by new city regulations drafted during a 120-day moratorium on building permits for medical waste operations. Among the key provisions, those businesses will have to seek a specific-use permit, which allows the council to conduct a thorough vetting of proposals. Another provision restricts the operators to the city’s most intensive industrial zoning.

But the Bethlehem members weren’t giving up on a permit rejection.

Harvey Phelps, chairman of the church’s building committee, noted the gradual conversion of West Broad Street from a worn, two-lane asphalt road to a four-lane concrete boulevard with medians. Also, the city’s collaboration with Habitat for Humanity and home builders has sprinkled the neighborhoods with new, affordable homes.

“A lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of effort have been put into that community,” Phelps said in an interview outside council chambers. If a medical waste facility opens nearby, “The economic development that has taken place to this point would come to a screeching halt,” he said.

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641