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Grinding up trees threatened to shut down a Dallas veterans college. A judge put a limit on that

The Medisend College of Biomedical Engineering Technology trains military veterans for a career operating and repairing medical equipment. The City of Dallas opened a temporary operation grinding trees that fell during massive storms in late-May, right next door.
Medisend College
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Medisend
The Medisend College of Biomedical Engineering Technology trains military veterans for a career operating and repairing medical equipment. The City of Dallas opened a temporary operation grinding trees that fell during massive storms in late-May, right next door.

A North Dallas veteran’s college got a temporary restraining order against the city. The college says it was forced to shut down after dust from a nearby city-operated mulching site “burnt out” several of the school’s air conditioning units.

District Judge Gena Slaughter said during a Wednesday hearing the city’s operation needs better dust control. But Slaughter also said the order was limited in scope — basically don’t violate state environmental regulations.

The Medisend College of Biomedical Engineering Technology teaches its cohort of military veterans to operate medical instruments — like an MRI machine — at a facility next to the city’s temporary debris storage area.

The site was set up after massive storms in late May downed trees across the city.

Monica Uribe, an attorney representing the school, said during the hearing that there were clear flaws in the city’s dust mitigation.

Water trucks are brought in to dampen the mounds of ground up trees, but Uribe said it wasn’t enough. During a site visit, Uribe said the trucks had to leave frequently to refill — while the grinding operation continues.

“Its like bringing a bucket of water to a fire and saying ‘well I’ve got water, and I’m throwing it on the fire, but now I have to go get more’,” Uribe said during the hearing. “Meanwhile the fire is raging on, and that’s what happening here.”

Uribe said replacing the units could cost $37,000 per unit. Meanwhile, Medisend’s students are only in class for half the day. Uribe told the judge that the college starts to try cooling down the building with one of the functioning units before the city starts its mulching operation in the mornings.

“We’re having to let them go, because the building just gets too hot,” Uribe said.

Nick Hallack, Medisend’s president, told KERA previously that the shutdown has left student’s certifications in limbo.

“If we lose a week…its equivalent to an entire semester at another college,” Hallack said. “We train in cohorts so they start at the same time, they finish at the same time.”

One example is Medisend’s x-ray course. Hallack says that program is eight hours a day, five days a week — for two weeks.

“That’s it,” Hallack said. “That course doesn’t come again for four months.”

Hallack said the school may not be able to bring in the next 12-person cohort because of the HVAC system failures.

Stacy Rodriguez, the city’s deputy chief of litigation, told the court that state environmental regulators had visited the site after Medisend’s initial complaint about the operation. Rodriguez said that the city hasn’t heard back from the regulators about whether the city is violating the terms of its permit.

The operation is on land owned by Dallas Water Utilities. Rodriguez said after Medisend complained about the operation, the city added additional water trucks to the site — which can be refilled at two different locations on the property.

Rodriguez told the court that the storm cleanup is already costing the city over $8 million dollars.

At the beginning of the hearing, there were disputes over what Medisend’s lawyers were asking for. When Slaughter decided to grant the temporary restraining order, she told the parties that it won’t halt operations at the site.

“Its simply saying…the city needs to work on better dust control,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter also told both attorneys they should sit down and talk about a mutual agreement to end the dispute. Uribe said an environmental expert drafted a dust mitigation plan — which the city has yet to review. If the city agrees to the plan, the issue could be resolved.

An injunction hearing is slated for the end of July.

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at ncollins@kera.org. You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Nathan Collins is the Dallas Accountability Reporter for KERA. Collins joined the station after receiving his master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Arizona State University. Prior to becoming a journalist, he was a professional musician.