After months of contention between county and Annapolis leaders, the County Council this week offered a solution to Annapolis' landfill crisis that city officials say they can live with.
In an Oct. 1 letter to Mayor Alfred Hopkins and the City Council, the seven County Council members proposed a privately financed recycling plant to be built on the landfill expansion site, along Route 450.
The county would share the facility with Annapolis, and, in turn, the city's non-recyclable trash could be dumped, free of charge, at the county landfill in Millersville. Until the recycling plant is built, the city could use the county landfill for all municipal garbage disposal, charging its own fee for trash just as it does now at its own landfill.
The council's proposal specifies that whoever builds the plant pay Annapolis an up-front, $1 million franchise fee, and that the city could impose a surcharge above the private tipping fee. In this way, the city could continue to use solid waste revenues in its general fund budget.
Hopkins, who had not received a copy of the letter Friday, said he likes the county's idea.
"I'm definitely interested in pursuing it," he said.
The council's letter asks city officials to meet with Parker Andrews, county director of public works, so the county and city can draft a joint request for proposal. Hopkins said city leaders will do that.
Alderman Carl Snowden, D-Ward 5, said the council's letter signals a new era of cooperation on an issue that has been a source of bitterness in the past.
"It's a proposal that, while months late in coming, indicates the County Council's recognition that what is necessary is a regional, cooperative agreement," he said. "It's a recognition that this is not a city problem alone."
County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, whose opposition to the landfill expansion has drawn bitter criticism from city officials, declined comment Friday. Lamb has been working since spring on an alternative to the landfill expansion and has recommended a recycling plant for some time.
Snowden said he suspects the letter is an attempt by the council to help Lamb defuse her most troublesome campaign issue before the Nov. 6 general election.
"I don't fault her for using this to minimize political damage. If I were in Mrs. Lamb's position, I would be doing the same thing," he said.
He and Hopkins agreed that no concrete solution to the landfill problem can be reached until the new county executive and County Council take office.
The county Board of Appeals denied the city's request for a 25-acre expansion last spring, citing conflicts with county law. The city then appealed to Circuit Court.
Without the landfill, which is expected to reach capacity by May 1991, Annapolis would lose $2 million in revenues from tipping fees, city leaders said. They blame a 9-cent property tax hike and substantial increases in water, sewer and refuse surcharges on the impending loss of the landfill.
The county's proposal "gets the city off the hook" economically, said County Councilwoman Carole B. Baker, D-Severna Park. "And, it's a boon to the county because it gives us a recycling center."
The letter recommends that the recycling plant be an enclosed, 200- to 400-ton-per-day composting system with trash separation occurring both curbside and at the plant.
The council also suggests mining the existing 89-acre city landfill for recyclable materials and rebuilding a portion of the mined area as an environmentally sound landfill for non-recyclables.