TANEYTOWN - When construction ended last month on the city's $11,000 recycling center, nobody thought the facility could become obsolete in less than a year.
The 900-square-foot recycling center in the middle of Taneytown Memorial Park is a first for this rapidly growing North Carroll city, one that has been discussed and anticipated for months on end.
When the center opens early next month, residents will be able to drop off newspapers, cans, bottles and plastics, keeping them out of the county landfills.
However, if the city's seven-member Recycling Committee succeeds in pushing through its latest proposal, the nearly 2,700 people living here won't have to haul their recyclables anywhere -- except to the end of the driveway.
Curbside recycling -- already a reality in Prince George's County and sections of northern Baltimore -- is one of the alternatives being looked at by the Recycling Committee.
"To my way of thinking, sooner is better than later," James McCarron, a city councilman and chairman of the committee, said. "If we do decide we want curbside recycling, then I think we need to take the plunge."
Taking the curbside plunge, though, isn't just a matter of selecting a hauler, awarding a contract and distributing recycling bins.
It's a matter of money. And a matter of establishing this city's first-ever municipal trash collection service.
Unlike in Carroll's seven other municipalities, Taneytown allows residents to decide who picks up their trash, thus taking trash collection expenses out of the city budget.
If Taneytown installs a curbside program, the city could find itself in the trash business.
"It's definitely something that we have to look into," McCarron said.
Taneytown residents pay an average of $100 to $140 a year for trash collection. According to estimates by state recycling officials, the cost of curbside recycling about equals that of curbside trash pickup. Should the city decide to contract for both services, officials estimate that costs for trash services could drop to around $60 or $70 a year.
Such a move could, estimates show, add as much as 8 cents to the town's 78-cent tax rate. But McCarron said any decision of when -- or even if --curbside recycling is brought to the city is months away.
Coming up with a recycling plan is hardly unique to this city. As a result of 1988's Maryland Recycling Act, all of the counties and Baltimore City should have recycling objectives in place. And while the state's smallest jurisdictions -- cities and towns like Taneytown -- are not specifically mentioned in the act, many are implementing their own recycling objectives.
"I think most jurisdictions are looking at common-sense concepts," said John Goheen, a spokesman for the Department of Environment in Baltimore.
"What works in a rural part of a county would not work in a city."
Taneytown's investigation of curbside recycling comes at a time when the county also is looking into the possibility. In its recycling plan submitted to the state in July, the county mentions curbside recycling as one way the county can meet its state-mandated recycling level of 15 percent of all solid waste by 1994.
Any county not meeting the state-imposed levels by 1994 cannot issue building permits until reaching the standard.
No timetable for curbside recycling in Taneytown has been established.
McCarron said the committee is set to discuss the issue with the City Council next month and is ready to accept formal bids from area trash haulers.