Baltimore officials have refused to give a needed financial break to a proposed $42 million recycling and composting plant in Curtis Bay because the project was not a good deal for the city, the city's public works director says.
Public Works Director George Balog says he rejected a request for help from officials of F&E Resource Systems Technology for Baltimore Inc., even though the firm's project could help the city achieve its state-mandated recycling goal, because of the costs and unanswered questions he had about the deal.
Officials of the Gaithersburg company had asked the city for permission to deposit up to 25 tons a day of unrecyclable trash at the city's landfill in Hawkins Point. The company wanted to pay only $10 a ton, not the $50 a ton the city normally charges.
The plant, which proposes to handle 500 to 700 tons of commercial waste daily, needs some place to dispose of the 5 percent it cannot recycle or compost. And company president Ronald Pickett said the project would not be feasible if he had to pay the city's normal landfill "tipping" fee.
Company officials offered to remove more trash from the landfill than they deposited, and they also offered to provide at no cost enough composted dirt to cover an old dump in East Baltimore.
But Balog says it would have cost the city $350,000 a year to let the company use the landfill at a discount, and he said there were just too many other problems with the project to agree to the deal.
Besides the revenue loss, Balog says, he feared the plant would be dumping burnable items in the city's landfill on Quarantine Road, which are strictly limited under state regulations.
Balog says he also was concerned about where the plant would get its waste. Company officials had said it would come from the city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties.
"I don't want [the city] to be the repository of all the solid waste in the area," Balog says. The company's offer to swap trash and to provide free landfill cover were not that attractive, Balog says.
"When you weigh all these factors, it wasn't a good deal for the city," he says. "We're always interested in recycling, of course, but you have to examine the elements of it."
The city must recycle at least 15 percent of its trash by 1994 under the state's 1988 recycling law. The city has launched some pilot curbside recycling, but city officials have said they are unwilling to subsidize such operations on a large scale.
"I'm just shocked," said Pickett. "This is a project that's had public hearings. It has community sponsorship."
The city's refusal to grant the recycling plant a break also has angered environmentalists and Curtis Bay community leaders, who had fought incinerator projects in the area in the past.
This plant had the support of environmentalists and of community leaders, who noted that the company promised to hire 80 people and to provide a neighborhood recycling program that would generate income for community needs.
"It was more acceptable than most things we get down here," said Gloria Sipes, president of the Community Association of Curtis Bay. "We just felt like if we didn't take this type of facility, we would just get something worse.
"But I don't understand why all of a sudden this is a no project. It was my understanding all along that everybody was for it, and recycling is the way to go . . . It puts you in a position of not knowing where the city is coming from."