Dumping Fees On Their Way

Homeowners Would Face $ 47 Bill Under Proposal

March 31, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

Forget what you've heard about no new county taxes -- your next property tax bill will probably be at least $47 higher than it was this year.

That is, if a proposal now in front of the County Commissioners becomes law.

Under a plan submitted to the commissioners by the county's Department of Natural Resource Protection, all 42,000 homeowners in Carroll would pay the $47 to have their trash dumped in the county's landfills.

The fee, which would replace the $15 Carroll charges trash haulers to dump a ton of trash in the county's landfills, is just one option now on the table as the commissioners look for ways to control solid waste, encourage recycling and balance their budget.

"This is one area where I think we feel really strongly about," CommissionerPresident Donald I. Dell said. "I don't think we should charge our trash haulers and have them as the tax collectors."

Both he and Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr. strongly favor replacing the tipping fee with the yearly charge on the tax bill, saying that the tipping fee is basically a tax anyway.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge has not revealed her stance; she is awaiting word on whether sucha charge would be tax deductible.

The three were to decide on thefate of landfill dumping fees during a public hearing tomorrow afternoon, but they decided to spend at least a few more weeks studying the fee.

Although the commissioners have all but approved an increase in the cost of disposing of the more than 120,000 tons of waste generated in Carroll every year, the logistics are far from certain.

In a meeting with representatives from several of the county's waste haulers last week, the commissioners asked the haulers themselves fordirection.

Most of the 12 haulers at the Wednesday meeting prefera per-home charge, saying it would allow them to lower their rates -- now averaging anywhere from $60 to $120 a year -- to residential customers and reduce the amount of paperwork involved in the per-ton charge.

But where the simplicity breaks down, say the commissioners,haulers and county environmental officials, is the county's desire to charge commercial and business establishments a higher -- perhaps $35 -- per-ton fee.

"We have to solve the problem of how to keep commercial trash separate from residential trash," Gouge said during the meeting.

Several of the haulers told her that wouldn't be a problem, as the two waste streams are kept separate in several other counties in the metropolitan area already.

The haulers have been askedto get together and hash out a system workable for them in the next two weeks.

"I feel that they can have a very important impact in what we're trying to do," Dell said. "They certainly are in a positionto know how it should be done."

Among the issues they are to address are implementation of recycling programs, adjusting the per-home fee for those inside municipal boundaries to reflect the cost of trash collection already included in their town property tax rate, and making the trash collection system more efficient.

But the haulers are not supposed to discuss price or routes; such discussions are illegal under federal antitrust laws.

The rise in the county's tippingfees comes as the Department of Natural Resource Protection struggles to make solid waste operations self-sustaining. The solid-waste budget for the year beginning July 1 is expected to total about $4 million.

It also comes as county officials face a 1994 deadline for recycling 15 percent of the county's waste -- about 6 percent of trash here is now recycled.

"We have a responsibility not only to see that we can handle the county's waste within our budget," said James E. Slater Jr., the county's natural resources director. "We also have a moral responsibility to protect our resources, and that includes recycling and proper handling of solid waste."

Slater's per-home fee proposal includes enough money to start a pilot recycling program for 7,500 homes.

But, some trash haulers claim, it does not include fees high enough to induce people to recycle. And the place for that inducement, say the haulers, is in the wallet.

"Where is the incentive in those fees?" said Jack S. Haden, president of Phoenix RecyclingInc. and Haden Trash Removal Inc. "The incentive there would be higher tipping fees, then you'll start to see less waste at the landfill."

Another hauler shouted out during the meeting that perhaps the fee should be raised to as much as $100 a ton. The commissioners showed little interest in such a large increase.

What Carroll residentsand businesses face is at least a doubling in the fees for the second time in as many years. This year, the fees increased from $7.50 to $15 a ton.

Even at $35, however, the fees charged to dump a ton oftrash here is low compared with elsewhere in the metropolitan area.

According to figures released by the Maryland Municipal League, Carroll has one of the lowest tipping fees in the state and the second-lowest in the metro area. Baltimore charges $55 a ton, Baltimore County $50, Anne Arundel at least $33 and Howard $45.

The new fee is to be set before the commissioners approve their fiscal 1992 budget inMay. At least one public hearing will be scheduled before the fee isdecided upon.

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