All is not well in the on-again, off-again relationship between the county and its eight municipalities. For the second straight year, trash -- and the cost of getting rid of it -- is at the center of the quarrel.
"Sure, we're upset," Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. said about the County Commissioners' delays in setting Carroll's landfill dumping fees for the fiscal year beginning July 1. "We're going togo through the same game we went through last year. I wish the county would get its act together and let us know earlier."
Earlier, Helt and other mayors and town managers say, so that municipal budgets -- already in progress -- can be put together before the last minute.
The so-called tipping fee -- or lack of a definiteone for fiscal 1992 -- is expected to dominate conversation at tomorrow morning's quarterly mayors' meeting with the commissioners.
The tipping fee, now at $15 a ton, almost assuredly is going up for fiscal 1992, but neither the commissioners nor county solid waste officials know just how high it will go.
And that, the mayors and managers say, is the problem.
"We're on the edge of our chair waiting for final figures so we can plug something in," said David M. Warner, the former Manchester councilman who is now that town's projects administrator.
He said the town is just about finished with preliminarybudget work.
"This is not a step in the right direction," said John A. Riley, Hampstead town manager and a councilman in Manchester. "It's not even a sidestep.
"The commissioners seem to have lost a sense of direction. All they are doing is making our budget situation worse yet."
Like the county, the towns also are facing a tough budget season, as federal and state assistance is lower and some tax revenue is falling below this year's projected levels.
For all municipalities except Taneytown, trash collection is included in the tax rate. And since part of the cost of collection is attributable to the tipping fee, any increase in that charge could end up meaning higher town taxes.
Last year, when tipping fees were doubled from $7.50 to$15, some towns already had adopted their budgets; the increased feeforced some of them back to the fiscal drawing table.
Town officials wanted to prevent that from occurring this year.
On the table is a proposal from the county's Department of Natural Resource Protection that would impose a once-a-year charge of about $47 for residential trash collection, while continuing the per-ton charge for commercial trash collection.
The proposed tipping fees range from about $23 to almost $40, with the most likely charge somewhere near the low end of that range.
It's not that town officials are upset just because of another round of increases in the fee.
"We just need to know these things earlier," explained Helt.
This latest disagreementbetween the county and the towns is hardly new to Carroll government.
For the first time ever, the County Commissioners and representatives from the towns met late last year to discuss planning and othergoals. That meeting, arranged by Carroll Management and Budget Director Steven D. Powell, generally was regarded as a step toward better relations between the municipalities and the commissioners.
"I don't consider this a breakdown in the relationship," said Powell. "There's a sincere effort to try and address the towns' concerns."