In deciding to keep Carroll's landfill dumping fees at $15 for at least another year, the County Commissioners last week brought a collective sigh of relief from eight angry mayors.
"This is very good news in the short term," said Mayor W. Benjamin Brown after learning that proposals for per-home fees of $47 and a tipping fee hike of up to$35 were postponed until at least July 1992. "But I hope that now they'll look to the long term."
Capping almost two months of speculation, the commissioners on Thursday decided to pass on the higher fees in favor of extensive summer study of the solid waste issue in Carroll.
For months the mayorscomplained that the county had not given them enough notice on the level of the tipping fee. "We don't know what effect this would have on our budget," Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. told the commissioners during the quarterly mayors' meeting Thursday morning, before thecommissioners decided to keep the current fee intact.
"If this goes as high as $20, $24 or even $35, we could see a 12-cent property tax increase."
That won't be necessary -- for this year at least. To find the money to keep the fee intact was not easy, and it is not asure-fire proposition either.
While the $15-a-ton charge is expected to generate more than $1.9 million, the county's solid waste program requires at least $650,000 more just to maintain landfills and pay long-term debt.
To get that extra $650,000, the commissioners restored nearly $600,000 in earnings on Carroll's investment portfolio that Management and Budget Director Steven D. Powell had said two weeks ago would be lost. They also cut another $50,000 in agency budgets.
If those earnings are indeed lost, the commissioners have asked Powell and his office to recommend further cuts in the $114.7 millionoperating budget.
"I don't want to look good now only to have thecounty put into a worse quagmire later," said Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr. after the commissioners decided on the plan.
Both Commissioner President Donald I. Dell and Commissioner JuliaW. Gouge had been strongly advocating keeping the fee where it is now so that the towns' budgets would not be seriously affected.
The commissioners hope to complete -- and pay for -- a study on the county's solid waste system by December. And that has the mayors pleased.
"I think undoubtedly, this board listened to us," Helt said.
Among the areas the commissioners want to look at during the summer andfall are the possibility of county-franchised trash collection, the creation of a recycling program and the funding necessary to cap old landfills, operate current ones and plan for future dumping sites.
The commissioners did not rule out anything -- even possibly higher tipping fees or higher taxes -- to pay for solid waste disposal and recycling in Carroll. But the study has left the mayors hopeful the years of last-minute fee-setting will come to an end.
"Let's go backto the beginning and look at the best way to deal with trash," Brownsaid.