County Council chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, yesterday criticized the Ecker administration for its "unreasonable, unwise and unfair" decision to limit trash collection to one day a week in two Columbia villages in Gray's district come October.
Although trash collection in Long Reach and Oakland Mills would be limited to six bags one day a week per household, the weekly pickup of recycled material would beexpanded to include unlimited quantities of glass, cans, plastics, grass, leaves and many new items -- newspapers, magazines, phone booksand junk mail.
Gray, who was accompanied at yesterday morning's press conferenceby representatives of both village boards, said he was surprised that an administration that promised "an open process" would make such achange without first conducting public hearings.
"A lot of peopleare not even aware of this," said Long Reach village board chairman J. R. Beard. "It makes the impact that much harder."
One of those unaware of the proposal, Kirk M. Donovan of Eaglebeak Row, said from his home yesterday that he has become so used to twice-weekly trash collection that he "just can't imagine what it would be like without it."
As for picking up the slack with unlimited recycling, Donovan is skeptical. "I would need two or three recycling bins just to get rid of all the weekly newspapers," he said. "It sounds like a very short-sighted proposal."
County Executive Charles I. Ecker said he plans "information meetings for affected communities" in September. He said he has been talking about changing to weekly trash collection for some time, so Gray should not be surprised.
Gray objected that his district was the last to get recycling and is now the first to have its trash collection cut back. He said districts that have had recycling pickups for longer periods of time should be cut back first.
Ecker said the fact that villages in Gray's district are the first to experience the change in trash collection is coincidental, since itwas there that trash contracts had expired and were up for renewal.
The change will save the county about $156,000 in Gray's district and more than $2 million if the plan is instituted county-wide, Eckersaid. It costs 66 cents per house to pick up trash once a week and $1.23 to pick it up twice a week, he said.
Ecker said the change will not cut, but rather increase, service because of the expanded listof recyclables. Residents can now dispose of eight bags of trash a week but no more than four at any one pickup. If trash day falls on a holiday, residents must wait until the next regular pickup.
Ecker said that will no longer be true with once-a-week pickups. If the trash day falls on a holiday, the trash would be picked up the followingday rather than a week later, he said.
Long Reach village board chairman Beard, who was present with Gray to lambaste Ecker's decision, wrote the executive July 18 to
complain that "no one in or representing (Long Reach or Oakland Mills) was consulted prior to effecting this decision."
Former planning board member Kathryn Mann, assistant administrator at Long Reach, called Ecker's having made the decision without a public hearing "typical."
"He had no contact with the Planning Board -- and I emphasize 'none,' " she said.
Ecker, a Republican, did not invite Mann, a member of the Democratic Central Committee, to serve a second term on the board. He nominated Democrat and former school board member William Manning to replace her.
Gray said he will meet with Ecker at noon tomorrow to try to persuade him to postpone the change until July 1 -- the beginning of the next fiscal year.