The county wants to pull not only the rug, but the very ground, frombeneath scofflaw rubble landfill owners.
County Executive Robert R. Neall proposed last week creating franchises that would give county officials tighter control over rubble landfills.
The relationship between the county and the landfill operator would be similar to that of a landlord and tenant, Neall said. If the operator violated county strictures, he could be evicted.
The operator also would pay the county a percentage of his profits, a prospect that appeals to Neall nearly as much as better environmental control.Neall said the franchise fees offer lucrative new source of county revenue "without offending the property taxpayer."
Neall said he's been thinking about the rubble fill problem since his first month on the job. No sooner had he taken office than medical waste was discovered at a Lothian landfill. That was followed by a proposal for a new 500-acre rubble fill in West County.
"The first month I was here Ifelt like I was the rubble fill executive, not the county executive," Neall said. "That was an indication to me that something was wrong."
A county inspector discovered medical waste last November. An administrative hearing officer has since ruled that it appeared an isolated incident.
However, county officials continue to wrangle with the owners of the Al-Ray Super Concrete Landfill, which has a long history of violations.
County inspectors shut Al-Ray down last November foraccepting more debris than its special zoning exception allowed. Last week,the county and the company agreed to a five-year closureplan.
"We have an environmental threat, an enforcement problem and a general headache with rubble fills in our area," Neall said.
County officials believe this is an opportune time to change the rulesbecause the county's two largest rubble landfills -- Al-Ray and Cunningham Excavation Inc. in Crofton -- are expected to close within thenext few years.
Peter Perry, a Davidsonville resident and member of a county task force on rubble landfills, said Neall's pitch is a positive one. The task force is expected to consider the franchise proposal later this month.
"Right now, as long as he (a landfill owner) obeys certain very vague state laws, he's OK," Perry said.
Perry said he, too, is interested in the revenue the franchises could raise. "We would hope some of the money could be plowed back into the affected community to clean up the roads or whatever," he said.
Under the Neall proposal, the county would ask solid-waste companies to bid for a franchise. The winning company would have to purchase a site, win community support and sign a formal agreement with the county. The site then would be sold to the county for a nominal fee.
The franchise agreement would allow the county to prevent the landfill from accepting out-of-state waste. It also would give the county power to evict the company if it violates the rules. The county then could advertise for a new operator.
"Obviously there is going to be better control where the operator faces permanent eviction rather than just temporarily shutting down," said County Attorney Stephen Beard.