Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden confronted a hostile but hopeful gathering of 400 recycling volunteers at Loch Raven High School and told them exactly what they didn't want to hear.
There's no money to pay for countywide curbside recycling, so volunteers will have to keep operating the seven neighborhood drop-off centers for at least the next few years, Hayden said.
And in case everyone wasn't listening last night, he prefaced several of his answers to a list of written questions with such comments as "You're not going to like this," or "This isn't what you wanted to hear, but . . ." or "Nobody wants to hear it, but . . ."
"We've got to be real about money," he said. "We don't want to get into decisions like Baltimore City -- to lay off 250 firefighters."
Volunteer Carl Maynard of Kenwood asked the executive if he would commit himself to helping out at a recycling center one morning a month.
"On a regular basis, no," Hayden replied. He said he did spend one weekend as a volunteer lifting bundles of newspapers, and had a vivid feel for the work. He advised volunteers who are tired or burned out to quit for a while, or try educating the public on recycling, and then come back.
"I'm worried about our planet," he said. He said he "spent years talking to people" from the Environmental Protection Agency as an official of Eastern Stainless Steel.
He said fiscal 1993, which starts next July 1, probably is going to be worse financially than the current budget year. Under those circumstances, he said, the county is making a major commitment to recycling.
The county began pilot curbside recycling programs in Rodgers Forge, Woodbridge Valley, Turner Station and Overlea in 1990, before Hayden took office. Volunteers staffing seven weekend drop-off centers are angry the county has not moved further toward curbside pickup of recyclable items.
Hayden said regular curbside collections of paper will begin in December in Rodgers Forge, where the pilot program has ended, and collections will continue in the other three areas, expanding to 55,000 homes by June. Then, the program gradually expands to add yard waste and will add more areas until reaching 155,000 homes, about half the county, by 1994, he said.
Paper and yard waste weigh the most, and are most helpful in helping the county reach the state mandated goal of cutting solid waste 20 percent by 1994.
Hayden said he plans to include $3 million for recycling in next year's budget and is adding two more county workers to recycling efforts Monday. A new citizen advisory committee on recycling is to be appointed next month.
Along the way last night, he offered a few words of wisdom to the recyclers, such as "Government can't be all things to all people," and "Quick fixes don't work."
After the meeting, Debby Hyson, of Kenwood, one of a handful of community volunteers who sat on stage as a panel to question Hayden, said she wasn't satisfied.
"Not at all," Hyson said. "They've had a long time now to get this started." She said the county already is spending millions of dollars to dispose of trash and could save some of that by recycling.
The volunteers are angry no definite date for countywide curbside recycling has been set, she said.
Volunteer Bart Stocksdale, of Towson, was "encouraged" by Hayden's forthright answers and by his willingness to address the issue.
Carol Bernstein, another panel member, said the recyclers accomplished their aim by showing Hayden their strength and showing that "we're not a fringe group." She said she wasn't disappointed because "we didn't expect much."
Volunteer John Ciekot, of Hereford, said the county still "tends to look at it as a demand for another service," instead of an opportunity to make needed changes in disposing of waste.
John Boardman, of Owings Mills Green Action and the moderator of the panel, said "We did as much as a volunteer group could do" in such a meeting.
Boardman praised Hayden's commitments to involve citizen volunteers in a dialogue over how to do recycling and to re-evaluate the program in three to six months. However, if nothing more happens in six months, he said, more hostility will surface.