County Council members refused to vote on a proposed trash recyclingplan Tuesday, saying they want another month to think about a proposed fee haulers would pay to dump trash to be landfilled or burned.
The recycling proposal is part of Harford's plan to reduce the wastestream going to landfills. That plan is due to be submitted to the state Department of the Environment Jan. 1.
"The citizens of Harford County have not had a chance to fully comment on the plan, and the market prices for recycled materials are down," said Robert S. Wagner, R-District E.
Wagner's motion to ask the state for an extension until Feb. 4 to submit the plan passed thecouncil, 4-3.
Before the vote, Larry Klimovitz, director of administration, warned council members that the county could face stiff penalties for missing the deadline.
"If we miss the deadline, the state might shut down any and all building permits, and in light of theeconomic conditions, which have already slowed the industry, that could be devastating for our county," Klimovitz said. "We're already about two years late. I'm not trying to hammer you, but I want you to go into this with your eyes wide open."
To meet the state deadline,the council would have to approve the recycling plan Tuesday, the last regularly scheduled legislative session this month. The council could call a special session later in December, but the seven members said they are reluctant to do so because of the holiday season.
Plans from the state's 24 subdivisions to reduce the waste flow into landfills were due in 1989. The state Department of the Environment, however, has granted several extensions to various jurisdictions, including Harford.
Wagner said the council still had much to consider and that an extension of one month did not seem unreasonable.
For example, Wagner said, of the nine companies listed in the administration's proposal as possible buyers of recycled material, eight no longeraccept it or don't pay for it.
"If you put a plan together and all the basic information has changed, you don't have much of a plan, do you?" Wagner asked.
County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and the council have spent most of this year trying to agree on the details of the plan, which is based on curbside collection of recyclables placed in blue plastic bags.
The plan hit a snag last week during a public hearing when some council members, trash haulers and homeowners association members voiced objections to the proposed fee to be charged haulers. The fee would be $60 per ton. Klimovitz argues that fee would act as an incentive for haulers to encourage customers to sort recyclables out of their garbage. Haulers say the money they pay the county in fees would be passed on to customers in the form of higher bills for trash collection.
Harford and two other counties are the only jurisdictions among the state's 24 subdivisions that do not charge tipping fees.
Council President Jeffery Wilson proposed Tuesdaythat the fee be phased in, starting with $20 per ton, and raising it$20 every six months until it hits $60.
Wagner said he and other council members wanted time to consider options, including the possibility of setting up private, non-profit recycling stations.
"The worst the Department of the Environment can do is say no," said Wagner. "But I just see this plan as a constant sponge for soaking up money. I don't want to look back in a year and say 'Gee, why did we do that?' "