They circled the County Courthouse in Bel Air in cars as a protest. They argued with sheriff's deputies who had barred the doors after a capacity crowd of 220 packed the County Council chambers Tuesday night. And they wore stickers that read "No more dumps."
Despite the large turnout, the opponents didn't get their wish. The council voted,5-2, to approve an expansion of a 51-acre dump in Abingdon on Abingdon Road near Interstate 95.
The vote clears the way for Spencer's Sand & Gravel Inc. to expand its rubble fill operation by 18 acres.
"Approving this is a transition from a policy of private to public landfills," said Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson told the packed crowd. "It will be operatedunder greater public scrutiny. You can take this as an announcement that this is and should be the final granting of a request for a private landfill handled by Harford County."
Spencer's Sand & Gravel has been seeking permission to expand for more than a year. The site expansion must be approved by the council and included in the county'sSolid Waste Management Plan before Spencer's Sand & Gravel is eligible to receive a state operating permit. Council members Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, and Barry T. Glassman, R-District D, voted to oppose the expansion.
Pierno read a list of rubble fills around the state, then told the crowd, "We are becoming a dumping ground for other counties and other states."
"A misconception we always hear is that if the county owns its own rubble fill, it's going to cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Guess what? Wrong," said Pierno. The audienceapplauded.
"Spencer's may have invested in $2 million worth of equipment, and there are initial capital costs, but rubble fills are money-making operations.
"They charge per truckload, and even if thecounty did a poor job of operating its own rubble fill, at least we'd cover the expense of that hole in the ground and the purchase of equipment."
Other council members took great pains to explain their votes to the crowd, which sat and stood shoulder-to-shoulder until the council voted on the issue at 11:45 p.m.
Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott, R-District B, spoke for about 40 minutes. Spencer's is located in her district.
"This is different than the application for the Gravel Hill rubble fill," said Parrott, referring to a proposal by Maryland Reclamation Inc. to start a rubble fill near Havre de Grace.
A court case over the Gravel Hill rubble fill that involves the council is pending before the Maryland Court of Appeals.
"Gravel Hill wanted to take asbestos, and I was against that. Spencer's doesn'twant to take asbestos," Parrott said.
"We are all concerned aboutthe environment."
Parrott also responded to allegations made by some citizens at the second public hearing that she had accepted a large campaign contribution from Spencer's.
"I received a $25 check in June 1990 for a fund-raiser," said Parrott. "Is this any different than the financial or in-kind contributions from leaders of the opposition to other council members?"
Among the conditions the council said Spencer's must meet:
* A county checker and a trained inspector must examine the contents of trucks as they dump to be sure illegal materials aren't involved. Spencer's would reimburse the county forthe employees' salaries.
* Traffic entering the rubble fill site shouldn't back up on Abingdon Road.
* The fill may operate only during specified hours.
* Spencer's must prepare an annual report for the council that includes capacity used.
* Truck-washing must beperformed on a truck-washing pad equipped with a holding tank for water drainage; water will be disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.
* A 6-foot fence must be erected around the site, except forthe side facing Interstate 95.