County Considers Ways To Meet The Cost Of Trash

March 11, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

The county is running out of money to deal with an ever-increasing flow of trash, county public works director James I. Irvin said yesterday.

"People don't know how much (collection and disposal) of solid waste costs," Irvin said. "People are used to a lifestyle that is increasing waste per capita. We've got to try and turn it around."

The county will be paying $900,000 more this year to deal with trash. The jump will be nearly $2 million more in fiscal 1994 and will steadily rise until the year 2000. By then, the county will be payingnearly $12 million a year more than today, said John O'Hara, chief of the Bureau of Environmental Services.

Capital budget costs will grow accordingly, O'Hara said. He estimates the county will spend $132 million over the next 10 years to close old landfills, upgrade Alpha Ridge, purchase a new landfill site, develop a yard waste composting program, and construct a processing facility. The facility might convert trash to energy or trash to composting, O'Hara said.

Part ofthe increased cost is for recycling, O'Hara said.

In 1989, when the county had no recycling program, it spent $2.6 million to get rid of its trash. Burying trash at Alpha Ridge costs $12 a ton, "which isextremely cheap," O'Hara said.

In 1990, 6,175 households took part in an experimental recycling plan that raised the cost of trash disposal $400,000. Now, 28,160 households have curbside recycling routes. That figure is expected to grow to 57,200 households by 1994.

Unless the county finds a new source of revenue, it will not have the money to collect and dispose of the trash it generates, budget director Raymond S. Wacks said.

The administration wants the County Council and General Assembly to authorize the county to start an enterprise fund to pay for trash collection and disposal. The fund would be derived from user fees. Capital projects would be financed with revenuebonds based on the user fees.

Residents with curbside trash service would pay $70.72 a year next year under the plan. Residents in apartments that use trash bins would pay $21.84 a year. Costs are projected to grow to $215 a year by the year 2000 for curbside service and to $175 a year for trash-bin service. Trash costs are now included inthe county property tax.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker said he would take 7 cents off the property tax rate of $2.59 per $100 of assessed value if the new user fees are approved by the County Council.

That does not mean, however, that residents will be given a tax cut this year. It means only that the base for a property tax increase, if necessary, would be $2.52 rather than $2.59, Ecker said.

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