Howard County trash collection fee plan hits the civic dump $70 assessment per house is roundly trashed.

March 18, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Evening Sun Staff

After last night, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker is going to have to devise a new way to deal with the county's trash problem.

Mr. Ecker had hoped to collect $70 from each household for trash collection and reduce the county's property tax rate 7 cents.

But residents told the County Council last night they wanted no part of the idea.

County Public Works Director James I. Irvin said fees are necessary because the county's trash costs are escalating. Unless the county develops a new source of revenue, it will not be able to afford trash collection and disposal, he said. In the next fiscal year alone, the cost will rise $2 million, Mr. Irvin said.

A fee -- $70 for curbside service, $22 for apartment and townhouse dwellers using trash bins -- would help residents become aware of the high cost of trash collection and disposal, Mr. Irvin said.

The fee, expected to grow to $216 or more by the year 2000, might also lead residents to change their trash habits, Mr. Irvin said. A change is needed, he said, because the county's trash per person is increasing at a rate of 3 percent a year.

Former County Executive William E. Eakle told the council he understands the administration's plight, but this proposal is not the solution. It would only reduce the property taxes on a $150,000 home by $28, he said, yet the trash fee is $70. That homeowner would be paying $42 more than last year.

A second problem, Mr. Eakle said, is that owners of more expensive homes get a break -- the more expensive the home, the bigger the break. Owners of $300,000 homes, for example, ZTC would pay $84 less next year in property taxes and would also gain $14 because they would be paying only $70 for trash collection.

Cathy Hudson of Elkridge said any savings would disappear once people paid their federal income tax, since fees, unlike property taxes, are not deductible. A person with a $40,000 income could be paying $68 to $85 more in federal taxes, she said.

Scott Hoeksema, past president of the county Coalition of Community Associations, said the fees would discourage rather than encourage recycling. "By applying a flat fee, it doesn't matter whether you put out one bag or eight," he said. Trash collection is now limited to a specified number of bags each week per household, encourage recycling.

Council members didn't think much of the proposal either.

"I have a very major concern with this," said Shane Pendergrass, D-1st. "With no tax deduction, people will either pay more or just dump their trash on [someone else's] lawn.

"What I see here needs to be revised," said C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd. "What happens to people who choose to take their trash to the landfill" rather than pay for curbside collection?

Everyone would be charged the fee whether they used the trash service or not, Mr. Irvin said.

"That's not right," Mr. Gray said. "There are a lot of questions that need to be addressed."

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