Annapolis garbage collectors gathered at the city landfill yesterdayto press for an 11th-hour expansion and sharply criticize the mayor for failing to lead the fight.
Charging Maryland's capital soon could be mired in a trash crisis, unionized city workers urged the community to rally behind expanding the landfill, which is swelling toward capacity and imminent shutdown.
Union leaders and two dozen employees faulted Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins for not taking an aggressive stand on the landfill. They also took him to task for not developing a comprehensive trash disposal strategy and called the administration's most recent study deeply flawed.
The mayor said he was astonished that the employees were unaware of the city's lengthy court battle to expand the landfill.
"This is the first time the union has shown any interest in it," he said.
Meanwhile, the City Council decided yesterday to seek additional bids to begin newspaper recycling.
Eastern Waste Industries, a national trash disposal chain, has offered to provide curbside newspaper recycling in exchange for a $20-per-ton reduction in tipping fees on 10,200 tons of trash. City officials supported the proposal as a way tofinish closing the landfill by the end of June.
But another company, Browning Ferris Industries, objected that the contract was not competitively bid. Several council members questioned whether Eastern Waste had lined up a "sweetheart deal," and the proposal failed in a tie vote yesterday morning.
The city has applied for an extension of its landfill permit, which expires June 30. But expanding the landfill is not likely since the county's zoning board denied the plan, said Alderman Dean Johnson, I-Ward 2.
"That's probably not an optionat this point," said Johnson, who serves on an ad-hoc committee reviewing a waste-management plan developed by the Public Works Department. The 80-page study says alternatives to cope with trash include cutting curbside collections to once a week and hiring a private contractor.
Annapolis has come under fire for running an expensive trash program, charging $188 per business or household for collections, more than twice the rate paid by county residents. But many city residents have said the excellent service, which includes collections twice a week, is worth the price.
"In 2 1/2 years, I've only had one question about refuse," Johnson said. "It's the only city service residents always praise."
Members of Local 3406 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said yesterday they fear at least 27 workers would be hurt if the city privatizes its trash collection. Longtime workers could be transferred or even laid off, said Amelia Bridges, president of the local.
Seven city employees working at the landfill would be affected first, she said. Another 20 garbage collectors face an uncertain future now because the city's dilapidated dump trucks would be hard-pressed to make the 30-mile trip tothe county landfill in Millersville.
Union members from other departments, including Utilities and Parks and Recreation, showed up to support the statement released at a news conference yesterday afternoon.