In an 11th-hour attempt to expand the Annapolis landfill, the City Council has openly challenged the county government, saddled with its own trash woes, to allow the long-sought project.
Council members seized on the recent discovery of ground water contamination at the county's Millersville landfill as a basis for allowing the expansion. Led by Alderwoman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, the council adopted a resolution Monday urging the county to quickly approve a zoning exemption before the city landfill is scheduled to close at the end of June.
"For three years, the county put this city through a trauma," Moyer said angrily. "I hope their action wasn't a smoke screen to cover up what they already knew about Millersville."
She and other council members emphasized that the city's 70-acre dump off Defense Highway has been problem-free. Annapolis initially proposed a 79-acre expansion, 21 acres of which would be filled. But county officials bitterly fought and rejected that request.
The city stands to lose $4 million annually in tipping fees in closing the landfill.
The county Board of Appeals denied the expansion in the spring of 1990. Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, who spearheaded opposition to the expansion, refused to introduce legislation to change the county zoning code.
Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins said Monday he has tried repeatedly since then to persuade county officials to change their minds. City and county leaders called in an outside expert to mediate in December 1990, but the sessions with the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, a quasi-public agency that develops waste facilities, ended without a settlement.
"This is not something that is brand new," Hopkins pointed out. He appeared angry after Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, suggested the city should be pressing more forcefully for the expansion.
"I'm not dragging my feet," the mayor said, adding that the public has to get more involved to force the county's hand.
Hopkins said he has been meeting privately with County Executive Robert R. Neall for several months to discuss the landfill.
County officials expressed surprise yesterday that the city still was trying to expand its landfill. Walter Chitwood, an aide to Neall, said the county is set to begin taking the city's trash at the Millersville dump.
The resolution comes only two weeks after Annapolis garbage collectors gathered at the city landfill to press for an expansion and criticize the mayor for failing to lead the fight. Hopkins said he hasspent two years arguing with the county over the landfill.
"The one thing I don't want this issue to become is a political football, where we punt to the city and then they punt back to the county," saidCounty Council Chairman David Boschert.
But Moyer said Monday night that she wants to dump the issue back in the county's lap. She said the Millersville landfill is not a solution, since it is operating without an up-to-date permit and has signs of contamination.
"We don't have real problems. They have real problems," she said. "While they were dumping on us -- no pun intended -- they should have been dumping on themselves."