Don't Change Recycling Contract CARROLL COUNTY

November 11, 1992

Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy should trust their instincts and decline to renegotiate Carroll County's recycling contract with Waste Management of North America. Both commissioners have indicated they are not about to tear up a contract that was signed just five months ago and rewrite it to suit the company. They are right.

The only circumstance that has changed is the ownership of Phoenix Recycling Inc. When the contract was signed, the company was a subsidiary of Haden Trash Removal. A month later, Waste Management, a publicly held New York Stock Exchange Company, purchased Phoenix.

Now Waste Management finds out that the Finksburg processing plant needs about $1 million of improvements to comply with state flood plain regulations. Waste Management maintains the building's walls need to be reinforced so they could hold in case of a flood. Also, the building has to be re-engineered so that flood water can flow through the plant without taking the recyclables out with it.

Waste Management appears to be using the flood plain regulations to obscure the real source of the problem. The company failed to fully investigate Phoenix Recycling and the county contract. Phoenix won the county's five-year recycling contract because its bid was half the amount offered by its competitors. Since then, the market for recyclable materials has plummeted. But when Waste Management purchased Phoenix, the onus was on its management to thoroughly investigate the company and its contracts.

Under the terms of the contract, Waste Management is responsible for collecting the recyclables from the county's private trash haulers. The county pays the company $200,000 for the first 12,000 tons of recyclables it collects. If the company collects about 17,000 tons, it will earn $258,000. The county is depending on this contract to help meet the state-mandated target of recycling 15 percent of its solid waste by 1994.

It is not Carroll County taxpayers' fault the recycling contract is no longer profitable. If the market for recyclables had climbed instead of collapsed, Carroll's taxpayers would not have received any benefits. The government entered into the contract in good faith. Waste Management ought to honor it in good faith.

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