Incinerator expansion clears council hurdle

June 15, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

After a night of extraordinary parliamentary maneuvering, a hotly contested bill to expand the service area of a regional medical waste incinerator in Hawkins Point won a key vote last night in the Baltimore City Council.

The 11-6 vote came on second reader to allow Medical Waste Associates' 150 ton-a-day facility to accept refuse from Carroll, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Currently, the incinerator can legally accept such waste only from the city and from Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties, although it has admitted violating the law by accepting waste from out-of-state medical facilities.

The bill is expected to receive final approval at Thursday night's council meeting -- a move considered all but a formality after last night's action.

Also last night, the council gave second reader approval to a sweeping bill to regulate adult entertainment businesses in the city.

The adult entertainment bill would limit any new adult bookstores, peep shows and strip joints to the central business district and makes them a conditional use under zoning laws, requiring council approval. It also would limit the hours of those businesses and require them to pay annual license fees of $1,000 a year.

The maneuvering on the incinerator bill began after the adoption of a series of technical amendments made it clear that the legislation had enough votes to pass.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, an opponent of the incinerator expansion, abruptly adjourned the council midway through its planned agenda, pointedly ignoring Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran, D-3rd, who was standing to move to approve the bill.

But City Council Vice President Vera P. Hall, claiming a 10-member quorum, reconvened the council moments later. The council then immediately went into recess.

During the recess, Ms. Hall criticized as "irresponsible" and "unforgiveable" Ms. Clarke's adjournment and failure to recognize Mr. Curran.

After 80 minutes, an obviously chastened and flustered Ms. Clarke gaveled the council back into session.

The council immediately voted down two amendments drafted during the recess that would have limited the amount of waste accepted from the expanded service area to 15 tons a day and put a sunset limit of three years on the bill. But a third amendment, forbidding the newly added jurisdictions from being used to pass through medical waste from elsewhere, was adopted.

The amended bill was then approved by an 11-6 vote.

Karen S. Goodhart, president of Medical Waste Associates, which said it needed to expand its service area to process enough waste to stay in business, expressed pleasure at the vote. She promised that her company, which owes over $100,000 in unpaid tipping fees to the city, would "address our debt as quickly as possible."

But Mary Rosso, head of the Glen Burnie-based Maryland Waste Coalition, a citizens group that opposed the bill on the grounds that it would increase pollution in South Baltimore and North Anne Arundel County, said she was disappointed and that her group may consider legal action to stop the expansion.

The bill had the backing of Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. At two lengthy and contentious hearings, administration officials said it was in the city's interest to have the incinerator remain in operation.

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