Pricing Dumping at the Landfill

May 23, 1994

Setting next year's fees for dumping waste at the county's landfills will be no easy task. The commissioners must choose among a number of less-than-desirable alternatives that will result in larger fees than those of last year. The question before the commissioners is deciding how to allocate the increases.

Under the accounting standards applicable to municipal governments, landfill fees must not only cover their current operating costs but the expense of closing them. The county's current tipping fee of $40 a ton -- which is charged to towns and haulers and then passed on to customers -- is insufficient, according to County Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman.

Originally, Mr. Curfman proposed an across-the-board tipping fee of $53 a ton, but the commissioners asked him to develop less costly alternatives. Mr. Curfman's new set of proposals calls for a variety of different fee schedules for general refuse, construction rubble and yard waste.

Regardless of the alternatives, the tipping fee for general refuse will have to be set at about $49 a ton in order to cover all the costs. Depending on the alternative the commissioners select, the cost for dumping construction rubble could range between $75 a ton and $80 a ton. Included in these options is a $20 a ton fee for yard waste.

Charging for yard waste would be a mistake, as the commissioners have already realized. Instead of disposing of their grass clippings, leaves and cut brush at the landfill, many residents will dump their waste along roads, in commercial trash bins, public parks and farm fields. It would make much more sense to allow residents to bring their yard waste into a central composting facility for free but sell the composted material for a nominal price.

Establishing a higher charge for construction rubble makes sense, particularly if companies are bringing rubble to the Northern landfill because of its low cost. Space at the landfill is limited, and it should not be squandered. Maintaining a relatively low charge for construction debris will encourage construction companies from outside Carroll to dump at the landfill.

Nobody will be happy with the more expensive rates, but the landfill must pay for itself. If it doesn't, county residents will wind up paying for it through higher property taxes.

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