Dumping fee to rise by $5 a ton July 1

June 01, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

The Carroll County Commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to raise the fee for dumping in landfills by $5 a ton July 1.

The increase is $4 a ton less than the county comptroller had recommended to keep the operation in line with accounting standards.

Bond rating agencies and an association that rates the county's financial matters are likely to notice that the commissioners disregarded his advice, Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman said.

The commissioners may have to raise the fee again next year, unless the amount of trash dumped in the landfill is drastically reduced, he said.

Residents will be charged $45 per ton to dump clean wood. Currently, there is no charge, because the wood is recycled. But the county pays about $300 a truckload to have it hauled to a recycler, Mr. Curfman said.

The fee increase also includes a change in the way the county charges for pickup-truck loads of trash. Currently, the county charges $6 for a small pickup load and $8 for pickups with side rails. Beginning July 1, pickup trucks will be charged by weight.

The commissioners voted unanimously not to charge for yard waste accepted at the landfills for composting.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he wanted to charge for yard waste because it would deter residents who now take it to the landfill free. The county is starting an educational program to encourage residents to leave grass clippings on their lawns.

"We certainly don't want to overcharge, but the bills are there and they have to be paid," Mr. Dell said.

In the end, he voted not to charge for yard waste, but said he would study the issue.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge proposed the $5 tipping fee increase.

"Raising the tipping fee, I will say right up front, is against everything I think is right, but I don't want to lose the [county's] bond rating," Mrs. Gouge said.

Beginning this calendar year, "generally accepted accounting standards" require the county to charge a tipping fee high enough to help pay for the landfills' future operating and capital costs.

Mr. Curfman last week recommended an increase in the tipping fee to $49 a ton from $40 a ton to help cover future costs.

He said he couldn't know yesterday whether the bond houses would be concerned enough about landfill finances to change the county's bond rating. The bond houses will issue their ratings for next year in November.

A "Certificate of Excellence in Accounting" that the county has received in the past from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada also could be jeopardized, he said.

Mr. Curfman said he expects the outside auditing firm that reviews county books at the end of each fiscal year to note that the tipping fee increase wasn't high enough to cover future costs.

Currently, $33 of the $40 fee is used to pay operating costs and the remaining $7, which raises $600,000 to $700,000 a year, goes toward capital costs.

The $5 per ton increase will go toward future capital costs, Mr. Curfman said.

He projected that the county will spend about $28 million on landfill capital projects in the next five years. The county's two operating landfills -- Northern and Hoods Mill -- will take in almost 100,000 tons of waste in fiscal 1995.

"We are still financially solvent," said Steven D. Powell, the county budget director.

The bond rating agencies, which determine the interest rate at which the county can borrow money, watch whether county officials comply with accounting rules, Mr. Curfman said.

He had been recommending a tipping fee increase since last year. He said the fee should be raised to $53 to comply with the accounting rules.

Carroll County now has high ratings from two New York bond houses. Moody's Investor Service gives the county an Aa rating. Standard & Poor's gives the county an AA-. Both ratings mean the county's bonds are of high quality and, thus, carry low interest rates.

Mrs. Gouge suggested delaying the tipping fee increase until Sept. 1 to give haulers time to adjust, but Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy and Mr. Dell voted against a delay.

The haulers told the commissioners Friday that they needed three months' notice to adjust their rates. The county has no countywide trash collection; residents must hire private haulers.

Mr. Dell said yesterday that charging more for rubble "goes against my proposal to limit fees for business and industry."

Lew Schwartz, plant manager at Ryland Building Systems in New Windsor, said his company sends 4 tons to 6 tons of clean wood to the landfill each month.

The new charge to dump clean wood will add about $600 to his monthly bill of $2,500 for trash removal, he said.

"There's no benefit to me to separate" the clean wood from rubble now, he said.

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