Tipping fee is ruled illegal, but county plans to appeal

September 28, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

A Circuit Court judge has ruled that the county's tipping fee charged to haulers dumping trash at its landfills is illegal.

In a written opinion released yesterday, Judge Maurice W. Baldwin upheld the town of Bel Air's refusal to pay the tipping fee of $35 a ton to dump trash at the county landfill.

"The town obviously agrees with Judge Baldwin, but it also believes it has an agreement with the county that allows it to use county landfills without charge," said Charles B. Keenan Jr., the town's attorney.

Judge Baldwin's opinion did not address the validity of a 1969 agreement between the county and the town that allows Bel Air to dump trash at the landfill free for 99 years. A ruling on that has been held pending the ruling on the legality of the tipping fee, Mr. Keenan said.

County Attorney Ernest A. Crofoot said the county will appeal Judge Baldwin's decision.

"The court has recognized that the county has the legal authority to enact the tipping fee and that the amount collected was less than the cost of services provided to the haulers who pay the fee," Mr. Crofoot said. "The county disagrees . . . that the fees were co-mingled with other revenues and therefore . . . an illegal tax."

Mr. Crofoot said the county "will continue charging the tipping fee and adjust its accounting procedures to more clearly conform to the Circuit Court's directives."

The county has billed Bel Air monthly since Sept. 29, 1992. County officials contend that the town now owes $234,415 in tipping fees, plus $260,610 in interest.

The town contended that Bel Air turned over its 9-acre landfill to the county as the site for the County Detention Center. In return, the county guaranteed Bel Air free dumping for 99 years in the Tollgate landfill. The town contends that deal was amended to allow it free dumping at the Scarboro Landfill near Dublin after Tollgate closed in 1987.

Judge Baldwin's decision parallels a February 1993 opinion from the Maryland attorney general that, unless the legislature authorizes the tipping fee, it is an unpermitted tax.

The judge said the fee would be legal if the county used the collected fees only for operating and maintaining its disposal sites.

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