Harford judge reverses ruling, says dumping fee is not a tax

November 07, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

A Circuit Court judge has reversed his September decision on money charged to haulers dumping trash at Harford County landfills, saying the tipping fees are not an illegal tax.

The Town of Bel Air had gone to court, alleging that the county's charge of $35 a ton to commercial and municipal garbage collectors to dump trash at the Harford Resource Recovery Center and the Harford Waste Disposal Center was an illegal tax because the fees collected were mixed with other revenues and not being spent on waste disposal.

In a written opinion filed Friday on the motion to reconsider his decision, Judge Maurice W. Baldwin said, "The Court's prior reliance on the co-mingling issue was erroneous."

The judge said a fee is a charge for services rendered. To be L LTC fee and not an illegal tax, the judge said, the money derived from the fee must not exceed the costs of activities related to those sites.

The judge said that, from the information he had, it was impossible to determine the costs of waste disposal; that would have to be determined at a trial.

Ernest A. Crofoot, county attorney, said late Friday that the county feels confident going to trial because the "fees collected are being used for services rendered."

Judge Baldwin's reversal did not address the Town of Bel Air's additional allegation that it has a valid 1969 agreement with the county that allows it to use county landfills free for 99 years.

The town contends it turned over its 9-acre landfill to the county as the site for the county Detention Center in return for 99 years of free dumping. Town officials say the agreement was amended to allow free dumping at the Scarboro Landfill, near Dublin, after the Tollgate Landfill closed in 1987.

The county, however, has continued billing the Town of Bel Air for landfill use monthly. That amount, including interest, topped $500,000 last month, county officials said.

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