Proposals for ending trash woes presented Commissioners hear pitches for exporting, co-composting waste

April 17, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners inched closer to solving Carroll's growing garbage problem yesterday after listening to proposals from two nationally known disposal companies.

Whether the commissioners will be able to find a solution in the next few months -- something that eluded their predecessors for more than a decade -- remains to be seen.

"We're closer than we've ever been," Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said about finding an alternative to dumping trash at landfills. "Don't ask me how close that is."

The commissioners and Adams County, Pa., officials met with their public works and budget staffs in a two-hour closed session yesterday to discuss landfill alternatives.

Proposals were presented by Bedminster Bioconversions Corp. of Cherry Hill, N.J., and Waste Management Inc. of Oak Brook, Ill.

Waste Management has proposed constructing a 20,000-square-foot building at Carroll's Northern Landfill, where trash would be dumped temporarily and then exported to incinerators or super-sized landfills elsewhere.

The company is looking for a minimum guarantee of 82,300 pounds of trash a year and would charge the county an initial rate of $41.71 per ton. The $3.4 million annual cost could be reduced by 6.5 percent or about $220,000, company representatives said, if the county paid the fee in advance.

The price quote did not include the cost of operating a recycling program. Company officials said they would submit a bid to collect recyclables later.

Bedminster, which uses a process called co-composting to turn sludge and trash into potting soil in three days, said costs would range from $19.59 to $78.22 per ton, depending on which of several variables come into play.

Among those variables are the price the county would charge other jurisdictions to bring their sludge to Carroll for use in the conversion process, and the sale price per ton of the potting soil. Other variables include the interest rates on municipal bonds to build a $41 million co-composting facility.

The company's best guess was that co-composting would cost the county $3.5 million a year.

Because the process turns garbage into potting soil -- which is a considered a means of recycling -- the county would not have to require residents to remove recyclables from their garbage, Bedminster officials said.

A Carroll plant would cost $8 million more today than one the company proposed building two years ago, Bedminster

representatives said, because it would have fire protection and aeration systems designed to prevent the odor and fire problems that have closed its Cobb County, Ga., plant.

Going into yesterday's meeting, Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates were leaning toward a trash-export proposal. Brown favors co-composting.

Brown said he remains convinced that co-composting "is the best alternative for the people of Carroll County, both environmentally and economically."

In 20 years, when the county "owns the bio-conversion plant, the proof will be evident," he said.

Yates said he could be persuaded to choose the co-composting alternative if Adams County picks up some of the costs. Adams officials -- who asked to be included yesterday because they are considering co-composting -- indicated they may be willing to share costs for using a Carroll facility, Yates said. They will meet with their Carroll counterparts in 30 days to discuss a concrete proposal.

"If [the Adams County proposal] relieved our taxpayers, I'd be inclined to support it," Yates said. "I'd have to see how much."

Dell said he had not had "a definite change of heart, but several things did come up" during the discussion that he and his fellow commissioners need to evaluate.

Dell said his main problem with the Bedminster proposal was that the company "didn't nail down the price on the tipping fee" -- the price per ton trash haulers pay to use a landfill or other trash disposal facility.

"I cannot vote to accept [the Bedminster] proposal without knowing what the tipping fee is," he said.

Dell described the closed-door session as "a real good discussion." The commissioner said he believes the session will produce a decision on trash disposal "fairly soon" -- probably by September.

Brown, too, is "optimistic," but pointed out that he has been optimistic in the past and nothing happened.

"We've gotten to the point that you've got to be a darn fool to delay the decision much longer," he said.

The commissioners did make one trash-related decision yesterday.

They postponed accepting bids to open a third trash cell at Northern Landfill. Brown said the county must determine within the next 30 to 60 days whether to open a $3 million to $3.5 million cell at the landfill.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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