Public works officials offer choices on planning for county's trash service Commissioners will select from 'menu' in 2 weeks

March 06, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

J. Michael Evans, county public works director, donned a waiter's apron at lunchtime yesterday to lend an air of authenticity to an "a la carte menu" of trash services he presented to the County Commissioners.

Talking trash, while serious business, is also deadly dull.

But Evans and Gary Horst, deputy public works director, sought to make the discussion appetizing by inviting the commissioners to "Gary's Gourmet Galley." A 12-page illustrated menu included recommendations from "Chef Mike" and "Chef Gary" about how to fund the county's $2.2 million trash operation.

The chefs guided the commissioners through appetizer, a la carte, full meal and dessert sections of the menu.

Appetizers, they said, are "easy programs that stand alone." Among them was a proposal to cut back a program that gives residents two coupons annually for free disposal at the landfill -- a $45 value. The county cost is $164,000. The "chef's choice" would be "cut the portion in half" and save $82,000.

"A la cartes are a little more complex and a little more politically expensive," the chefs explained.

A sample "a la carte" order would eliminate staffing at a portion of the Northern Landfill used exclusively by residents -- a savings of $29,700.

Another a la carte entry would save $84,300 by ending the household hazardous waste program. Residents would put paints, sprays and other hazardous household wastes with regular trash.

Separate handling of household hazardous waste is no longer necessary because county trash is burned at an incinerator in York, Pa., Evans said.

Full dinners -- the most expensive items on the menu -- combined old and new ideas. A typical full dinner order would be to mine trash from a cell at the Northern Landfill and export it to York.

Mining would cost $520,000, but would extend the life of the landfill cell tenfold, from eight to 80 years. The "chef's choice" would be to not order this "full dinner" but to explore other opportunities, since the landfill has nearly a decade of use left.

The last menu item was desserts -- which the chefs called "revenue enhancements." Revenue enhancement is a euphemism for raising taxes or setting higher fees. It is sort of like calling hamburger steak tartar.

One of the dessert specialties was a plan to raise the so-called tipping fee -- the amount per ton the county charges trash haulers. The "chef's choice" would be to raise the fee $2 per ton this year and have a $1 annual increase each year through 2003. The fee is currently $45 per ton.

For the record, the commissioners didn't order from the menu yesterday. They told the chefs to "negotiate with the apparent low bidder to provide material recovery facilities" -- a recycling bin -- at the landfill.

The commissioners will "order" from the menu within two weeks.

Pub Date: 3/06/98

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