Waste company lawyer criticizes county action Contract for recycling at center of dispute

October 26, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

An attorney for an international trash disposal corporation has lashed out at Howard County officials for negotiating with a Baltimore business that built a transfer station in Elkridge without county approval.

William R. Winders Jr., area counsel for BFI Waste Systems of North America Inc., criticized the county for not terminating a five-year, $1.59 million contract with Partners Quality Recycling Services and reopening the bid process to collect the county's recyclables.

"We are very disappointed," Winders said during a telephone interview from BFI's Atlanta office. "It seems rather obvious that Partners didn't comply with the county's laws and ordinances. We feel that the county should have put this out for rebid."

But James M. Irvin, director of the county Department of Public Works, said the county would do no such thing.

"We understand their concerns, but we don't agree with their position," he said. "There is no plan to change vendors."

The controversy was thought to be dead after the county and Partners neared a compromise last month that would allow the company to retain its building and not raze or move it.

The 11,250-square-foot structure on 12.2 acres at the end of Kit Kat Road was discovered by an inspector from the Department of Planning and Zoning during a routine visit in June.

Shocked that Partners President Walter H. Kennell had built the transfer station without a building permit or an approved site development plan, planning director Joseph W. Rutter withdrew his support for the project.

In August, the Planning Board also recommended denial of a variance requested by Kennell, arguing that it did not want to set a precedent of encouraging other businesses to build without permission.

But last month, Rutter said his office was close to an agreement that would permit Partners to keep the building in exchange for a turnaround lane for county snow removal trucks on the site and 15-foot-wide easement along the front of the property.

Recycling has become a profitable business in the county, where more than 30,000 tons of cans, bottles and paper were hauled from local curbsides in 1997.

Earlier this year, Partners offered to remove bagged aluminum cans, glass jars and plastic bottles for $9.75 a ton and baled paper for $15.90 a ton. By comparison, BFI bid $22.50 a ton on cans, jars and bottles and $17 a ton for paper.

The concession over the building has drawn the ire of BFI officials, who have argued that Partners has violated its contract with the county by building the transfer station without county approval.

In a sharply-worded, two-page letter dated Sept. 16 and mailed anonymously to The Sun, Winders contended that the contract with Partners should be terminated and the work either awarded to BFI or rebid.

"It's a default of the contract," he said. "It's not only a default, but it makes a mockery of the county ordinances."

But Irvin, who sent his one-page reply Oct. 2, said Partners is seeking to satisfy the county's concerns.

"The county and Partners are working out a solution to the problems," Irvin said. "They're not getting away with anything. They're complying with the regulations."

Winders said BFI would consider seeking damages, including lost profits from not being awarded the contract.

"At this point, we have decided not to go forward with litigation," Winders said. "But we certainly reserve the right to do so."

Pub Date: 10/26/98

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