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Joppa residents, supporters push to remove transfer station from budget

BY BRYNA ZUMER, bzumer@theaegis.com

1:29 PM EDT, May 3, 2012

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The waste transfer station proposed for Joppa was a hot topic, yet again, at the Harford County Council's first budget hearing Wednesday night.

About 100 people filled the Bel Air High School auditorium, most of them wearing gray T-shirts reading "No Transfer Station" to oppose the capital budget project that includes such a facility on Route 7 in Joppa.

Among those opponents were Councilmen Dion Guthrie and Joe Woods, who also wore the T-shirts over their dress clothes. Both councilmen have been outspoken in their opposition to the transfer station.

Suzanne Collins was one of 20 speakers signed up, speaking on behalf of State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who is running for Congress.

Jacobs is spearheading a traffic study at the Route 7 intersection where the transfer station would go, Collins said.

She said it appears no public information was presented in advance about any of the plans.

"If the story hadn't come out in the newspaper, how long would it take the county to inform homeowners about this project?" she asked. "Why wasn't an appraisal done on the property before it was purchased?"

Harford County Executive David Craig has previously asserted that he believes an appraisal was done on the site.

Collins said it is more important to put any trash facility in a more remote area.

"We shouldn't suggest to these families they will get a tax credit when that hasn't happened elsewhere as promised," Collins said.

"Whatever you decide, it must be done with absolute transparency and all questions must be fully answered before moving forward. The concerns of the residents who live in this area are valid and should not be swept under the rug," she said, as the roomful of supporters cheered.

Vince Rabenau, who is on the Joppa/Joppatowne Community Council, said the information that has gone back and forth has been misleading or inaccurate at times.

"I would never make a decision based on flawed information, information I wasn't sure of or wasn't confident about," he said.

He urged the council to redirect the $3.5 million toward the library or school systems.

"I think there's other initiatives that deserve it at this time," he said.

Morita Bruce, a Fallston resident, also spoke in opposition of the transfer station and suggested restarting the conversation with Aberdeen Proving Ground on having the Army dispose of the county's trash.

She said the Army would then get the energy it wants, the county would save money, a transfer station would not go in anyone's backyard and traffic would be moved to Route 24 with the agreement of the Army.

Dan Heinz, who lives a half mile from the proposed site, called the purchase of the former Plecker's World of Golf site for the transfer station "ill-advised" and "ill-approved."

He said the selection of a trash disposal site should not be a "railroad decision."

"There are many, many better alternatives, and many have already been mentioned, but ignored," he said.

Several other state representatives also asked the council to eliminate the transfer station.

Del. Kathy Szeliga said she has been hearing from a lot of people and she trusts their concerns are being heard.

Del. J.B. Jennings, who lives in Joppa, made a more personal request.

"For me, this is in my backyard," he said. "I understand this is a tough decision you all have to make."

"This intersection is truly a funnel for pretty much the entire western portion of Harford County," Jennings continued. "The traffic is bad; I see it every day."

"This is a big issue. It's going to affect our district, it's going to impact my neighborhood," he said.

George Carlson, another resident, added: "Who in their right mind would put a temporary garbage dump in the middle of such a busy area? It makes no sense at all."

On other budget items, a few people also spoke in support of Harford County Public Schools and the Harford County Public Library.

Nicole Young, a teacher, said she gets less take-home pay now than she did when she first started in the school system.

"The school system should be a priority, as teachers are asked to do more and more with less and less," she said, adding that maybe the money should be taken from the "obviously unwanted" transfer station.