It was Harford County that pulled out of a waste disposal agreement with the Army, not the other way around, according to two county council members who met with Aberdeen Proving Ground officials Thursday morning.
Councilmen Dion Guthrie and Joe Woods said APG Garrison Commander Col. Orlando Ortiz told them the county informed the Army that the county had to "move in another direction."
"It has left the Army in a really bad spot," Guthrie said.
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When he asked Ortiz if the Army would be ready to provide energy for its APG buildings in 2016, when the current waste-to-energy facility is supposed to retire, Guthrie said Ortiz replied: "We have no choice but to be ready."
"I was really shocked," Guthrie said.
Ortiz also said the Army is prepared to "put up tents" or do anything it has to do to keep its buildings running, Guthrie said.
Woods confirmed Ortiz's comments and said he was equally surprised to hear it was the county who pulled out of the agreement.
"Very disappointing," Woods said.
The two council members' claims appeared to contradict earlier claims by County Executive David Craig, who has said the Army had decided against building a new waste-to-energy incinerator to replace the 25-year-old facility that burns the county's trash to produce steam for heating and cooling buildings at APG's Edgewood Area.
The Army's position forced the county to find an alternative disposal plan, leading to Craig to strike a deal with Maryland Environmental Service for it to haul the trash away from a transfer station Craig plans to build near the I-95/Route 152 interchange in Joppa. The site is in Guthrie's council district but will become part of Woods' district after the 2014 election.
"I'm sure they [Guthrie and Woods] took what he [Ortiz] said and re-interpreted it for their own political reasons," Craig said Thursday evening, noting the Guthrie is opposed to the transfer station "because he thinks it will get him votes" and "Woods was not interested until he was redistricted."
As he had done previously, Craig said the county and the Army reached "a mutual decision like a divorce; they couldn't follow our procedures and we couldn't follow theirs."
In addition to having procurement policies that run contrary to county law, Craig said the Army brass at the Pentagon level, "the Big Army," don't want to do waste-to-energy projects anymore, preferring other heating and cooling alternatives.
He also said the county was running out of time and had to make a decision how it would get rid of the trash, so it could have a plan in place when the current incinerator goes out of service in 2016.
"Dion [Guthrie] is going to interpret what was said his way," Craig added. "If they [the council] don't want to do this and nothing is done, then it's off my plate and the next county executive can do it – and be a one-termer."
Controversy moves north
While it might be a remote possibility, Harford County Council President Billy Boniface thinks there could still be a chance to put the proposed waste transfer station at the existing waste-to-energy facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Boniface discussed different facets of the county's fiscal year 2013 budget at the Darlington/Dublin town hall meeting Wednesday evening at the Darlington fire hall.
Going through different funds that are part of the budget, Boniface called the transfer station the most controversial item in the county's 2013 capital budget that the council is currently reviewing.