After the news Friday that the Maryland Department of the Environment had issued the appropriate permits for a waste-to-energy incinerator in Frederick, Carroll County commissioners said Monday that it is time for Carroll to exit the project in the most "cost-effective way for taxpayers."
"I think the day of reckoning is approaching," Commissioner Haven Shoemaker said. "We're going to have to make this decision that we were elected to do."
Commissioner Doug Howard acknowledged that this has been "one of the most complex projects" he has ever seen, but said the county is hopefully nearing the end of the process.
"The outcome for Carroll is clear," he said. "The question is, what is the most cost-effective way?"
Carroll County staff will be studying the permits during a 10-day review period in concert with Frederick County and the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority. Staff will then advise the commissioners once the review is complete, according to a statement issued by the county Friday.
The issue could be added to a commissioners' meeting within the next two weeks, Howard said.
In 2009, the previous board of county commissioners entered into an agreement with Frederick County and the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority to build an incinerator in Frederick capable of handling 1,500 tons of waste a day.
The current Carroll County commissioners informed Frederick County in 2012 that they were preparing to exit the agreement, citing concerns with the cost of building the incinerator and hauling costs. This gave Frederick the go-ahead to begin seeking a replacement partner for the project, but a replacement partner has yet been announced.
In June 2013, Carroll commissioners voted to allocate $3 million from a reserve for contingencies fund to pay any penalties associated with exiting the agreement with the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority once permits were issued.
On Friday, the Maryland Department of the Environment issued the necessary permits for the project. Permits are effective Feb. 21 and include air quality, refuse disposal, and wastewater discharge permits.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild said his goal is for Carroll County to be out of the project within the next 30 days.
"I don't believe it [the issuing of permits] changes anything, other than to serve as an incentive to extract Carroll County from this agreement in the most cost effective way for taxpayers," he said.
While commissioners made clear their desire to leave the project, they left the door open for a replacement suitor to materialize within coming weeks.
If a replacement is announced, Carroll would be off the hook for any penalty fees.
"I'd certainly be more excited to have someone appear as a partner," Howard said of paying a penalty of up to $3 million. "But at the end of the day, if there isn't, from my own perspective, I'm ready to move on."