Carroll sets aside $3M to exit waste-to-energy project

The Board of Carroll County Commissioners voted Thursday to allocate $3 million to its solid waste enterprise fund in a precautionary move should the county have to pay a penalty for withdrawing from a waste-to-energy incinerator project with Frederick County.

The move does not signify that Carroll has agreed to pay the penalty to withdraw, it only makes the funding available should the county have to in the future.

By reserving these funds specifically for paying the withdrawal penalty, Commissioners President Doug Howard said this puts the onus on Frederick to find a replacement while further distancing Carroll from the project.

The $3 million comes from the fiscal year 2013 budget reserve for contingencies.

"We were elected to deal with this issue and I believe it needs to be dealt with today," Howard said during the commissioners Thursday meeting which became heated at times between he and Commissioner Richard Rothschild.

Howard, who proposed setting aside the funds, abstained in the 3-1-1 vote after Rothschild alleged Howard's campaign manager could financially benefit from the county moving forward with the waste-to-energy project.

Rothschild, along with commissioners Haven Shoemaker and Robin Frazier voted in favor of the resolution. Commissioner Dave Roush cast the lone vote against.

Howard denounced Rothschild's accusations, but said he abstained from the vote after realizing there were enough votes to pass the measure.

"At this point, we didn't need another distraction," Howard said.

Rothschild said he agreed with Howard's plan to set aside funds should the county need to pay the penalty, but argued the timing was a year too soon.

He was adamant that setting a deadline would discourage another county from taking Carroll's spot until after the deadline to pay the penalty had passed, thus leaving the county on the hook for $3 million.

"Stating a firm deadline that we're going to pull out is flawed," Rothschild said.

The agreement passed by the commissioners did not include a deadline.

Rothschild said he believed there are possibilities for the county to escape the penalty over the next year, such as Frederick deciding to build a smaller incinerator than originally proposed.

The previous board of county commissioners signed an agreement in 2009 with Frederick and the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority to develop a 1,500-ton-a-day waste-to-energy facility.

Carroll County sent a letter in June 2012 to Frederick County, giving the go-ahead for Frederick to seek other partners in the project.

Commissioners are trying to escape the contract because of its financial impact. It would have cost Carroll about $240 million to help pay for construction of the incinerator facility.

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