Compromise amendment keeps controversial Joppa trash transfer station in Harford budget

Harford County Councilmen Dion Guthrie and Joe Woods failed to get their budget amendments passed that would have removed the waste transfer facility from the 2013 capital budget, but County Executive David Craig apparently requested an amendment that tried to forge a compromise.

That amendment, which the county council approved at its meeting Tuesday night, removes $3 million in funding from the waste transfer station project and leaves only $500,000 to fund design and engineering costs, Council President Billy Boniface explained.

The amendment was approved with only Guthrie and Woods voting against it. They had wanted an amendment that would have removed the project completely.

The council also approved a memorandum of change that Boniface said requires any future, or outyear, funding for the project to be brought before the council for approval.

Boniface said he suggested Craig consider taking out all the funding and he commended him for coming up with a compromise.

"I do, though, believe in everyone coming out a winner on any issue and I believe in sitting down and talking with people, you recognize where their concerns are," he said.

Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti noted she co-sponsored a bill recently that set forward stringent requirements the administration must meet before moving forward with including a waste transfer station in the solid waste plan.

The administration must select a site, develop a comprehensive site plan and have a community input meeting, among other things.

"Those four things have to happen before the administration can even bring a bill over to us," Lisanti said.

Boniface said: "I think it's important that we clarify that this is not a new project."

He said some council members may not have known where it was set to go, but the project did have costs set aside last year.

But, also Boniface pointed out: "Removing the outyear funding is not going to stop this project."

No support

Guthrie said he has not received a single phone call or email from anyone who supports the transfer facility, except Craig.

"The bill itself is striking," Guthrie said, quoting an earlier comment by Councilman Jim McMahan. "Let's put the horse in front of the cart instead of the other way around."

Guthrie said he agreed with Lisanti's earlier comment.

"Everything she said is absolutely true. However, what has happened is the county executive, [the] administration, has not followed anything Mary Ann just said," he said. "They went ahead and bought the property."

Councilman Dick Slutzky and Lisanti shook their heads as Guthrie talked.

Lisanti then said she wanted to clarify that the acquisition of the Joppa property predates the new bill to which she referred.

She said before that bill, the administration would have been within its authority to buy the property, but she noted the county has put into place a stopgap measure so something similar would not happen in the future.

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