In approving legislation Tuesday that seals the plan to ship the bulk of the county's trash to Baltimore County for disposal, the Harford County Council also voted to remove a potential loophole that could have revived a controversial proposed transfer station in Joppa.
Just when Joppa residents had thought that the idea of a waste transfer station on the 24-acre former Plecker property off Philadelphia Road was dead, they learned in recent weeks there was a kicker in the legislation Harford County Executive David Craig's administration sent to the county council to ratify the Baltimore County deal that supposedly eliminates the need tor the transfer station.
As most Joppa residents originally understood the plan, all trash is supposed to be trucked directly from Harford to the White Marsh area for Baltimore County to dispose of it, with no intermediate transfer points.
Language was added to Bill 13-23 - Municipal Solid Waste Disposal Agreement with Baltimore County, however, that stated: "Harford County intends to reserve the property located at 814 Philadelphia Road, Joppa, Maryland for future solid waste and recycling needs."
Upon learning of the news via e-mail, more than a dozen Joppa residents, many wearing "NO TRANSFER STATION" T-shirts, showed up at Tuesday night's council meeting in Bel Air to support an amendment co-sponsored by council members Dion Guthrie, Joe Woods and Mary Ann Lisanti striking the language from the bill.
Nine of them waited through 90 minutes of a public hearing on the waste disposal agreement legislation so they could express their support for the amendment.
"There are several people here that are speaking in favor of or supporting an amendment to bill 13-22. Will they please stand?" requested Carolyn Hicks, who was first to speak. All nine people stood up.
"My perceptions are that the entire Plecker property has been conducted in a cloud of doubt and a lack of transparency," Adrian Cox said. "When we were told that the trash dump project was dead, we did not expect it to be revived in a backdoor method."
Joyce Bechtold and her husband own 21 acres across from the Plecker property.
"The value of our property and the value of all the properties in the area had been desecrated by the possibility of that transfer site," Bechtold said. "We have finally been able to breathe a sigh of relief; at least we thought we did when we learned that the county had abandoned the plans for the Plecker property."
"The residents of the area deserve better than being harnessed with any form of trash station," Bechtold added. "Let this albatross be removed from the shoulders of our community because two wrongs do not make a right."
When the amendment came to a vote, it passed the council 6-1, to applause from the Joppa residents in the audience. The lone dissenting vote came from Councilman Richard Slutzky, who said the county needed a fallback option because of possible unforeseen circumstances.
"Without having an option, then we're reaching into this area of unintended consequences," Slutzky said. "We don't have anything. We have no idea what kind of legislation is going to come to this county."
To save time, the amended bill was later approved in a single package with two other waste management bills, Bill 13-22 (Solid Waste Management Plan Revision) and Bill 13-24 (Agreement to Amend the Amended and Restated Waste Supply Contract with NMWDA) by the same 6-1 margin, with Slutzky again dissenting.