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Harford keeps Maryland Environmental Service to run landfill, yard waste site

Harford County has renewed a contract with Maryland Environmental Service to operate several facilities previously run by the county, including the landfill in Street and yard waste disposal site in Bel Air, shown above.
Harford County has renewed a contract with Maryland Environmental Service to operate several facilities previously run by the county, including the landfill in Street and yard waste disposal site in Bel Air, shown above. (ALLAN VOUGHT | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

Harford County will spend more than $5.24 million in fiscal 2017 on a renewed contract with Maryland Environmental Service to operate several facilities previously run by the county, including the landfill in Street and yard waste disposal site in Bel Air.

Maryland Environmental Service, a quasi-public state agency, took over the previously county-run environmental services department in August 2015 under a 10-month, $4.7 million outsourcing contract.

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The county Board of Estimates unanimously approved a full-year, $5.2 million contact with MES during its meeting Tuesday.

Director of Administration Billy Boniface, who chaired the estimates board meeting, noted the county will save more than half a million dollars in annual expenses by outsourcing environmental services.

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"It's about $550,000 less than when we were doing it ourselves, if you average in the two extra months," he said.

Under the contract, MES will operate the Harford Waste Disposal Center on Scarboro Road in Street, the Tollgate collection facility for yard waste in Bel Air, the county's Roadside Litter Control Program, used oil and antifreeze disposal program and will oversee licensing and vehicle inspections for waste hauling companies.

The contractor will also manage the county's recycling program and promote recycling to Harford residents, oversee monitoring of landfill gas and groundwater treatment programs, monitor active and closed landfills and provide technical support for environmental services, according to bid documents.

Duties also include managing programs to control gypsy moths and invasive and noxious weeds.

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Jeff Stratmeyer, the county's acting public works director and estimates board member, said the cost of having MES run the operations is "actually cheaper per month."

"That's the beauty of working with them," Boniface said, noting the county just gets a bill at the end of the month. "We only pay them for what they're doing."

He encouraged board members to visit the landfill in Street.

"They're doing a great job up there," he said. "If you have time to go up to the landfill, you should go up there and check it out."

Board members also unanimously approved an $896,530 contract with the regional governments supported Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, of Baltimore, to decommission the Harford Waste-to-Energy Facility in Joppa.

The plant, which closed in March, provided steam energy generated by burning trash to the neighboring Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The plant, which was owned by the federal government and leased by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, closed in March after 28 years of operations.

The Army, which has commissioned the construction of a natural gas-fired plant to provide energy for the Edgewood Area, declined to renew the lease agreement.

The county covered the cost of the plant's annual $8 million operating budget, but Harford County and Baltimore County signed an agreement in 2013 to transfer all of Harford's solid waste to a new facility in White Marsh.

Board member Warren Hamilton, the County Council appointee, took issue with a charge of more than $102,000 in the contract to cover membership fees for the Waste Disposal Authority.

"Are they holding us hostage?" Hamilton asked.

Jeff Schoenberger, of the Department of Public Works, who presented the contract, said the county must be a member of the Authority "to get them to do the work for you."

The membership fees had been covered in the past by steam revenue, Schoenberger said.

Boniface said the county must pay membership fees until decommission of the plant and the cleanup is complete in March 2019.

"I had problems with it too, Warren, but it's all part of the agreement, and quite frankly it's still part of it," Boniface told Hamilton.

When the county started using MES for most of its environmental activities last summer, for county executive Jim Harkins was the head of MES. He retired in March.

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