A Finksburg company says it needs a long-term recycling agreement orit will stop accepting county-collected recyclables for free on March 1.

Phoenix Recycling Inc., which takes some 160 tons of county recyclables monthly, said a depressed recycling market and a recessionary economy preclude it from continuing to provide a free drop-off site for county recyclables.

"The recycling industry as a whole is downsizing due to poor markets, high costs of operation and the struggling economy," Phoenix President Jackson S. Haden Jr. wrote in a letter disclosed Thursday by the county commissioners. "Phoenix needs a contract to remain open."

Haden proposes a seven-year contract that would cost the government$276,000 annually.

The development came as a surprise and puts the county in a difficult position, said J. Michael Evans, director of the county Department of General Services, which oversees recycling programs.

The department had not anticipated budgeting for such a large expenditure for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

"It (the request) is certainly pressuring the county to enter an agreement," Evans said Friday. He acknowledged, however, that the county didn't expect free drop-off at Phoenix to continue indefinitely.

In fact, the $276,000-a-year contract was based on a proposal under which the county would charge a $6-per-household recycling fee.

But that program remains in the proposal stage and is not ready to be implemented.

The timing of Haden's request comes as a "disappointment" to the county, Evans said.

County officials are working to meet a state mandate to have in place by January 1994 a program to reduce the Carroll waste stream by 15 percent.

A recycling component is considered an important part of that plan, and the two primary proposals the county has discussed included Phoenix as the drop-off site.

The county maintains 14 recycling bins, where people can deposit cans, glass, plastic bottles and newspapers.

About 90 tons of recyclables are put in the bins each month, and another 70 tons are dropped off at the county recycling center. The county has taken all of the material to Phoenix since April 1990.

Evans said the county will begin discussions with Phoenix in hopes of reaching an agreement. Haden's seven-year, $276,000-a-year proposal was viewed as an opening offer, he said.

Haden originally informed the county that the free drop-off would end Feb. 15. However, the letter the county received Friday moved the deadline to March 1, Evans said.

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