Carroll mayors criticized the county commissioners Thursday for reversing their original proposal to make recycling mandatory and advocating a waste-disposal plan the mayors say favors trash haulers over residents.
Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, designated by Carroll's eight mayors as their spokesman on the issue, re-emphasized to the commissioners that trash collection and recycling bills for residents could be sliced in half if the board pursued a more efficient and cost-effective system.
"The towns are not happy with you, and after July 1 when residents pay their bills, they're not going to be happy," Brown told the commissioners at the quarterly mayors' meeting. "Nobody's going to be happy with you except a few haulers, and that's an outrageous way to run the county."
Brown said municipalities were proceeding with plans for trash collection and recycling bids based on the commissioners' past comments that recycling would be mandatory, rather than voluntary. Making recycling voluntary and refusing to ban recyclables from landfills sends a weak message to the public, said Brown.
Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy answered that they had considered the viewpoints of residents, mayors, trash haulers, staff and the Recycling Committee before arriving at their current proposal.
Under that proposal, Phoenix Recycling Inc. of Finksburg has been awarded a five-year contract to accept recyclables, with payments depending on volume. Trash haulers would be required to offer recycling to all customers, and would devise their own plans for disposal. Residents would not be required to recycle, but possibly could be charged for the service.
"Our plan is to do the most with the least impact on residents," said Dell, adding that decisions are not final. "What we have is what we're going to live with until we see a need for change. That could be in six months. I don't see this as a perfect plan."
Robert A. Bair, executive assistant to the commissioners, said, "The bottom line is, people don't like mandates."
Curbside recycling is expected to begin and landfill fees are anticipated to increase from $15 per ton to $40 by July 1. The state mandates that Carroll recycle 15 percent of its waste by 1994.
The mayors advocate establishing a combined countywide trash collection and mandatory recycling program that would include municipal households as well as those in the county's unincorporated areas. The county also could be divided into regions that could be bid upon separately by haulers.
The county currently permits households in unincorporated areas to form individual arrangements with trash haulers, while most municipalities enter into their own contracts. Brown contends that residents in unincorporated areas pay unnecessarily high fees for trash collection partly because haulers run inefficient routes. Savings could also be realized through collecting larger volumes, he said, adding that the commissioners are too interested in protecting business for small haulers.
Six municipalities that are considering consolidating their trash collection and recycling recently received a $44.08 annual per-household bid for the services, said Brown. Since the typical household that recycles generates about one ton of trash per year, it also would pay $40 or so in landfill fees, he said.
Under the unified bid, residents would pay less than $90 for trash collection, recycling and landfill fees, he estimated. County residents now pay about $120 to $160, which Brown expects will increase to around $200 by July 1.
"You had it in your hands to make it $90," said Brown. "I can't see a reason why you didn't do that, other than you're listening to haulers and not considering all the residents in the county."