Harford's three municipalities won't have to pay for dumping trash at the county landfill or waste-to-energy plant for the first three months after the county's voluntary trash recycling program begins June 1.
The County Council voted, 4-3, Tuesday to exempt Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace from the new $35 per-ton tipping fee trash haulers will be charged when the recycling program begins.
Larry Klimovitz, director of administration, said the county will lose an estimated $65,000 in revenue due to the exemptions.
Councilman Barry T. Glassman, R-District D, opposed the motion, saying the three-month exemption "is the same poison, just a different amount."
"I'm not opposed to providing some grant assistance," said Glassman. "But I don't think we should send the message that some people do have to pay and other people don't."
But Councilman Robert S. Wagner, R-District E, the bill's sponsor, said the municipalities deserved some consideration because they face an unusual financial problem.
The municipalities argued for the exemptions, saying that the tipping fee would adversely affect their budgets and that they were constrained in ways to recoup the payments to the county. The three municipalities provide public trash collection.
Private trash haulers bill customers directly and are expected to raise their fees to offset the tipping fee cost.
Robert Lange, Havre de Grace city manager, said: "The city is grateful for any extensions, although we were looking for a little bit more. No one really wants to increase taxes, so we'll have to look at any other method by which that cost can be minimized."
Wagner, whose original proposal was to grant a one-year exemption, said the three months would give the the county time to work out a dispute with Bel Air, which has said it should not have to pay the fee because of a 1969 agreement with the county.
Under the agreement, Bel Air turned over its own 9-acre landfill so the county could build a detention center. In return, Harford guaranteed Bel Air the right to haul trash free for 99 years to the county's Tollgate dump, which closed in 1987. The deal was updated to allow free dumping at the county's central dump, Scarboro Landfill near Dublin.
Bel Air insists that its government and residents should be exempt from the tipping fee that will support the $2 million-a-year recycling program and a new solid waste fund.
County officials say the agreement is meaningless because it was struck before the trash recycling movement took hold as a way to save landfill space.