County Official Calls Kozub Article Wrong


I was appalled upon reading your jaundiced article concerning the Kozub property, which completely misportrays Harford County's efforts and inexplicably attacks the county. The county is the government entity which has acted most responsibly with respect to the Kozub property.

Distortions permeate the article, beginning with the subtitle, "State, County Debris Dominates the Site." In the first instance, I am aware only of clean earthen fill that was sent to Kozub's property by a subcontractor, T.C. Simons, of the county's prime contractor when work was being done on the Abingdon Water Treatment Plant. As I previously told you:

* Only earthen material was excavated at the water treatment plant site, primarily from the large hole for the plant's foundation. The area was an open field with few if any trees, and there was no concrete or asphalt on the property.

* The treatment plant earth was the only material with origins to a county project that the county has reason to believe was deposited at the Kozub property. Your reporter responded to my questioning on the matter that you did not have any information that any county material was deposited at the site other than the earthen material which came from the treatment plant site. The county volunteered that information to the reporter. You have created a misleading impression about the county's connection to the site by speaking about county and state activity at the site in the same sentences.

* Most of the earth from the water treatment plant project was brought to the Kozub property in 1993; the last load was brought in the spring of 1994.

* The county, in 1993, instituted a program so that none of the debris from county road construction jobs is deposited anywhere but a permitted rubble landfill or other sanitary landfill. The county administration has fought the practice of obtaining permission from local landowners for the deposit of such material on their properties. The administration has worked hard to educate its highways crews, operators and supervisory staff so that practice which is still permitted by state law and has been conducted for years is stopped. Thus, the county, under County Executive Eileen Rehrmann's administration, has been pro-active in this area.

The reporter never inquired of the volume of the material from the water treatment plant job that went to the Kozub property. Had he inquired, I would have told him that it was no more than 100 truckloads. Much of the material, all of which was good quality clean earthen fill, went to other county projects for use.

Nevertheless, the article states, "The two agencies have allowed their contractors to deposit thousands of truckloads of dirt, concrete, asphalt and other materials at Michael J. Kozub's 113-acre MJK Ranch." It also states, "whose local and state governments were major users" and "trucks from state road construction projects . . . and from the construction of a water treatment plant on Abingdon Road built by Harford County have been among the dozens umping there every week."

All of these quotes are flagrantly misleading; many are abjectly incorrect. No county contractor trucks have deposited any fill at the Kozub property since the spring of 1994. Neither the county nor any county contractors currently are sending dozens of trucks to the site. Nevertheless, you imply as much. Not even hundreds, let alone thousands, of trucks from a county contractor have brought material to the site. Nevertheless, you imply as much. . . .

The reporter engages in self-aggrandizement by inferring that the letter was sent to MDE as a result of his public information act request to review county files. To the contrary, and, as I told him, the county has received complaints after rainy weather in each of the past three years as a result of dirt on Hookers Mill Road.

That is what prompted the county to investigate the site initially back in 1993. That is what prompted the county to again investigate the site in 1994. And that is what prompted my letter of June 23, following a week of showers. The county has received citizen complaints and has responded to those complaints in each of those three years. . . .

The distortion continues with the statement, "Harford officials acknowledge they have been unwilling to challenge Mr. Kozub in court because they feared he might prevail." To the contrary, I explained to him, in light of the Howard County case, a copy of which was provided to him and which he stated he had read, the county made a considered decision that at this time it would be an imprudent expenditure of taxpayer resources to challenge Kozub in court for failure to obtain a grading permit in light of the Howard County case.

The facts in the Howard County case too closely paralleled those with respect to the Kozub property, and the county judged that it would not prevail at the Circuit Court level and may not prevail on appeal. . . .

If Kozub is accepting pipe, metal fence posts and wood debris, as you suggest and say you observed, then that fails within the jurisdiction of MDE, not the county. I explained this to the reporter also. Nevertheless, the article infers that it is the county's inaction, not the inaction of MDE, the state regulatory agency directly responsible for issuing landfill permits and enforcing the landfill laws that is responsible. Neither the county nor any of the county's contractors have sent that type of material to the site. It is the state and other private entities that have sent that material to Kozub's property. Again, your article -- does not make that clear and, in fact, misleads the reader.

In summary, I am disappointed and disillusioned. . . . It astounds me that you have chosen to vilify the very government agency that has done the most to ensure that the actions of Mr. Kozub do not negatively impact on the citizens of the county and the county's environment.

Jefferson L. Blomquist

Bel Air

The writer is deputy county attorney for Harford County.

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