More than 50 people showed up at Hammond High School in Columbia last night to urge Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker to rethink a proposal to charge residents a minimum fee of $100 a year for trash removal.
The cost of trash removal is included in the property tax. But the county's Solid Waste Funding Assessment Board recommended Sept. 1 that the county charge residents an annual fee of $100 for picking up one 30-gallon bag of trash each week and $1.50 for each additional 30-gallon bag.
If the board's recommendation is accepted, Howard would become the first county in the state to charge residents on the basis of how much they throw away.
Last night's hearing, the second in a series of four, began with the showing of a government-produced videotape. The tape featured interviews with residents who think paying a per-bag trash fee is the best way to deal with the skyrocketing cost of getting rid of the county's trash.
Trash removal costs the county $10.2 million a year, and that figure is projected to grow to $26 million by 2002, residents were told.
Twenty-four of the 26 people who spoke last nightopposed the plan. The two who spoke in favor served on the county's Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
Opponents fear the fee would hurt senior citizens and make a dumping ground of Columbia's open spaces. Many also said they preferred a tax, which is deductible from federal and state taxes, to a fee, which isn't.
Fronda Port of Columbia, a Social Security pensioner, called the proposed fee excessive. "To raise the cost of trash collection for someone like me another $100 is alarming," she said. "I'm hoping for some accommodation for senior citizens who don't have a lot of money."
Samuel Young of Laurel said he fears people seeking to avoid paying a surcharge will dump excess trash in his Mission Road neighborhood. Two truckloads of used tires recently were dumped on his lawn, he said.
Former Laurel City Council member Linda Schulte said she would be more inclined to accept the proposal if Mr. Ecker and the County Council made recycling mandatory, as Laurel City Council has done.
"When you pledge your commitment, you'll find more people buying in," she told Mr. Ecker. Otherwise, the proposal is a "charade," she said.
"After listening to all the testimony, I'm going to try to come up with something that is fair and equitable to everyone," Mr. Ecker said.