Sykesville may cut back on its residential trash collection or quit the business altogether.
The only Carroll County town that hauls its own trash is facing increased costs for a labor-intensive process, and town officials are reviewing their options.
"We have to improve recycling, go to a one-day-a-week collection for residential and seriously consider a town-managed outside contractor," said Councilman Michael H. Burgoyne, chairman of the recycling committee. "If we trim services, we can save dollars."
Sykesville has the highest property tax rate -- 83 cents per $100 or assessed value -- among Carroll's eight municipalities. Trash collection accounts for $127,000, more than 10 percent of its budget.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, crews collect from more than 1,000 households in town. About 100 commercial customers also have twice-weekly collection. The town collects recyclables on alternate Wednesdays.
"We provide an extremely high level of service," said Matthew H. Candland, the town manager. "If we reduce the service, we could save labor costs and maintenance costs on our vehicles."
The budget includes $7,400 annually for maintaining trash vehicles. The town owns one trash truck and is leasing another. Crews use an oversized pickup truck for recycling.
Maintenance employees are spending an inordinate amount of time with trash collection "to the detriment of other jobs," Mr. Candland said. A reduction in collection would free at least 14 man hours a week, he said.
Any reduction in days would affect residential collection only. Commercial customers would maintain the same collection schedule but might face an increase in fees, Mr. Burgoyne said.
"Taxes from residents are subsidizing commercial services," he said. "Sykesville of 1995 is different from Sykesville 1985. The businesses are doing the best they have ever done."
Mayor Jonathan S. Herman said the town must become "more competitive and more realistic."
"We need to make sure we are cost-effective," he said.
He would like to shift the focus from trash collection to recycling. Increased recycling would decrease the volume of trash hauled to the county landfill and the $45-a-ton tipping fee.
A year-old curbside recycling program with biweekly residential collection has been less successful than expected.
"If we can make recycling convenient and encourage it through education, we will limit the amount of trash people put out," Mr. Burgoyne said.
Councilman Garth Adams suggested limiting what crews will collect from homeowners and seasonal days devoted to yard waste.
"People put pounds of lawn clippings right into the trash," he said. "We should have a separate day for that."
The town might consider buying low-cost recycling bins for residents, Mr. Candland said. Officials would have to include about $7,000 in next year's budget.
About 25 residents turned out for a public hearing on trash issues last week. Several volunteered to serve on the recycling committee.
"We want to report before the first of the year so we don't miss the opportunity to put our recommendations into the next budget," Mr. Burgoyne said.