To catch some local ne'er-do-wells in the act, Taneytown officials might place a security camera in what has become a prime spot for rule-breakers: the local mulch pile.
Instead of curbside service to pick up grass clippings, leaves and small branches, Carroll County and some of its towns have residents drop off yard waste at mulch piles. Every so often, a shredder is brought in to grind the material, and residents get free bags of mulch.
The mulch pile operated without much trouble for 10 years. But recently, instead of small branches and grass clippings, officials say, some people leave sofas, deer carcasses and auto transmissions.
The City Council might train a surveillance camera on the pile in Taneytown Memorial Park. But if the council decides that it can't afford the camera, it will stop the mulch.
Carroll County does "a pretty tremendous business in mulch and compost," said Gary Horst, county deputy public works director.
About 7,000 tons of mulch move through the county government's pile at Northern Landfill near Westminster each year, he said.
Trash in the mulch poses problems. Glass bottles end up as ground glass among the wood chips. Metal items can stall or break the grinding machine. Plastic bags get mixed in as shreds that will not decompose.
Taneytown Mayor W. Robert Flickinger described the recent additions to his town's pile as "a mess." He checks the mulch pile frequently, removing trash that ranges from a plastic clock to a picnic table.
"I threw out a big stone," he said. "That sucker was so big I could barely lift it."
Officials in two of the other three Carroll towns that have mulch piles are all too familiar with discarded lawn furniture, sofas and bottles.
"Been there, done that," said Mount Airy Councilman William E. Wagner, council liaison to the town's recycling committee. The mulch pile that Mount Airy started about 10 years ago became a drop site for glass bottles, plastic bags and broken furniture within the first two years of operation, he said.
Commercial landscapers and tree cutters left stumps and limbs too large for the grinder to convert to wood chips. To continue the program, Mount Airy officials had to fence the pile and limit public access. A town employee monitors the pickups and drop-offs at scheduled hours.
"I used to envy Taneytown because my grandson would play baseball and the mulch pile was right there," Wagner said. "People were coming in and bringing stuff. I thought, 'That's nice, there's no fence around it and people are doing what they're supposed to do.' But I guess that's changed."
Only New Windsor's mulch pile has escaped trash dumpers.
Union Bridge closed its mulch pile about two years ago after more than 10 years of operation.
Pub Date: 6/22/98