Carroll votes on waste facility

The Baltimore Sun

The Carroll County commissioners voted yesterday to take the next step toward participating in a regional waste-to-energy facility, responding to an invitation from their counterparts in Frederick.

The 2-1 vote came after weeks of debate on the matter in public hearings and workshops, and is part of an ongoing discussion about how to manage solid waste in both counties. It will allow the boards to next determine the cost of such a facility, which -- if built -- would be in Frederick County.

"I think that regional approaches in the future are going to be necessary," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich, before casting his vote in favor of the motion. "The incinerator represents an unsatisfactory short-term solution, I agree. ... But having said all that, I see waste-to-energy as a transitional tool to the future."

Commissioner Michael D. Zimmer likened the decision to a "fork in the road."

"There are additional hurdles even if we sign off on a 'yes' today," Zimmer said. "Is waste-to-energy a good deal? I think it is a good deal, if we can negotiate a good deal."

The Frederick commissioners had requested an "expression of interest" in a regional facility from Carroll's board in February, after the two bodies met to discuss the concept.

Carroll's public works director, J. Michael Evans, has told the board that entering a joint venture, rather than building the county's own plant, could save money. A shared 1,500 ton-a-day plant -- with 900 tons for Frederick and 600 for Carroll -- would cost the county about $140 million, compared with $200 million for a solo operation, Evans said in February.

In public hearings and workshops during the past several weeks, several waste-disposal options have been discussed, including recycling, composting, landfilling and transporting trash to out-of-county sites -- which is what the county does now.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who opposed the motion, has said that while she thought Frederick had given the county "a great offer," the plant's size was "way too much." Yesterday, she said she'd "never really been in favor ... of incineration," but believes in co-composting.

Gouge also expressed her concern that the board had not yet fully explored possibilities that other states and cities have pursued.

Minnich and Zimmer said they were willing to visit and examine other operations, but still favored going forward with Frederick.

Several residents have urged the board to consider different avenues, such as increased recycling, and have questioned the long-term environmental impact of a waste-to-energy facility.

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