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I pledge my trash to the allegiance for which it stands

January 24, 1997

Let me get this straight. Washington County doesn't have enough garbage?

Last week county officials said taxpayers may have to ante up as much as $5 million over the next six years because the local landfill isn't taking in enough trash to pay for itself.

Funny about our local governments and debts. Remember when $5 million would have seemed like a lot of money? Now it's just like "So? What's an eensy five mil among friends?"

This $5 million includes $3.3 million that's going to have to be taken out of the county budget by the year 2000 to pay for improvements at the landfill.

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And this $3.3 million is part of the $20 million it's going to cost over the next six years to close down the Resh Road Landfill and open the Lund Landfill. (My goal: to have a landfill named for me).

Based on cost analyses, the county may have to float a $14.2 million revenue issue to pay for these landfill matters.

Talk about junk bonds.

As I hinted earlier, the main problem is that the landfill isn't taking in enough trash. Commissioners had hoped for 77,000 tons this year, but it looks as if they may only receive 56,000 tons. It never dawned on me that trash would one day become such a hot commodity, like soybeans, and government officials would huddle in worried circles over not getting enough.

I blame the environmental movement. We've been taught to tweeze out every scrap of recyclable flotsam and jetsam from our trash like some 1950 Memphis ragpicker, to the point where we can't even support our own local landfill. How unpatriotic. I say we should all stand behind Washington County. Have a trash-fest. Come on everyone, clean out your attics, while singing "Sweet land of lib-er-ty."

The county says the problem started when rates were increased to $45 a ton and trash haulers began disposing Washington County garbage in an Upton, Pa., landfill where the fees were cheaper.

I don't get it. For the last dozen years all we've heard are people throughout the Tri-State worried about the same thing: They don't want their local landfills accepting out-of-state garbage. Now we're upset because our garbage is getting away. I didn't know trash could be so nationalistic.

Maybe our best defense it to nuke the Upton landfill. Hey, we took out the German's ammo dumps in Dubya Dubya Two, we can surely take out the Pennsylvanian's trash dumps today.

Short of that, there may be other things we can do to up the tonnage at the local landfill.

For instance, the City of Hagerstown could throw out the paperwork to every Blue Ribbon Task Force Downtown Revitalization Plan it's commissioned over the past dozen years.

Or as Commissioner Ron Bowers suggests, and follow him closely on this one, since the problem began when fees were raised to $45 dollars, maybe they could be lowered back to what they were before to keep trash haulers from leaving the county. A Presidents Day sale on Landfill space. What could be more American?

Another option, Bowers says, would be to rent out some of the unused property at the landfill to business until the space is needed for trash disposal.

There's a thought. I bet it could be just as successful as the county's idea to rent out the Conococheague wastewater pretreatment plant to business as a cost-recovery measure.

What business isn't just itching for a lot next to the county dump? "For Rent: Prime business space with unlimited disposal potential. Don't be too put off by the smell."

But I know we can trust the commissioners to get a handle on the Great Garbage Shortage of 1997. Starting, probably, by throwing out this column.

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