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History and hindsight

May 12, 1997

Hindsight, they say, is always 20-20, and Washington County Commissioner Jim Wade's comment that the county's 1990 agreement not to use Independence Road to access the county's new landfill will prove mighty costly is probably on target.

But seven years ago landfills all over the region were running out of space. Without some concession to opponents, instead of preparing to open a new landfill, Washington County might be trying desperately to stretch its available landfill space.

Consider this history: In 1990, Frederick County was trying to site a new landfill next to its existing one. But the owners, a dairy-farming family, refused the $1.8 million offer. A petition opposing the move was signed by 6,000 residents. Del. Tom Hattery introduced a bill to limit the county government's ability to condemn property for landfills. Finally, a lawsuit was filed and the family was granted a $2.2 million settlement, not including the county's legal fees.

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Just about the same time, a company called LCS Services was in the midst of trying to site a private landfill on North Mountain near Hedgesville, W.Va. Despite the fact that some local government-operated landfills leaked and were a drain on local government finances, the opposition to the new private venture was ferocious. Court challenges to the $20 million facility went all the way to the state Supreme Court.

The Washington County Commissioners avoided most of that type of opposition by purchasing some individual residential properties and by agreeing not to route heavy trucks down Independence Road from dawn to dusk.

The kicker, however, is that not using Independence Road means bridging the Conococheague Creek, at a cost of $3 to $4.5 million. Wade says upgrading the road would be cheaper, but the county has already agreed not to use the road. Reneging on that would likely mean a lawsuit.

Criticizing a decision made seven years ago isn't the answer. The alternative, if there is one, is to find a cheaper way to build the bridge. Not an easy task, but a more positive response than going back on an agreement made in good faith.

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