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Editorial - County can do better

November 18, 1997

Editorial - County can do better

Is this the best Washington County can get?

That's the question that comes to mind when we consider the proposal to site a company that processes hazardous medical waste on six acres in the Washington County Business Park.

In return for accepting 25 trucks full of body parts and other medical waste traveling on county roads each day, the county will get 50 jobs. But W. Doyle Payne Jr., part owner and managing partner of Tempico Mid-Atlantic LLC, won't say how much those jobs will pay, or how many will be skilled as opposed to unskilled labor. He did say that most of the jobs would be technicians who, for cataloging and weighing the waste, would be paid at the "middle-manager" level.

Does that mean at the pay level of a middle manager of a local fast-food franchise or of a middle manager at Mack Trucks? Nobody's saying. In our view, Tempico officials' vague promises aren't enough to justify even the small risk the company's consultants say is involved.

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Besides, it isn't as if this area is desperate for jobs. Washington County's unemployment rate was just 4 percent in September, down from 4.1 percent the month before and lower than the Maryland average of all counties. Under the present circumstances, the county can afford to pick and choose instead of taking whatever anybody offers. And at this point, Washington County is the firm's third choice for a site, after being rebuffed in Frederick and Howard counties.

This plant and its process may indeed be as safe as Tempico's consultants say that it will be, but are these the jobs that are going to keep Washington County's best and brightest youth from leaving the county to find work?

We seriously doubt it, just as we seriously doubt this is the best use of six acres of local industrial park land. It's time to get a little choosy about the firms Washington County welcomes in, and it's time to tell Tempico "no thanks."

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