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Landfill rates might rise

Forty West is filling up faster than predicted

Forty West is filling up faster than predicted

March 08, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Permit fees at Washington County's Forty West Landfill are proposed to increase by $5 and $10 to help make up for an estimated $340,000 shortfall expected for fiscal year 2007, Budget and Finance Director Debra Murray said Tuesday.

Tipping fees - paid by landfill customers who drive across the scale - are proposed to increase by $10.

Fiscal year 2007 begins July 1.

Murray told the County Commissioners that a staff cost analysis proposes raising permit fees for senior citizens from $90 to $95 a year and from $120 to $130 a year for regular permit holders.

With the rate increases, the shortfall would drop to about $291,000.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said the permits program wasn't paying for itself.

"The permits program never really carried its own weight," he said.

The county anticipates 2,846 senior citizen permits and 4,736 regular permits to be sold in fiscal year 2007, according to the cost analysis.

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Under the proposal, tipping fees would increase from $50 to $60 per ton for rubble and composting and from $40 to $50 for other garbage.

Wivell said he "wasn't thrilled" with the shortfall.

Rather than raising fees, he thought the county could look at cuts within the Solid Waste Department budget to help pay for the shortfall.

Commissioner John C. Munson, who sits on the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, said after the meeting that rubble and composting includes construction debris and brush.

The landfill is off U.S. 40 just outside of Hagerstown near Huyetts Crossroads.

Murray also said the life span of the landfill, which opened about five years ago, has decreased significantly.

At the time, county officials said its life span ranged from 80 to 100 years. Murray said Tuesday that the landfill has about 39 years left.

"I never believed the 80 years to begin with," Munson said.

He said staff said that because "it sounds good to get what they want."

"I'm a little surprised that it's down to 39," he said.

Solid Waste Director Robert Davenport said the landfill is filling up faster than expected because the amount of trash dropped off has increased.

Davenport said 714,000 tons of garbage are buried at the landfill.

"Waste flow has gone up dramatically," he said.

Davenport said that if the commissioners were to reopen Rubblefill to collect construction materials, Forty West Landfill's life span would increase by 7.2 to 8.7 years.

In December 2004, Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said in an interview that Rubblefill was closed at about the time Forty West Landfill opened in 2000. At the time, the county thought it would be more cost-effective to close Rubblefill and have the building debris sent to Forty West, he said.

But then, the amount of construction material being taken to Forty West started to increase because of large projects such as the former Wal-Mart building demolition and redevelopment projects in Hagerstown, Rohrer said.

Rubblefill has the capacity to take construction material for another 25 years, Rohrer said.

Munson said he doesn't typically support fees being raised, but that "sometimes it's a necessity."

"I'm not saying it is this time, but I would rather raise fees for people who use a facility than for everyone," he said.

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