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Yard waste pick-up back in Smithsburg

May 03, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

SMITHSBURG

The Smithsburg Town Council's unanimous approval of the mayor's $1.25 million budget for 2007 came with lots of "trash talking" from town residents and council members.

A $20,000 line item for yard waste removal prompted a heated discussion among council members and the mayor, and sparked outbursts from an unusually packed audience at Tuesday's council meeting.

Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers formally introduced the budget to the public just before the council voted.

The curbside pick-up would occur twice a month and takes effect in July. The twice-monthly pick-ups would cost a little more than $15,000, according to documents provided by town officials in March. That figure does not include the cost of tipping fees.

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Myers said her decision to include yard waste pick-up in the budget was based on the public backlash following the council's March decision to discontinue curbside yard waste removal. Councilman Jerome Martin was the most vocal opponent to Myers' decision to include the line item.

"In March, we voted 5-0 not to pick up yard waste for the remainder of the fiscal year," Martin said.

"How did this wind up in the budget? This money should not be in the budget," he continued above murmurs from the audience.

Councilman William Mills was the only other council member to oppose the line item.

"What was our vote for?" Mills asked.

Martin's comments inflamed resident Melody Hockensmith, who at a public hearing before the meeting presented to the council a petition of more than 400 residents requesting curbside yard waste removal.

"Maybe you should have gone door to door. Jerome, you're sitting there acting like people don't care - I know I'm out of order," said Hockensmith, just before she huffed out of the meeting.

Her dramatic exit was followed by a few whispered "you go girls" from the audience. Myers eventually was able to bring the meeting back to order.

Martin reminded the council that before the March vote, the Town of Smithsburg issued a survey in order to weigh public interest in yard waste removal.

According to town officials, only 126 residents responded, about 12 percent of the town's population.

"We probably can't get 126 people to vote in the elections next week, but when an issue's a hot button, you've got to respond," said councilman Ralph Regan, who said he had initially based his March vote on that survey.

The budget has set aside a total of $190,000 for yard waste removal, roughly 17 percent of the town's 2007 expenses. The cost of waste collection has more than doubled since 2001.

Smithsburg residents pay $13.87 a month per unit for trash removal.

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