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Washington Co. officials debate recycling at Boonsboro town meeting

Standing-room-only crowd expresses frustration with lack of progress on issue

August 31, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Rosemary James speaks to Washington County Commissioners about the county's recycling program during a town meeting Tuesday in Boonsboro.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO — A standing-room-only crowd showed up at the Eugene C. Smith Community Center Tuesday night, mostly because of the ongoing debate about how to offer recycling in Washington County.

Kristin Bowl, one of a handful of residents who spoke about the importance of recycling in a meeting between the Washington County Board of Commissioners and the Boonsboro Town Council, expressed frustration about a lack of expanded recycling services in the county — especially since her kids are taught in school how to "reduce, reuse and recycle."

County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said the commissioners are facing obstacles in recycling, including one homeowner association in the county that does not want recycling bins left in their neighborhood.

But Bowl remained insistent on expanded recycling.

"Sometimes we need to lead, not just do what is popular," Bowl said outside the meeting.

While the city of Hagerstown and some towns offer curbside recycling, the county currently offers only drop-box recycling options. The number of drop-box sites has been cut back dramatically in recent months as host sites have requested their removal due to trash and overflow at the boxes.

The commissioners periodically meet with town governments, and recycling was one among a number of issues discussed in Boonsboro Tuesday night.

Boonsboro Town Councilwoman Barbara Wetzel told the commissioners she was "a little bit disturbed" to hear in the county presentation that recycling has to be self-supporting.

Wetzel said there are many programs in the county that are not self-supporting.

"I don't know why the bar is set so high on recycling," Wetzel said.

Wetzel asked how many in the crowd were interested in recycling, and most of the estimated 45 people raised their hands.

Washington County Administrator Greg Murray told the audience that he realizes that recycling is "near and dear to everyone's heart." But Murray said the commissioners regularly receive calls from county residents saying they do not want to be charged for recycling. Everybody is going to have to pay for recycling to happen, Murray said.

"You're still paying if you fill up your landfill," Wetzel said.

Callaham said the commissioners are expected to discuss the recycling issue in September, and she expressed confidence that a solution will be found.

But Callaham also noted other issues, such as it will cost an estimated $1 million for collection bins if a recycling service is started.

Speaking of people who are opposed to recycling, Callaham said: "You have to respect all entities."

Bowl said she used to live in Fairfax County, Va., and curbside recycling was "second nature."

Bowl said she has enjoyed living in Boonsboro and some of the traditions she has found here. But sometimes that tradition brings "inaction. And this is one of those issues," she said.

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