Managing Washington County's solid waste department a challenge

September 24, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS |
  • An earthmover shapes soil stockpile at Washington County Forty West landfill. The small mountain is formed by the earth removed for landfill cells.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

As head of Washington County's solid waste department overseeing a landfill that one day will cover 190 acres, Clifford J. Engle fields some interesting phone calls.

"'Circus is in town, and we're going to have about 100 tons of elephant — stuff. Can you take it?' Had that one," Engle said.

"Some of the best ones are, 'My spouse threw my engagement ring out, or threw out the china, or threw out the silverware ... can I come and look for them?' 'When did they put it at the curb?' 'Oh, two weeks ago.'"

And then there are the angry ones.

While giving a tour of the landfill on a recent morning, Engle was stopped twice by users with a bone to pick about yard-waste disposal costs.

Sam Smith of Hagerstown said he didn't see why people dropping off brush should have to pay for the manpower to process it into mulch — manpower he thought was funded by county taxpayers.

That's when Engle cut in.

"We're an enterprise fund," he explained. "... So the taxes that I pay every year on my tax bill to the county, none of that comes here."

It's one of many little-known facts about the landfill and its operations that Engle wishes the public better understood as the county wrangles with questions of how to best provide important, though unprofitable, services such as recycling.

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