Recycling encouragement, new air service highlight Washington County in 2012

December 29, 2012
  • Santiago Anaya, left, and Jose Garcia install thin film solar panels along Roxbury Rd. south of Hagerstown on Wednesday. Approx. 332,100 panels are being installed by Belectric, Inc.
File photo

Editor’s note: As we usher out 2012 and welcome 2013, The Herald-Mail has prepared a package of year-end stories that provide short recaps of some of the top stories of the year past.

These stories will be published each day through New Year’s Day.


Jan. 31-Present — Washington County’s plan for boosting recycling in 2012 was to encourage it rather than mandate it.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 on Jan. 31 to promote private curbside recycling.

County officials rejected making recycling a mandatory, government-run service and having taxpayers fund it.

The county helped Allied Waste market its curbside recycling collection.

The service was introduced as “opt-out” — residents were automatically enrolled and billed $5 per month unless they contacted the hauler to cancel.

County officials received complaints about that arrangement, but said it was a good way to roll out a private recycling program and make it viable.

Other trash haulers followed Allied Waste into the local market, making private recycling service available to most of Washington County.

The county also eliminated unattended public recycling bins in various spots, which, officials said, were costing money and not generating revenue to offset the associated expenses.

County residents still can recycle at bins at the landfill and transfer stations after buying a permit.

In November, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said changes in private curbside recycling, public bins, and permits have turned around the solid waste program’s finances.

Extrapolating from four months of data, Murray said the county is taking in about $67,000 per year in permit fees connected to recycling.

The county is paying about $57,000 to have recyclables removed from its remaining bins.

Previously, the county spent about $450,000 per year to maintain several public recycling bins, including stand-alone bins in Funkstown, Maugansville and other places.

Murray said the number of customers recycling through private service in the county or public pickup in the municipalities, as well as those using public bins by permit, was up nearly 19 percent from July 1 through late November.

Skeptics suggested that more people might be throwing recyclable items in the trash because of the changes.

— Andrew Schotz

Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.

July 31-Present — Washington County moved into 2013 with officials still trying to determine what should be done about the suspended Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners had given a task force 90 days to come up with recommendations for the department, but that deadline has passed and the task force said at its last meeting that they would meet again Jan. 7.

One reason the process has been drawn out is because task force members had been waiting for an inspection of the fire department by the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.

Fire and Rescue Association President Dale Hill told task force members during a Nov. 19 meeting that the inspection took a long time, in part, because of the volume of information the fire and rescue association had to obtain from the department.

“This is the first time it’s done anything like this,” Hill said of the rescue association.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted July 31 to suspend the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. indefinitely because of its trouble responding to calls. Officials said the fire department had a “failed response” — it either didn’t respond within 10 minutes or didn’t respond at all — for 26.3 percent of its calls from Jan. 1 through May 31 this year. It had a similar rate the previous year, officials said.

The department has been a divisive issue in the Fairplay community, with critics complaining about service from the department and contending it needs new leadership. One critic said the situation “stinks from the head down.”

In task force meetings, Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. President Bill Pennington has objected to what he calls personal attacks on the department. He said some information the task force was seeking — such as results of physical examinations of firefighters, the results of “fit tests” to determine the suitability of gear worn by firefighters and classifications of firefighters — were issues that already were addressed when a former fire and rescue association president determined the department met standards.

At a Dec. 10 task force meeting, Pennington laid out a plan for getting his department back in service, which included a paid staff. The task force is expected to consider that plan plus the results of the inspection of the department to come up with final recommendations for Fairplay, task force Chairman Paul Miller has said.

 — Dave McMillion

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