Trash Volume Drop Could Increase Fees

SNOW HILL – The amount of trash deposited at the county’s landfill has dropped steadily over the last four years, driving revenues down and prompting calls for higher tipping fees.

“We’re asking for a rate increase in the solid waste tipping fee,” said Jennifer Savage, enterprise fund controller. “Our volume has dropped off in the past few years as a result of a decrease of construction and demolition [waste] brought into the county landfill.”

In 2005, Worcester increased tipping fees for both construction and demolition waste and municipal waste, but no changes have been made since.

“What we’re asking for is a $5 increase on municipal refuse tipping fee from $55 to $60 a ton,” said Savage. “Our revenues have dropped off substantially. We dropped off $1.2 million in our tipping fees in one year.”

The solid waste budget has been decreased accordingly by roughly $1 million for fiscal year 2009, with about $800,000 less revenue expected.

While revenues are down, the slower pace of trash dumping should prolong the life of the current cell at the Worcester County landfill.

“Because we’re taking less volume, we anticipate our current cell will last seven years instead of five years,” Savage said.

Despite the prolonged life of the current cell, Savage suggested to the County Commissioners that efforts to build spare cells must continue.

The solid waste budget calls for the addition of another transfer station in north Worcester County as well. Both possible capital projects should be brought before the County Commissioners in FY 09.

Solid waste operations will also replace some old vehicles and lease others.

The public hearing on the solid waste budget, which is required by law, attracted a single speaker.

Ocean City resident Ellie Diegelmann questioned why the county does not do more to improve recycling by the public, instead of simply maintaining the current level of recycling.

“It seems like there’s so much recyclable material that goes into the trash,” Diegelmann said.

Recycling mostly goes through the towns, which pick up trash within their borders, Savage said.

Worcester County offers a sliding discount scale on tipping fees for municipalities that recycle.

Ocean City has increased efforts to recycle, said Savage, and Berlin is doing a “a fabulous job” with recycling after making it mandatory. Snow Hill recently began a recycling program, while Pocomoke City has none, though may in the future.

A county experiment a few years ago with mandatory recycling and pick-up in West Ocean City had to be abandoned.

The commissioners will vote on the $7.9 million solid waste budget on June 17.