Friday, June 4–Annual Tire Recycling Day Falls To Budget Axe

SNOW HILL – There is no
money for the popular used tire recycling day, staff told the Worcester County
Commissioners this week during hearings on the solid waste budget.

A state tire recycling
fund called the Maryland Scrap Tire Program usually pays for the tire recycling
day. All new tire purchasers pay a small fee to the scrap tire program, 80
cents per each new tire purchased, at the point of sale.

That fund will be
applied to the Maryland state budget, county attorney Sonny Bloxom said.

Tire purchasers are
still being charged that fee, said Recycling Manager Ron Taylor.

“It’s still being put
into the tire fund. The tire fund goes somewhere else,” Taylor said. “There
will be no tire day this year.”

In the past, the state
accepted up to 75 tons of scrap tires for recycling from the county’s scrap
tire drop-off day. The county collected about 60 tons of tires last year.

“People have come to
expect recycling their tires,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley. “This is not
going to be good. You’re going to have tires up and down the road like we had
10 years ago. It’s going to be a mess.”

Or people will begin
dumping tires into the ocean and they’ll wash up on Assateague Island,
Commission President Bud Church said.

The solid waste budget,
usually an uncontroversial subject with few major changes, has seen some
alterations this year. The Worcester County landfill has experienced a
significant decrease in tipping fees this year, which will continue into the
next fiscal year, Enterprise Fund controller Jennifer Savage said Tuesday.

“It’s a combination of
the economy and the loss of Ocean City,” said Savage.

Ocean City now sends its
trash out of state for less money than sending it to the county landfill.

The solid waste
department is downsizing as quickly as possibly to bring expenses in line with
income, she said. The department already has fewer people than last year, with
four employees taking advantage of the county’s early retirement offer last
summer, reducing staff.

Future expense should be
saved by the mining of cell one, which should free up space for more trash,
delaying the need to construct an additional cell for several years.

Recycling revenue is up
a little, Savage said.

“The price of cardboard
has come up nicely,” said Savage.

The cost of recycling
electronics has gone up, however, despite a minor contribution toward the
county’s electronic recycling efforts by the state.

“It’s very, very, very
expensive,” Savage said.

Landfill tipping rates
will remain the same for the next fiscal year, Savage said.

Commissioner Bobby
Cowger said he is concerned that the solid waste department is using part of
the solid waste reserve, as it did last year, to balance its budget.

What will happen when
that reserve money runs out, Cowger wondered.

“We certainly can’t
raise tipping fees 30 percent,” Cowger said.

The reserve funding is
being invested in mining cell one, Savage said. That will free up space and put
off a very costly project to build the next cell.

The mining operation
could cost up to $2 million, said Public Works Director John Tustin, plus the
cost to reline and retrofit cell one.

“The transfer this year
is going to good use,” said Tustin.

“The last brand new cell
we did was $9.6 million,” said Savage.

Investing in mining cell
one for re-use is cheaper than a brand new cell, Savage said.

The big problem is that
Ocean City began sending its trash elsewhere two years ago and took its revenue
with it, Cowger said. The county should have negotiated with the resort,
according to Cowger.

The county cannot make a
special deal with Ocean City and not offer the same deal to the rest of
Worcester County, staff said.

The county could have
dropped tipping fees across the board, Cowger said.

The solid waste
department did consider offering a better price, but after running the numbers
with the price at $50 per ton, Tustin said, officials learned that the landfill
would lose $1.5 million in revenue.

Ocean City is now paying
$47.50 a ton to transport its trash out of state to Pennsylvania.

The only reason that
Ocean City sent its trash to another site is that the tipping fees got so high,
Cowger said, and there was an opportunity to save money.

“You’re going to have to
take some serious, serious looks at the budget and the landfill,” said Cowger.

Cowger said he is
concerned that the money in the reserve fund keeps the tipping fees down in
good times, but once that money is gone the tipping fees would be raised.