Nonprofits to Frederick County: Take time privatizing

Ex-commissioner asks for 'thoughtful' tactics
Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
06/22/2011
Leaders from two area nonprofit organizations are calling for the Frederick County Commissioners to slow down on a proposal to privatize more than 500 county government jobs. In his report to the commissioners, Georgia consultant Oliver Porter last week recommended the board consider outsourcing core government services handled by about 500 of the county's more than 2,000 employees. Four public hearings on the proposal are scheduled for next month. On Tuesday, leaders from Friends of Frederick County and Envision Frederick County, two local nonprofits, met at C. Burr Artz Public Library to discuss the proposal with Frederick County Commissioner David Gray. At a public hearing last week, the League of Women Voters also called for a slower process. Friends of Frederick County and Envision Frederick County members suggested Porter's study should be reviewed by another consultant, or the county should consider establishing a pilot program of outsourcing only one department, instead of proceeding with Porter's plan of outsourcing all at once. "It's too big to rush into without a serious and thoughtful approach," said Kai Hagen, a former Frederick County commissioner who is now executive director of Envision Frederick County. He said the 27-page study contains little more detail than a brochure for Porter's business, PPP Associates, and described the report as a combination puff piece and sales pitch.

Critics of school construction fee worry about overcrowded Frederick County classrooms

Residents concerned that proposal would allow building of homes if schools are overcrowded
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
06/14/2011
Critics of a proposed Frederick County school construction fee continue to worry that it will not bring in enough money to build classrooms and will only add students to already overcrowded schools. “I know this ... fee is going to pass, I just don’t how it’s going to work,” said Janice Spiegel, long-term parent advocate and former president of the PTA Council of Frederick County. “...I just can’t believe it’s not going to have a devastating impact over what we’ve accomplished.”

Candidates clash at final forum

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
10/27/2010
In a last-minute push for votes, candidates at a Tuesday night Frederick County commissioner forum went into attack mode on some of the biggest issues facing the county. Candidates disagreed on the effects of land use policy, how much the budget has been cut and whether the next board should reverse a decision to build a regional waste-to-energy trash incinerator. Ten candidates are running for five slots on the commissioners board.

Looking ahead to the 2010 commissioners race

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/15/2009
The field could be open in the 2010 Frederick County Commissioners race. Commissioners President Jan Gardner, a Democrat and the top vote-getter in 2006, will not seek another term in that office. "I think three terms is enough," Gardner said. "I think it's time to let some ideas and fresh blood come into it. I haven't decided what I'm going to do next year." Of the five incumbent commissioners, only Commissioner Kai Hagen, a Democrat, has said he will run again, with Republican commissioners David Gray and John L. Thompson Jr. yet to commit. Gray said earlier this year that he will make a decision by April 2010. He could not be reached for an update Friday. Republican Commissioner Charles Jenkins announced in January he is running for the House of Delegates in District 3B, which covers southern Frederick County and part of Washington County. He said last week he still intends on doing so, even though he has yet to file. The potential lack of incumbents in the race makes the field much different than in 2006, when four incumbents ran.

Legal action won't delay incinerator

Design, permitting continues for trash-burning facility
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
11/19/2009
Legal action will not delay the permitting and designing process of an incinerator in Frederick County, according to a county official. Michael G. Marschner, director of the county's Division of Utilities and Solid Waste Management, said this week the process will continue despite an appeal filed in Circuit Court Friday. "The [Board of County Commissioners] have already signed agreements with the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority and they have been working on the design and permitting process," Marschner said. "It's a long process and they [NMWDA] have been instructed to do so. Yes, we're still moving forward."

Legal action won’t delay incinerator

Design, permitting continues for trash-burning facility
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
11/19/2009
Legal action will not delay the permitting and designing process of an incinerator in Frederick County, according to a county official. Michael G. Marschner, director of the county's Division of Utilities and Solid Waste Management, said this week the process will continue despite an appeal filed in Circuit Court Friday. "The [Board of County Commissioners] have already signed agreements with the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority and they have been working on the design and permitting process," Marschner said. "It's a long process and they [NMWDA] have been instructed to do so. Yes, we're still moving forward."

Commissioners expected to vote on incinerator today

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
06/23/2009
A trash debate that has dominated county discussions for years could be resolved today. Commissioner Charles Jenkins is expected to make several motions that will allow the county to go ahead with a proposed incinerator, also known as waste-to-energy because it could generate electricity. Commissioners John L. Thompson Jr. and David Gray are expected to be in support. "What should have been done 20 years ago, will hopefully be set in motion tomorrow," Jenkins said by phone Monday.

Political considerations part of incinerator debate

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
05/04/2009
The 2010 election wasn't far from the minds of the Frederick County Commissioners when they voted last week to hold off on awarding a contract to build a trash incinerator. Commissioners have considered building an incinerator, also called waste-to-energy, for more than two years. Commissioners plan to investigate alternatives instead. That is, in part, because the incinerator appears to be so politically unpopular it could be overturned by a newly elected board. A plant in Sydney, Australia, was shut down after it was up and running because of public opposition, Commissioners President Jan Gardner told the board last week. Additionally, any decision to approve an incinerator could come back to haunt officials in a future campaign.

Commissioners suspend incinerator plans

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
04/29/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners are suspending deliberations on a proposed trash incinerator, and will focus instead on alternative disposal options. The commissioners accepted bids on the project earlier this year, and appeared to have narrowed those down to a preferred site and contractor to build and run the incinerator. But they voted 4-1 on Tuesday to suspend that process. Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr. voted against the motion. Also known as waste-to-energy, the trash incinerator was intended to be a cheaper, long-term answer to the county's shrinking landfill space. The proposed project would have been built by Wheelabrator and located at McKinney Industrial Park, across the river from Monocacy National Battlefield. It would have cost Frederick and Carroll counties up to $527 million, and one commissioner said Tuesday the cost could even be as high as $615 million. A motion to proceed with that contract and add requirements to make it less visually intrusive was defeated 3-2, with only commissioners Thompson and David Gray in favor.

Framework adopted for sustainability commission

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
03/11/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners are moving forward with a plan to make the county cleaner and greener. The commissioners adopted a framework for countywide sustainability. They also approved the creation of a Sustainability Commission, which will act in an advisory role. Both moves represent the commissioners' desire to incorporate environmentally sound approaches into county functions. Hilari Varnadore, director of the county's new Office of Sustainability, said the goal is to link environmental policy with economic and social considerations. "When these are combined and decisions are made that integrate all three, you can achieve a sustainable community," she said in her PowerPoint presentation to the commissioners Tuesday. The sustainability commission ideally will have 13 members representing energy, agriculture, education, small business, health and grass roots. The commissioners supported Varnadore's framework with a consensus vote. Commissioners Jan Gardner, David Gray and Kai Hagen voted to support the commission.

Public hearing on waste-to-energy brings crowd

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
02/18/2009
Debt, dioxins, outdated technology and traffic were just some of the reasons Frederick County residents gave for opposing a proposed waste-to-energy plant during a public hearing before the County Commissioners on Tuesday night. Most of the speakers opposed the incinerator, which is projected to cost the county $325 million. Carroll County would assume an additional $200 million of the cost, if the two counties decide to proceed. The commissioners are considering whether to build the incinerator to handle 800 tons of trash Frederick County residents generate per day. Most of that trash is being sent to an out-of-state landfill. County officials said that is not a long-term solution. At least 60 people signed up to speak at the hearing, which will be continued at 7 p.m. Thursday. Three local developers said the incinerator would be a blight for residents and businesses who are within a few miles of the Md. 85 corridor. The site being considered is on Metropolitan Court, off English Muffin Way, across the Monocacy River from the Monocacy National Battlefield.

Md. 28 site dropped from incinerator consideration

Frederick News Post
Justin Palk
02/13/2009
There's now only one site up for discussion at next week's public hearings on Frederick County's proposed waste-to-energy plant. Thursday morning, the Board of County Commissioners voted 3-0 to drop a site owned by Allegheny Energy, a mile west of the intersection of Md. 28 and New Design Road, from the list of possible sites. Commissioner Charles Jenkins, who first moved to strike the site from the list, said that while it scored well on paper, it was more important for the county to follow through on its land preservation goals. "It's been my thinking all along that the appropriate site is an industrial site," he said. "Not ... part of our rural legacy land." Waste-to-energy discussions weren't on the agenda -- Jenkins made the motion during the commissioners' comments portion of the meeting.

Hagen attacks incinerator idea

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/19/2008
The only Frederick County commissioner opposed to a trash incinerator asked other board members at a meeting Tuesday to step back and re-evaluate their research. About 100 people attended to watch Commissioner Kai Hagen's PowerPoint on an incinerator and what he sees as the alternatives. His presentation comes as the commissioners are poised to review two final bids for the incinerator. It is also known as waste-to-energy because it will produce electricity. The incinerator is estimated to cost $325 million, though that number will be more exact after the bids are revealed. County staff members are evaluating those bids, and commissioners expect to have them before the board by the end of the year. Hagen criticized the board for basing the preference to build an incinerator on uncertain assumptions, such as population growth, how much trash each household will produce, or what environmental regulations could be put in place in the future. He also said they have underestimated the value of flexibility in dealing with waste, and overestimated the benefit of the certainty that an incinerator would bring to waste disposal. "It is more important to make the right decision than a rush decision," he said. He asked for a professional study of the economic risk waste-to-energy poses should those assumptions be different and asked for alternatives to be reviewed. His preferred alternative would include a combination of recycling, composting and diversion, along with using landfill space that would have to be used for ash with an incinerator, and hauling the rest of the trash to out-of-state landfills. He said with a 70 percent recycling rate by 2020, and 80 percent by 2030, the county would spend less long-term than with an incinerator.

County may license trash haulers

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
10/29/2008
The Frederick County Commissioners may replace a controversial trash franchising plan with a new proposal to license trash haulers. As the commissioners culled their list of 2009 state legislative priorities Tuesday morning, they opted not to vote about moving forward on franchising. They will discuss licensing as an alternative at a meeting scheduled for Nov. 6. County officials had touted the franchising bill as a tool to increase recycling because it would allow them to make curbside pickup mandatory in trash collection contracts. Only 54,000 households now get curbside recycling. That service is provided by the county. The franchising bill failed last April in the Maryland General Assembly, when trash haulers objected and Frederick County Sen. Alex Mooney, a Republican, refused to support it. The bill would have given the county the authority to arrange area trash hauling contracts instead of letting residents individually choose haulers. Licensing haulers could have the same effect, by requiring curbside pickup as a condition of getting a license from the county. Commissioner Kai Hagen announced Tuesday that he will oppose franchising, sparking interest in the licensing alternative. He decided to oppose the franchising legislation, he said, because he believes the county could increase its recycling programs with the powers it has now.

Frederick commissioners consider solid waste options

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
09/27/2008
Years before she became president of the Frederick County Commissioners, Jan Gardner remembers telling her children they couldn't buy certain items in the grocery store because they would remain in the landfill indefinitely. "I know more about trash than I ever thought I would," she said at a public meeting Thursday about the county's solid waste disposal woes. The county is considering building a $325 million incinerator, also called a waste to energy plant. At the same time, Gardner suggested the county look into building a new landfill that would include components of a resource recovery park, or RRP. All this is being considered for the 600 to 800 tons of residential trash the county collects nearly every day. "When we go to a public hearing with proposals for WTE, I think we should also go to public hearing with proposals for a landfill," Gardner said.

Political notes — Talk shifts from growth to trash

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
08012008
I knew times were changing when Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr. asked me to pay more attention to a bottle tax than the almost-adopted New Market Region Plan. The five Frederick County commissioners were elected at the end of 2006 on platforms focused largely on managing growth. No issue was more pressing than the New Market Region Plan, which was adopted the May before their election. The plan would allow thousands more houses in a region overburdened by growth, and they said it should be revisited. Fast forward to today: a final draft of that plan is up for a public hearing at the end of the month. In the meantime, the commissioners have started tackling the growing pile of trash in the county's landfill. They are considering building a $325 million trash incinerator, and opponents are calling for more investment in recycling instead. Suddenly, it's become the hot political talk. Thompson wanted me to focus on his proposed bottle excise tax aimed at charging producers for the costs of disposal instead of New Market this week. It's what's important, he said. Virtually every conversation I have with the commissioners eventually comes back to trash. They are sending dozens of e-mails per day about trash with locals who are interested. But at least one commissioner said in one of those e-mails that politics will not be on his mind as he approaches the waste problem. "I can assure you that re-election issues will not be a factor in my decisions from now till Nov. 2010," wrote Commissioner David Gray. "That's just the way it is. I need adequate sleep at night."

E-mail exchange on trash intensifies

Frederick County commissioners, residents exchange dozens of e-mails daily regarding incinerator
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
07/31/2008
Frederick County commissioners and residents opposed to building an incinerator in the county continue to hash out the issue via multiple e-mail exchanges. The daily exchange intensified this week following a July 24 Gazette story that said a recent presentation praising recycling programs in Boulder, Colo., did little to convince commissioners John ‘‘Lennie” Thompson Jr. (R) and Charles A. Jenkins (R), that building an incinerator, or waste-to-energy facility, is wrong for the county. For the first time, Thompson found himself drawn into the back-and-forth e-mail exchanges, when his comments were questioned by incinerator opponents.

Officials still lean toward incinerator

Thompson, Jenkins say recent presentations on alternatives for waste don’t sway their positions
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
07/24/2008
Despite a power-point presentation, a 45-minute film and testimony praising the recycling programs in Boulder, Colo., two Frederick County commissioners said this week they are still not convinced that building an incinerator to dispose of trash is wrong for Frederick County. Commissioners Charles A. Jenkins (R) and John ‘‘Lennie” Thompson Jr. (R) said this week they are still leaning toward voting to build an incinerator in Frederick County, or what some call a ‘‘waste-to-energy” facility, because it burns trash to produce electricity.

County shares details from Boulder trip

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
07/18/2012
Frederick County Commissioners David Gray and Kai Hagen recounted their information-gathering trip to Boulder, Colo., last month in a PowerPoint presentation before the other three commissioners and the public Thursday. The commissioners were in Colorado to learn about Boulder's aggressive recycling programs. Recycling is a way of life in Boulder, where recycling containers outnumber trash containers in most public places and where the residential recycling rate approaches 50 percent. The commissioners hope to achieve a recycling goal of 60 percent within the next 15 years, but recognize the current system needs to change in order to do so. In 2006, the last year for which data is available, the county's recycling rate was 36 percent with a waste diversion rate of 39 percent.

Commissioner questions size of proposed incinerator

Gazette
Charles Schelle
04/24/2008
Carroll County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge questions whether a proposed incinerator that Carroll is considering building with Frederick is too big. "We’re building a facility that is much larger than we need right now,” Gouge said. The proposal calls for the incinerator to be built in Frederick County, possibly near the Ballenger Creek-McKinney Wastewater Treatment Plant off Md. Route 85, with Carroll contributing $140 million to the $350 million project. The incinerator would handle 1,500 tons of trash per day, 600 tons of which would come from Carroll. However, Carroll only produces about 320 tons per day.