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Thurmont nixes separate fee for trash

Officials plan to charge apartments for disposal;
also debate merits of mandatory recycling

Ingrid Mezo

(5/11) Thurmont officials decided Tuesday against introducing an ordinance that would have required residents to pay separately for trash removal.

Mayor Martin Burns asked town officials to consider a separate trash bill during a town meeting last week.

‘‘I obviously I thought it’s a great idea to extract a cost of the service to treat everyone the same," Burns said. ‘‘If we’re doing it, what we’re doing is leveling the playing field so everyone pays the same fee [for trash collection]. But if we are going to do this, people on fixed incomes would pay more [overall]."

Billing separately for trash collection would have allowed the town to impose a lower tax rate for fiscal 2007, which begins July 1. The town board is still hashing out a draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and has not yet advertised the tax rate, but is scheduled to announce a tax rate next week.

A public hearing to discuss setting the tax rate is scheduled for May 23. By state law, local governments must hold a public hearing if the new tax rate exceeds the constant yield rate, the rate that when applied to new assessments would result in the town receiving the same revenue in the coming tax year that was received in the prior tax year.

The Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation is required to certify the constant yield rate each year, and the constant yield rate for Thurmont in fiscal 2007 is 25 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The current tax rate is 27 cents per $100.

Another public hearing to discuss the preliminary budget will be held May 30, and town officials will vote on adopting the budget after a public hearing June 6.

Thurmont officials said they would introduce an ordinance to treat apartment complexes as businesses, and charge landlords a separate fee for trash service.

Town Manager Rick May said the town had not always picked up trash at apartments, but a previous town board had voted to do so because its members felt that people who lived in apartments should be considered town residents.

‘‘We don’t collect enough tax base from these apartments to pay the trash fee," Commissioner Ron Terpko said.

Terpko pointed out that while people who rent apartments indirectly pay taxes through their rent, the town only collects onelump sum of taxes for an entire apartment complex, rather than from each individual apartment.

Officials said they would consider no longer picking up trash at apartment complexes, which would require landlords to contract for their own trash collection. Another alternative would be to offer trash collection services through the town to small business owners and landlords for a separate fee.

Town officials also continued to hash out a trash ordinance that would define what types of trash the town would pick up and make recycling of some materials mandatory.

Materials including in mandatory recycling include corrugated cardboard, newspaper and mixed paper, metal cans, glass bottles and jars, and plastic bottles, and grass clippings and leaves.

‘‘I have to remind all of you that [mandatory recycling] works everywhere else," said Terpko, liaison to the town’s trash committee.

In addition, Terpko reminded residents that yard waste and grass clippings are defined separately. While grass clippings and leaves are picked up for recycling, all other forms of yard debris will not be picked up.

Town officials discussed opening a drop-off site for such items, and for bulk trash that would operate near the town’s sewer plant either once or twice a month, where town residents could drop off bulk items for a fee of $2.

Town officials also addressed the problem of trash in the parks, and said they want to remove Dumpsters and cut down on the number of trash cans because people have been placing bulk items, like a cut up wooden fence, in the Dumpsters.

In addition, several town residents have called town officials to complain about their trash not being picked up, Burns said.

‘‘Yeah, we’re public servants, but goodness gracious people, make a phone call to B.F.I. [the company the town contracts with to collect its trash] first," he said. ‘‘Then call the town office, then call Commissioner Terpko, then call the mayor, then bring it before the town board. If you have to be inconvenienced a little bit, deal with it and just put the trash out again later in the week. ... You’re spoiled."

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