- The Board of Estimates for Maryland's Harford County has unanimously approved a $5.2 million renewed contract with the "quasi-public state agency" Maryland Environmental Service (MES).
- The agency will operate Harford County's landfill, yard waste collection facility, recycling program, used oil and antifreeze disposal program, and a variety of other programs.
- The board also approved an $896,530 contract with the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority to decommission Harford's waste-to-energy (WTE) facility in Joppa.
This contract approval renews and solidifies the county's shift toward outsourcing. Last year, Harford County signed a $4.7 million agreement with MES for similar services in an effort to save money. While two government employees brought a lawsuit attempting to stop the switch — claiming that they weren't offered a fair chance at employment with MES — the deal was allowed to continue and a judge ultimately dismissed the lawsuit.
One county official estimated that contracting to MES will save more than $500,000 compared to when the county handled its own waste services. Santa Fe, NM found big savings when it outsourced sorting of recyclables last year, and San Bernardino, CA outsourced its collection services earlier this year in the face of bankruptcy.
While these changes in Harford County's waste system have been positive overall, one group didn't make out very well in the deal. The 47 employees of Energy Recovery Operations Inc. — the company which operated Harford's WTE facility — lost their jobs in March. The U.S. Army has commissioned the construction of a new natural gas power plant and declined to renew the lease agreement on the WTE facility.