A resolution that would upend more than 50 years of publicly-controlled waste handling in Baltimore County is set to go before the County Council next Tuesday.
And after hearing from the politically connected backer of the proposal, Chair Julian E. Jones signaled on Tuesday that lawmakers were ready to approve the first privately run waste transfer station.
Jackson “Jack” Haden, who operates J&J Trash, is seeking an amendment to the county’s current solid waste plan to permit his Eagle Transfer Station.
The amendment (Resolution 26-22) would allow him to build the station on a two-acre plot in the eastern county and ship garbage to out-of-state landfills in rail cars.
The Brew reported that the project – rejected by the Bureau of Solid Waste Management – was revived after Haden held a private fundraiser for County Executive Johnny Olszewski.
Olszewski, who is running for reelection, denies that the fundraiser influenced his administration’s decision to push for the transfer station.
“There’s no connection whatsoever between any political activity and governing,” he told Fox45 News.
“I can’t thank you enough”
Currently, residential trash is handled through three county-owned transfer stations, which charge an $8-a-ton “tipping fee” to private haulers who pick up garbage from residents.
Jones started the discussion by saying, “I’ve heard a lot of stuff. I’ve read a lot of stuff. I have three questions: Why do we want to approve a [private] transfer station? Why do we want to approve Eagle when others are denied? And why do we need to do it now?”
His seemingly critical tone changed after the Council received a phone call from Haden.
The Carroll County resident described himself as a “hometown boy” who is up against “national Wall Street companies” who want to squeeze him out of the business.
“I operate today as a public servant,” Haden began. “I have a good reputation. I don’t consider myself a trash mogul, as I was recently portrayed. I’ve done a good job hauling trash in my community and my hometown.”
“I operate today as a public servant. I don’t consider myself a trash mogul, as I was recently portrayed” – Jack Haden.
He told Councilman Todd Crandell, who represents Dundalk, that the Eagle Transfer Station, to be located along Rolling Mill Road and the Canton Railroad, would be “inconspicuous” and would not disrupt nearby communities with excessive truck traffic.
Seizing on his assurances – Haden has yet to produce drawings or engineering reports of the proposed station – Jones indicated that the Council was ready to approve the amendment at its July 5 voting session.
“I think you bring a very unique perspective and were extremely helpful tonight,” Jones said. “I can’t thank you enough for calling in and shining light on this issue.”
Seconded by Middle River Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, the Council chair concluded the discussion by saying, “I think we all are rooting for the home team each and every day!”
“Talk to Johnny one on one”
The Bureau of Solid Waste Management “disapproved” Haden’s proposal in early 2021, saying it was both unnecessary (because the county has excess capacity to transfer waste) and costly (denying the county an estimated $1.1-$1.5 million in annual “tipping fees”).
But the proposal was revived after Haden orchestrated the June 12, 2021 fundraiser, which The Brew reported had raised at least $27,000 for Olszewski.
In an email to fellow trash haulers, Haden called the fundraiser an opportunity to “talk to Johnny one on one” and said that he’d be happy to “pick up a check” for the county executive if the donor did not wish to a make a payment online.
A day after the fundraiser, D’Andrea Walker, acting director of Public Works and Transportation, began pressuring the Bureau of Solid Waste Management to review Haden’s plan. Several emails from Walker and other administration figures noted that the review was of great interest to the “CA” (county executive).
“There’s nothing that says you have to approve it now. If you don’t want to approve it, no harm, no foul” – Public Works Director D’Andrea Walker.
At Tuesday’s work session, Councilman Tom Quirk wondered why there was so much “urgency” to pass Resolution 26-22 “given that we have much more capacity available than the Eagle Transfer Station could bring on-line.”
Walker acknowledged there was no real urgency.
“There’s nothing that says you have to approve it now. A request came in. We reviewed it. We could use an alternative method to moving trash. But if you don’t want to approve it, no harm, no foul,” she told the Council.
After Haden’s presentation, Crandell was quiet and Quirk mused that “questions are leading to more questions,” confusing him further.
The resolution is set for a vote at the Council’s July 5 meeting.