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As Long as We Remember...

October 9, 2008

Wasting Taxpayers Time

Joan Marie Aquilino

Anyone looking in on Frederick from the outside on Tuesday would have thought “what a bunch of idiots.” Taking a moment in time to look at us would not bode well. But follow the path backwards for a bit and you will find the same common denominator at the beginning of just about every drama that has gone on in our county over the past two years. One person.


We have five commissioners and four of them bent over backwards Tuesday to accommodate Commissioner Kai Hagen in his quest for alternatives to an incinerator – a waste-to-energy plant (WTE).


What transpired Tuesday reminded me of the days when I'd argue with my parents over my chores. I'd literally waste hours trying to talk my way out of work. In the end I could have done the chores 10 times over and been out with my friends playing.


The lesson learned was: Stop whining and just do it. At the time I was 10, not 50 years old. Commissioner Hagen has literally spent the last month trying to get out of his latest failed attempt at a presentation for anything but a WTE plant.


Well, Tuesday was one for the books. We got the combination of "Present," "above my pay grade", and "it's not my fault" rolled into one single meeting. It was a sad pitiful display of government at its worse. No matter what he asked for – and they accommodated – it was never enough.


Commissioner Hagen’s pre-election chant was "the only way to dig yourself out of a hole is to quit digging.” When will he stop digging the hole he’s dug for himself? He blames everything from wind current to room size – never himself.


The facts:


 – Since at least April 2007 Commissioner Hagen has been talking about the process and its inadequacies and how the other commissioners weren't “FAIR” to him.


 – He is the process.


 – He promised presentations over the summer – never happened.


 – He promised presentations in September – never happened.


 – He picked October 14 – he bailed again.


 – He spent almost a month trying to get out of the October 14 date instead of preparing his presentation.


 – All of his “issues” were accommodated. Still, it wasn’t good enough. It’s still Commissioner Jan Gardner’s fault somehow.


 – He wants to force all the other commissioners to attend his private pep rally, knowing full well if they don‘t, it won‘t look good for them. Yet he makes it difficult by requesting an off night when everyone already has plans doing mostly county business.


 – We have already had a public forum on Solid Waste Management. He wants another one.


 – He is bad mouthing his colleagues to citizens and even people outside the state.


Commissioners Charles Jenkins, John “Lennie” Thompson and Gardner displayed their absolute distaste for this whole charade. Every one of Hagen’s "issues" was accommodated by Commissioner Gardner and his colleagues. None of it was enough.


The reason none of it is ever enough is that he's not ready; he's not prepared; he hasn't done his job. This job truly does seem to be above Commissioner Hagen’s pay grade, whatever that may be.


Get a gripe, Man! What is it you want!


Commissioner Hagen received an email Monday at 9:46 P.M. that he answered at 8:11 A.M. Tuesday. The email requested information about the presentation to better prepare for questions. He informed the writer there would not be a presentation October 14, and attributed that to Commissioner Gardner.


On October 3, he wrote his colleagues that he would not be presenting anything on the 14th.


I sent a post to a local forum 12 days prior to his scheduled presentation asking if he'd share information with us as to what was coming. He spent that entire day (from 6 A.M. until 11 P.M.) on that forum, but never answered mine or anyone else’s questions.


He also seems to be having tremendous difficulty in making commissioners’ meetings of late. I know of at least three he’s missed in two weeks; yet he more than willingly called out his colleagues Tuesday about their failure to make meetings, trying to make it no big deal for them to miss a meeting to attend his pep rally.


On his own Internet forum, he finds time to post and even questions one poster as to whether or not they'd been able to receive answers from any of the other commissioners, as if they aren‘t doing their jobs. According to my information, none of the other commissioners visits Mr. Hagen’s website any longer.


What I'm trying to point out is that Commissioner Hagen has put himself in a position of being part of the problem, not the solution. I hope we have learned. It’s all been empty promises and words. He is not producing. This is following the same course of his now infamous Developers Rights and Responsibility Agreement (DRRA). It should have been called the KHWTMA (Kai Hagen Waste Taxpayer's Money Agreement).


I've not spoken to one person who doesn't want to listen to possible alternatives. They just want the facts, plain and simple; then move forward, not backwards.


The facts are:


 – Our landfill contract in haul trash to Virginia expires in 2011 with a series of one-year renewals up to 2014.


 – We spend between $15 and $18 million a year to haul trash elsewhere


 – If we didn't divert our trash, our landfill will be at capacity in two years. If the state permits a vertical expansion, it’ll be filled in six years.


 – With a WTE, our present landfill should last until approx. 2055.


 – Bids were put out to use rail service for transport to transport our trash (to lower fuel costs) and no bids were received.


 – WTE will cost a lot. It also offers a better, longer term solution to our trash problem.


 – It will take about five years to get a permit and build a WTE facility, assuming Mr. Hagen and his local and national anti groups don’t sue the county to stop the process.


 – Another landfill will also cost a lot and require a sighting with the proper soil, which makes it a very limited area and 800 to 1,000 acres will be needed. I seriously doubt all those requirements can be met.


 – WTE only needs approx. nine plus acres. Think of the type and width buffer we could provide with that small footprint.


 – If we don’t have a WTE plant, we WILL (not might – WILL) have to have a new landfill.


 – Anti-WTE people have never acknowledged many of their options are either being done now or are in the works.


 – Anti WTE people have never offered a solution for the trash that cannot be recycled. No matter what we do, there will still be trash.


 – Their key option, being like Boulder, CO, does less recycling and has more trash than we do right now, plus, landfills aplenty surround them.


I have to thank the rest of the Board of County Commissioner for showing restraint Tuesday. Each one of them took quite a beating and remained civil throughout.


’til next time . . .


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