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As Long as We Remember...

February 1, 2019

County Proposal Kicks The Can and Passes The Buck

Ken Kellar

Lately, it appears local news coverage has become caught up with national “news,” social media lynch mobbing and other intrigue. That’s unfortunate as the second draft of a very important county policy document is available for public review and comment. It’s called Livable Frederick.


Fifty pages have been added since the first draft with no change summary – or red-line version – available of the 200+ page document. To see how helpful a red-line version is, check out the county’s draft solid waste management plan. It is over 400 pages long but, in this case, all the changes are literally shown in red text. Kudos to the waste-management-plan managers/drafters as they have shown regard for the public by providing a red-line version. Hiss and boo to the Livable Frederick drafters.


The draft county comprehensive plan is notable for what it addresses as well as what it avoids. I have written before on some of the more extreme initiatives called out in the plan, such as the creation of a subsidized starving artist colony as well as a government-provided hobby center. Today, I’d like to discuss some things that are not in the plan: energy, waste, and transportation.


Energy – “Become a net exporter of clean energy” is an initiative in the county plan. At night Frederick County produces zero energy. On a sunny day, perhaps enough solar energy is produced to brew most of our coffee, but not in the morning. You need to brew your coffee between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for solar to work.


The only serious energy proposal in recent history was the waste-to-energy plant that would have put about 45 million watts of power on the grid 24/7, enough energy to power 40,000 homes. This administration opposes waste-to-energy and has deleted any mention of it from its plans.


Note: the county waste management plan does mention a closed-landfill gas-to-energy plant to produce 2MW of electrical power. The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority website said “the project ‘ceased operation’ in June 2018.” I don’t recall a county press release on that event.


The Monocacy River plan drafted by this administration forbids the construction of reservoirs on the river. Granted, the river is slow flowing (low head) and does not have much energy potential, yet a small dam project here and there could provide a steady 24/7 supply of clean energy to hundreds if not thousands of homes while providing more recreational options (lakes) as well as some flood and sediment control. Reservoirs help trap suspended solids from erosion helping keep the water clearer and healthier. But sorry, the magic sacred river is off limits.


The county has no plans to become a net exporter of energy from any source. The belief the county will become a net exporter of the subset called “clean energy” is a fantasy.


Waste – There is little discussion of waste disposal in Livable Frederick. That’s probably because this administration’s vision is a bit embarrassing. The vision states that we will truck our waste out of state forever. The 200-page comprehensive plan doesn’t say that. The reader must study the 400-page Solid Waste Management Plan cited in the comp plan.


The waste plan red-line (thank you for that) shows the old plan of waste-to-energy being lined out. Another set of lineouts involves the out-of-state shipping of our solid waste. The old word describing the shipping was “interim.” “Interim” is now replaced with the word “current.” This administration plans to let someone else handle our waste forever.


Bad enough if the waste plans ended there, but you and I will pay and suffer for the lack of the county managing its own waste. Recycling, composting, and reduction plans abound in the county documents.


In the years to come, citizens will be kept quite busy sorting and storing their waste and paying for various services through taxes and fees associated with the consequences of letting our landfills fill up with no serious plan other than running diesel trucks out of state. Waste-to-energy might not be pretty, but it was a responsible and viable solution.


Transportation – Cars are so yesterday that county planners don’t really write about it. The county plan regarding transportation is all about bikes, buses, and trains. Trains will support the new bedroom community at the Eastalco site in the southern portion of the county to take commuters to the federally-funded beltway jobs in Montgomery County. Roads will be narrowed to install bike lanes. And finally, buses will somehow transport us into the future.


The county plan is silent on new roads or bridges. That will be left to the state. The plan would have us sit back and wait for the magic of autonomous vehicles to make all our transportation issues go away.


In summary – The county plan is characterized as much by what it lacks as by what it contains. It lacks serious plans and solution for energy, waste management, and transportation.


The county will not install viable energy production. Electrical power will continue to magically arrive from outside the county. Within the county, some solar cells will be mounted on roofs, and some farms will be paved over with more solar cells. The cronies involved will congratulate themselves as the rest of us see energy prices rise.


Waste will not be managed in the county. The “buck” is passed on to other more responsible regions of the country. Solid waste will continue to be trucked out of state. The NIMBY crowd that fought the waste-to-energy option will be silent about the trucks puking out diesel exhaust driving thousands of unnecessary miles each year to fill up landfills elsewhere.


Realistic transportation solutions will not be provided by the county with the “can” kicked down the proverbial road for some other administration to address. Instead, the omnipresent hope of mass transit will be pursued. The state may help with some road infrastructure upgrades while the county tells us all to ride bicycles and buses.


The government-imposed fantasies of a solar-powered county and a bicycle-riding workforce are a wasteful abuse of power and resources. The expense-to-benefit ratio is unjustifiable.


The county government’s head-in-the-sand approach to solid waste management ensures unnecessary pollution, wasted time, and expense for as long as Livable Frederick is the overarching county policy.


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