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Two Harford County services slated to end because of last-minute Harford County Council budget reductions have been restored thanks to grant money and donations.

County oil recycling locations will remain open another year and part-time trail monitors for the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail in Bel Air will have jobs in fiscal year 2010.

Because of the council’s reductions, the Harford County Department of Public Works was going to close nine waste oil and antifreeze recycling locations. Through a grant program available from the Maryland Department of Environment, Maryland Environmental Services, or MES, and Harford County are able to keep the recycling locations open for another year, according to a county government press release.

“We reconsidered closing the sites because of the environmental concerns,” Bob Cooper, director of public works, said. “We did hear from the citizens of the county. We did think about that as a main concern on keeping them open.”

The cost of the service is $65,000 per year, according to Cooper.

“That portion of the solid waste division, environmental services, is financed by the general fund that had to take a 5 percent cut that the council made,” Cooper said. “Part of that money came from the contract with MES. We researched with them to come up with some money.”

According to Cooper, the grant is only available for this fiscal year.

“If we’re in the same position next year, in order to keep the sites open we have to look somewhere else for additional cuts,” Cooper said.

Cooper also said it was necessary to keep the recycling locations open.

“It’s better environmentally that we continue that contract for them,” Cooper said. “We use MES for the maintenance for those sites. They’re already collecting the oil and antifreeze. We decided to contract with them for maintenance.”

Becky Joesting, recycling coordinator for the Harford County Department of Public Works Division of Environmental Services Recycling Office, is glad the recycling centers will remain open for at least another year.

“It will make it convenient for residents to dispose of used motor oil and antifreeze,” Joesting said. “It also protects the environment so people are not putting it in the ground or disposing it improperly when there’s something more convenient.”

The nine centers are in various Harford County and municipal facilities across the county.

“We have nine sites and they’re scattered throughout the county,” Cooper said. “It’s convenient for citizens so they don’t have to travel a long distance to get rid of oil.”

The Ma & Pa Heritage Trail Inc., a Bel Air-based not-for-profit organization, made a $500 contribution last week to Harford County Parks and Recreation Department to help fund trail monitor positions and keep public restrooms open at two of the trailheads.

The $500 contribution will help to pay the hourly wages for one fiscal year, starting July 1, of part-time trail monitors who patrol the trail for two hours each day and also unlock and clean the public restrooms at Melrose Lane in Bel Air and Friends Park in Forest Hill.

“With the cutback in the budget this year because of the economy, we had lost the funding,” Arden McClune, chief of capital planning and development for the Harford County Department of Parks & Recreation, said. “It was an expense we were not able to bear. So the Ma & Pa foundation had come forward and said they would provide some money for this to pay the trial monitors so we could continue to have folks available.”

McClune said four to six part-time trail monitors are paid about $8 an hour with no benefits.

“We have, in the past, been able to fund through the standard operating budget for part-time trail monitors who are paid an hourly rate and do minor trash pickup and, most importantly, simply served as eyes and ears on the trail,” McClune said. “They make folks feel the department has a presence on the trail and they may need to enforce rules. The more presence there is on the trail, the safer it is for all the users.”

McClune also said the trail monitors are used on an as-needed basis.

“It’s not something we have all the time, but we do keep them on task on a regular basis,” McClune said. “They’re very helpful for all the trail users.”

Most of the trail monitors are people who “really enjoy the trial and helping other people enjoy it,” McClune said.

The Ma & Pa Trail is a walking, running and bicycle trial on portions of the former Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad corridor in Bel Air and Forest Hill.

“We’re very appreciative of the foundation stepping up in these tough times to help everybody in the county use the trail,” McClune said.


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