Although Maryland isn't pushing consolidation, a chemist and laboratory supervisor for Baltimore County's Bureau of Utilities thinks cities and counties should cost-share - particularly vis-à-vis solid waste.

Landfills, says John Burnett, are prime candidates because they have significant federal and state monitoring and reporting requirements but often lack the necessary equipment and expertise.

If a neighboring jurisdiction has an in- house laboratory, why not send samples there instead of to a for-profit laboratory? You'll pay less, and your neighbor can charge enough to offset any incremental costs.

Outsourcing is already common practice anyway, with many public landfills accepting waste from neighboring communities.

Burnett is no stranger to sharing operations. In the late 1970s he was a Corvallis, Ore., city council member and served on the city's public works committee. During that time, the council approved construction of a single facility for city and Benton County police.

“We thought it foolish to build two facilities that would serve the same function when one slightly larger facility would suffice.”