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Citizens react to higher water bills

December 05, 1996

By ELLEN LYON

Staff Writer

Denise Troxell, of Sharpsburg, is worried that Washington County's newly increased water and sewer rates will result in more, not less, development.

Troxell, whose quarterly bill went up about $40 under the new rates, fears that the county will push for more development as a means of lowering the rates for the existing approximately 8,500 customers on the system.

"I'm really concerned about that because we're going to lose our farmland," she said. "I just don't want them to use (lowering the rates) as an excuse."

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Other county residents, reeling from the first round of bills under the new rates, also expressed anxiety about what the future will bring.

Dan Weiss, of Sharpsburg, noted that the rate increase plan approved by the County Commissioners in June calls for double digit increases for several years to come.

"Our property values and everything is going to crash," Weiss predicted. "We will move eventually."

Even using less water doesn't protect some customers from higher bills under the new rates.

"You can only conserve so far," Weiss said. "You've got to wash the clothes and the dishes."

"I used less and it cost me almost twice as much ... It's terrible," said Harris E. Miller, of Longview Drive in Greenberry Hills.

Miller said he is going to have to get rid of his pool because he can no longer afford to fill it with water.

Sewer bills are based on the amount of water usage.

Tom Nuice, of Sandy Hook Road, said his bill went up about $40 and was "almost identical to what we expected."

Nuice is using his old well for any outside watering, he said.

Troxell, who is living on disability and raising two teenagers, said "we were really trying to conserve."

She recommends using a water saver device in the toilet tank to control the water level.

Although Troxell said she feels sorry for residents of Halfway, who experienced one of the biggest rate increases when the County Commissioners decided to consolidate the system's 19 subdistricts and charge uniform rates, she and her neighbors in Sharpsburg "were paying a lot more than they were to start with."

"I feel for everyone in the county. I don't know what the answer is. We're going to have to pay it," Troxell said.

Anger at the County Commissioners rose with the rates.

"I don't like to pay for other people's mistakes," John Ray, of Sharpsburg, said. "These County Commissioners don't listen to one damn thing we say."

"I'm conserving my water and I'm saving every month to try and meet the next (bill)," Ray, 72 and on a fixed income, said. "I can make it but I don't like it."

"Obviously something was mismanaged ... but it's not going to kill me. I feel sorry for the older people," Troxell said. "It's an increase that I can handle. I don't want to pay any more. If it were much more I wouldn't be able to handle it."

"I think they should have raised it before so it wouldn't be such a large jerk," she said.

Not everyone was upset when the new bills arrived.

"We were pleasantly surprised," Jan Wetterer, of Sharpsburg said.

Her water bill went up but her sewer bill went down for a net increase of $13.99, Wetterer said.

"We've always been conservative in the water use," she said. "We're going to try to be even more careful in our water usage because I understand it's going to go up every year."

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