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Smithsburg, Williamsport brace for rate increase

April 14, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

The towns of Williamsport and Smithsburg could end up paying an extra $230,000 a year to Washington County for sewer treatment service beginning July 1.

If the towns pass on the tentative increases to their customers, the average customer's bill would increase by roughly $150 per year.

The towns, with about 1,500 customers combined, have disputed rate increases that the Washington County Commissioners approved last year to help pay off a roughly $55 million water and sewer debt.

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The towns continue to pay the rates that were in place before the Washington County Commissioners voted to raise rates last June. They are able to pay the lower rates because the higher rate was set too late to meet notification deadlines specified in contracts between the towns and the county. Lawyers and accountants for the county and towns are negotiating the issue.

This year, the county was determined not to miss the deadlines specified in the contracts.

County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop sent each town a letter dated April 7 warning of a possible further increase in their wholesale sewer rates to no more than a flat $3.30 per 1,000 gallons starting July 1, 1997.

Under the old rate, the towns are paying $1.52 per 1,000 gallons plus an administrative fee of $2,696.83 each per month, town officials said.

Last year's plan by consultants Black & Veatch would have imposed a flat $3.16 per 1,000 gallons charge on the towns.

The towns own and maintain their own sewer collection systems but pay the county for treating the sewage.

Shoop's letter noted that the final rate could be lower than $3.30 per 1,000 gallons.

"Once we have completed the entire process which includes using the model purchased from Black & Veatch to aid in the establishment of rates, a public hearing and a resolution by the Commissioners, we will notify you of the exact rate adopted," the letter says.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said the town was reviewing its options on water and sewer rates and will hold a public hearing on any changes May 29.

"Unfortunately, when these costs are passed to us we have to pay them. We have to get the money somewhere," Myers said.

Williamsport Mayor John Slayman declined comment, saying the issue is a legal matter.

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