Advertisement

Editorial

April 16, 1997

Like many other customers of the Washington County sewer system, Smithsburg and Williamsport are bracing for rate hikes, that, come July, could boost the average customer's bill by $150 a year. Before these rate hikes take effect, however, it's time for the county commissioners to update the citizens on where the issue stands, in a public meeting or in writing.

The following questions need to be answered:

- Where does the $54 million debt stand now? How will upgrades and repair needed at the industrial pre-treatment plant and the Nicodemus sewage-treatment facility affect the debt?

- Nearly everyone agrees that to deal with excess capacity at the Conococheague sewer plant, more industries must be persuaded to locate here and hook onto that system. How would such hook-ups affect the need for rate hikes in the long term? And to market that excess capacity to industry, is the county close to hiring someone to fill the position of economic development director, a post vacant since October of 1995?

Advertisement

- Even if the city's elected officials agreed to it, working out the structure of the regional sewer authority the county has proposed could take a year or more. However, other items, like the city's offer to do line maintenance for the county, might be agreed upon more quickly.

Now that the city council has agreed to begin a dialog on possible cooperation, what measures can be agreed upon now to save the county money?

- Some months ago, the county heard a presentation from Wheelabrator, Inc., on possible privatization of the systems, a presentation that raised the possibility that certain grants used to build the system could be written off. Has anyone explored this, and is it a realistic possibility?

- Is there a way to explain all of this to citizens in ordinary language? At some points, the consultant's presentations at the 1996 hearings at North Hagerstown High seemed to be in another language altogether. If the people must pay more, can't someone tell them why, in words they can understand?

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|