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Bowers calls for water-sewer audit

May 30, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS|

Staff Writer

Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers called for an independent audit of the county's Water and Sewer Department Tuesday and said the commissioners need a long-range plan for reducing $3.53 million in subsidies from the general fund.

Bowers also asked staff members for an accounting of debt at the Water and Sewer Department. He said he keeps hearing different numbers quoted to him and doesn't want a "moving target."

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said the debt was in the "mid-fifties" - meaning millions of dollars - and said staff members could detail the debt for the commissioners at a future meeting.

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"What are we doing to reduce the contribution for water and sewer?" Bowers asked the other commissioners.

Bowers said he acknowledged that there was a problem at the Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Conococheague Industrial Pretreatment Plant because of a lack of users.

The solution wasn't to keep pumping $3.53 million a year indefinitely into the system to pay off operating losses and debt, Bowers said. He suggested building more sewer lines to get more customers.

He questioned why the commissioners were spending money on capital projects at Black Rock Golf Course and the Washington County Ag Center instead of building sewer lines.

"In your business you gain customers to gain money," Bowers told Commissioner James R. Wade, who owns a liquor store.

Bowers said he asked for an audit when the commissioners took over the old Washington County Sanitary District but his request wasn't met.

He also said the commissioners' decision to lump the county's subdistricts into one was a disaster because customers were no longer paying the cost of providing service to their individual areas.

Bowers said that it wasn't a mistake to build the pretreatment plant, which is losing more than $800,000 a year, or to build the Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant, which also is losing money. Bowers said the plants will help spur economic development well into the next century.

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