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Sewer dispute between county, towns unresolved

July 22, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

A $20,000-a-month dispute between Washington County and the towns of Smithsburg and Williamsport over sewer rates remained unresolved Tuesday.

Dawn Barnes, county water and sewer finance officer, said the two towns owed the county more than $100,000 each on June 30, after about 10 months of bills had been paid.

The towns, which had agreements on sewer service with the county's defunct Sanitary Commission, have refused to pay higher rates imposed by the Washington County Commissioners on July 1, 1996.

They based the refusal on the fact that the county didn't notify them of the rate increases in time to meet notification deadlines set in their contracts. The new rates are about double what the towns are paying.

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County Attorney Richard Douglas said the towns should have paid the new rates under a clause in the contract that allows for extenuating circumstances.

"We're still in a holding pattern," said Smithsburg Mayor Mildred Myers. "There has been no progress that is noteworthy."

The two sides are still in the same phase they were a year ago - collecting information, according to Douglas and Myers.

Betsy Martin, Smithsburg clerk/treasurer, said she had been instructed not to comment on the matter because it is a legal issue.

The towns' attorney, Edward Kuczynski, and Williamsport Mayor John Slayman, could not be reached.

Smithsburg did implement water and sewer rate hikes of 12 percent for in-town residents and 15 percent for out-of-town residents on July 1, Martin said.

This July 1, the rate charged the towns by the county was set at $3.27 per 1,000 gallons and the towns were notified in advance of the deadlines. Under the old rate, the towns are paying $1.52 per 1,000 gallons, in addition to an administrative fee of $2,696.83 per month, town officials said.

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

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