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City, county to debate sewer, annexation

October 19, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Hagerstown and Washington County officials are looking into joint sewer service for Prime Retail's planned $40 million outlet mall south of the city so the two government bodies can share connection revenues.

But first the two groups might have to reach an agreement on the city's plans to annex another planned shopping center west of the city, the Centre at Hagerstown.

The planned Prime Retail outlets at the northwest corner of the Interstate 70/Md. 65 interchange are in the city's service area, but the closest convenient collection line belongs to the county, said City Councilman William M. Breichner.

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Connecting to a nearby city collection line would require Prime Retail officials to redesign the shopping center, Breichner said.

City officials are willing to accept a request from the county for joint sewer service, but in return want cooperation from county officials with future annexation, according to Breichner and Councilman Lewis C. Metzner.

It's been about a month since the city relayed this message to the county, which has yet to respond, Breichner said.

"I think that's primarily our big problem - we haven't heard back from the county yet," he said.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said the commissioners have discussed the matter numerous times, but haven't taken a position yet. He could not recall whether the discussions were held publicly or behind closed doors.

While the commissioners haven't taken a formal position on the annexation issue, Commissioner James Wade said he thinks they are interested in cooperating whenever possible on any annexation.

However, when it comes to annexing land along Interstate 81, it is crucial that any deal hammered out include county sewer service in that area, Wade said.

City officials have expressed interest in annexing a planned $40 million shopping center at the intersection of Interstate 81 and U.S. 40 to be called the Centre at Hagerstown.

That sewer service is critical to the success of the Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant, Wade said. The plant could be hurt financially if it doesn't get that sewer service, he said.

Commissioner R. Lee Downey also said he would cooperate with annexation if the county got sewer service to that area.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the land where the Centre at Hagerstown is planned is a natural drainage area for the Conococheague plant.

Snook said the commissioners are willing to talk with city officials about the areas they want to annex. He said he has no general concerns about annexation and is sure the matter can be worked out.

The two groups are expected to discuss Prime Retail's sewer service during a joint 4 p.m. meeting Tuesday at the Washington County Administration Building.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said sewer service and annexation are two different issues that should remain separate.

"I will not be subjected to political blackmail," Bowers said. He said he was willing to discuss annexation.

Ultimately, the commissioners cannot stop the city from annexing the property, Wade said. They can support annexation, but the matter would be left up to the land owners, he said.

"We're not asking them to blindside agree to do anything we ask of them for annexation, ever," Metzner said. City officials are only asking for general cooperation, he said.

While the county has provided cooperation to the city in the past on annexation issues, the city has not been as forthcoming, Bowers said. The county didn't fight the city's annexation of Wesel Boulevard, where the city ended up with sewer service, he said.

Prime Retail officials have already told the city they would not consider being annexed because they don't want any further delays, Breichner said.

Whether city or joint service is provided to Prime Retail, the city would still receive a $115,000 benefit charge, said Austin Abraham, the city's project coordinator.

With joint service, the county also would collect connection and allocation charges, amounting to $201,250, according to a memo from Abraham and Water Pollution Control Department Manager Rick Thomas.

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