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Neighbors split over sewer plan

November 24, 1997

Neighbors split over sewer plan

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

A controversy over whether to provide sewer service to the Holiday Acres subdivision west of Smithsburg has pitted some residents against each other and could affect growth in the area for years to come.

Holiday Acres resident Alvin W. Jones said he has spent $6,000 since 1990 upgrading his septic system. Now that Washington County plans to provide sewer service to his home and 114 others in his neighborhood, he may have to spend $6,000 more to hook up, and $300 a year in sewer fees.

"If I don't want it, then I don't feel I should be forced to take it," said Jones, 78.

But another Holiday Acres resident, Daniel Minnick, 40, said he needs public sewer.

"My (septic) system is failing. My yard is like a sponge. It's soaking wet, and not because of the rain either."

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Minnick, a plumber, said his yard smells like a sewer pit and his kids can't play outside.

Water and Sewer Director Greg Murray said the county is re-evaluating its plans to provide sewer to Holiday Acres because of residents' concerns.

But Murray said that what's at stake isn't just Holiday Acres but the future growth of the area west of Smithsburg.

If the Holiday Acres project doesn't go through, the county might not build a new $1.17 million sewer pump station next year as planned, Murray said.

That pump station initially would serve 220 customers, including Holiday Acres, with the capacity to serve 810 customers if growth occurs in the area.

Instead, the county could upgrade the existing, smaller pump station built in 1993. Murray said that station, which cost $189,000, was constructed poorly, with a weak foundation that has had to be shored up temporarily with underground injections of concrete.

A long-term repair job probably would cost $150,000, he said.

Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said that if the county upgrades the existing pump station, and growth occurs anyway, the county might still have to abandon it in a few years. That wouldn't be a good use of taxpayers' money, he said.

Edward R. Knight, one of the leaders of the group fighting the sewer plans, said 90 percent of the people he talked to are opposed to the plan.

"We never asked for it, we don't need it, we don't want it and we can't afford it," said Knight, 49.

Knight has presented the Washington County Commissioners with a petition signed by about half of the homeowners in the community.

He said other developments in the area wouldn't have to hook on to sewer and said he feels as if Holiday Acres has been unfairly singled out.

Knight said there are a lot of retired people who don't have the money to spend to hook up their homes, and said some new residents used their money for down payments and don't have thousands of dollars sitting around.

Murray said several residents of the neighborhood have called the county to say they want sewer service, but said they didn't want to be named because they don't want trouble with their neighbors.

Jones said he agreed that Holiday Acres, which has public water, eventually will have to be hooked up to the sewer system.

"We're sticking our heads in the sand like an ostrich if we say there is never going to be a need for sewer in here."

Jones said the county should wait until the residents want and need sewer.

Minnick, a plumber, suggested a compromise. He said the county should go ahead with plans to provide sewer service, but give residents three years to hook up. That should give them time to come up with the money while providing service now for those who need it, he said.

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