Water-sewer concerns flood hearing

January 11, 1998

Water-sewer concerns flood hearing


Staff writer

About 100 persons, most representing local agencies or advocacy groups, met with eight members of Washington County's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly Saturday to suggest legislation that would help their cause.

The forum, held before the General Assembly meets for the its annual three-month session beginning Wednesday, also gave individual taxpayers a chance to vent their frustration over government.

Del. John P. Donoghue, who represents the city of Hagerstown in Annapolis, said the crowd was the largest he has seen at the annual gathering in his eight years in office. Donoghue was moderator.


Other legislators present, representing Washington and parts of Allegheny and Frederick counties, were state Sens. Donald F. Munson and John W. Derr and Dels. D. Bruce Poole, J. Anita Stup, Robert McKee, Louise Snodgrass and Sue Hecht.

The topic on most speakers minds was the whopping increases being felt by 8,000 Washington County water and sewer customers. Rates are up by as much as 200 percent.

"It's time to stop the name-calling. We need help," said Ray Horst, who lives 17804 Greentree Lane.

Horst said the proposed rates for some customers will go up to nearly $120 per quarter by 2007, up from the $62 per quarter they are paying now.

Russell Weaver, a member of the Sharpsburg Town Council, said water and sewer rates are the county's most serious crisis.

"You have to do something to help people who are really hurting," Weaver said.

Weaver suggested paying down the sewer debt with gambling taxes or by selling off some county assets. He also urged consolidating the systems in the county.

Several speakers represented state employee groups. They pushed for higher benefits, salary increases and the right of collective bargaining.

A correctional officer, suggested that a bill be passed making inmates pay for the vandalism they cause in state prisons.

Mark Benner, an employee with the state Highway Administration, lobbied for new trucks and equipment for the department's Washington County garage.

"About 70 percent of our fleet of trucks is 10 years old or older," Benner said.

Most trucks have more than 125,000 miles on them, he said.

"We just want a fair shake," he said.

Gambling in county veterans and private clubs and the taxes the clubs pay was also a big issue.

Roy S. Linebaugh of the Joint Veterans Council, urged the legislators to hold the line on gambling taxes. This year clubs pay 15 percent of their proceeds from gambling. Next year it will cap out at 20 percent.

"The smaller clubs will have to close if it gets any worse. Their livelihood depends on tip jars," Linebaugh said. "If the state and county make tip jars unprofitable the clubs will find other ways to exist."

A slew of speakers offered suggestions on how the state should spend its $260 million surplus. One popular notion is to spend it on a state-wide tax cut. Some suggested spending it on the county's water and sewer service debt while others want it used for things like education or programs for the poor, the mentally retarded and the handicapped.

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