Help sought on sewer debt

February 26, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Help sought on sewer debt

ANNAPOLIS - The Washington County Commissioners are asking for a renewed but scaled-back effort to get state assistance for a $55 million water and sewer debt.

Even though the latest request from the County Commissioners is less than half of what they originally requested, some in the county's legislative delegation to the Maryland General Assembly are doubtful that the plan will succeed.

"I just can't imagine there's going to be acceptance for this," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington.

The County Commissioners on Wednesday sent the delegation a letter asking that the county be forgiven $4.83 million in state debt incurred on several water and sewer projects.


The county previously had asked the state to forgive more than $10 million in debt, but the delegation had refused to submit a bill to that effect. They said such a bill would open the door for other counties and organizations to ask the state to forgive their debts.

Another problem with the request was that more than $6 million in state and federal money was used for the county projects, lawmakers said.

The latest county request identifies the county debt owed to the state for the construction of six different water and sewer projects dating back to 1987. The state required that the projects be undertaken, the county letter said.

"I think our chances are a little bit better than what we had before because we identified needs," said County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook.

Some lawmakers, however, said the basic problem is still there.

"I think it's practically impossible to the extent that all of the counties have debt owed to the state. If they do it for one, what do they do for the others?" said Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

Lawmakers said they could seek debt relief through the Department of the Environment, which oversees water and sewer projects in the state, or by appealing directly to Gov. Parris N. Glendening. They said similar appeals were rejected in the past.

"In most cases, the response has been, 'You've already got the money up front,'" McKee said.

But the delegation should ask Glendening again, he said.

"He seems to make visits all over the state, giving away money for all sorts of projects," McKee said.

Glendening spokesman Ray Feldmann said the governor would want to see a specific proposal before commenting.

McKee said he would like the delegation to explore new approaches to the problem.

"Sit us all down and see what we can come up with," he said.

Staff writer Julie E. Greene contributed to this story.

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