Primary '98: Commissioners forum

August 17, 1998


First Question in a 5 part series: Wash. Co. Commissioners

Question: What is your proposal to reduce the water-sewer debt?

Democrat response

Editor's note: We asked all of the candidates to answer five questions from Herald-Mail editors. Candidate Ronnie Hines did not respond. Answers were limited to 60 words. Responses that exceeded that were edited.

Julianna Albowicz: First of all, as an experienced sewer commissioner I will make sure that a fiasco of this magnitude never happens again. Second, I will begin working immediately on every aspect of water and sewer operations to promote fiscal soundness. Third, following the Henry Ford principle of knowledge "no one person knows everything," I will create a Debt Reduction Task Force.


William Blair: The pre-treatment center of the Washington County Sanitation District has vast capabilities of processing industrial waste. I feel the facility could be made to pay for itself, preventing the taxpayers from having to pick up the tab. New businesses, outside Washington County, should be encouraged to move into the area, to utilize the facility.

Ron Bowers: A.) Discontinue "favored" status to industrial/commercial users by eliminating "free rides" and delegating them to pay their fair share. B.) Aggressively market the new profitable pretreatment plant and use profits for debt reduction. C.) Use the Conococheague plant for what it was built for and it will more than pay for itself. Also, capacity could be sold to Hagerstown.

Bill Breichner: The reduction of this debt might be accomplished through a number of initiatives. 1.) Restructuring bonded debt. 2.) Seek the cooperation of the State Revolving Loan Fund. 3.) Contracting with the city for management and operation of the water system. 4.) Develop more equitable rates for various customer classes. 5.) Perform a cost-benefit analysis to consider possible savings.

Patricia Crowther: A.) Form a panel of local citizens to review how other communities have reduced large debts. Other governing bodies have had to address these problems and we can learn from their experiences. B.) York Pa., has used co-generation, burning methane produced by the sewage system, along with natural gas, producing a five year savings of $516,620. This is an option.

Andrew Humphreys: Simply increasing user rates and tax rates are not feasible options for most of our people, especially those on fixed or low incomes. Let's explore taking on the debt as a community cause and wiping it out through an innovative combination of fund-raising activities, local bond issues, gaming percentage allocations, contributions, grants, community trust funds, and other coordinated methods.

Linda Irvin-Craig: Follow the existing plan, designed by county departments. Monitor interest rates for opportunities to further restructure. Maintain universal support for the system, in which more than just the users have a stake. Find ways to extend service to numerous other citizens that need it. Aggressively pursue other funding sources, such as the federal grant awarded to Chambersburg recently.

Delmas Knight: Stop excess spending. Don't build any more water-sewer plants that we don't need. Apply confiscated drug monies towards the water-sewer bill. Reinstate the hotel/motel tax that was applicable in the approved Fiscal Year 1997 budget and which was absent in the Fiscal Year 1998 budget. These taxes should be applied to the water-sewer debt.

Eugene "Buddie" Morris: In the first place, long planning wasn't in force. If so, we'd be free of this 56 millions of dollars monstrosity today. The administrator and the five county commissioners should of let the citizens know. Developers pay the cost of running sewage, water, roads to the developments then the county step in on said matter.

John Schnebly: Solutions are long term. The county and city need to work together to seek regionalized efficiencies in the placement and utilization of assets. The economic development staff needs to look for prospective users who have higher than average sewer processing needs. We should explore the pros and cons of restructuring the debt to improve cash flow in the budget.

Paul Swartz: My first priority in dealing with the water-sewer issue is to attempt to promote unity and cooperation between the city and the county. Secondly, market Washington County to attract large industries. Third if possible, request consideration from the Gaming Commission. Fourth, pursue federal and state assistance. Maryland needs a "Robert Byrd" type of federal leader to fight for Maryland.

Joseph Swope: Work with water and sewer staff and advisory board and listen to users, customers, and taxpayers for input. Work with Hagerstown and other towns for future consolidation of services and systems, if feasible and economically sound for taxpayers. Revisit water and sewer 10-year master plan, user fees and implement impact fees. As a last resort, turn over to private sector.

Sue Tuckwell: Regional cooperation with the City of Hagerstown must be pursued so the economy of scale will ultimately benefit all water-sewer users in the city and county. Alternative funding sources must also be explored, including legislation that would delegate surplus funds from the Maryland Lottery back to each county on a pro-rata basis for capital and infrastructure projects.

read the Republican candidate responses

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