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Sewer merger plan gets nod

April 27, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI and DAN KULINs

Hagerstown and Washington County governments Tuesday officially adopted an agreement to merge sewage treatment operations for 111 residential households and 20 commercial properties.

Under the plan, the waste from the properties, all south of Oak Ridge Drive along Sharpsburg Pike, would go to the county's Conococheague Industrial Pretreatment Facility instead of to Hagerstown's treatment plant.

The Washington County Commissioners unanimously approved the plan, including three amendments, at its morning meeting. The City Council unanimously approved it at its evening meeting.

The plan is contingent on the city and county receiving about $486,000 in state grants to pay for needed work, said County Water and Sewer Director Greg Murray.

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The agreement has no time limit. The switch will occur around spring 2000 if the state provides the grants, Murray said.

The county expects to make about $60,000 per year from the change. The city will offset any money lost from the switch by continuing to collect a portion of connection charges from new customers in the Sharpsburg Pike area for no more than five years, according to the agreement.

The proposal was presented to the Hagerstown City Council in February. The move could serve as a test run for a larger merger of Hagerstown and Washington County sewage treatment operations.

It was developed by a joint city-county committee, which includes Murray, City Water Pollution Control Manager Rick Thomas, Commissioner John L. Schnebly and City Councilman William M. Breichner.

The affected sewer customers are outside the city limits. Residential rates in that area would go down by less than 1 percent. Commercial rates would increase between 3 percent and 20 percent depending on the volume used, according to the proposal.

The county is wrestling with more than $50 million in debt incurred by the Washington County Sanitary Commission before it was taken over by the Washington County Commissioners in December 1995.

Included in that amount are $27 million related to construction of the Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Conococheague Industrial Pretreatment Facility. By increasing the number of customers the county hopes to ease its way out of debt.

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