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City, county agree to joint sewer service

November 24, 2000

City, county agree to joint sewer service



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Hagerstown and Washington County elected officials have agreed to a joint sewer service agreement that could produce, through savings and increased charges, more than $1.5 million for each government over 10 years, according to County Water and Sewer Department Director Greg Murray.

City and County elected officials praised the plan, which was presented Tuesday, as an example of city-county cooperation.

The plan calls for increasing the fee for new sewer customers who are outside the city and connecting to the sewer system in the joint city-county sewer service area. Those fees, which are called allocation or benefit charges, would increase from $3,500 to $3,900, Murray said.

The recommendation is to implement that increase in July, Murray said. The city and county would share the fees collected, with some of the money going to a reserve account for future costs.

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Murray said the connection fee for new customers in the joint service area is already scheduled to increase to $3,750 in July and to $4,000 in July 2002, but that increase would be replaced by this plan.

The connection fee for new customers within the city would remain at $1,200 under the plan.

Murray and Breichner said the lower city fee could encourage new development within the city.

The plan was devised by a joint city-county committee that included City Councilman William M. Breichner, County Commissioner John L. Schnebly, Murray and City Water Pollution Control Department Manager Rick Thomas.

Also, the plan calls for transferring some city sewer customers to the county sewer system, which would be done by linking the sewer lines near the county detention center.

Under the plan, city sewer customers on the west edge of the city and along Interstate 81 would gradually be switched to the county sewer system. This would happen as new sewer customers connect onto the city sewer system east of the city.

Transferring sewage flows would take advantage of gravity, and eventually eliminate the need for a city sewer pumping station near the Washington County Detention Center.

Murray and Breichner said that although some existing customers could wind up sending their sewage to a different treatment facility, existing customers will see no difference in billing or service under the plan.

Also, Murray said the plan could save and generate enough money so that projected sewer rate increase for city and county customers will be less than previously estimated.

"Both the city and county were looking at an average 4 percent (rate) increase" in each of the next five to 10 years, Murray said.

"Now we're looking at a 3 percent average (rate increase)," he said.

In April 1999, city and county elected officials adopted an agreement to merge sewage treatment operations for 111 residential households and 20 commercial properties along the Sharpsburg Pike south of Oak Ridge Drive. That agreement transferred those sewer flows to the county's Conococheague Industrial Pretreatment Facility instead of to Hagerstown's treatment plant.

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