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MDE awards city-county sewer grant

January 15, 2001

MDE awards city-county sewer grant



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


The Maryland Department of the Environment has awarded a $250,000 grant to be used toward a $1.3 million Hagerstown-Washington County sewer project, County Commissioner John L. Schnebly said.

If all the money for which applications were filed is made available, sufficient funds would be available for the project, County Water and Sewer Department Director Greg Murray said.

One agency from which funds have been requested has not yet officially approved the grant, he said.

City and county officials were going to lobby state officials in Annapolis last Monday for the $250,000, Schnebly said. Before they left, state officials called to say the grant would be awarded and no in-person lobbying was necessary.

The city-county project will have a financial impact on the city and county governments, he said. It will also help lower county sewer rate increases, he said.

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Murray said project funding lined up prior to word of the grant receipt included:

-- $400,000 from the Maryland Department of the Environment.

-- $200,000 in developer contributions.

-- $120,000 from the County Commissioners in in-kind contributions.

-- $200,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture.

In addition, application has been made for $200,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission, but has not yet been received.

In December the Hagerstown City Council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the Washington County Commissioners to accept the recommendations of a city-county committee on a joint sewer service agreement.

Murray said the recommendations could produce, through savings and increased charges, more than $1.5 million for each government over 10 years.

The plan, in part, calls for transferring some city sewer customers to the county sewer system by linking the sewer lines near the Washington County Detention Center.

Transferring sewage flows would take advantage of gravity, and eventually eliminate the need for a city sewer pumping station near the detention center.

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

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

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