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editorial - both - 11/26/01

November 27, 2001

Once more, state encourages local government cooperation



Recently the Washington County Commissioners took a leap of faith and agreed to sell the City of Hagerstown a sewer line needed for a property annexation.

The commissioners okayed the deal even though the two bodies haven't yet signed a joint sewer agreement. Now it's the state's turn to be generous, an act of kindness we hope is repaid with the creation of a cooperative spirit between the two governments.

The Maryland Department of the Environment's gift was its agreement to allow Hagerstown to accept another 550,000 gallons per day of sewage. The lack of capacity not only threatened the city's ability to attract new development, it also held up permits in an area of Washington County served by the city plant.

In approving the extra capacity, the state stressed that it would still like to see the two governments agree on a new sewer pact. The holdup has been the council's insistence on language to allow it to withhold sewer service until developers agreed to annex. The county sees problems with that approach.

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Both sides have expressed a willingness to negotiate the matter, which makes a great deal of sense. This is only the first of many issues the two governments must work together on.

Others include the possible merging of some city and county departments, the redevelopment of downtown and older areas of the city and the effort to bring in a campus of the University Systems of Maryland.

Working through these projects will take lots of time, but more important, each side must trust that the other is not seeking an unfair advantage.

The state can do its part by continuing to encourage, as it has for several years, the two governments to work on projects that benefit both while saving the taxpayers money. We hope both sides recognize that the state's action is an encouragement to move ahead and not an excuse to drag things out. Too much needs to be done to get stuck in the mud now.

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