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City/county sewer connection discussed

March 20, 2002|BY DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

State representatives told Hagerstown and Washington County elected officials Tuesday to move forward with plans to connect the city and county sewer systems, and not to mix annexation issues into a connection agreement.

The planned connection is part of proposed amendments to the city-county sewer agreement. But approval of the amendments has been on hold because some city and county elected officials disagree on whether the agreement should be further changed to remove language some say interferes with a draft city annexation policy.

Maryland Department of Planning Program Implementation Coordinator James T. Noonan said the city and county should "separate the two issues" of annexation and connection of the sewer systems.

Maryland Department of the Environment Water Management Administration Program Administrator George Keller told the City Council and Board of County Commissioners to "have the agreement be annexation neutral."

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After the Tuesday meeting, city and county elected officials seemed no closer to resolving the matter as some interpretations of the state official's comments varied.

The sticking point in the sewer agreement is a phrase that states the city "shall" accept new sewer customers from areas outside the city.

City Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said the word "shall" means the city can't refuse sewer service to properties outside city limits. That prohibits the city from requiring properties along the city border to annex into the city in order to receive new water and sewer service connections, as a draft annexation would.

Aleshire said "shall" must be changed to "may" in the sewer agreement to make the agreement annexation neutral.

County Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said the disagreement over whether to change "shall" to "may" has nothing to do with the proposed connection of the two sewer systems.

"The state says don't tie the two together," Iseminger said. "The only thing we want to do is allow for the interconnection of the systems. We don't want to change the original language."

The planned connection of the city and county sewer systems would mean building a new sewer line near the Washington County Detention Center. A state grant would help pay for that new sewer line, which would allow for some sewage being sent to the city sewer plant to instead go to a county plant. Without the connection, the city plant would have to be expanded sooner, Iseminger said.

City Council members Lewis C. Metzner and Penny May Nigh were not at the meeting.

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