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Can county board admitthat it needs some help?

May 21, 2002|BY BOB MAGINNIS

Barring some last-minute change of heart, on May 28 the Hagerstown City Council will adopt a policy that says if developers want city sewer service, they must annex their developments into the city, where the residents will pay city taxes.

If it happens, it will be because the Washington County Commissioners could not admit that they need some help in negotiating with the city.

The dispute began after the city and county successfully negotiated an agreement to interconnect their systems and save each government money in the process, money that could be applied to future money-saving projects.

But before the agreement could be signed, then-mayor Robert Bruchey said that instead of an agreement that says the city "shall" provide sewer service, the agreement should say "may" instead.

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Bruchey - and some members of the current council - say that if they have the freedom to deny sewer service to those who don't want to annex, they can negotiate with developers on issues like housing types, how many units will be built each year and so forth.

The county commissioners have taken the position that under the existing sewer agreement, the city has agreed to serve certain areas outside its boundaries - and has in fact received state funds because it agreed to do so. The commissioners also argue that it would not be in the city's best interest to annex everything alongside its boundaries.

Except for the date of the vote, this editorial could have been written in substantially the same form six months ago. We have suggested several timers that a mediator is needed to keep this dispute from growing into something that will block progress on other issues.

We know that it can be difficult to admit that you need help. Let us suggest that it would be easier for the commissioners to do that now than explain to citizens later why they didn't do all they could to make progress on this issue.

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