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Sewer wording debated

May 21, 2002|BY DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

A majority of Hagerstown City Council members are standing behind their call for certain changes to a city-Washington County sewer agreement, despite a letter from a state official advising them otherwise.

Council members Kristin B. Aleshire, N. Linn Hendershot and Carol N. Moller said they want a section of the agreement that states the city "shall" accept new sewer customers from certain areas outside the city, changed to read that the city "may" accept those customers.

Aleshire said that without the change, some could argue the sewer agreement prevents the city from withholding sewer service. This could affect a proposed city annexation policy, which in general would require properties along the city border to annex into the city in order to receive new water and sewer service connections.

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"It doesn't mean it to me, but the argument's going to occur," Aleshire said.

"'Shall' means you do it. 'May' means you have an option," Moller said.

County Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said he and his fellow commissioners still want the word "shall" to stay in the agreement.

The city sewer system is a regional system, and the "city wants to change the language to make that optional," Iseminger said.

He said property owners should be able to decide whether they want to annex into the city and not be forced to annex by the city withholding sewer service.

In a May 3 letter to Mayor William M. Breichner, George Keller, acting program manager with the Maryland Department of the Environment's Water Management Administration Water Quality Infrastructure Program, said, "the word 'shall' ... removes any ambiguity regarding the intent and sharing of the Hagerstown plant as a regional facility."

Keller could not be reached for comment, but Iseminger, the mayor and council members said Keller says the word "shall" should stay in the agreement.

But Aleshire said "that's his opinion."

The shall vs. may disagreement is holding up proposed amendments to the sewer agreement that would allow the city and county sewer systems to connect.

The connection would help both the city and county, Iseminger said, because more sewage would go to the county plant and less would go to the city plant, which would delay expansion there.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said although he's supported changing "shall" to "may" in the agreement, he's now willing to vote for the agreement even if it has the word "shall" in it.

"Moving along with the agreement is in the best interest of all," Metzner said. "I would like to see 'may' ... But no agreement is to no one's benefit. In my opinion it's high time we move on with this."

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