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Hagerstown offers water to Frederick

September 27, 2002

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner on Thursday offered to provide treated water to the City of Frederick but Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty told him she hopes she won't need to accept that offer to get through a severe water shortage, a City of Frederick spokeswoman said.

Breichner first mentioned the possibility of offering water to Frederick during Tuesday's City Council meeting. The mayor said the water should be given to Frederick at no charge, saying he doesn't think it would be appropriate to charge Frederick while that city is facing a water emergency.

Breichner said the question of whether Hagerstown would provide the water at no charge did not come up during his conversation with Dougherty Thursday.

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Frederick spokeswoman Nancy Gregg Poss said Frederick will consider Hagerstown's offer.

Under a worst-case scenario, the city of Frederick has about a 40-day water supply, Poss said.

Earlier this week, Dougherty said that Frederick was down to a 31-day supply because the water level of the Monocacy River was low and the city's reservoir at Lake Linganore was drying up.

The city got some relief Tuesday when the state Department of the Environment granted a temporary permit for Frederick to use a hurriedly dug well to supplement the city's dwindling supply. The well will provide 700,000 gallons of water a day to Frederick.

Water Department Manager Gene Walzl said he thinks the city could provide Frederick with about 1 million gallons a day and still meet Hagerstown customers' average demand of about 10.5 million gallons a day. Frederick would be responsible for shipping the water from Hagerstown.

A majority of the council on Thursday said they agreed with Breichner that the city should offer free water to Frederick, at least temporarily.

Councilman Kristin Aleshire disagreed with the majority, saying the city should sell the water, not give it away.

Aleshire said he did not believe Hagerstown water customers should have to pay to fix problems in Frederick.

"It is just a bottom-line issue. If there is a cost, it should not be paid for by the users of the Hagerstown system," he said.

Council members N. Linn Hendershot, Carol Moller and Lewis C. Metzner said Thursday that they did not believe Hagerstown should charge Frederick for water, at least not in the short term.

If Frederick needs water on a long-term basis, the city might choose to charge, but not at a rate that would provide a profit, Metzner said.

Councilwoman Penny May Nigh said she wanted more information before taking a position on whether water should be provided at no charge.

Breichner said that when the city's water plant had to be shut down temporarily in January 1996 because some of the pumps flooded, Frederick County and the town of Smithsburg provided free treated water, Breichner said.

Several other communities also have offered their help to Frederick.

As part of the city's backup plan, Carroll County has agreed to provide 3 million gallons of water per day. Tanker trucks are on standby to bring in more at a cost of $250,000 for every 30 days.

The city of Harrisburg, Pa., has also offered free water if Frederick can haul it from there.

Frederick, a city of 53,000, is suffering from a long-term drought affecting much of the Northeast and from rapid growth that boosted its population by 31 percent in the 1990s.

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