City backs proposal to end fight with county

July 09, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday gave unanimous support to a proposed agreement that would settle legal disputes with the Washington County Commissioners, including one over the city's annexation policy.

The Washington County Commissioners support the settlement plan, but have not taken a formal vote, Commissioner William J. Wivell said.

The proposed settlement calls for the county to drop two lawsuits against the city. It would leave in place the city's annexation policy but would exempt certain areas from a requirement that property along the city's borders be annexed before city water and sewer services are extended to the area.

Because Tuesday's meeting was a work session the council could not take a formal vote on the matter. It is scheduled to formally vote at a July 29 meeting on a flow transfer agreement with the county and alterations to the city's annexation policy, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.


Unless they can get a city exemption, owners of property that does not border the city would have to agree to future annexation before receiving city water and sewer service. That annexation would be required once their properties became adjacent to city land.

Under the proposed settlement, the annexation policy would exempt several areas served by the city but outside the city limits including Maugansville, Fountainhead, Paramount, Halfway and Williamsport, Mayor William Breichner said.

When a council member asked how the city benefits from agreeing to the settlement, City Attorney John Urner said the city gets the two lawsuits settled.

Councilman Kristin Aleshire hesitated before agreeing to support the settlement, after expressing concern about the exact wording of parts of the agreements. Zimmerman said the council members will see an amended version of the agreements before a formal vote.

In January, the county sued the city over the annexation policy, which the county contended violates a 1997 agreement between the two bodies.

The county in December sued the city for $2.5 million in damages, alleging the city did not abide by the terms of a 2001 amendment to the 1997 sewer agreement. The amendment addresses flows under a proposed connection of the city and county systems.

If the settlement is finalized, the county is expected to receive a $650,000 Maryland Department of the Environment grant that would help pay for joint city-county services.

A state official had said the city and county had to resolve the flow transfer issue by June 30 in order to get the money, but later said he would give the governments extra time if progress was being made toward a resolution.

Also under the proposed agreement:

  • The Washington County Commissioners would consider, starting in fiscal year 2005, giving a portion of its hotel-motel tax money to the city of Hagerstown to assist with revitalization efforts.

  • The city and county governments would study development of a uniform Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance for both the city and the county.

  • The city and county would continue to pursue changes to the current tax rebate formula.
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