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Commissioners OK sewer accord

July 23, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved an agreement that allows the transfer of sewage from the City of Hagerstown to the county's sewer system, a move that would end a two-year disagreement between the two governments.

City officials told the County Commissioners they expect to sign the agreement early next month.

The move, over a 10-year period, would result in $1.5 million in additional revenue each for the city and the county, said Greg Murray, Washington County Water Quality director.

If the agreement is signed by the city, the county would drop its $2.5 million suit against the city. The suit alleged the city did not abide by terms of a 2001 amendment to a 1997 sewer pact that addressed the transfer of sewage.

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The flow transfer agreement, which connects the city and county's sewer systems, would bring in more revenue for both parties through increased connection fees, Murray said.

The city's operating expenses would be reduced because the agreement would eliminate the need for an existing city pumping station, which is along Interstate 81 across from the Washington County Detention Center, Murray said.

The county's sewer system would carry that wastewater to its Conococheague plant.

Murray said the agreement would increase capacity at the city's wastewater plant because of the increased flow going to the county's plant, which has the capacity to accommodate the additional flow.

"It's good for both parties," Murray said.

"I think everyone feels comfortable with the language here," City Finance Director Al Martin said.

If the city signs the flow transfer agreement, the county will receive a $650,000 grant from the Maryland Department of the Environment, Murray said. That grant will help pay for the joint city-county services.

The city and county still must work out a dispute over the city's annexation policy, which requires property along the city's borders to be annexed before city water and sewer services are extended to the area.

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.

In January, the county sued the city over the policy, saying it violates a 1997 agreement between the two bodies.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said after Tuesday's meeting that the commissioners have not yet discussed a resolution to the annexation dispute.

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