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City approves flow transfer pact

August 06, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a flow transfer agreement with the Washington County Commissioners, making official a proposed agreement that has been debated for more than a year.

The Washington County Commissioners approved the agreement at a July 22 meeting.

The city action settles one of two disagreements and lawsuits the county filed against the city in the last year.

After the vote during a rare joint meeting of the council and commissioners, Mayor William M. Breichner used the opportunity to encourage the two bodies to settle the other issue, which revolves around the city's annexation proposal, as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Breichner said he is scheduled to be deposed today at an attorney's office in connection with the annexation lawsuit.

Resolution of the flow transfer agreement means the county will receive a $650,000 grant from the Maryland Department of the Environment to help pay for joint city-county services. The grant funding was in question for months after it was tied up by a debate over the annexation policy.

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The council on July 8 gave unanimous support to a proposed agreement that would settle the county's January lawsuit on the city's annexation policy and a December 2002 lawsuit over a flow transfer agreement. Under the settlement, the county would drop both lawsuits.

At its July 29 meeting, the council again gave informal support to revising the annexation policy and to approving the flow transfer agreement.

City officials had expressed hope the county would be ready Tuesday to vote to adopt the annexation policy but County Administrator Rodney Shoop and Commissioner William J. Wivell said the county won't be ready to vote on the annexation issue for at least a few weeks.

The city's amended annexation policy links it to other issues, such as the county hotel-motel tax and the flow transfer agreement, but the county does not want those issues meshed, Wivell said.

Breichner said Tuesday the city may amend its proposal in the next few weeks to address Wivell's concern.

The proposed annexation settlement 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.

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, city officials said.

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