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Study of city water, sewer rates proceeds

October 22, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The City of Hagerstown again is making plans to have an outside independent consultant review its water and sewer rates, at an estimated cost of $75,000 to $100,000, after postponing the work.

"It is way overdue," Councilman Kristin Aleshire said.

The City Council on Aug. 20, 2002, gave preliminary approval for such a study to be done.

But city officials did not know then that the Washington County Water and Sewer Advisory Commission, acting with the support of the Washington County Commissioners, asked the Maryland Public Service Commission in an Aug. 2 letter to review whether the city's rates were reasonable and justified.

In October 2002, the city decided to postpone the study since it might duplicate or overlap with information that would be prepared for the case.

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Finance Director Al Martin said Tuesday it makes sense now to proceed with the plan to get a consultant to do the work.

The case is proceeding, although it was pared down somewhat when the PSC decided earlier this year that it did not have jurisdiction over sewer rates for non-city customers living in joint service areas.

The topic of the independent study came up at a scheduling meeting last week regarding the case, Martin said.

PSC officials said they can rule on the case regardless of whether the rate study is done, he said.

But, he said, PSC officials suggested municipalities have studies updated every few years while the city's most recent studies are at least 15 years old.

Martin said it will take at least three months to select someone to do the study and another nine months for the study to be done.

The earliest the PSC could hold a hearing on the case is July 2004, under the schedule adopted by the city and county.

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