Public reacts to sewer fee increase

June 29, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

The Town of Funkstown's 85 percent increase in its sewer rate is excessive and unrealistic, a woman told the Funkstown Town Council during a public hearing Monday.

"Where do you think people are going to get this kind of money?" Della Conrad asked.

She said she understands the town's need for an increase, "but you are asking too much of people."

As a widow on a fixed income, Mary Hutton said, she didn't know how she would pay the increased costs.

Conrad and Hutton, who live outside the town limits, were among 10 people who attended the public hearing at Funkstown Town Hall.

After the public hearing, the Town Council adopted its fiscal 2005 budget, which includes the rate increase.

Town Clerk Brenda Haynes said sewer charges have been 75 percent of the water charges, but will increase to 160 percent of the water charges. The change will be effective in July.


Haynes said a quarterly utility bill - based on the use of 11,000 gallons of water - now includes $38.74 in sewer charges. With the increase, the same amount of water usage will cost residents $100.70 in sewer charges, she said.

The rate increase is based on the assumption the town will receive an $800,000 Community Development Block Grant for which the town has applied, she said. The town will know in July if it receives the grant, she said.

Conrad asked for a guarantee that the town won't make future sewer rate increases but Councilman Paul Crampton said there will be additional increases if the town does not get the $800,000 grant.

Mayor Robert Kline said the town is trying to keep the sewer rates as low as possible since one-third of the town's residents are on fixed incomes.

Haynes said the increase is coming as the result of a state-mandated upgrade of the town's waste-water treatment plant.

The cost of construction work in upgrading the treatment plant is estimated at about $2.4 million, Haynes has said. The town is getting $500,000 in grant money from the Maryland Department of the Environment to help pay for the work.

Haynes said that on top of the grant money, the town would have to borrow $1,075,750 from the Maryland Department of the Environment in the form of a 20-year loan. In addition, she said, the town would have to borrow $200,000 each year for the next three years from the MDE to have sludge removed from two of the wastewater treatment plant's lagoons.

"I guess a bake sale wouldn't help much," town resident Rick Barnes said during the public hearing.

"We are not ruling anything out," Crampton said in response.

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