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Funkstown hopes to lower sewer rate

August 17, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Funkstown Mayor Robert L. Kline said Monday that town officials want to find a way to reduce a recently approved sewer rate increase that is more than double the previous rate.

"We're seeing if we can't get a grant," Kline said after Monday night's town meeting.

The town has said the higher sewer rate was needed to offset the cost of upgrading the town's wastewater treatment plant.

Kline said he and the Town Council will meet Aug. 25 in closed session with city, county and state officials to discuss their options, but he wouldn't elaborate on what options might be available.

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"We'll see what they can do for us," he said.

At its June 28 meeting, the council adopted its fiscal 2005 budget, which included a sewer rate that more that doubled. The fiscal year began July 1.

At the June 28 meeting, Town Clerk Brenda Haynes said sewer charges, which were 75 percent of the water charges, would increase to 160 percent of the water charges.

The change was effective in July, she has said. The new rates will be included on the October bills.

Town Council member Kim Ramer said at Monday night's meeting, "We've got to get this 160 percent down."

Ramer said Monday he is upset that the state mandated the sewer upgrade for the small town, knowing that there is no grant money available.

"It's thievery, it's highway robbery," he said.

Haynes has said a former quarterly utility bill - based on the use of 11,000 gallons of water - included $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 that the town will receive an $800,000 Community Development Block Grant for which it has applied, she has said.

It is estimated that the cost of construction work to upgrade the treatment plant will be about $2.4 million, Haynes has said. The town is getting a $500,000 grant from the Maryland Department of the Environment to help pay for the work.

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