Funkstown to build new sewer plant

October 12, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

FUNKSTOWN - Funkstown sewer customers could face another rate increase, on top of the one that went into effect in July, as a result of the Town Council's 4-1 vote on Monday night to build a new $2.5 million sewer treatment plant.

Town Council members decided to build a new plant rather than hook up to Hagerstown's sewer pipes so Washington County could treat sewage from Funkstown.

At least one of the town's three lagoons in the south end has been leaking for two to three years, Assistant Mayor Paul Crampton Jr. said after Monday night's monthly mayor and Town Council meeting. Fixing the lagoons would cost less than a new plant, but the antiquated sewer system cannot keep up with state mandates regarding environmental water quality, he said.


In a phone interview after the meeting, Crampton said town officials voted about six months ago to build a new plant, but considered other options after Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner said Funkstown might have other options.

In recent months, town officials met with Hagerstown and Washington County officials to consider options such as hooking up to the city's or county's sewer systems.

Council members discussed the two options at a one-hour work session Monday before continuing the discussion for 30 minutes during the regular meeting and taking a vote.

With Hagerstown and Washington County officials needing a decision within two weeks to prepare for a hookup, Crampton asked for a vote on Monday night.

Council members Richard Nigh, John Phillips III, Kim Ramer and Sharon Chirgott voted to build a new sewer plant. Councilman Robert D. Rodgers Jr. voted for the county treatment option. While Crampton said he preferred the town plant option, he did not vote because he was presiding over the meeting in Mayor Robert L. Kline's absence.

While the capital project cost for the county treatment option would cost $1.8 million compared with $2,468,125 for a new plant, the town would have a bigger annual shortfall under the county treatment option, Crampton said.

The town's shortfall would be $146,974 with the county treatment option compared to $13,655 with a new town plant, according to a handout about the two options.

That's because annual operating expenses would be higher under the county treatment option, Crampton said.

The county would charge the town $4.05 per thousand gallons of sewage compared with Funkstown's projected cost of $2 per thousand gallons with its own new plant, Crampton said.

That amounts to $357,799 in annual operating expenses under the county treatment option compared with $156,975 in expenses with a new town plant, according to the handout.

The town has received approval through the Maryland Department of the Environment for a $1.875 million loan to be paid back in 20 years at 1.9 percent interest, Town Clerk Brenda Haynes said.

Haynes said the town is guaranteed $550,000 through two MDE grants, but the town needs more grant money or town sewage users could see another rate increase.

Before the most recent rate increase, sewer charges were 75 percent of the water charges, but now are 160 percent of water charges, Haynes has said.

A quarterly utility bill - based on the use of 11,000 gallons of water - included $38.74 in sewer charges before the increase that went into effect in July, Haynes has said.

With the 160 percent rate, the same amount of water usage will cost residents $100.70 in sewer charges, she has said.

That does not include the water and garbage charges that also are on the utility bill.

Bills reflecting that increase will be mailed to town residents this week, Haynes said.

Ramer said some town residents cannot afford the new sewer rates.

"I've had people crying in my face," Ramer said.

"Bills go out Wednesday and I can assure each and every one of you it's going to be a nightmare in this office," Haynes told the council.

Crampton said the next step is to set a timeline and figure out how to proceed with construction of the new plant, which would be near the existing plant. The new plant would have the capacity to allow for some growth, he said.

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