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Sewer amendment approved

December 01, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt an amendment to the county water and sewer plan to indicate Funkstown's plans to change its sewer system after Commissioner William J. Wivell accused the commissioners and staff of holding the Funkstown Town Council "hostage."

Greg Murray, director of Washington County's department of water quality, presented a financial analysis using numbers that he said were more realistic than those the Town Council used when it decided Oct. 11 to build a $2.5 million plant rather than hook up to Hagerstown's sewer pipes so Washington County could treat sewage from Funkstown.

Murray, speaking to the Washington County Commissioners and the Funkstown Council at Tuesday's commissioners meeting, said the town should re-evaluate the financial impact of building the plant.

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The comparison the council used was based on peak flows, while the number he presented was based on average flows, Murray said.

Whether it builds a plant or not, Funkstown must submit - and the Washington County Commissioners must adopt - an amendment to the Washington County water and sewer plan noting the town's planned changes to its system, Murray said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment will not give Funkstown money, including $550,000 in grants, until the amendment is adopted because the state wants the county plan to include the changes planned by Funkstown, Murray said.

The amendment indicates that Funkstown is switching from a lagoon system to a plant using more modern technology and increasing its capacity from 150,000 gallons per day to 200,000 gallons per day, Murray said.

The county plan is amended each time a new water and sewer project is built within the county, Murray said. The state looks at the county plan to make sure it includes the plans of the municipalities, he said.

The state encourages regional systems to work together cooperatively, Murray said.

While MDE officials won't stop Funkstown's plans to build a plant, it looks more favorably on the regional plan under which Funkstown would use the county's plant, he said.

MDE has indicated it will give Funkstown $1 million instead of $550,000 if it opts for the more regional plan, he said.

It would cost less for the town, and the impact on town residents would be less, if Funkstown did not build a new plant but instead used the county's existing plant, Murray said.

But Wivell said he thought it was inappropriate to ask the council at that time to consider changing course. The town has made its decision and the commissioners should respect that, he said.

Funkstown Assistant Mayor Paul Crampton Jr. said the town will examine Murray's analysis but the council was at the meeting Tuesday to ask for an amendment, not to reconsider its decision.

Crampton said the town can return later to change the amendment if it decides to change plans.

Murray said that under an analysis using conservative estimates, it would cost the town about the same to build a new plant as it would to use the existing county plant.

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