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Monthly flush fee takes effect today

January 01, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Starting today, a new $2.50 monthly fee will begin appearing on most residential water and sewer bills from the City of Hagerstown to help pay for cleaning up Chesapeake Bay.

The so-called flush fee will pay for the Bay Restoration Fund, a state account established in the 2004 General Assembly.

According to the law, the fee is effective today for any residential dwelling unit that receives an individual sewer bill, as well as users of septic systems who also receive water bills.

"This tax is to go into a state fund that will be parceled out to utilities to make improvements on their sewer systems," Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said earlier this week.

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The city already is planning upgrades that would use money from the new state program. Asked if he believed the fee would be beneficial to the city, Breichner said, "Let's hope, eventually."

The Bay Restoration Fund is expected to raise about $80 million a year, and will be allotted to pay for sewage treatment facility upgrades and replacement. It also will pay for a new state program to remove nutrients from wastewater in an effort to clean up Chesapeake Bay.

Not all customers of the city's water and sewer system will receive bills reflecting the change. Officials said the city is not responsible for collecting the fees from Washington County residents receiving sewer bills from the county.

Also, several government organizations are exempt - including the Hagerstown Housing Authority, Washington County Public Schools and Hagerstown Community College.

Housing management companies that receive water accounts for multiple homes and nonresidential customers - such as businesses and industrial manufactures - will be charged at different rates, but under the law, the maximum annual fee the state can impose upon a single site is $120,000.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said this week that the county has not yet put in place a plan on how to collect the fees, although it must do so this year.

Snook said that many county residents use septic systems for wastewater disposal. Those who use septic systems - but do not receive a water bill - fall into a different category of the state law, and will be charged $30 annually. That charge does not go into effect until Oct. 1.

The Bay Restoration Fund was established in the 2004 General Assembly under SB 320.

Flush fee details


Cost to most residents: $2.50 per month

Takes effect: Today

Purpose: To pay for the state's Bay Restoration Fund, which will raise money to improve sewage treatment facilities and clean up Chesapeake Bay.

Collection method: Water and sewer bills

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