The Beemans were two of about 70 people who attended a public information meeting Wednesday on the $2.58 million water system being built by Washington County. The meeting was at Lakeside Hall at the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base.
The county plans to extend public water service to about 80 homes in the Pen Mar area, saying it wants to improve water quality. The affected homes are serviced by wells or cisterns.
The Beemans said no one, including their builder or real estate agent, told them the public water system was planned. They also questioned why a well permit was issued so close to construction of the system.
"It would've been nice to know this up front, or we never would've purchased this house," Beeman's wife, Laura Hennessey-Beeman, said after the meeting.
The majority of Pen Mar-area residents who attended the meeting opposed the public water system. They said they're happy with their wells and didn't want to pay county water bills.
A few residents walked out of the meeting, saying they felt like the system was being "shoved down their throats."
On several occasions, some in the audience began shouting out comments and questions, causing county Public Works Director Gary Rohrer to say that he could only answer one question at a time.
About eight to 10 people supported system but were not as vocal as those who oppose the system. The county has said that the residents who support the public water system are cistern users who have to pay high bills to have water trucked in.
Rohrer said the county has been planning the system since 1989. According to state law, households must hook up to public systems that run nearby.
Property owners would have to pay a $1,950 connection fee to the system plus the cost of service line installation. Rohrer said that cost was estimated to be $2,000.
But the Community Action Council (CAC), which is trying to get a $400,000 grant to pay for the hookup and installation fees for low- to moderate-income families, estimated total costs to be around $9,000 per household.
Rohrer said he thought that cost was a little high.
"We feel very strongly that that is not the number you can expect to see," Rohrer said.
Some in the audience said they wanted the commissioners to reject the system, because only a few residents wanted it.
County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell, the only commissioner to attend the meeting, said the county's Water Quality Advisory Board would discuss the concerns of the residents and take the results of that discussion to the commissioners.
Resident Brad Bennett said he would like to see the commissioners stop plans for the system.
"It would be the patriotic thing to do in terms of majority rule," he said.