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Rare move leads to water project progress

November 16, 2005

WASHINGTON COUNTY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Pen Mar-area water project temporarily hit a stumbling block Tuesday after one Washington County Commissioner refused to support the public water system, but it later was approved in a rare maneuver by the County Commissioners.

Commissioner John C. Munson, who initially opposed the project, later temporarily chaired the meeting to allow a vote on the issue.

As a result, the commissioners awarded the approximately $3 million construction contract to Mid-Atlantic Utilities Inc. of Boiling Springs, Pa.

Construction is expected to begin in 30 to 45 days, Water Quality Director Greg Murray said.

The project, which requires about 80 Pen Mar-area residences to hook up to public water, has been controversial among homeowners who don't want to pay for county water.

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County officials have said the project is needed to improve water quality for the residents. The residents now use wells or cisterns for water.

Two of the five commissioners - President Gregory I. Snook and Doris J. Nipps - were absent from Tuesday's meeting. Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell served as the chairman, in place of Snook.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval made a motion to award the construction contract, but Munson refused to second it, killing the motion.

Munson said during the meeting he didn't think the majority of Pen Mar-area residents who would have to hook to the system wanted it.

"Until I hear more people say 'I want it,' I can't vote for it," he said.

As chair, Wivell was prevented from making a motion or seconding it.

"That's a shame," Kercheval said of the killed motion.

Wivell asked Munson if he wanted to chair the meeting so the contract could be brought up for a vote, and Munson declined.

Wivell said the commissioners would bring the matter back at the next meeting, when Snook and Nipps would be there.

As it turned out, the commissioners didn't wait that long.

A few agenda items later in Tuesday's meeting, the commissioners voted to award the contract in a move not typically used by the commissioners.

After speaking with County Administrator Rodney Shoop, Wivell called Munson out of the room for a private discussion. Moments later, in public session, Wivell said the commissioners had a "housekeeping" matter to address.

Without a public explanation, Wivell relinquished the chair to Munson and Munson accepted, allowing the contract to be brought to a vote. Kercheval made the motion, which was seconded by Wivell, and the motion passed by a 2-0 vote.

Munson did not vote.

After the meeting, Munson said Wivell asked him to serve as temporary chair for the water project item so a vote could be taken.

Munson said he reluctantly agreed because it would be approved anyway when Nipps and Snook got back.

He also said Wivell told him that waiting until the next meeting could cause a delay in the project, should winter weather hit the area.

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