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Water, sewer, garbage take stage

January 10, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

CLEAR SPRING - As 2006 gets under way, the challenges of maintaining efficient and cost-effective water and sewer services to residents is again at the forefront.

This year, a new player may be working its way onto the stage of public interest - garbage collection, which is provided free of charge to residents of the town, at least for now.

"We may have to take another look at this as a free service we provide," said Town Mayor Paul Hose Jr. "I hate to make people pay but ..."

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The reason is the escalating costs that are now up to more than $1,700 a month for a once-a-week pickup by BFI. That works out to more than $20,000 a year, which the town pays and for which it gets no reimbursement from residents.

Fuel charges have been mounting as the cost of gasoline has been rising over the past few months. "It is constantly going up," Hose said, referring to the BFI bill. "I don't know how much longer we can continue to pay."

Town Clerk Juanita Grimm said Clear Spring is one of only two municipalities in Washington County that absorb the costs of garbage pickup in their towns. Most towns bill residents for garbage service, including the charge on their water bills.

Councilman Terry Baker agreed that the trash pickup situation will have to be examined this year to see if the town can continue to subsidize the service. "That's a really big service," Baker said.

Theodore "Teddy" Hovermale, newly elected councilman, said a major sewer upgrade is on the horizon and he suspects the town council will be occupied with that project beginning this year.

"Hopefully, we have most of our water problems behind us," he said.

Those water problems included the discovery and repair of a major leak in a 4-inch water line in the 100 block of Cumberland Street (U.S. 40) just before Christmas. That leak brought the water level in the town's new water tower down more than 4 feet before it rebounded after the connection was re-established.

Another concern for Teddy Hovermale is the need for repairs to many of the town's back streets and alleys.

Carol Hovermale, who was appointed to fill Gary Grove's vacant seat last March, was then elected to the seat in November. She is council treasurer and reported that going into 2006, the town was in good financial shape.

Councilman Steve Blickenstaff was excited about activating the town's water metering system as the last of the 251 water customers are coming on line.

"This will be the year when we will be getting people used to paying that," Blickenstaff said.

Once the water meters are on line, customers will be paying for the water they actually use.

Blickenstaff said the wastewater plant upgrade and road repairs at that site also will loom large this year for town officials as well as residents.

The town's water and sewer rates were increased effective with the quarterly bills that went out in October 2003.

Previously, water customers living within town limits paid $18 and out-of-town residents paid $27 per quarter. Sewer charges were $85 for all customers per quarter.

As of the October 2003 billing, in-town water customers began paying $46.25 and out-of-town customers began paying $69.49 per quarter for water. Sewer charges are now $102 per quarter for the first 12,000 gallons.

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