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Support flowing in for town's water plan

January 19, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - An annexation plan that would extend city water to 71 property owners outside Boonsboro affected by possible well-water contamination has received nearly enough support to proceed.

Fifteen property owners who support the annexation of 197.57 acres along Alternate U.S. 40 and Mill Point Road have returned forms to the town, and two have opposed it, Assistant Town Manager Debbie Smith said Wednesday.

Water for some of the wells in the area is contaminated with fecal bacteria and might contain pathogens that could sicken people, officials from the Washington County Health Department have said.

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While he said he is not aware of any problems with the well water at his property on 7841 Old National Pike, Dale Ford said he supports the project, which would give his tenants access to city water.

"Well, apparently, with the health department report of contamination in the wells, being a property owner, rather than a resident, (I support) trying to provide high-quality drinking water," Ford said. "I wish they would extend the sewer line as well."

According to Town Manager John Kendall, the Town Council could vote on the plan next month if 25 percent of property owners - 18 people - give their consent. Opponents then would have the opportunity to force the matter to a referendum, he said.

While Ted Gordon, the county's director of environmental health, said he does not know of any outbreaks being caused by the water, he said the risk is real.

"The old adage is we don't want to wait until someone gets sick or dies," Gordon said.

Boonsboro extends its services only to properties that are annexed into town, Kendall said.

According to Kendall, if owners consent to the annexation, the state will provide $800,000 to help pay for the project. The property owners also will be eligible for $400,000 in 20-year loans to cover part of the cost themselves, he said Wednesday.

The town also has agreed to waive 80 percent of the $5,000 equivalent-dwelling unit fee property owners normally would pay to hook up to the city waterlines, Kendall said.

Property owners also would be responsible for paying taxes to the town, which would cost them 27 cents on $100 of assessed value, Kendall said.

The state has indicated it will offer the funding only if the money is committed by July, Kendall said.

"This is obviously an opportunity that's only going to knock once," Kendall said.

The owner of Boonsboro Pharmacy on 7628 Old National Pike, Gary Haas said he is not aware of any of his employees being sickened by the water, and he "most likely" will not support it.

"It just drives me crazy when these politicians can go ahead and do these things ... It just drives our costs up," Haas said Wednesday.

Like Ford, who supports the project, Haas said he does not understand why the town does not extend sewer lines at the same time it extends waterlines.

The town, which has no other properties on septic systems, might have to pay for a sewer-line extension project in the future, since the state has not offered any money for the project, Kendall said. That could cost about $1 million, he said.

"Upon annexation, sewer will be addressed in the future," Kendall said.

Ford, who owns other properties in Boonsboro, said he plans to absorb the cost of the waterline extension himself.

"We've got some good tenants and really don't see a need to increase the rent because we have to put in water and would put in water," Ford said.

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