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Steele talks about water issues in Boonsboro and Funkstown

August 09, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and state officials on Tuesday toured Funkstown and Boonsboro, and brought with them information for town council members about available grants to help them with planned projects.

Riding in a trolley, the officials toured parks and wastewater treatment plants in both towns, asking questions about project costs, timelines and grant applications.

Steele has toured 157 municipalities in three years in an effort to get an idea of issues that various communities face, he said.

"Certainly water in this part of the county, the state, is a big deal," he said after ending the tour through Shafer Park and the wastewater treatment plant in Boonsboro, his second stop Tuesday.

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He said wastewater treatment issues, sewer upgrades and environmental issues were evident dilemmas facing the two Washington County communities.

Stephen L. Pattison, assistant secretary for policy, community relations and outreach for the Maryland Department of the Environment, scribbled notes during the Boonsboro wastewater treatment plant tour and joked that his department does not have as much money as other officials who toured the towns Tuesday.

"We've got some resources (town officials) may or may not be aware of," Steele said.

Steele, who is running for the U.S. Senate, said he took the touring experience Tuesday as a learning experience for both his position and his campaign.

"This is all a learning experience. It's important to have an understanding of what life is like in a small town," he said.

Funkstown Mayor Robert L. Kline said he thought the lieutenant governor's visit was helpful. The town has been working to secure more grant money to help pay for upgrades to the town's wastewater treatment plant, which has a projected cost of $2.5 million, Town Clerk Brenda Haynes said. The town hopes to begin construction in October, she said.

"He said, 'Give us a call,' and he'll try to help us with it," Kline said.

Steele said that the secretaries and assistant secretaries of state departments whom he brought with him Tuesday came with their checkbooks open and ready to discuss ways to bring funding to help with projects.

Boonsboro's acting town manager, Debbie Smith, pointed out plans for Shafer Park's expansion. Steele questioned the timeline and cost for the project.

Smith said the three phases of the project are expected to cost $8 million and the town "would love to see it in at least eight years."

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