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Town says league used 775,000 gallons of water in a year

May 24, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT - A water dispute between the town of Williamsport and Conococheague Little League has reached a boiling point. The watering of youth baseball fields appears to be at the core.

The town, which has decided to start billing the league for utility services, says the league used about 775,000 gallons of water in a one-year period ending in March, a figure the league disputes.

Since the league only uses town fields five months a year, the alleged water usage is particularly hard to believe, league President Walter Williams said. He has threatened to move the league if the town carries out its billing plan

Mayor James G. McCleaf II said water used for the fields probably explains much of last year's use.

This year, in a one-month period, water usage dropped to 32,000 gallons, he said. That would be a fraction of last year's rate of 155,000 gallons per month during the season.

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A pump that lets the league draw water from a nearby stream for the fields started up a few days ago and will help the league conserve, McCleaf said.

He and Clerk/Treasurer James R. Castle said usage has been verified through water meters. The town noticed high water consumption when meters were installed at the Little League field at Byron Memorial Park in March 2006, Castle said.

Williams challenged the figures Tuesday at a meeting with town officials.

The league's free utility service came to an end this month. The Williamsport Town Council voted 5-1 on May 14 to start billing the league for electricity during the season and for water at all times.

Only Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones voted no.

"We need to invest in these children," he said then.

McCleaf said Wednesday that he's watching out for the town's finances.

"We said we'd be fiscally responsible," he said.

A previous town administration agreed to bill the league for electricity during the season, but never followed through, he said.

To offset some of the utility costs, the town is giving the league $3,500 in the budget. The town will help the league, which has about $57,000 in the bank, hold a fundraiser if it's needed, McCleaf said.

Castle broke down the league's $11,000 combined utility bill - water, sewer and electricity - on Wednesday:

· $8,609 for water usage at three sites, from March 2006 to March 2007

· $2,364 for electricity at three sites; the time periods vary, but each is at least one year.

The town only will bill for electricity at one of the three sites, Castle said.

Williams called the new approach unfair, especially because the league has invested more than $100,000 in the fields and buildings.

The league spent more than $4,000 on the pumping system to draw water from the stream, he said.

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