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Letters to the editor

November 18, 2007

Sewer rift bodes ill for local government



To the editor

Having served for several years as a member and chairperson of the Washington County Water Quality Advisory Commission, I feel compelled to make a few comments regarding the recent letter, "Cromer: (Commissioner William) Wivell wrong about sewer pact."

Hagerstown council member Kelly Cromer is correct in most aspects regarding the workings of the "flow transfer agreement." The point behind this agreement, which by the way, the county had to pursue litigation against the city to achieve, was because the flow agreement was in the best interests of all county residents, which includes city residents.

Yes, county expense was incurred, but long term, it would result in better utilization of resources and was almost fully funded by grants. This action was supported by the Water Quality Advisory Commission. Regarding the difference in water and sewer rates between city and outside-city residents, this is a complex issue and can best be left to the accountants. I will tell you however, the Water Quality Advisory Commission reviewed city/county rates during my tenure over several years, and concluded that all county taxpayers will only be better served with less cost and better rates with a consolidation of city/county water and sewer services.

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Regarding the Maryland Public Service Commission and Cromer's statement, "the city's rates and practices were found to be fair," as a member of the advisory commission, I participated in, and attended every Public Service Commission meeting and can tell you that such a ruling was never issued. A single member of the Public Service Commission, not the full panel, opined that only the 3.5 percent rate increase pending at that time of his review seemed reasonable, but ordered the city to secure a rate study for all parties.

The rate study was completed, but was never reviewed by the full Public Service Commission. Additionally, the study did not include any costs associated with the "flow transfer agreement" and to my knowledge the full city council/county commission never sat down to hammer out an acceptable method of establishing county rates, based upon the study.

The full Public Service Commission, under case No. 8934, never heard the full plea associated with the filing. On Jan. 20, 2005, the county attorney filed an appeal asking for the case to go before the full Public Service Commission, but this hearing never occurred.

The long and short is, further pursuit with the Public Service Commission was discontinued for a variety of political reasons.

The Wivell and Cromer letters identify the real problem. Read the content of their messages carefully; they exemplify the poor relationship that exists between both elected parties. This adversarial relationship has existed for years. The County Commissioners are not consulted by the city regarding water and sewer rates and the county commissioner I spoke with was unaware that some county resident rates would increase by 17 percent.

Does that give any county resident a feeling of being well represented?

I watched this, for a lack of a better description, "unproductive" city/county relationship for years as a member of the advisory commission.

Today, call any County Commissioner or City Council member and ask them about meetings referred too as "two plus two." Did you know that a significant amount of public business is conducted outside of the open meetings laws by avoiding the presence of a quorum? I wonder who was involved in setting the rate increase of 17 percent for many county residents?

As for "home rule," consider this: With the above-described political relationships and practices in setting water and sewer rates, it leaves serious doubt as to this form of government being right for Washington County. I for one, welcome our state representative oversight.

Clarence W. Scheer
Hagerstown




A chance for us to really 'take care of our own'



To the editor:

"We must take care of our own!"

At the September meeting about refugees, how many times did I hear that?

I attended the September meeting where people came to complain that the community could not handle another 50 government-inspected and certified refugees. Some people kept repeating that we must not take in foreigners, but rather must help our own. Do people who reject the refugees really want to help our own and how do they define "our own"?

I have devised a test.

From Dec. 9 through Dec.16, Emmanuel United Methodist Church will be responsible for running the cold-weather shelter. I am a co-coordinator. Each night, I will need two volunteers working at the front desk, one volunteer to supervise the laundry and one overnight volunteer.

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