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Funkstown water rates rising

November 09, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

FUNKSTOWN -- Funkstown water customers will see their rates go up 3.6 percent, effective Dec. 1, Town Clerk/Treasurer Brenda Haynes said Monday night.

After listening to concerns about rising water rates for about an hour during a public hearing Monday night at Town Hall, the Town Council approved the rate increase through an emergency ordinance by a 5-0 vote.

About a dozen people attended the hearing, about five of whom spoke up with concerns about the rate increase, wanting to know what they and the town could do to prevent it.

Ted and Ginny Atkinson, who live outside town on Hebb Road, said they've paid $200 to $400 a quarter this year for water and sewer, and it's been higher than that. They wanted to know why their rates were higher than those of town residents.

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Town officials explained the out-of-town rate was higher in part because of the infrastructure required to serve those customers.

"Look at the economy. It's bad enough," said Dawn Cassaro, who lives at Antietam Trailer Court in town. "Water, we all need. We all need electric. I work my butt off," Cassaro said. But once she's paid her bills, "what's left?"

"What are you going to do when people move out of Funkstown because they can't afford it? What will you do about your tax base then?" Ginny Atkinson asked the council.

Town officials said that was a real concern.

In her 20 years working for the town, Haynes said she's never seen this many people calling Town Hall, arranging to make late payments.

A 2003 survey of the town showed that 54.9 percent of residents lived on low to moderate incomes, Haynes said.

"Small families -- they'll have to leave the town," Councilman Kim Ramer said.

Ramer indicated he'd like the town to see more revenue from taxes town residents pay to Washington County.

Town Council member John Phillips III said the town has absorbed increasing costs for a long time.

"We absorbed it too long," he said.

"At this point, there's no alternative to raising the rates. We don't have the extra money," Councilwoman Sharon Chirgott said.

Phillips encouraged citizens upset about the increase and future ones from Hagerstown to write to their state lawmakers.

The City of Hagerstown supplies water to Funkstown, Williamsport and Smithsburg. Hagerstown increased its wholesale water rates to the towns Nov. 1 -- the first of five years' worth of rate increases from Hagerstown. Funkstown's increase was 3.6 percent.

The increase means:

n Funkstown water customers within town limits will see the fixed quarterly rate for up to 6,000 gallons of water go from $35.77 to 37.06. The rate for each additional 1,000 gallons would increase from $4.70 to $4.87.

n Funkstown water customers who live outside town limits would see their fixed quarterly rate increase from $47.76 to $49.48. The rate for each additional 1,000 gallons would go from $6.28 to $6.51.

For the typical customer who uses 12,000 gallons of water a quarter and lives in town, the quarterly water, sewer and garbage costs will be $228, according to an information sheet from Haynes. Customers outside of town would pay $257.

Council members Phillips, Chirgott, Ramer, Richard Nigh and Jerry Walker approved the rate increase. Assistant Mayor Paul Crampton Jr. was absent.

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