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New state water, sewage rules frustrate town officials

Complaints center on money woes, timing of new requirements

August 22, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION

SMITHSBURG --State officials want towns to better plan how annexations are carried out and to more effectively plan for drinking water and sewage treatment needs.

The initiatives stem from Gov. Martin O'Malley's "Smart, Green & Growing" efforts and are related to Chesapeake Bay pollution issues, said Jill Baker, a town planner for the town of Smithsburg.

But in Smithsburg, town officials are complaining about the money that has to be spent to comply with the requirements and they question why they have to be dealt with now as they wrestle with other issues in the community.

Towns are faced with developing a "water resource element" and a "municipal growth element" for their growth plans after the passage of House Bill 1141 in the Maryland General Assembly in 2006, Baker said.

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The intent of the municipal growth element is to have towns do better annexation planning by evaluating infrastructure like roads, schools, water and sewer systems, said Baker, a senior planner with the Washington County Planning Commission who has been hired by Smithsburg officials to help them comply with the requirements.

The water resource element seeks to have towns concentrate on the future of their water and sewage treatment resources, like how population increases might affect the need for the services, Baker said.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers and the town council will hold a public hearing on the requirements Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Smithsburg Town Council member Jerome Martin expressed frustration over the new law, saying the town's water and sewer issues are pretty straightforward, given the fact that the town gets it water from the City of Hagerstown and that the county treats its sewage.

"We don't have any other way to get water," Martin said.

Martin complained about the money the town has had to spend on the requirements and the need for a public hearing that "nobody's going to attend."

Randy Dick, Smithsburg's development coordinator, said he realizes the new law is important but it comes at a time when budgets are tight.

Baker expressed hope that the town can help the state deal with growth issues. She said officials in other towns are dealing with the same issues and are frustrated at times.

Baker also pointed out that the new requirements were passed before the recession struck.

Baker said Smithsburg officials are still working on the requirements and there is supposed to be an Oct. 1 deadline for submitting information.

"We're not going to meet that," she said.

If you go



What: Public hearing on amendments to a comprehensive plan

When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Where: Smithsburg Town Hall, 21 W. Water St.

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