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Hearings to address Washington County hikes in water/sewer rates and airport user fees

April 07, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

Two public hearings before the Washington County Board of Commissioners are set for Tuesday to allow for input into proposed utility rate increases and user fees at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The first hearing, slated to begin at 11 a.m., is for the consideration of water and sewer rate increases, as well as “certain other fees” for fiscal year 2013-14, according to a news release from the county.

Per 1,000 gallons used, proposed quarterly increases for residential sewer service are 24 cents and 26 cents for water service. Full-service residential rates, which use a 6,000-gallons-used base per account, will increase by $2.55 for sewer and $1.45 for water.

Commercial rate increases for sewer and water depend on the level of service.

Assistant County Administrator Sarah L. Sprecher said in an email that the water and sewer rates are established by using a rate model that takes into account the current year’s budget, as well as future costs associated with upgrading systems and environmental compliance regulations.

“These expenses define the need for the rate increases and also stabilize the rate increases to the users,” she said.

The second hearing on user fees at the airport, which are based on a 4 percent across-the-board increase, will tentatively begin at 11:15 a.m. The proposed adjustments include airplane hangars, offices and fees for ramps and landings. Hagerstown-based aircraft are exempt from landing fees, according to the proposed increases.

Sprecher said this is the first time since 2008 that rent might be increased for hangars, and would create an additional $17,000 in revenue, a portion of which would be placed into a maintenance reserve fund for future structures.

“The 4 percent increase aligns with a modest increase in the Consumer Price Index for the previous 12 months,” Sprecher said. “This increase has also been found to be warranted by the aviation property appraisal firm hired by Washington County to value existing airport property and to evaluate current airport rates and charges.”

With the potential for the airport’s air-traffic control tower to be closed if federal funding is cut off, county officials have started looking at funding options to keep the tower open.

Although rate increases at the airport might appear to have a correlation with that effort, County Commissioner William B. McKinley said recently that it has nothing to do with the airport’s tower.

“These increases have been discussed long before the tower became an issue,” said McKinley, who is on the county’s Airport Advisory Committee.

Both hearings will be held during the commissioners’ regular meeting in room 227 at 100 W. Washington St., Hagerstown.

If the new rates are adopted by the commissioners, the proposed increases for utilities and airport user fees would go into effect July 1.

A full list of the proposed increases can be found on the county’s website at www.washco-md.net and in the commissioners’ office, room 226, 100 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown.

Written comments may be submitted at the commissioners’ office and via email at commissioners@washco-md.net until the close of the hearings.

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