Five years ago, county officials stormed into Galesville like bulls in a china shop.
The small waterfront community had problems disposing of its sewage, they said. Nearly half the septic fields were failing, and children were playing in open sewage ditches.
It needed sewer service. Right then. Right away.
"They came inhere, saying, 'You gotta do this' and 'You gotta do that,' " recalled Bill Woodfield, president of the West River Community Association. "People didn't like it much."
Its back against a wall, Galesville politely declined.
This week, officials returned, hoping residentsfinally would approve connecting the community's 203 homes to the Broadwater Water Reclamation plant across the West River in Shady Side.
In Anne Arundel County, residents must petition the Department ofUtilities for sewer service.
Officials, who met with about 100 residents at the Galesville community center Wednesday night, kept their presentations brief and low-key. But the message was the same as five years ago.
"In this country, we are so used to sanitary conditions that I'm afraid we've forgotten what unsanitary conditions can lead to," Health Officer Thomas C. Andrews said, rattling off a list ofdiseases transmitted in sewage.
"I'm afraid Galesville has an unsanitary condition. But you know what the conditions are: You live here."
The mechanics of the county's proposal have changed. Unlike the traditional pumping station proposed five years ago, each home would have its own grinder pump feeding sewage into the main. The system should cost about $6 million, $2 million less than a pumping station.
"It's a system that you should truly be able to flush and forget," said Bruce Wile, chief engineer of the Department of Utilities.
Now residents must decide once again if they want sewerage and are willing to pay the price.
Although partially offset by a $1.8 million federal grant, county officials estimated sewer connection will cost each home $3,300 initially, plus annual fees based on the size of the property and water use.
During the meeting, residents expressedconcerns as varied as the cost to the individual homeowner to the possibility sewerage could trigger a wave of development.
County Executive Robert R. Neall has told the Office of Planning and Zoning to work with Galesville in developing a zoning plan to restrict growth if the town accepts the sewerage, assistant planning officer Kathy Koch said.
But by the evening's end, a few residents remained skeptical.
"We need sewerage, but I don't trust development," said Paul Naas, who moved to Galesville from Laurel two years ago. "I don't wantdevelopment. I'd rather drink bottled water."
Joyce Sheckells, a widow, said: "I don't want to have to sell my home so someone else can flush their toilet. Something has to be done so those of us who can't pay can live in peace."