Towns Ponder Way To Get One For Two

Water And Sewer Plant Operators Sought

January 12, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

Faced with finding replacements for their water and sewer plant operators on a limited budget, New Windsor and Union Bridge officials decided to look together for one employee who would work for both towns.

Response to an advertisement for the position showed operators were out there. It also showed salary requirements were beyond the towns' reach.

About a dozen candidates replied when Union Bridge advertised thedual position.

The resumes told Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. that thetown might have to triple the $7,200 yearly salary Joe Kreimer earnsfor the job, which takes him about 20 hours a week.

"Five applicants were certified, two were civil engineers and one was studying forhis operator's license," he said. "Three were already making $28,000a year."

Before interviewing applicants, Union Bridge asked the state for advice. The Department of Environmental Services offered to run the waste water treatment plant for the town of 966 for $40,000 ayear, Jones said.

New Windsor, a town of 842 residents, found itself in a similar predicament. Jack Coe earns about $700 a month to manage its lagoon system.

Neither mayor expected to find anyone willing to work at those rates, but said they hoped to find a more manageable figure than the state's.

"We would like to hire an operator who could run both of our plants and make the job feasible enough for him to make a living," said New Windsor Mayor James C. Carlisle.

The mayors now have turned to the county, asking the Public Works Department to consider contracting one of its certified operators to them.

"We want to maintain ownership of the plants, while the county handles operations," said New Windsor Town Clerk Richard M.

Warehime.

Jones, Carlisle and other town officials met Wednesday with county Planning Director Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman and members of his staffto try to work out specifics of the contract. Planners said they understood the towns' dilemma.

"Operating has become increasingly difficult for the towns," said Helen Spinelli, county water and sewer planner. "With so many mandated tests and regulations, towns are finding it hard to maintain a level of expertise. The county could help there."

Spinelli said the county would pass along the cost of the operators to the towns.

Although the county has never contracted its employees to the town, Cueman said, it does act as a utility company at the Hampstead plant. He called the contract idea "workable."

"Iwant to get a clear picture of what each town has in mind," he said."Then I can take the plan to the commissioners and see if they want to explore the possibility."

He said he might recommend an operator and a half to run the seven-day operation in both towns. Samples could be tested at the Hampstead plant.

After hearing job descriptions from both Kreimer and Coe, Cueman said he had enough information to relay to the commissioners.

Steven C. Horn, county planner for the two towns, said it was too early in the process to predict the county's decision.

"The idea has a lot of merit," said Horn. "The county could hire a trainee to work with a certified operator, too, an option which the towns don't have."

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy, a former mayor of Manchester, said he understood the difficulties in maintaining sewer operations and would look into the idea.

Jim Peck,associate director for research with the Maryland Municipal League, said he was unaware of any similar arrangement between a county and town.

"It certainly sounds workable, as long as the county has the manpower to share," he said.

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