Marriottsville promised public water

March 04, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

County Executive Charles I. Ecker promised Marriottsville residents last night that he will follow through on plans to bring them public water as quickly as possible.

Residents fear that cancer-causing contaminants found in test wells of the ground water at the Alpha Ridge Landfill will soon spread to their domestic wells.

"The situation is getting very dire, very quickly," said Donald L. Gill, a Marriottsville resident and biochemist at the University of Maryland. "Everybody out there perceives they are in danger."

Dr. Gill was one of 14 people to testify last night in favor of programs they want to see included in the county budget for fiscal year 1995, which begins July 1.

The Public Works Department has asked for $670,000 to design a pumping station and a water tower next fiscal year. The department also wants $6.1 million in fiscal 1996 to build the pumping station and the tower and to lay 13 miles of water main.

Residents want construction to begin in fiscal 1995, but Public Works officials say that is impossible.

"I hope you'll be here [after the November election] to see this through next year," Dr. Gill told Mr. Ecker.

"I know that a two-year schedule is probably moving as rapidly as we can," but the longer residents have to wait, the more skittish they become, Dr. Gill said.

"I am not going to cut [the construction money]. I plan to put water out there," Mr. Ecker said.

After the hearing, Mr. Ecker said that he doubts he can get bids to build the project in the coming fiscal year, but that if he can, he will move ahead with construction. "The remedial steps we are taking in the meantime should reduce or eliminate the contaminants," he said. "Hopefully, residential wells will never become contaminated. But I am not willing to risk that. For my peace of mind and for their peace of mind, we are moving ahead with public water as soon as possible."

Overall, the 14 speakers at last night's budget hearing had "some very reasonable requests," Mr. Ecker said. "They hit the major concerns -- police, education and some [social service] funds for needy people."

Virginia W. Charles of Laurel and Lynn Benton of Ellicott City urged the executive to fully fund the capital and operating portions of the education budget -- something that is not likely to happen.

The school board's proposed operating budget is already $3 mil

lion more than the target Mr. Ecker set. He is likely to cut that amount when he sends his operating budget to the County Council on April 20.

Altogether, spending requests from agencies total $318 million -- $11 million more than the county expects from revenues -- and will be cut by that amount, Mr. Ecker said.

The capital budget picture is similar. Department heads want the executive to fund $48 million worth of projects, nearly twice the amount a spending affordability committee said the county could spend prudently without raising taxes. Mr. Ecker raised taxes his first year in office, and he has been loath to do so since.

This will be his most difficult budget yet, Mr. Ecker said, because of a perception that the economy is back on track and the county can now afford the things it put on hold during the recession. The county will have to slowly restore deferred items to the budget, he said.

For the most part, residents testifying last night on issues other than education or the landfill had modest goals -- safer chairs for the elderly at a Columbia senior center, sidewalk repairs and a grant for a program that helps immigrants.

"I still have to reduce the budget and look at priorities," Mr. Ecker said, "but this will help me formulate it."

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