Sewer held 'hostage' by Washington Budget stalemate delays word of federal funding

'Situation is deplorable'

Public project expected to cost $5.9 million

November 05, 1995|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,SUN STAFF

Residents of Whiteford and Cardiff were supposed to know by October whether they would get federal money to help them build a public sewer system for their area.

But with Congress and President Clinton apparently stalemated over next year's budget, the promise of federal funds is uncertain.

"We're sort of held hostage by what's happening in Washington," said George Harrison, the county spokesman. "But what's new about that?' "

Several residents of the Whiteford/Cardiff area met with County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann last week to make a personal plea for financial help for the much-needed sewer project.

But while the residents got a sympathetic ear from Mrs. Rehrmann, they got no promise of direct county funding to pay for the sewer project, which is expected to cost about $5.9 million.

That's because the county's charter requires that public sewer projects be funded directly through fees charged to the users of the system, said Mr. Harrison.

"Eileen told them that we just can't do it," said Mr. Harrison. "It's an enterprise fund, and it has to be funded by receipts."

Thomas Sudor of the Whiteford Pharmacy is one of the residents who met with Mrs. Rehrmann. "I think she realizes the situation is deplorable," said Mr. Sudor, but could not promise any financial help from the county.

Meanwhile, Councilman Barry T. Glassman, who represents the northern area of Harford, said he has drafted a bill that would help residents -- but wouldn't entirely solve their problem.

The Glassman bill would lower the operating charges for the roughly 200 property owners who will be hooked up to the system. Instead of $440 a year, it would cost them $200 a year, he said.

"I'm just trying to find a way to fund the system, and make it affordable," said Mr. Glassman.

Still, the cost will be high for homeowners. And almost everyone agrees that without federal funds, the project will be too costly to build.

The charge to residents, including operating charges, would range from $1,300 a year with the federal help to nearly $3,000 without it. If Mr. Glassman's bill is adopted, those numbers would be reduced accordingly.

The plan is to connect the Harford system with a new one in nearby Delta, Pa., which is constructing a new sewage treatment plant to stop pollution of Scotts Creek, a small tributary of the Susquehanna River that runs through town.

Mr. Sudor and other residents are fearful that if they are unable to join the Delta project, Pennsylvania residents later will file a lawsuit against them and the county for continuing to pollute Scotts Creek.

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