Data sought on storm water management funds Residents want specifics about money proposals

November 20, 1996|By Katherine Marks | Katherine Marks,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Howard County residents have told county officials not to ask for increased funding for storm water management unless residents are informed exactly how and where their money will be spent.

Tonight at 7: 30, the fourth and final public hearing on the funding proposals will be held at the East Columbia library on Cradlerock Way in Columbia's Owen Brown village.

The meetings are designed to get feedback from residents on a county-appointed task force's proposals on how best to pay for upgrading and maintaining the county's aging water management system.

Andy Daneker, chief of the Howard County Bureau of Highways, said his agency cannot keep up with the county's maintenance needs. Daneker has presented the task force proposals at the public hearings, along with Steven Sharar, project engineer for Howard County.

Three proposals -- all of which would raise county taxes or fees -- discussed at the meetings included a flat fee on taxpayers, a variable-rate tax or funding through the general fund.

The money being requested by the Department of Public Works would nearly triple its budget for storm water management, Daneker said.

The average taxpayer spends about $13 a year on storm sewer maintenance, Daneker said. If new proposals are adopted, taxpayers would pay an average of $36, he said.

The task force will not make a final recommendation to county Executive Charles I. Ecker until December. Ecker has said he will not support a plan that will increase county taxes or fees.

So far, the proposals make only rough guesses at how much money will be spent on maintenance, hiring new personnel and revamping aging systems in Allview, Ellicott City, Elkridge and North Laurel.

Many of the 30 residents who attended a hearing Monday night in Elkridge called for more specifics about the proposals.

"I think in order to sell this program, you need to tell people where their money is going," one resident said. "We can't keep giving you guys blank checks not knowing where they're going."

But Daneker said such figures were next to impossible to determine, because the county is unsure of the magnitude of the problem. The county has no data base on how many ponds, tunnels and drainage sites exist within its borders.

County residents pitched their own proposals for the first time.

Ellicott City resident Susan Rura said the funding for storm water management should remain the same until projects are specifically defined. Once those projects are set, they should be part of the regular budget process, competing with other departments for a larger piece of the budgetary pie.

Deborah C. Anderson of Ellicott City suggested to the seven task force members present that the county adopt a transfer tax plan similar to one used by Prince George's County. She said developers in Howard County pay taxes on loans for the initial worth of their property but are not subject to taxes on further loans.

Pub Date: 11/20/96

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