TALK ABOUT adding insult to injury: Some Taneytown residents whose homes and businesses were flooded with backed-up sewage from the leaking, over-capacity municipal sewer system now find the assessed value of their properties going up, not down.
Meanwhile, the northwest Carroll County town is discovering more and more leaks in the sewer lines through on-going remote-operated video camera probes. Repairs to failing pipes are still lagging and construction of a larger, 1.1 million-gallon sewage treatment plant remains years away.
While rainstorms and snow melt have not been as severe this spring, lessening the threat of sewage backups, the Taneytown system continues to be vulnerable until the larger capacity treatment facility can be in operation.
As an added safety measure, the new plant is designed to hold up to 5 million gallons in the event of a storm emergency.
Several times last year, more than a dozen homes and a few businesses sustained considerable damage when storm water infiltrated the city lines during strong storms. Because the fixes must be made in the city's system, not in the property owner's plumbing, there is little an individual can do to minimize future damage. Even building a new structure would not eliminate the sewer backup potential.
But the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, which values all property for tax purposes throughout Maryland, typically does not examine the interior of a building or ask the owner about its condition. The sewage-backup houses were located in different parts of the city, so the examiners couldn't make a fair comparison with nearby homes.
Thus, these Taneytown property owners were surprised to find their valuations increased by the state agency, in some cases more than 12 percent. Affected residents were told they could file appeals of the increased assessment, explaining their individual cases to a hearing panel. In this case, the municipality that collects local property taxes and operates the faulty sewage system should step forward to support these aggrieved citizens.
A statewide assessment system has the advantage of detached impartiality; it also needs local input and information to be fair.
Pub Date: 6/03/97