Better water, sewer sought

New homeowners in Freedom to fund most of improvements

Cost put at $46 million

Consultant's study projects needs in area through 2015

April 29, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

To keep pace with demands of growth projected for the next 15 years, Carroll County will need about $46 million in improvements to the water and sewer systems in Freedom, paid largely by new homeowners in its most populated area.

New residents will pay for the upgrades, through fees assessed on construction, according to the $70,000 engineering study by Whitman, Requardt and Associates of Baltimore.

It costs about $10,000 a home to hook into the Freedom utility systems. Proposed increases would add about $4,000.

"The rate increases are not astronomical," said Joseph C. Sowinski, an engineering consultant who helped write the study. "Everybody will complain, but this is fairly typical."

Fees would go into an enterprise fund for use as improvements and additions become necessary.

"We must be careful to keep user rates in line, so we don't have to dip into capital funds," said County Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

The consultants took seven months to complete the study, which based its projections on an additional 4,350 homes and businesses by 2015.

"The study shows us what needed to be done to establish the infrastructure required by the land use plan," said Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services. "Ultimately, it shows how the plan needs to be financed by new users of these systems."

The county commissioners will soon consider adoption of a Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan, the first major revision in 22 years. The county planning commission has recommended limiting growth for at least six years or until schools, roads and utilities can meet the demands of a population that exceeds 28,000.

The study recommends increasing costs to hook a new home into public water lines from $3,888 to as much as $5,363. For use of the wastewater treatment plant, the increase would be nearly $3,000 from $5,816 to $8,703.

The study considered several options for adding to Freedom's water supply, which has seasonal shortages. The water comes from the Liberty Reservoir, which is owned by Baltimore. Options included building a second filtration plant at Piney Run Reservoir -- at a cost of about $16 million.

High construction costs and residents' opposition forced the county to scrap those plans in favor of expanding the plant on Mineral Hill Road and drilling several wells on state-owned land at Springfield Hospital Center.

The expansion, along with the new wells, which are expected to draw 1 million gallons a day; another water storage tank; and more water mains would cost about $17.5 million.

"Are we just patching now, and will we need the Piney Run plant eventually?" Dell asked.

Dell was concerned about long-term water needs, but the consultants assured him adequate supply will be available. The county is proceeding with well drilling and expects to have several by late next year.

"We have identified locations for as much as 1.5 million gallons from the Springfield area," said J. Michael Evans, county public works director. "The project is in design now and will then go out to bid. Optimistically, we could be on line by summer 2000. The wells will provide a big buffer for peak demand."

The Freedom water plant serves about 6,500 homes and businesses in Freedom, which includes all of South Carroll. During hot, dry spells, the plant frequently reaches its daily capacity of 3 million gallons. By 2015, if population projections hold true, the plant will need to process 6.2 million gallons daily.

Adding equipment to the plant and increasing the water allocation from Baltimore by 2 million gallons remains the most cost-effective option, the study says.

"Expanding the Freedom plant ranks as your best option," said Sowinski. "It is the most cost effective, and you have the infrastructure there. Focus on the plant."

Requests for a few acres of watershed land and more water should be made soon to Baltimore. "We have to negotiate with [Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke] quickly before he leaves office," said County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

Horst said he "can't overemphasize our ground-water efforts. We must proceed with the city and state."

Growth also will force an expansion of the Freedom wastewater treatment plant, although capacity needs to increase less -- from 3.5 million gallons to 3.7 million gallons a day. Immediate costs are about $2.9 million.

But the plant will need major, costly improvements and many new sewer lines. The eventual cost will be $28 million.

Pub Date: 4/29/99

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