Officials confused about ban on water

Some towns' leaders taking enforcement into their own hands

August 06, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan and David L. Greene | Jennifer Sullivan and David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

In Carroll County, some town leaders aren't waiting for police officers to fine residents who defy the governor's water restrictions by watering lawns or washing cars.

Mount Airy Mayor Gerald Johnson is up at the crack of dawn to hunt for violators, fining residents as much as $100. He will continue his twice-daily prowls as long as the water ban remains.

Council President R. Delaine Hobbs, chairman of the town's sewer and water committee, is also patrolling -- once a day.

In New Windsor, Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said he wouldn't hesitate to report "chronic" violators, but the matter is in the hands of state police, who patrol the small town.

"When everyone else's lawn is brown and yours is green, we know what you've been doing," Gullo said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Parris N. Glendening ordered police officers to enforce a series of water restrictions, which range from bans on watering lawns to topping private swimming pools.

The order, however, has left some local law enforcement and government officials confused.

The Carroll commissioners urged residents yesterday to turn to local police officers with questions, because Glendening's restrictions supersede the county's. The county has had restrictions in place in parts of South Carroll since June 1.

"It looks like that takes it out of my hands," Gary Horst, the county's enterprise and recreation services director, said yesterday.

Westminster police and the code enforcement officer are jointly handling enforcement.

Scott Jeznach, the code enforcement officer, said his office handled more inquiries than complaints yesterday.

" `Can I water the rose garden vs. the vegetable garden?' " he said was a typical question. (Jeznach said he thought the restrictions allowed vegetable watering, but with a handheld watering bottle).

Some weren't rushing to enforce the ban.

"We're waiting to see stuff from the attorney general's office," said Jay Prise, Carroll County's deputy sheriff.

He said sheriff's deputies would begin issuing warnings or citations when they had a clearer understanding of what legal wording they should use when they approach violators.

In Taneytown, City Manager Chip Boyles said police officers have been handing out citations since the city imposed its ban June 11 -- the same day Mount Airy did.

Taneytown residents have been warned before being issued $25 citations. That hasn't been the case in Mount Airy.

Hobbs said he and Johnson issue $50 tickets on the first offense. They have issued five tickets: four for carwashing offenses and one for tapping into a fire hydrant. A construction company was fined $100 for that violation.

Johnson said he and Hobbs began conservation efforts after meteorologists predicted an exceptionally dry summer.

"We've had water restrictions, but they are usually in August," Johnson said.

Mount Airy's water ban forbids the town's nearly 6,000 residents from using water outside.

Mount Airy and Taneytown officials say conservation efforts have paid off.

Taneytown's water use is down 40,000 gallons a day. Mount Airy's is down 170,000 a day.

In New Windsor, Gullo said he was confident residents are being responsible. "You see people who have nice flowers. But they're using old dishwater, or water they put aside after cleaning up."

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