The Westminster Common Council saved the Westminster Rescue Mission last night.
The board voted to extend water and sewer lines outside city limits to the mission property on Lucabaugh Mill Road. Without public utilities, the mission cannot build the 65-bed shelter it has planned for substance abusers and alcoholics.
Although the measure passed unanimously, councilmen Kevin E. Dayoff and Gregory Pecoraro agreed that the water and sewer expansion should be done "carefully" -- especially during the statewide water shortage.
"Our caution over many years has left us in a relatively strong position during this drought," said Pecoraro.
Pecoraro told fellow council members that the city needs to continue using water carefully and added that the council must make sure "the needs of the citizens of Westminster are met."
While the shelter has its own well, it can't be used because tests have shown the presence of coliform bacteria at levels high enough to force the county Health Department to withdraw its approval of the project.
The problem arose after grading by neighboring Random House Inc., which is expanding its operations and warehouse complex, compromised the mission's septic fields, said city planner Katrina Tucker. Hooking into the public system seemed a reasonable solution, and the city Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the mission do so earlier this month.
Although the mission's 9.7 acres do not adjoin the city line, there is precedent for extending lines beyond Westminster's boundaries. In 1993, the new YMCA complex on Sykesville Road faced a similar situation, when its wells were found to be contaminated. The building would have had to close if the city had not extended public water and sewer.
In other action last night, the council increased penalties for violating state water restrictions. While first-time offenders will continue to be let off with a warning, the council unanimously decided that multiple offenses will become municipal infractions, drawing city as well as state penalties.
The council increased to $200 the fines for residents caught violating a water restriction after a warning; and $400 for a second offense, up from $50.
Although the city has issued six warnings to residents for violating water restrictions, so far it has not issued citations.
While the new penalties seem strict, Thomas B. Beyard, director of planning and public works for Westminster, said the previous fine structure wasn't an appropriate remedy.
The new penalties will work as "an effective deterrent," he said.
Since the conservation efforts were set in place earlier this month, Beyard said, city water use has dropped nearly 25 percent.
Pub Date: 8/24/99