Town awaits state money for water, sewer program

Grants and loans expected to pay costs without more taxes

Union Bridge

January 27, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Union Bridge, which holds monthly breakfasts to pay for its Town Hall, plans to embark on a multimillion-dollar water and sewer program financed through grants and loans.

But not to worry: The expense has been figured into the town's long-range capital projects planning for two years, so it doesn't mean increased taxes for the 1,000 residents, said James L. Schumacher, town consultant and special projects manager.

"We're pretty much prepared for this," he said.

Union Bridge has been racking up state grants lately and should know soon the status of the biggest it wants: its application to the Rural Utilities Services (RUS) program for $2.9 million in state and federal loans and grants for water and sewer improvements, Schumacher said.

"Eventually, we are going to have to borrow money, if we get the RUS grant," he told the mayor and Town Council Monday night. "That's where the rubber meets the road. You have to decide how much you think you can borrow."

Depending upon how much of the town's projects are funded by state grants, Union Bridge expects to have to borrow perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, for the water and sewer improvements.

If the RUS application is granted, it could cover existing loans, such as $300,000 from the Maryland Department of the Environment, he said.

"We've applied for more than $2 1/2 million under rural development," Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. said before the meeting.

"It's for infrastructure that needs to be updated," he said.

Schumacher outlined the status of projects for which grants have been received:

A $29,500 planning grant to the Main Street Revitalization Committee to improve downtown, from the state Community Development Block Grant program. The committee is choosing a consultant to consider improvements such as new underground utilities, sidewalks, brick walkways, benches and parking.

The council passed a resolution allowing the committee to choose a consultant from among the three lowest bidders, whose bids range from $27,700 to $28,800.

Grants for a new road-and-rail spur that will take much of the heavy truck traffic off Route 75, which serves as the town's Main Street. The grants were awarded in September by the state Transportation Department.

The state is to contribute $3.5 million toward the $5.5 million cost of a new 1.25-mile Shepherd's Mill Road to serve Lehigh Portland Cement Co., and to provide a parallel rail line for Maryland Midland Railway Co. Tracks through a residential area will be removed.

The new road would lessen traffic and provide another way into the town, which tends to be cut off several times a year when Little Pipe Creek floods Route 75.

Two grants of more than $400,000 for work along Little Pipe Creek, where the town will have a wetlands park with a walking trail -- complete with a footbridge to rise over the floods.

The project with the Carroll Soil Conservation District and the state Department of Natural Resources will include planting trees, creating wetlands and restoring the stream bed and flood plain to a more natural state, to reduce erosion.

The $19,000 grant for the footbridge was provided through the federal National Recreation Trails Act. Schumacher said the wooden bridge will be built in one piece and placed on anchors at each side of the creek.

"This type has been built over four streams. That's what it's built for: a stream that floods, but not an Agnes," he said, referring to the 1972 storm that flooded the town.

The mayor and council sought reassurance from Town Attorney John T. Maguire II that Union Bridge would not have to rebuild a bridge should it be swept away.

"Probably not," he told them, but, "We would be up the creek without a footbridge."

More than $800,000, about evenly divided in MDE grants and loans, for water and sewer improvements. Schumacher noted that if the RUS application is successful, it would cover some of these costs.

About $54,000 from the State Highway Administration for sidewalks, most of it on Main Street.

A Program Open Space grant of almost $69,000 for acquiring at least 2 1/2 acres for a new ball field and park. Schumacher said the town is talking to several property owners about buying their land.

Also, in 1998, Gov. Parris N. Glendening awarded Carroll County $1.5 million to protect about 1,000 acres on the eastern edge of the Little Pipe Creek watershed southeast of town. Schumacher said a trail system for hiking and biking along the creek, running about four miles between Union Bridge and New Windsor, has been in state and county greenway plans for several years.

The new wetlands park gave rise to another unseasonable concern: The mayor sought and received the council's unanimous approval to spend $375 for mosquito control.

In other business, Councilwoman Kathleen D. Kreimer reported the town made $1,013 from its last fund-raising breakfast toward a payment on the construction loan for Town Hall. The town borrowed $200,000 in 1993 to build Town Hall and through fund-raisers and donations has reduced the amount owed to $138,900.

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