Hampstead hearing gets few residents

County wants to raise sewer connection fee 179% from town rate

March 27, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Indifferent to - or perhaps unaware of - a proposed 179 percent sewer connection fee increase and new sewer maintenance fee, Hampstead residents were sparsely represented at a public hearing last night to discuss the planned changes with county commissioners.

County staff, elected county and town officials and newspaper reporters outnumbered the handful of residents at the half-hour meeting in the Town Council chambers where county Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman explained the proposed changes.

The county wants to impose a flat rate of $4,725 for connecting new homes to its water service and $4,532 for a sewer service connection. Hampstead residents would be affected only by the changes to the sewer services. The town provides water.

Although water and sewer usage rates are the same for all county residents who rely on county systems, connection rates differ. In Bark Hill near Union Bridge, a water connection costs $1,250, compared with $3,888 in the Freedom District in South Carroll. In Hampstead, sewer connection costs $1,624, compared with $5,816 in South Carroll.

Under the proposed policy, a Hampstead homeowner would pay the same $4,532 charge - a 179 percent increase from the current rate - for a sewer connection as residents across the county.

In addition to the one-time connection fees, the county would like to phase in maintenance fees at the start of the next budget year, which begins July 1.

To repay debt service on bonds issued for the construction of the original sewer system, residents pay 80 cents per foot of sewer lines that run by their property each year in their annual property assessment bill. After that assessment expires, the proposed maintenance fee would kick in at 91 cents a foot.

"When our system was first put in, and maybe I'm wrong about this, but I was under the impression that as people hooked into the system, those of us who started the system would see a reduction," said longtime area resident Raymond Smith. "And I'm not sure we've seen that reduction."

But Curfman explained that the new fee is necessary to pay for improvements and replacements to the system for the next decade.

The commissioners will hold a similar hearing at Liberty High School in Eldersburg at 7:30 p.m. April 4. They will accept written comments on the proposed changes until May 1.

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