Hearing on higher utility fees is tonight

Curfman to discuss hookup increases, maintenance costs

South Carroll

April 04, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

South Carroll residents have one last opportunity to comment on proposed increases in water and sewer connection fees at a public hearing tonight at Liberty High School.

With the increase of about $1,700, the connection fees would add nearly $10,000 to the price of a new home in Eldersburg or Sykesville. The money would pay for about $22 million in utility improvements throughout the county. The most notable cost is $14 million for a new water treatment plant at Piney Run Reservoir in South Carroll.

At the public hearing at 7:30 p.m., Gene Curfman, county comptroller, will discuss the increase in water and sewer hookup fees for new homes and for owners of existing homes who want to connect to the county's system. The new fees would be effective July 1.

"I plan on giving a short explanation on what was done as far as these costs and why," said Curfman.

Water connection fees would increase by $1,000 and sewer connections would cost nearly $700 more in South Carroll, the county's most populated and fastest growing area. The combined fees are now about $8,000.

"The increase does not affect current users of the system," Curfman said. "But, if you want to hook into the system, you are going to pay the fees."

He also will review a plan to phase in a new maintenance fee - proposed at $1.83 per foot of road frontage - for all homeowners in South Carroll.

That fee will pay for maintenance and equipment replacement for the next 10 years. Phasing begins July 1 for some residents. The fee will be paid annually with the property tax bill.

"The big thing is that current users are only going to pay for the things that benefit the system as a whole, such as replacement costs," Curfman said. "Anything that is associated with expansion and new development will be paid with area connection fees."

The county would use the increased revenue from both fees to pay for the Piney Run water treatment plant, a project that many area residents oppose. They fear the plant's daily draw of 3 million gallons might hamper recreation at the reservoir, which is popular with anglers, boaters and hikers. Many have said they prefer an expansion of the existing plant at Liberty Reservoir, a much larger reservoir on the county's southern border.

"The cost difference between Piney Run and the Freedom expansion is not that different," Curfman said. "Overall, it would not make that much of a change in the fees."

He will only discuss financing for the project and will take no comments on the decision to build it.

"Anyone who has questions on why the county is building the plant needs to ask those at a public hearing on Piney Run," he said.

The county commissioners said last week that they will set an informational hearing on the Piney Run project when their schedules allow.

Few residents attended a hearing last week in Hampstead, where fees for connecting to the sewer system will rise nearly 200 percent. Last fall, more than 50 South Carroll residents met with Curfman, questioning him on several community issues.

At 7 p.m., a half-hour before Curfman speaks, residents will have an opportunity to comment on a proposed ordinance that would restrict adult entertainment businesses in areas with schools, churches and public buildings, such as libraries.

Liberty High is at 5855 Bartholow Road, Eldersburg. Information: 410-386-2085.

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