Water plant meeting is put in doubt

2 commissioners say hearing unnecessary on Piney Run project

`We have already voted'

Residents need more information on plan, Gouge says

May 24, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Two Carroll commissioners are wavering on their pledge to hold a public meeting to explain their reasons for building a $14 million water treatment plant at Piney Run Reservoir in Sykesville.

Although they agreed to the hearing two months ago, Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier said recently that they see little need for a hearing on their decision to build the plant, which would augment the water supply in populous South Carroll.

They approved the construction 10 months ago over the objections of Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

South Carroll, which has suffered water shortages during three of the past four summers, gets as much as 3 million gallons of drinking water a day from Carroll's Freedom Water Treatment Plant on Liberty Reservoir, and can tap as much as 300,000 gallons a day from a well near Sykesville.

Gouge favors expanding the Liberty Reservoir plant and doubling the daily draw from there. Many South Carroll residents share that preference.

Frazier and Dell agreed to a hearing after reaching a deal with Gouge: If she allowed Dell and Frazier to mail a brochure to 7,000 South Carroll residents stating their reasons for wanting to tap the reservoir as a water source, they would agree to hold a public hearing.

Now Dell and Frazier are backing away from that agreement.

"What can we gain from an information meeting when we have already voted to build the plant?" Dell asked.

The plan to build a water treatment plant on the banks of the reservoir was approved in July.

"If people would listen to us, a meeting would be helpful," said Dell. "But there is a group of people down there who won't listen. When I explain my position and the need for two plants one-on-one, people understand."

Rancorous meeting

He said he is still stinging from a hearing last month on proposed increases in public water rates. About 30 residents attended that session at Liberty High School in Eldersburg, which dissolved into a shouting match.

The commissioners held a news conference on the Piney Run project last summer, with their staff reviewing statistics and justifications for building a treatment plant in South Carroll.

"I think we gave all the information people needed with the press conference," said Frazier. "If more people need information, I would love to share it."

Frazier, also dismayed by the response at the water rates hearing, said she prefers more personal sessions.

Gouge has written a statement detailing her plans for easing water shortages and had hoped to use a public forum to get her points across. She has asked Dell and Frazier repeatedly to schedule the meeting since they agreed to it in March.

"People are getting bits and pieces of information, and they need more," she said.

Recreation site

The county built Piney Run Lake more than 30 years ago, intending to use it as a water source. It has since become the county's most popular recreation spot.

Nearly 2,000 residents participated in a "save the lake" rally at Piney Run Park on May 6. Gouge was the rally's keynote speaker and the only commissioner to attend.

Copies of her eight-page plan for addressing water issues in South Carroll were available there.

"There has not been enough public input on this project," said Tom Shamberger of Winfield, who attended the rally.

"The commissioners are not listening to what people want. We don't want this lake changed," said Shamberger.

Gouge said she wants decisions about the project to be fully informed.

"We did not have all the facts when we voted on Piney Run," she said at the rally.

"We did not consult with state agencies whose approval we must have. We have alternatives to building on this lake," she said.

State advice welcomed

Dell said he is willing to meet with state officials as soon as possible.

He has instructed county staff to schedule meetings with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Department of Natural Resources.

"I want people from the state to tell us what we need to do every step of the way during this process," Dell said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.