County won't contest rate

Officials say they agree to pay higher water fees to Baltimore this year

`Too late ... for any changes'

Shouldn't affect residents

future increases may be met with resistance

April 12, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Carroll County won't be able to fend off a 16 percent increase in the rate it pays Baltimore for water from Liberty Reservoir, county officials said yesterday.

Carroll faces the same increase that all Baltimore water customers will see this year. The Carroll commissioners initially balked at the increase, saying the county shouldn't have to pay the bill for improvements to Baltimore water facilities that Carroll doesn't use.

Though they again expressed reservations yesterday, the commissioners seemed resigned to paying this year's increase, if not future ones.

"It's just too late in the game for us to expect any changes this year," said Douglas E. Myers, county public works director.

Myers said he remains optimistic that the county might be able to negotiate lesser increases in future years.

He reiterated yesterday that the increase probably would not affect rates for Carroll residents this year.

The city has imposed rate increases in five of the past seven years. Carroll paid previous increases without objection, Myers said, but the size of this year's increase caught his attention.

City officials argue that water customers have always shared costs equally. While Carroll money might pay for improvements that don't benefit the county directly, city money pays for the upkeep of Liberty Reservoir, which only serves some city customers, said George L. Winfield, Baltimore's director of public works.

Several city water projects are planned, including improvements at its treatment plants to meet federal drinking water mandates and rehabilitation of the Loch Raven Dam. More projects have been added since Sept. 11, including safety improvements to the city's water filtration plants, Baltimore officials said after the rate increase was announced. They have said that with more water improvement projects planned, residents can expect annual increases in water rates.

In other action yesterday, Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge renewed her argument that the county should seek state clearance to draw water from unused wells in South Carroll. But her colleagues, Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier, expressed little interest in such a request.

Gouge said that with the construction of a water treatment plant at Piney Run Park on hold, the county needs the security of supplementary water sources. Frazier countered that any attempt to use the wells now would be wasteful. Gouge's suggestion did not go to a vote.

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