Manchester budget plan leaves tax rate unchanged

Council also proposes raising quarterly water fee to $2.10 per 1,000 gallons

April 15, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Manchester Town Council has proposed a balanced budget with no change in the tax rate, although water bills are likely to increase under a separate ordinance.

Under the proposed $1.2 million budget, the tax rate would remain at 18.4 cents per $100 of assessed property value, said Kelly J. Baldwin, the town's finance director.

The quarterly water fee would increase from $1.80 per 1,000 gallons to $2.10, Baldwin said.

"The fund has to be self-sufficient according to the town code," said Councilman Ryan Warner, who estimated that a homeowner would pay an additional $3.60 per quarter under the new water rate.

A third ordinance proposed Tuesday night would designate funds as a safety-service fee to the Manchester Fire Engine & Hook & Ladder Company No. 1.

Those funds would come from the town's $350 fee for each new dwelling, which was imposed in 1993, Baldwin said. The proposal would allow the town to direct a proportion of that money - to be determined annually - to pay for fire and emergency services needed because of new construction.

Public hearings on the three proposed ordinances will be held at 8 p.m. at the next council meeting, May 11.

In other business, Steven L. Miller, the director of public works, said new wells north of town were hooked up last week after years of work and months of waiting for state approval.

"We're adding, conservatively, 25 percent to the system," he said after the meeting. The three wells are expected to yield about 150 gallons a minute.

Manchester has struggled through drought and floods with water shortages and the region's tightest watering bans. Nearly all its springs were shut down by the state beginning in 1994 because they were vulnerable to contamination.

"We're coming back," Miller said, by adding more water than was lost from the springs and allowing wells to rest and recharge. Water use in the town averages 250,000 gallons a day, and the new wells will add 70,000 to 80,000 gallons a day if they run for 10 to 12 hours, he said.

The wells have taken more than two years of work, with exploration going back years earlier.

The town acquired 4 acres off Ferrier Road near Route 30 in June 2002, Baldwin said, after water was found with the help of an exploration grant from the county.

Tuesday's council meeting was more crowded than usual, with about 30 people attending.

Most were residents of Crossroads Overlook who objected to what they said was clutter in the area created by the recent posting of traffic signs. Tim Edwards, a Whitman Court resident, presented a letter that he said was signed by 97 people.

The council decided to post the signs last year in response to complaints about commuters cutting through the area.

Nevertheless, Manchester Police Chief Charles L. Lewis Jr. and the council agreed to reduce the number of signs and double up signs on some posts.

But the residents got little sympathy for their other complaint: no-parking signs on their streets. Visitors to a party or a yard sale at a home could get citations from the town, Edwards said - even if they notify police before the event.

"One reason a lot of us moved to Carroll County was to get away from these parking issues," said Edwards, who lived in Baltimore County near the city line. "Not being able to park on the street is something you would expect in Baltimore City, not Carroll County."

"None of us is parking on the street, either," said Councilman Joe Jordan, adding that emergency vehicles might not be able to get through if street parking were allowed. "If you want, you can give up 15 feet of your yard so you can have parking."

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