Work nearing on two plans

Drug treatment facility, water filtration plant are expected to speed through review process


After years of planning, two Carroll County projects are under way. One will provide more water to the county's most populous area, and the other will offer youths long-term drug rehabilitation in a residential setting.

The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission has reviewed the concept plans for the $22 million expansion of the Freedom Water Treatment Plant, which serves more than 7,000 homes and businesses in South Carroll, and for the $3 million drug treatment facility to be built on the grounds of Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

The commission has taken no action, but both projects are expected to move quickly through the review process, officials said.

"I expect we will move forward on both projects shortly," said Clay Black, chief of the county Bureau of Development Review. "We have reviewed the concept plans and anticipate the revised plans will be back fairly quickly."

Tom Rio, chief of the Carroll Bureau of Building Construction, said the proposals are "design-build," which means one firm handles the design and the construction.

"The planning commission is looking at designs that are ongoing and has accepted the concepts for both," Rio said. "We should have final approval for the drug treatment center within a month."

The county will break ground as soon as weather permits for the drug treatment center, a 15,000-square-foot building on 7 acres near the Central Laundry Facility, a minimum-security prison, Rio said.

The building will house as many as 24 patients, most of them age 18 to 24, who would reside there for as long as two years while undergoing rehabilitation. There is room to double the number of beds, to 48.

"We have the land, a building contract and OKs from the state," said four-term Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who is liaison to the planning commission.

"This board of commissioners and the previous board have worked long for this. We recognized there was a problem here and that we have to deal with it. Now we are dealing with it."

The county commissioners have awarded a design-build contract to Brechbill & Helman of Chambersburg, Pa., which made the lowest bid among the six submitted for the project.

After considering several locations, county officials found that the grounds of the hospital was the most palatable option for neighboring communities, Gouge said.

"We had to find a place suitable to everyone," she said. "People understand now that the residents coming to this facility are volunteering to undergo treatment and really want to get better."

Planning Commissioner Robert B. Slade said, "This treatment will allow people to come back as productive members of society."

The county has not hired a contractor for the water treatment plant, and construction probably won't begin until late summer, Rio said. The expansion, which will more than double the plant's daily capacity to 7 million gallons, is set for completion by March 2008.

"We are looking at several months to design the expansion before showing it to the planning commission," Rio said.

Plant operators have tested some of the new equipment with good results, he said.

"The filtration system is the newest process for treating water and the best way to do it," Rio said.

Baltimore, which owns Liberty Reservoir and much of the surrounding acreage, will lease Carroll County an additional 1.62 acres, for a total of 3.63 acres, off Oakland Road adjoining the 45-billion-gallon reservoir. The reservoir supplies water to more than 2 million people in the metropolitan area.

The 15-year lease, with seven 10-year renewal options and an annual fee of $1, will provide the county with land to upgrade the plant and add equipment that will double the capacity.

"This is definitely a positive move forward," Gouge said. "We finally have all the agreements with the city, state agencies and other counties that allow us the opportunity to do extra work. We have a long-term lease ... and we will have ample capacity for all the growth in South Carroll. With the new filtration system, water costs may actually be less than they were in the past."

Carroll County draws an average of 2.2 million gallons daily from the reservoir, raw water that the plant treats and pumps to more than 20,000 people throughout South Carroll.

In times of peak demand, the Freedom plant can handle as much as 3 million gallons a day, but its 30-year-old equipment cannot continue to operate at that level, officials said. The expansion and increased water supply should eliminate the persistent shortages in the area during prolonged periods of hot, dry weather.

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