A Public Hearing was held today at 1:00 p.m. in the County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, County Government Center, Chestertown, Maryland on the following matters:
Comprehensive Water and Sewerage Plan Updates
Edesville Service Area:
Pursuant to requirements of the Environmental Section, Title 9, Subtitle 5, Section 9-5003 of the Annotated Code of Maryland, the purpose of the hearing is to update the Comprehensive Water and Sewerage Plan to include language required by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for upgrading and extending water services to the Edesville and Wesley Chapel Service Areas by constructing a 100,000 gallon elevated storage tank on property owned by the county at the intersection of MD Route 20 and Lovers Lane, Fifth Election District.
Kennedyville Service Area:
Construction plans and specifications are being prepared to upgrade the existing Kennedyville water treatment plant in two phases. Phase One upgrades the treatment equipment to remove iron and reduce the hardness of the water. Phase Two adds an additional 50,000 gallon ground storage tank and other ancillary equipment that will add additional capacity to the system. These upgrades are being funded solely by the developer of, The Village of Kennedyville, as part of his agreement.
Proposed Allocation Fee Increase:
In accordance with Article II “County of Management of Water and Sewer Services”, Section 161.17 (B) of the Code of Public Local Laws of Kent County, Maryland, and as prepared by Municipal & Financial Services Group and recommended by Wayne Morris, Director, Department of Water and Wastewater Services, the
following increases are proposed to pay for water and sewer upgrades necessitated by all new growth within the entire sanitary district:
Increase water allocation fee from $3,060 per EDU to $4,000 per EDU for FY 07 and increase it by the annual interest rate charged by Rural Development per year until the water debt service is paid.
Increase sewer allocation fee from $3,060 per EDU to $10,600 per EDU for FY 07 and increase it by the annual interest rate charged by Rural Development per year until the sewer debt service is paid.
County Commissioners, Roy Crow, Ronald Fithian, and William Pickrum were in attendance as well as Susanne Hayman, County Administrator, Thomas Yeager, County Attorney, Wayne Morris, Director, Water and Wastewater Services, Jim Wright, County Engineer, Bill Crowding, John Nunn, Roy Hoagland, Rex Kershaw, Bo Feagus, Jeanne Edwards, Harry T. Williams, Bob Kramer, and one member of the media.
Commissioner Crow read the Notice of Public Hearing into the record.
Edesville Service Area:
Mr. Morris stated that by constructing a 100,000 gallon elevated storage tank, the Edesville and Wesley Chapel Service Areas will be provided with increased water volume and pressure for fire protection and domestic services for the area. As it stands with the current underground storage tank, if electricity should happen to go out, households will be without water.
Commissioner Crow invited comments. There were none.
Kennedyville Service Area:
Mr. Morris reiterated that the plans for the Kennedyville Service Area were required by and being paid for by the developer of the Kennedyville Village. Commissioner Crow reminded that the water treatment process will take place during Phase I and the water tank will be added during Phase II.
Commissioner Crow invited comments.
Bob Kramer questioned as to whether a unified plan was in place where developers pay for upgrades to water systems. Mr. Morris stated that developers have always been responsible for upgrade costs as a part of the Public Works Agreement. Developers meet with engineers and determine what is needed to develop the property and they take care of those expenses.
John Nunn questioned whether or not developers would be responsible for allocation costs. Mr. Morris stated they were not. Mr. Morris stated that allocation fees typically pay for the cost of treatment plants. Any collection system infrastructure needed to allow a developer to connect to our system is looked at on a case by case basis and generally paid for by the developer.
Proposed Allocation Fee Increase:
Mr. Morris stated that the proposed allocation fee increase has been issued partly because of infrastructure needs throughout the County. The County is attempting to look at the revenue needed to pay for new infrastructures without having to place new costs on existing users.
Bill Crowding questioned whether it was fair to increase allocation fees for the entire sanitary district when the area mainly affected by the growth will be the Worton area. He stated that a massive amount of money is being spent to upgrade the existing system, only for the system to be upgraded again in the coming years. Mr. Crowding also stated that the Worton area is being forced to pay for the majority of the upgrades to the existing system and the new system. Mr. Crowding then expressed his belief that the County could not afford to pay for the loan and that the County will eventually have to pay for the system out of its general fund.
Mr. Morris reminded that there is no way to know what will happen in the future. He stated that actions have to be taken based on the numbers today. He also stated that the reason that the system was re-evaluated several years ago was because the rates were not where they should have been at that time. Mr. Morris reminded that over time numbers will change and systems will have to be changed to accommodate these numbers.
Mr. Morris stated that Worton is a priority funding area that is designated a growth area, which allows for expansion. Priority funding allows the County to receive a low interest loan from the State.
Concern was expressed over County citizens paying for allocations that will not be used.
Commissioner Crow reminded that just as previously discussed, a certain number of allocations have been reserved for commercial and industrial use in the Worton area.
Mr. Crowding stated that the County is setting aside a certain amount of allocations for industrial and commercial use when it not known how many allocations will actually be used.
Mr. Morris reminded that the entire County is sharing in the cost of the new systems.
John Nunn stated that the County is spending more money than it is actually bringing in. He suggested that allocation fees be changed according to Scenario 1 of the allocation fee study rather than Scenario 2. Scenario 1 states that the water allocation fees for FY07 through FY2046 be raised to a set price of $6300 and the sewer allocation fee for FY07 through FY2016 be raised to a set price of $15,900. Scenario 1 would allow for 9-10 new water and sewer EDU’s annually. He also suggested that people who build new homes in the area share in the cost since the plan is geared towards expansion.
Bob Kramer stated that it is unfair for residents of Fairlee to fund a subsidy in Worton.
Commissioner Pickrum reminded that because Kent County has a small user base for water and sewer the cost per user is high. He also reminded that the entire County benefits from the sewer system. The cost is reflective of living in a rural area.
Commissioner Crow discussed universal rate structure. It was originally felt that water and sewer users should pay 100% of cost. After the public hearing was held, it was discussed that County residents take advantage of these systems and the Commissioners came up with a 15% subsidy. There is a 4% inflationary cost built into the rate structure, once a district has reached the universal rate. Once developers obtain allocation fees, their vacant lot charges also, go up 4% each year.
Mr. Crowding suggested that the Commissioners at least review Scenario 1. Commissioner Pickrum stated that it was a good point to start rates at a higher rate and increase them at 4% per year.
Rex Kershaw stated that he concurred with comments made by Mr. Crowding. Commissioner Fithian stated he felt this issue is a “Catch 22”. The systems were designed to clean up failing systems. If there is more development in the Worton area, the user rates would then decrease. He agreed this issue needs serious consideration.
Mr. Crowding commended Mr. Morris for doing a good job while working under terrible conditions.
This hearing was taped for reference and adjourned at 2:30 p.m.
THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
OF KENT COUNTY, MARYLAND
Janice F. Fletcher
Roy W. Crow,President