The city of Aberdeen voted Monday night to move forward with the proposed countywide water and sewer authority, the first of Harford's three municipalities to agree to contribute to the $800,000 study.
But Mayor Mike Bennett reiterated the city wasn't agreeing to join the authority, just to continue the study.
Members of the city council voted 4-1 to provide $81,348 for the study; Councilwoman Ruth Elliott was alone in voting against the participation, which was done as a budget amendment.
The amendment was approved under the condition that two members of the advisory committee to the study, City Manager Doug Miller and Mayor Mike Bennett, approve of the scope of work.
Elliott called it a waste of money for taxpayers and noted it was Harford County Executive David Craig's "third try" at creating such an authority.
The authority would bring together the management of independent water systems in Havre de Grace, Bel Air, Aberdeen and the county. To date, none of the other municipalities has agreed to fund the study, which is the second phase of the process to create the authority.
"Who pays? Again, the taxpayer," Elliott said.
She said out of 3,141 cities in the U.S., the county government only offered up two, in North Carolina and Virginia, as models of municipalities joining such a water authority.
"Water is our most valuable commodity," she said, wondering why the city would even consider placing it under someone else's control.
Elliott said taxpayers have already spent an "astronomical" amount of money on water and sewer upgrades in the past few years.
With a centralized authority, "we will be besieged by the rates, that's for sure," she said. "We shouldn't be spending taxpayers' money on a bad idea."
Elliott said the city should tell Harford County to find the money itself.
"The study is doomed, in my opinion, for failure," she said.
Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck said she agreed with Elliott's arguments, but not some of her conclusions.
"I say, for all of those reasons – the power, the questions – which I think were very valid reasons, we need to pay [for the study] so we have a voice at the table, so the control is not taken out of our hands," Landbeck said.
Not signing on for the study "is a recipe for disaster," she said.
Bennett repeated during Monday's council meeting that agreeing to do the study does not mean the city has signed on for the authority.
"We are not saying we are going to be a part of it. We are saying we want to continue to study it," he said.
The council also approved a preliminary site plan to let the owner of La Quinta Inn, at Route 22 and West Bel Air Avenue, split the building into two hotels, La Quinta Inn and Hampton Inn.