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News Maryland Harford County Aberdeen Havre De Grace

Aberdeen warily eyes water and sewer authority

Aberdeen's mayor and city council were looking toward the city's future in a big way Monday night as they presented their take on a proposed water and sewer authority that would combine the Aberdeen, Bel Air, Havre de Grace and Harford County public utilities into one quasi-government governing body.

Aberdeen's elected officials also heaped praise on the city's staff - particularly Director of Finance Piribo Jack - for the reaffirmation of the city's AA bond rating, and listened to a presentation about the ongoing plans for a multi-modal transportation hub at the existing Amtrak/MARC train station that could eventually include buildings 12 stories tall.

There was much talk, not a lot positive, about the proposed Harford County Water and Sewer Authority.

"I believe the information in The Aegis was very premature," Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett said about the authority that was the subject of a front page story last week in The Aegis, sister paper to The Record. "Just because the county executive talks like this doesn't mean it's a done deal. It's not."

Aberdeen has taken a wait and see approach.

"We have pledged to have an open mind," Aberdeen City Manager Doug Miller said. "It is a work in progress."

The subject was first raised at the meeting by Bob Hartman, a Paradise Road resident, who told the mayor and city council during the public comment portion of the meeting that he expected his water and sewer rates to, at the very least, be lowered and that they should not be more than what others in the rest of Harford County would pay.

City Councilwoman Ruth Elliott was the first to respond to Hartman's comments and she said she has questions and concerns about what it could mean for Aberdeen.

"If it's like before," she said, "it's not my bag."

Bennett was just as blunt in his comments and repeatedly said he was nowhere near ready to try and have the city commit to support the concept.

Bennett, Elliott, Councilwomen Sandy Landbeck and Ruth Ann Young were all effusive in their praise of those who operate Aberdeen's water and sewer systems. City Councilman Bruce Garner was absent.

Elliott called the city's water and sewer employees "the best anywhere."

The mayor added if the authority became a reality, none of those operating the city's systems would lose their jobs and the proposal included provisions for preserving the jobs of all of those who work for all of the systems in the county.

Transit hub

In other business at Monday night's monthly Aberdeen City Council meeting, there was a brief presentation on plans for a future transportation hub. Among the plans for the multi-modal hub are allocations for buildings as tall as 12 stories, with most buildings around the station being limited to eight stories. The zoning designation is TOD, for Transit Oriented Development.

The mayor and city council pointed out this is a long-term plan that may continue for generations, not merely years, but the zoning designation in the works for the area around the train station at Bel Air Avenue and Route 40 is a big step.

"The way that I look at this project is it's just so massive," Landbeck said. "It's going to be a long time. It's developing faster than I thought it would."

Other action

The mayor and city council unanimously approved a resolution in support of Maryland Energy Administration Support of Energy Policies and Plan. Simply put, the resolution says Aberdeen is committed to cutting its energy use. Goals include cutting electricity consumption by 15 percent and diesel and gasoline use by 20 percent.

The mayor and city council also unanimously approved a resolution to add an amendment to the city's Personnel Policy Manual that specifically outlines what accommodations the city will make for employees during and post-pregnancy.

The mayor and city council honored Joe Swisher, the long-time head of the city's planning commission, who recently retired from that volunteer post. His service on the planning commission dates to the early 1970s.

The mayor and city council also presented certificates of appreciation to all of those who sponsored or in some big way supported the 2013 Cal Ripken World Series Parade.

Jack and Sally Minnear and Ross and Joanne Eck were honored by the city with Heritage Trust Beautification Awards for August.

Mike Hiob, a former Aberdeen City Councilman, asked for the mayor and city council to add a second opportunity for public comment during the meetings. Hiob said that since Aberdeen only holds one city council meeting per month, any citizen who wants to comment on an issue that arises during the meeting has to wait a month to be heard.

Public comment at Monday's meeting was on the agenda near the beginning of the meeting, before the legislative session, business of the city, business of council and announcements.

Aberdeen will hold works sessions on Mondays, Oct. 14 and 21, at 4 p.m. and the next city council meeting is Monday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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