Bel Air residents will see an increase in their sewer rates, after the Bel Air Board of Commissioners voted during a town hall meeting Monday night to approved a rate hike.
The sewer rate for Bel Air residents will increase by 22 cents, from $5.27 per 1,000 gallons of water used to $5.49 per 1,000 gallons of water used. Residents will also see a 4.2 percent increase in their base rate, which varies based on the size of the customer's water service line and meter.
The sewer rate increase is in anticipation of increases to the bulk rate charges from the county, Lisa Moody, town finance director, said. Last October, the town received a proposed 44-cent increase on the bulk rate sewer treatment charge from Harford County.
The proposed bulk rate sewage treatment increase will cost the town an additional $80,000, which will be retroactive back to July 1, 2013.
The increased sewer rates go into effect on Feb. 18, generating the town $36,400 by the end of FY 2014. Bel Air will be responsible for paying the difference between the bulk rate charges and additional revenue grossed from the rate increase, which is $44,000.
The proposed 22-cent town sewer rate increase should level out the cost difference between the county's bulk rate increase by FY 2014, Moody said during a previous work session.
Moody said the sewer rate increase is the "bare minimum" needed to cover the overage by Harford County.
Town Commissioner Edward Hopkins said he does not want Bel Air residents to think the town is increasing the sewer rates "arbitrarily."
Moody said the last major rate increase from the county was in 2009. She noted the town increased rates last July, but it was a normal consumer price index increase.
Prior to the vote, no residents voiced their concerns about the rate hike during the scheduled public hearing.
The board of commissioners was set to decide whether to rezone a parcel behind a doctor's office at 722 S. Main St., but the owners of the land decided to withdraw their request.
The doctor's office, owned by Dr. Raman K. Sood, was originally a residence and later converted to a business.
The property is zoned B1, a limited access business; Sood was requesting permission to rezone a parcel of land in the back of his office to B1 as well.
That piece, zoned as R2, medium density residential, was acquired by Sood through co-ownership with Dennis Rehman, the original sole owner.
During a planning session, Kevin Small, director of planning for the town, said the Bel Air Planning Commission had been unable to give the board a recommendation on the zoning issue because members could not agree if the applicant met the requirement to request rezoning.
Small told the commissioners the request for rezoning was withdrawn since the planning commission didn't give a recommendation.
Rockfield Manor upgrades
The board approved also approved upgrades to Bel Air's Rockfield Manor.
Town Public Works Director Randolph Robertson said improvements will include upgrading the first floor restroom to a separate gender-specific restrooms and modifying walls in the foyer to create better circulation in the library.
Robertson said the town allotted $20,000 in the FY2013 budget for improvements, which the town and Rockfield Foundation had been discussing for some time. He said the foundation, which operates the manor house, is providing an additional $10,000, which will be used to modify the wall.
The total renovation will cost $31,475, Robertson said. The town will pay be additional $1,475.
Robertson said two contractors bid on the construction project, and Burke Construction gave the lowest bid.
Robertson said he expects the project to be completed by early February.
Commissioner Robert Preston said Rockfield Manor is one of the great assets to the town and the upgrades will certainly enhance the facility.
The board approved revisions Monday night to the town's finance policy, including who can sign checks.
Moody said with the recent election of Commissioner Patrick Richards and appointment of James Fielder to the position of town administrator, the town needed to update its finance policy to include them.
She said the housekeeping issue would allow Richards and Fielder to perform some commercial banking functions on behalf of the town, such as withdrawing funds, writing checks for vendors and closing CDs.
The commissioners voted Monday to appoint Fran Johnson to a three-year term on the town's Board of Appeals.
Tim Coale was appointed to a three-year term on the Historic Preservation Commission and Pat Riley was appointed to a three-year term on the Cultural Arts Commission.