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New Windsor water bills could decrease thanks to state grant

New Windsor residents might see a slight decrease in their quarterly base rate for water bills, thanks to a state grant.

At the latest town council meeting Monday evening, Mayor Neal Roop announced that the rates are slated for an increase of $2 but could see a decrease of $8 due to a loan paid off with the state of Maryland — resulting in an overall decrease of $6.

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The decrease is possible thanks to a $250,000 grant awarded to New Windsor by the State of Maryland through the Water Supply Grant to pay off the town’s Water Tank Refurbishment loan, which had a balance of $6,602.54. Town officials have yet to decide how they will use the extra funds from the grant.

The decision before the council is whether to apply the surplus from the grant toward lowering the quarterly base rate, or holding the surplus in reserve, leaving the rate at its current level. The council decided to put off that decision in order to get input from other council members who weren’t in attendance Monday evening.

“My intentions have been to lower the water and sewer rates as much as the loans allow,” Roop said. “It’s not huge off your water and sewer bill, but it’s something — six dollars, 24 dollars a year.”

Councilwoman Kimberlee Schultz suggested holding off on making a decision. Councilman Terry Green agreed, in part because of the number of residents who can’t afford to pay their current bills.

“What shocks me is the 37 cut off notices,” Green said, in reference to the total for the current quarter, which encompasses April, May and June. “That is a clear indication that our community is struggling.”

According to Donna Alban, New Windsor treasurer, the numbers vary each quarter: There were 40 cut off notices from January through March, 32 from October through December and 30 from July through September.

Owners or tenants have 30 days from when their bill is mailed out to them to pay without any penalties, but on the 31 day a $20 late fee is added, giving the person an additional 15 days to pay the bill. After the 15 days, a $30 late fee is added and the notice is sent to the owner or tenant.

With the town facing five loans from the state of Maryland and the United States Department of Agriculture, Roop said he does what he can by going to Annapolis as often as he can to get grants to pay off the loans.

One thing that Roop explained at the meeting was that the change in water and sewer prices depends on the loan costs that the town faces, as well as the amount in grants coming in.

For every million dollars in grand funding, “you could knock 25 dollars off” the rates that residents pay, Roop said. “So, you got to get some big grants to really see a difference.”

For example, in April 2012 Roop announced the approval of a $2 million grant to lower the water loan, which lowered the quarterly sewer base rates by $50. The same goes for the $1 million grant the town received in November 2015 that lowered the quarterly sewer rates by $25, according to the mayor’s Sewer Chronology, a document that can be found on the town’s website showing a timeline of the fluctuations in the water and sewage bill.

The next Town Council meeting will be held on July 15, when a decision is expected.

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