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Havre de Grace special election: City leaders urge residents to go out and vote today

Havre de Grace residents can make their voices heard today on whether the city should borrow up to $15 million in bond funding to finance repairs to aging water and sewer infrastructure.

“No matter what your perspective, it’s important that the [city] council and the administration hear from its citizens on the direction they’d like to go, so I encourage everybody to come and vote,” city Finance Director George DeHority said during Monday evening’s meeting of the City Council.

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The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall at 711 Pennington Ave. If voters approve, the city would borrow up to $15 million — from the sale of bonds — over five years. The money would be repaid at 4% interest over up to 25 years.

The bond question has generated controversy among some residents who object to the city taking on more debt and increasing its spending.

Councilman James Ringsaker said he is “really dismayed to read all the misinformation and intentional mistruths that have been published, all the rumors and conjecture going around.”

“We’ve done everything we can to correct that and tell everybody exactly why we need this, exactly what we’re doing, exactly what the wording is and what it means on the referendum,” he added.

The bond referendum has moved forward based on recommendations made by the city’s Water and Sewer Commission. Officials have said the bond funding is needed so the city can obtain enough money to address in one go the ongoing issue of water main breaks, replacing aging infrastructure, plus build a line to send drinking water to Aberdeen.

Mayor William T. Martin has pledged to address the infrastructure issue, and he and other city leaders have warned that water rates could increase if Havre de Grace cannot obtain bond funding.

“I’m going to be voting ‘yes’ because I know what will happen if I don’t,” Ringsaker said.

He noted Havre de Grace officials are “trying to get ahead of” the matter and avoid problems facing other cities such as Flint, Michigan, which is still dealing with the fallout from a crisis in 2014 when drinking water became contaminated by lead from municipal water lines, or Baltimore, which has had multiple issues with water billing.

Ringsaker said he and his colleagues want “to make sure that Havre de Grace stays the town that I want to live in, the town that I want my kids to grow up in, and that’s why I’m voting yes tomorrow.”

Resident Diane Hessenauer said she thinks city leaders “did an excellent job” of informing citizens as to why the bond measure is needed — mailers have been sent to residents, the mayor and other officials have given public presentations, and a significant amount of information has been posted online.

“I love the transparency and I would love to see more of it,” Hessenauer said during the public comment period at the end of the council meeting. “You did everything you could to let us know, and my husband and I will also be voting ‘yes’ for that referendum.”

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