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Red tape is being cut right and left at the Department of Public Works, where petitions for public water or sewer service from nine neighborhoods are being rushed through this month in an attempt to beat a March 31 deadline.

What's magic about that date?

After March 31, homeowners in those nine areas would lose their exemption and have to pay an $821 water system development fee or a $1,769 sewer system development fee.

For the homeowners to be exemptfrom the two fees, the projects must also be approved by the County Council by then.

The fee has been in place since last fall, and the exemption is only applied to homes already built. The fee is charged when developers file for new building permits, and is usually passed on to the homeowner in the price of the house.

One project for which DPW is seeking County Council approval calls for new sewer linesto be placed in the Trimble Road area, on either side of U.S. 40 between Gunpowder Falls and Woodbridge Court.

To get the sewer service, residents of the area have agreed to pay a one-time up-front fee of $3,325 per home to cover the county's cost of installing new sewagelines, a $100 connection fee and a $450 surcharge for using the county lines.

Without the exemption, each homeowner who connected to the county system also would have to pay the $1,769 sewer system development fee, enacted to pay for improvements to the sewer system countywide.

With the exemption, homeowners in the Trimble Road area will have three years from the date service is started to decide whetherthey want to connect to the county's public sewer system without having to pay the system development fee.

The Trimble Road project isunusual in that the residents have agreed to pay a one-time fee to get sewer pipes to their area, said Jackie Ludwig, a DPW civil engineer.

"It's the first time this is being done in Harford County," shesaid. "Usually homeowners pay an annual assessment spread out over 20 years."

Owners of currently vacant lots would be required to paythe system development fee, even if their home is built within threeyears from start of service.

To get public water or sewer service, neighborhoods must petition DPW, which then schedules meetings to determine how many homeowners would be for or against the project.

"We're trying to get decisions from the citizens about whether they really want the service, and get legislative approval from the County Council by March 31, because that's what we promised we'd do," said William T. Baker Jr., director of the Department of Public Works.

"My employees are busting their chops. They deserve a lot of credit because we're going to meet that time frame."

Baker said getting citizen approval for a project is sometimes the lengthiest part of the process. DPW administrators have spent many evenings this month meeting with citizens in the nine areas to explain the proposals, he said.

Another reason for rushing the projects is that in some areas of the county private septic systems are failing, Baker said.

"A lot of these people have petitioned the county because they're having problems with their septic systems," said Baker

"For instance, in the Trimble Road area, their septic systems are overloading the ground. Sewage just bubbles up from the ground."

Other projects DPW also isworking on include:

* Water service on Gunpowder Drive in Joppatowne.

* Sewer service in the Constant Friendship development.

* Sewer service in the new Abingdon community.

* Sewer service in Fallston.

* Water service in the Valley View development in Bel Air.

* Sewer service in the North View area in Churchville.

County Treasurer James M. Jewell has said the new system development fees are expected to raise between $2.3 million and $2.8 million by June 30,1992. The money will be used to pay for some of the improvements listed above.

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