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Locust United Methodist demands water, sewer service


When the Rouse Co. began building Columbia in the 1960s, the congregation of Locust United Methodist Church on Guilford Road had reason to hope.

"We were assured that we would be better off with the coming of Columbia. All we got were higher taxes," said Jeanne Randall, chairwoman of the black congregation's Church and Society committee.

They assumed that as public water and sewers expanded to include their neighbors, they, too,would be afforded those services. Instead, Randall told the county Planning Board last week, "we got fog, and smog and traffic, and we were left in the 1930s."

This year, church members heard that their neighbor, the Beth Shalom synagogue, was in line to get sewer and water in the county's fiscal year 1993 capital budget.

Outraged church members wrote to the county Department of Public Works, and an additional $345,000 was added to the proposed budget to connect their property with an existing sewer line on Martin Road and waterlines on Freetown Road. The Planning Board recommended to the council that it make the budget item a high priority, and the council is scheduled to vote on the budget May 21.

Ronald G. Lepson, assistant to Public Works Director James M. Irvin, said the county did not deliberately exclude the church.

"The church just did not ask," he said.

Sewer and water services in surrounding areas were installed by developers, mainly the Rouse Co. in Columbia, and not the county, Lepson said.

"It was not a matter of people saying that there was a group of people the county did not want to serve," he added.

Randall insists that church trustees approached county planners in 1986 and were told there were no plans to provide sewer and water to the area.

Newly appointed Planning Board member Joan Lancos was surprised to hear the church's story.

"I moved to Columbia 15 years ago and I can't believe that that neighborhood is essentially unchanged since I moved there."

"Believe it," responded board member William Manning.

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