The state prison system is getting out of the county water business.
For decades, some Jessup residents have written checks for their monthly water bills to the state of Maryland, instead of to the county Department of Utilities the way most residents do.
That is all scheduled to change in the near future, when the state stops acting as the middleman in the water distribution process around its massive prison complex in western Anne Arundel County.
"The state wants to relieve itself of providing water," said Len Sipes, director of public information for the state Department of Public Safety. "It looks like a win-win-win situation for the county and the state and the citizens."
That is because the business owners and residents affected by the change won't have to pay a cent, even though some homeowners will need new water pipes installed.
The state is going to pay for all work on county streets and the county is going to pay for all work on private property.
This unique water situation started when the state built its own water line to its three prisons and various other complexes several decades ago. That line, hooked up to county water, ran down Md. Route 175.
As the years went by, homes and businesses built along Route 175 simply hooked into the state line. There are now 146 homes and an undetermined number of residents latched onto the state-owned pipe.
The state currently pays the county for all water that goes through the line and the residents pay the state for the portion they use.
But because of an increase in the prison population and a desire to streamline the billing process, the county will take over everything and residents and the state will pay the county for their share.
That means new pipes will have to be installed. Jody Vollmar, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Utilities, said that normally, residents would have to pay for new pipes from their home to the road.
But because of technical considerations, Ms. Vollmar said it is easier for the state to contract the work out for everyone instead of waiting for each resident to hire a plumber. Therefore, the county will pick up the tab.
Gary Mauler, president of the Jessup Improvement Association, said residents have been waiting for at least three years for the state and county to work out an agreement.
He said he is pleased that residents will not have to pay any money, but he is worried about the disruption that construction might cause.
He said the technical aspects of the project have changed many times, but he hopes everything has been worked out for a meeting with county officials tomorrow night at 7:30 in the Jessup Community Hall, Md. Route 175 and Wigley Avenue.
Neither Mr. Sipes or Ms. Vollmar could say how much this project will cost.