Manchester council to discuss water and sewer rates tonight

THE BALTIMORE SUN

An article in Wednesday's Carroll editions of The Sun incorrectly stated the cost in Westminster of water and sewer service for a household using 14,000 gallons of water. The correct amount is $66.23.

The Sun regrets the error.

Water and sewer rates are once more on the agenda for the Manchester Town Council, which meets today at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Hall.

Tonight's agenda also includes discussions about a council vacancy, water meters, and a strategic planning workshop.

The council has been discussing water and sewer rates for months, however, and it is not clear whether any final decision will be made tonight.

There is disagreement over whether the town needs to raise additional money through rate increases.

"The current rates don't bring in enough money to cover the expenses," Town Manager Terry L. Short said Monday.

"I don't think there need to be any changes [to the rates] at this time," Councilman Douglas Myers said yesterday. "We're taking in more money than we've used."

There is also confusion over how much money has been set aside for a contingency fund for emergency repair costs, and how much more should be set aside for repairs and capital costs, such as new storage tanks and water meters.

The proposal on tonight's agenda is "a draft discussion document," Mayor Earl A.J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. said yesterday.

The town staff is assembling cost estimates on new water meters, he said, and that information will affect the rate decision.

The proposal now on the table would increase the cost of service for some residents, and lower the cost for others.

It is based largely on recommendations made by the town's ad-hoc committee on water and sewers, which was disbanded in May.

Under the draft proposal, residents who use 5,000 gallons or less each quarter would pay less than they do now.

Many senior citizens fall into this category, Mr. Short said.

Manchester residents who use 31,000 gallons or more each quarter also would save under the proposal.

Those who use 6,000 gallons to 30,000 gallons would pay more than they do now.

The average Manchester residence consumes 14,000 gallons of water a quarter. Under the rate proposal, a family using 14,000 gallons would pay $121.28 for water and sewer service, which is $17.42 more than the $103.86 it would cost under the current rate structure.

In other Carroll County municipalities, the cost for 14,000 gallons' worth of water and sewer service varies greatly, from $49 in Taneytown to $187.24 in Westminster.

Mayor Warehime said Manchester residents pay higher sewer bills because the town's new sewage treatment plant must meet stricter water-pollution standards than older plants.

"We were sold down the river," he said, by an agreement made in the 1930s that sold the area's above-ground water rights to Baltimore City. A related watershed-protection agreement made in the 1980s limited the amount of sewage Manchester may discharge into a local stream, he said.

Mayor Warehime said any town that has expanded its sewage treatment plant since Manchester did probably faces even stricter standards, leading to even higher rates.

Under the proposal being discussed tonight, Manchester water customers would pay a quarterly charge of $9.60, plus $1.87 per thousand gallons used. For sewer service, residents would pay a service charge of $12.00, plus $5.25 per thousand gallons used.

The current rate for Manchester water service is $10 for up to 5,000 gallons. Between 6,000 gallons and 20,000 gallons, each thousand gallons costs $1.40. From 21,000 gallons to 30,000 gallons, residents pay $2.80 per thousand gallons. Above 31,000 gallons, each thousand gallons costs $4.20.

For sewer service, residents now pay an amount equal to 2.6 times their water bill, plus a quarterly charge of $22.50.

Rates are higher outside town limits.

The current block rate structure was supposed to encourage residents to conserve water.

But Mr. Short said that had not proven true, because only a small percentage of the town's water and sewer customers use enough water for the highest rates to apply.

He said the current rate structure causes those who use little water or very much water to subsidize those who use moderate amounts. In addition, he said, water-only customers are being subsidized by customers who pay for both water and sewer service.

Mr. Short said the proposal is designed to produce enough revenue, after the first year, to allow 13 percent of the water and sewer budgets to be set aside for a contingency fund, as long as assumptions about inflation rates and expected town growth are correct.

"I think there's a chance" the council will agree on rates tonight, Mayor Warehime said yesterday.

"I'll have to do some hard selling, I guess."

RESIDENTIAL UTILITY RATES

Here are the residential rates for municipal water and sewer service in Carroll County. Rates may differ for businesses, institutions, or homes outside municipal limits.

FREEDOM DISTRICT -- The county provides water and sewer service. For water, residents pay a quarterly service charge of $17.97, plus 95 cents for each 1,000 gallons used.

For sewer service, residents pay a quarterly service charge of $22.67 and a quarterly debt service charge of $15.38, plus $1.98 for each 1,000 gallons used.

HAMPSTEAD -- The town provides water service. Residents pay $10 a quarter for up to 5,000 gallons. Each thousand gallons from 6,000 gallons to 20,000 gallons used costs $1.65. Each thousand gallons from 21,000 gallons to 30,000 gallons used costs $3.30. Every thousand gallons above 31,000 gallons costs $4.95.

The county provides sewer service. Residents pay a service charge of $22.67, plus $1.98 for every thousand gallons.

MOUNT AIRY -- For water, residents pay $10 for up to 12,000 gallons. Each additional thousand gallons, up to 60,000 gallons, costs 90 cents. After 60,000 gallons, each 1,000 gallons costs $1.35.

For sewer service, residents pay a minimum of $38.50 for up to 12,000 gallons. Each additional thousand gallons costs $2.00.

NEW WINDSOR -- For water service, residents pay $15 for up to 10,000 gallons, and $1.50 for each additional 1,000 gallons.

For sewer service, residents currently pay a charge equal to their water bill plus $10. However, this formula may change in November.

TANEYTOWN -- For water, residents pay $1.75 a quarter for up to 1,000 gallons, plus $1.75 for each additional 1,000 gallons.

For sewer service, residents pay $1.75 a quarter for up to 1,000 gallons, plus $1.75 for each additional 1,000 gallons.

UNION BRIDGE -- For water, residents pay $10 a quarter for up to 5,000 gallons. Each additional thousand gallons costs $1.50.

For sewer service, residents pay $33 for up to 5,000 gallons. From 5,000 gallons to 15,000 gallons, the cost is $1.50 per thousand gallons. After 15,000 gallons, each 1,000 gallons costs $1.25.

WESTMINSTER -- For water, within the city limits, people pay $17.15 a quarter for up to 6,000 gallons. They pay an extra $2.12 for each additional thousand gallons up to 45,000 gallons. Over 45,000 gallons, they pay $1.54 for each additional 1,000 gallons.

For sewer service within the city limits, people pay $18.60 a quarter for the first 6,000 gallons, and an extra $1.69 for each additional 1,000 gallons.

CORRECTION
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