Outside money needed to improve parks, town officials warn


New ball-field lights and other park improvements approved in the Manchester town budget won't happen unless the money comes from somewhere else, town officials say.

The Town Council approved a $910,817 operating budget Wednesday night, which will keep the tax rate at 46 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

Water and sewer rates will go up, however, by about $13.05 each quarter for the average user. Of the few public comments at the budget hearing before approval Wednesday, Tootie Rill of Main Street complained that the water and sewer rates were going up without an increase in quality.

"Every time it rains, we get cloudy water," Ms. Rill said.

Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. said the town is changing the half of its water supply that comes from springs to wells, so that the supply is not as vulnerable to change from rain and runoff.

"The reason it's costing more money is it costs more to produce the water," he said.

Of the total expenses in next year's budget, $193,700 is for improvements to public parks. Those improvements will happen only if the town can get $170,000 in grants from the county or state, and raise money through community events and projects, said acting Town Manager David Warner.

One resident, Leon Jones of York Street, objected to replacing the lights at the town's ball field. He said they're too bright now, and that people who use the fields often leave the lights on all night.

"I can read the paper in my back yard at night," he said.

Without the $170,000 in grants the town hopes to procure, the budget comes to $740,817, which represents a 13 percent increase over this year's budget of $657,111.

The vote on the budget was 4-1, with Councilman James Singer opposed. He objected to the $17,000 allotted for a new police car the town said it probably will need in the next year.

Mr. Singer said he didn't think the car was needed. Mr. Warner said that purchasing one now could extend the life of cars used by Hampstead's three-member police force.

"I would like to see this money stay in the budget, even if we do not spend it this year," said Councilwoman Kathryn Riley. "That's planning."

Mr. Warner said he deliberately kept the budget lean so that the tax rate would not go up, because water and sewer rates were increasing.

Under the proposal, the water rate would go up this way: Customers would pay a "unit charge" of $10, up from $9.60. The rate per 1,000 gallons used would be $1.80, up 6 cents. That would mean an increase of $1.30 per quarter for the average user of 15,000 gallons of water, Mr. Warner said.

The sewer rate unit charge would rise to $20, and the rate per 1,000 gallons used would go up 25 cents, to $5.50. The increase for the average user of 15,000 gallons would be $11.75 per quarter.

The water fund of the capital budget includes about $65,000 as a first step toward acquiring additional water sources. Because of federal clean-water regulations, the town must replace the spring water that makes up about 55 percent of the town supply. Spring water is more vulnerable to contamination than ground water.

About 800 water meters will be replaced over the next five years, Mr. Warner said. The proposed budget seeks to replace 200 of them in 1995-1996 at a cost of $18,000.

An additional $30,000 would be set aside for purchasing property for a new water tank.

The water and sewer increases are "a long time in coming," Councilman Christopher D'Amario said. He chairs the city's water and sewer committee. "Actually, we've been running in the red all year," he said.

The sewer rate is increasing to pay for expansion of the wastewater plant, and new spray fields for effluent.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad