Water, sewer rates to increase in '96


Harford County residents will pay more for public water and sewer service beginning next year as part of a $46 million upgrade to the Sod Run Wastewater Treatment plant.

The Harford County Council passed the new water and sewer rates at its meeting Tuesday. Council President Joanne S. Parrott left early to attend to an "urgent matter" and did not vote.

Water and sewer bills for the county's 28,000 customers won't rise until next year. Revenues from the increased rates will help pay for the upgrade of Sod Run and for increased operating expenses.

The average customer's water and sewer bill will rise from $67.90 to $71.90 a year.

Before the vote, the council debated a key provision: that future annual increases would occur automatically to keep up with higher operating costs.

The plan tied water and sewer rate increases to the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, which is a measure of how much goods cost from year to year.

Councilwoman Sue B. Heselton and Councilman Mitch Shank argued for a 5 percent cap -- that if the CPI was more than 5 percent, the council would have to approve the increase.

Both said they did not like the idea of taking annual increases out of the hands of the council.

"I am very concerned about taking increases out of the public realm," Ms. Heselton said.

Councilman Barry Glassman, acting as president because of Ms. Parrott's early departure, said the council still had control through the annual budget process.

"That review process is built into the system," he said.

The rest of the council agreed, voting 4-2 against a cap for future rate increases. The water and sewer rates were approved 6-0.

Sod Run is being upgraded to handle more wastewater and to process it more efficiently. Now, the plant has a capacity of about 12 million gallons a day. Last year, it handled an average of 9.8 million gallons a day -- an increase over 1993, Ms. Ludwig said.

When the expansion and upgrade project is completed in late 1997, the plant will be able to handle about 20 million gallons a day, she said.

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