City, county bicker over sewer service; Repaving project tied to the price of hookups to 19 homes; 'Don't like being a pawn'


A plan to provide sewer service to 19 homes in the Cranberry area outside Westminster is stalled while city and county officials squabble over funding of a repaving project.

The sewer project has emerged as the city's ace in a months-long dispute with the county over the resurfacing of Lucabaugh Mill Road.

The sewer and repaving projects have nothing to do with one another, but they became linked after county and city officials began arguing over funding responsibilities for both.

The county wants a price break on sewer hookups on Old Manchester Road, where homeowners have been waiting more than eight years for service. Westminster officials are willing to make that concession, providing the county allocates the funds it had originally promised for the Lucabaugh project.

"I don't like being a pawn that the city uses for the county to do their will," said Lester Stem, who has lived in the Cranberry area for all his 83 years. "I think this thing has been dragged out long enough -- since 1990. Here it is, 1999, and there's still no action, all we get is a lot of talk."

A contract between the city and county called for Carroll to pay $37,440 toward the cost of the sewer extension. But that contract expired at the end of last year and the price has risen by more than $16,000.

The county has asked the city to honor the lower price. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but the Westminster Common Council voted this week to hold off on a decision until the Lucabaugh dispute has been resolved.

The county wants to raise and repave a section of Lucabaugh Mill Road near Route 27 and a stream the city taps for its drinking water. Westminster officials asked the county to install drains that would divert runoff -- gasoline, antifreeze and other pollutants -- from the stream. The cost of the project would be $86,000 without the drains, $160,000 with them.

"The city's water supply doesn't serve just the city, it serves just as many county residents as city residents," said Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works. "We have 7,000 customers and it's about 50-50 city and county."

The county agreed to pay $110,000 toward the project if Westminster would provide the $50,000 balance by Dec. 1. The city agreed to pay $32,000 and won a state grant of $18,000. However, the grant wasn't secured until the first week of December -- after the deadline had passed.

In early December, departing Commissioner Richard T. Yates and Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who was re-elected to a third term, decided the county would revert to its original plan of paying $86,000 for the project without the requested drains.

But because two new commissioners were sworn in to the three-member board Dec. 7, the county could decide to fund the repaving project at a higher level. Both projects are on hold until the disputes are resolved.

At a meeting last week, board President Julia Walsh Gouge indicated she would support the $110,000 funding level, while Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said she wanted more information, including the feasibility of raising the speed limit on Lucabaugh Mill Road.

The commissioners could vote on the funding as early as Tuesday. The commissioners said through a spokeswoman yesterday that they have no further comment on the issue.

"It's like we're playing a game here and it doesn't make sense," said Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan. "We're just asking the county to pay its fair share and get the [Lucabaugh] project done. Why do it halfway?"

Pub Date: 1/28/99

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