Costs thwart water solution; Maple Crest residents will hear options to address shortages


Many homeowners in Maple Crest, a 30-year-old subdivision just south of Westminster, have struggled for years with water problems. Some wells run low part of the year. Some wells go dry during periods of drought. Others have dried up altogether, forcing residents to truck in water.

County officials say the solution is easy -- extend Westminster's public water lines to the neighborhood's 60 homes. The solution has one catch: cost.

The $300,000 project would be shared by residents, costing each about $5,000, plus $3,700 in connection and service fees.

The county will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. today in the cafeteria at Westminster High School to make a presentation on the proposal, answer questions and take an informal poll of residents to gauge interest.

"This is not an inexpensive problem," said Gary L. Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services who will conduct the meeting.

Many homeowners will weigh the project's cost against the seriousness of their water problems, county officials said.

"It's fairly clear that a certain number of people really want water," Horst said.

Based on letters received from the community, 12 residents said they would be willing to pay for the water line. Four said they would not.

The county hopes to hear from other residents tonight. One of those will be Glenn Patterson, who moved to Maple Crest 30 years ago. Patterson said his well has gone dry temporarily twice during that time, but his well has served him fine. Patterson said he has mixed feelings on the project.

"I have to look at it with an open mind," he said in an interview yesterday, noting that while his well is adequate, many of his neighbors' wells are not. "I don't think it's an easy decision. People are going to have to try to make the best decision."

Maple Crest is one of three dozen Carroll communities identified by the county Health Department as having water or sewer problems or, in some cases, both. Most of these are rural villages, a designation reserved for older, unincorporated, primarily residential communities in agricultural zones. Among them: Detour, Union Mills, Mayberry, Lineboro and Uniontown.

The county allocated $40,000 during the past two years to begin studying the communities to find the scope of the water and sewer problems and whether residents want help.

"The county can't come in and force some things," Horst said. "We're trying to ascertain the extent of the problem."

Not all homeowners have water problems or want assistance. In Dorceytown, residents expressed little interest in the project.

Some communities decided to solve their problems. Such is the case in Lineboro, where some homeowners have contaminated wells and are forced to drink bottled water.

Concerned about health risks and property values, they have recruited 35 of about 65 property owners in the unincorporated rural community along the Pennsylvania border, forming the Lineboro Environmental Wastewater Treatment Association.

The group is trying to find a way to remedy the problem without the expense of county water and sewer lines, Horst said.

In June, the group met with the county commissioners to ask for help with a feasibility study. The commissioners agreed to allow county engineers to draw up a cost estimate for a study to explore possible solutions for the town's sewage problems. It was unclear how Lineboro would pay for a wastewater treatment facility, which could cost $1 million or more.

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