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Panel votes to maintain planned Springfield pipeline


The county commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to accept responsibility for maintaining a planned water pipeline that would serve Springfield Hospital Center and residents of South Carroll, meaning the state will build a larger system than originally proposed.

The state is upgrading the hospital's aging systems in anticipation of opening its $60 million Public Safety Training Center at the site in about a year, and needs to build a pipeline. With the county on board, the state will build a 16-inch water line along the hospital property's Main Street to serve Springfield and the town of Sykesville.

The agreement between the county and state to participate in the project, rather than build two separate but parallel pipelines, should save taxpayers about $1.4 million, officials said. The project now is estimated to cost about $1 million.

"This is to our advantage however we look at it in the long run," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "We were going to put this in anyway - we might as well do it now."

Although Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier favors the project, she said she has concerns about the county's ability to provide enough water to the agencies that will occupy the hospital property. South Carroll, which suffers from seasonal water shortages, relies on water drawn from Liberty Reservoir.

"Everything will be on our system if we go along with this," Frazier said. "We need to get something else on line."

Frazier added that the county should not have to contribute to the cost of the project because it would be taking over distribution and maintenance of the system: "I don't see any reason why we should pay a penny toward this," she said. "They have to put it in anyway. We are taking over maintenance, and that is payment enough."

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he concurs with the state plan, and that the county should negotiate the costs at a later time.

"We will be winners whichever way this goes," he said.

The county has long planned a pipeline along Route 32 to increase water pressure and enhance fire protection throughout its most populous area, but that project would not have been undertaken for several years.

The shared pipeline would help the county meet future water demand, provide a backup if problems occur, and add fire-protection capability, engineering consultants said.

Carroll bills Springfield on a quarterly basis for water the hospital draws from the county's treatment. Under an agreement with the state, the county must be able to provide up to 400,000 gallons daily to Springfield, but current use is about half that amount. Douglas E. Myers, county public works director, estimates that the police center will require an additional 150,000 gallons a day. The hospital pays the county about $530 each quarter for water. When all the planned facilities are built, the quarterly bill would be about $2,006, Myers said.

"This project saves the county money and gets the work done now," said Myers. "It helps our operations immediately. I think everything can be worked out."

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