Carroll tense over deal with town for sewer service

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Carroll County commissioners have signed an agreement that would provide sewer service for Francis Scott Key High School, but complained about the terms demanded by the town of Union Bridge, where the sewage treatment plant is located.

Union Bridge has yet to sign the agreement - and the commissioners' addition of a last-minute $7,000 limit on legal and consulting fees could delay or defeat it when the Town Council meets tonight, said Union Bridge Mayor Bret D. Grossnickle.

Commissioner Dean L. Minnich said the town took advantage of having the county over the proverbial barrel.

"This is a lousy deal, but it's the best deal we can get from Union Bridge right now," Minnich said last week. "It's so much a one-way street. ... All the expense, they want to pass along to the county taxpayers."

As part of more than $16 million in renovations to the high school in 1997, the county Board of Education built a treatment plant - without the necessary state permits.

In May last year, the county commissioners voted to abandon that $800,000 project and began planning the connection to the sewage treatment plant in Union Bridge.

The Board of Education now pays to have sewage hauled from the school and treated at Westminster - a situation that cannot continue, county officials said. The county Health Department and the Maryland Department of the Environment must approve that arrangement at the beginning of each school year, said Charles L. Zeleski, Carroll's acting director of environmental health.

For the 2004 fiscal year, the school board paid $20,480 for hauling and $70,400 for treatment of sewage from the school, said Douglas Myers, county director of public works. But that cannot continue, he said, because "MDE and the Health Department will not allow it. It is not a viable and permanent solution."

Under the "special agreement for sewer service," the county would build, own and be fully responsible for a new 3 1/2 -mile line to connect to the Union Bridge plant.

The town ordinarily does not provide service outside its limits, and the agreement stipulates that the sewer line is to be used exclusively by the school, said John T. Maguire II, the attorney for Union Bridge who drafted the agreement.

If the agreement is accepted, the county would pay 2 1/2 times the user rate, and double for any excess flow - with the possibility of service being terminated if the flow is too high, according to the agreement.

The agreement said the county would reimburse the town for administrative, consultant and attorney costs, but the words "not to exceed $7,000.00" were added by the county attorney's office.

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