Aberdeen to continue water talks with Havre de Grace, nail down costs

While the City of Aberdeen waits on Harford County to study its water rates, city officials will continue its talks with Havre de Grace about getting water from its neighboring municipality.

“Does it make sense? Is it sustainable? Would we get a better deal with Havre de Grace, do they have a better product?” are all questions that have to be answered before the city would make a decision on ending its agreement to buy water from the county, Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady said last week.

Aberdeen buys 650,000 gallons of water from the county per day — about 250,000 gallons more than it needs — at a rate of $4.69 per 1,000 gallons.

The city has asked the county to reduce the rate it charges for water, but Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has told the city rates can’t be changed until a water rate study is done, and he won’t pursue a study of the county’s water rates until after the election, McGrady said.

“It could take a year and a half to two years just to do the study,” Aberdeen City Manager Randy Robertson said at the City Council meeting June 4.

Until then, Harford County has offered to reduce Aberdeen’s minimum daily water purchase to 400,000 gallons per day.

Aberdeen is working with the Harford County government to write an amendment to the city’s water purchase agreement with the county to reduce its minimum consumption, Aberdeen Public Works Director Kyle Torster said Wednesday. He was unsure of when the amendment would be complete.

McGrady said he doubts the county will lower its rates.

“I can’t image the county giving a water rate lower to some payers versus other payers,” he said.

In the meantime, the Aberdeen City Council has agreed to continue looking into buying water from its municipal neighbor, Havre de Grace, which produces its own water at a treatment plant that is half owned by the city and the other half owned by the county.

“The best part is now there is competition for water that hasn’t ever existed in Aberdeen,” McGrady said. “It’s a great thing for Havre de Grace, it’s a great thing for Aberdeen and a great thing for the county that multiple groups are offering water.”

Among the details Aberdeen and Havre de Grace need to work out is if they can use a county water line that is already in the ground, McGrady said.

The county has said it would not allow the distribution line to be used because it can’t guarantee the quality of the water if it traveled from Havre de Grace to Aberdeen.

McGrady said one possibility is the cities taking over that line and bearing responsibility for it.

If neither of those options is feasible, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace would have to install a new transmission line from one city to the other, the cost for which would be shared by each city. That cost, and others, including the cost of a booster station near the Rock Glenn community, is what Aberdeen is pursuing.

“I say we continue with Havre de Grace and try to get an idea of what the cost would be to buy from them and also press the county to get the [rate study] done,” Councilman Tim Lindecamp said. “Then, look at both of them when they’re done and see what the best bang for the buck is.”

Aberdeen is not in a hurry to make such a significant decision. While the water rate study and results could take up to two years, McGrady said a new distribution system between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace could feasibly be in place in a year, possibly a little longer.

Were Aberdeen to cease buying water from the county, it’s not guaranteed the water would be available again, McGrady said.

“So we want the long-term solution to be sustainable forever,” he said.

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