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Town seeks grant for water, sewer

Chris Patterson
The Gazette

(2/16) Frederick's Board of County Commissioners gave the Town of Emmitsburg a letter of support Friday for the town's pursuit of a $300,000 federal grant to help pay for water and sewer repairs, but the support was not unanimous.

Town officials requested the letter to help pay for sewer line work so a major employer, Emmitsburg Glass Company, can remain in town.

Congress created the Community Development Block Grant Program -- administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development -- in 1974 to support community development and quality housing, and expand economic opportunities.

Letters of support from local political groups, businesses and others in the community are required as part of the application process for the grant.

Though four of the commissioners endorsed the town's request, Commission President John "Lennie" Thompson Jr. (R) said he did not support the application because he believes grants act as a disincentive for towns to raise utility rates to pay for maintenance.

Emmitsburg Mayor James Hoover said the town is seeking the grant to help fund work on the water and sewer lines on South Seton Avenue. That project is one of many projects the town is working on. The town, Hoover said, is largely paying for all other projects.

Though Hoover understands Thompson's concerns, he said he believes applying for a $300,000 grant is reasonable given the amount of money the town has paid and is committed to pay to renovate the ailing systems.

"My issues with his comments are that, although I understand his opinion, I don't totally agree. ... He's right about the lack of incentive, but that's not the case in Emmitsburg," Hoover said.

Hoover cited projects on Mountainview Road and on North and South Seton avenues that are in large part paid for by the town without grants.

The town will take advantage of lower interest government loans for those projects.

In all, town projects total more than $1 million. The grant would only help fund about $300,000 of that, he said.

And Hoover added, the town also raised water and sewer rates substantially by creating pricing for various user levels.

The town also created water and sewer "enterprise" funds that require those utilities to pay for themselves.

"We're looking at 50 years of lost time. ... We should've done what he said, put money away, but that wasn't the case. We only fixed what was broken," Hoover said.

The mayor pointed to support letters from U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D), U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D), the members of the Frederick County delegation to Annapolis, and the Frederick County Economic Development Committee as indicators of the town's support in the community for the grant.

Despite the strong support for the town's objectives, Thompson argued against grants to fund sewer, water and other infrastructure repairs.

"Loans are one thing. At least the town will pay that back," Thompson said.

"...We've got to stop this business of bailing our water and sewer plants out. There's no incentive to run the system properly and take grief from the public to raise water and sewer rates and keep up with it when there are all these methods to bail them out."

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