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Emmitsburg mulls upcoming sewer increase

Richard D. L. Fulton

(11/9) The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 at their November 7 meeting to impose an anticipated sewer service rate increase on residents and businesses in two phases to help pay for the necessity of having to construct a new wastewater treatment plant.

Commissioner Patrick Joy voted against implementing the looming increase in two phases, stating he preferred to spread the increase in sewer rates over three phases "to reduce the shock value" experienced by local customers.

Commissioner Tim O’Donnell stated he was in favor of pursuing an "aggressive way" to deal with the debt incurred by the proposed facility. "I think the two step (phase) is the better choice," he said. "I think we need to be more aggressive with the debt (than spreading implantation of a rate increase over three phases)."

Rates will likely increase for residents and businesses by more than 50 percent by 2014 when the new wastewater treatment plant is scheduled to go on-line. The first increase in rates for system customers will likely take place during the first of 2012. "I don’t think we have the time between now and January 1 to come up with a rate structure," Town manager David Haller stated.

System users using less than 10,000 gallons per quarter would likely see a 53 percent increase in the sewer bill by 2014, while a customer using 20,000 gallons per quarter would likely see as much as a 70 percent increase in their bill.

Then creation of a new treatment plant was required by the state in order for the town to meet federal Department of Environmental Protection standards, Haller told the commission, all the result of efforts that environmental agencies claim will help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

The new facility, which will be located in the area of the current treatment plant east of Route 15 on Creamery Road, will cost around $20 million, and about "$50,000 more per quarter to operate than the existing plant," Haller told the Emmitsburg News-Journal.

Of the anticipated $20 million price tag, $14.5 million will be provided to the town via grant money from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the federal Department of Agriculture (DOA). In addition, DOA will be providing the town with a $5.5 million loan bearing a 2.4 percent interest rate payable over 40 years.

The new facility is expected to be on-line in "late summer of 2014," with construction slated to begin in 2012. "We would like to start mid-summer," Haller said, noting that the engineering is done and the facility plans are drawn. "We started on this thing, working with MDE, back in 2007."

The new facility will have the same permitted 750,000 gallons per day capacity of the existing plant, but will process wastewater at a higher standard. The old plant will be dismantled, although the exiting lagoons will remain for wastewater storage use.

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