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Town sewer rates could increase 80 percent

(12/9) The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners voted unanimously at their December 6 meeting to impose a sewer service rate increase on customers that could increase fees by 80 percent, or more for some users.

The commission also voted to implement the increase in two phases, each representing 40 percent of the 80 percent needed to pay for the balance of a new wastewater treatment plant that won’t be covered by grant money, and for any accrued debt service.

The first phase of increase of 40 percent will go into effect April 1, while the second 40 percent increase will go into effect in July 2014. The full 80 percent increase in anticipated revenues generated by raising the sewer rate is expected to generate $1,105,923 by the time the new plant goes online.

The new facility is expected to be online in "late summer of 2014," with construction slated to begin in 2012.

Town Manager David Haller noted that the percentage represents anticipated revenue expected overall. Individual customers may experience a rate increase below 40 percent or above 40 percent in each of the two phases, depending on their average gallon usage.

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 billing rate was based upon a proposal submitted by Commissioner Patrick Joy, who stated he was initially 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.

The 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.

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