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Emmitsburg commissioners field new sewer plant questions

Ashley Andyshak Hayes
News-Post Staff

(2/17) An informal meeting about Emmitsburg's new $20 million sewer plant and the associated 80 percent sewer rate increase attracted half a dozen people Thursday evening.

Town commissioners and Mayor Don Briggs hosted the meeting with Thor Young, of GHD Inc., the engineering firm that designed the plant.

The town's current treatment plant, on Creamery Road, was built in 1988. The plant does not meet state standards for phosphorus and nitrogen levels adopted in the Bay Restoration Act in 2004, so the town is required to build the new plant before the new standards take effect in 2015. Emmitsburg's plant is one of 67 in the state that are required to be upgraded, Young said.

"The plant never failed. The standard got higher," said Town Manager Dave Haller.

Many of the questions presented Thursday involved funding. Of the total $20 million cost to build the plant, the town has been awarded $14.5 million in federal and state grants. The town is proposing to fund the remaining cost of the plant through a $5.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, necessitating quarterly payments of $51,000.

On top of the loan payment, the new plant will cost an additional $48,000 per quarter to operate, bringing the quarterly price to nearly $100,000. The plant is scheduled to come online in August 2014.

To cover the cost of the plant's construction and ongoing operation, residents will see up to an 80 percent increase in their sewer bills beginning this year. The first 40 percent increase is scheduled to take effect with the July sewer bill, and the second will be implemented with the July 2014 bill.

Even with the increases, Emmitsburg's sewer rates are lower than several other Maryland communities of similar size, Haller said.

The town will host a public hearing on the new rate structure at the start of Monday's town meeting, held at 7:30 p.m. at the town office, 300 S. Seton Ave.

The capacity of the new treatment system will remain the same as that of the current plant, at 700,000 gallons, which is enough to accommodate future development in the system's service area, commissioners said.

The town is awaiting approval of the project bid package by USDA. Once USDA approves the bid documents, the town will begin to solicit bids for plant construction. Once bids are received, they must also be approved by both USDA and the Maryland Department of the Environment before construction can begin.

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