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No increase in Park sewer rates since 1983

(5/15) Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park are facing a possible 695 percent increase in the sewer rates they pay to the Town of Thurmont. That is the percentage increase town residents have experienced since 1983 when the parks saw their last rate increase.

“At first glance, it looks like we really ought to put it to them (the parks),”

Commissioner Robert Lookingbill said during the May 12 town meeting. However, he cautioned that the state had “stepped up some” by giving the town $1.4 million toward sewer repairs.

The commissioners have been considering raising the sewer rates for the state and federal parks to help pay for the multi-million-dollar sewer repairs needed to the town sewer system. The commissioners already raised the rates dramatically this year for in-town and out-of-town customers, but the parks haven’t seen their rates increase because their contract has a minimum usage cost, which is generally what they pay.

According to Thurmont Chief Administrative Officer Bill Blakeslee, Cunningham Falls State Park usually pays $1,420 a month and Catoctin Mountain Park pays $710 a month for Thurmont sewer service.

Sarah Trescott presented figures to the commissioners that showed that the parks have seen a rate increase since 1983, but her figures also showed that the gap between what residents pay and what the park pays is shrinking.

While she did not feel a 695-percent increase would be warranted, she said, “We have a duty and obligation to the citizens of Maryland to pay rates that are fair and equitable.”

Some of the commissioners feel that a matching increase would be fair and equitable. Commissioner Ron Terpko said that the town had tried to work with the state and federal government, but “We have to take care of our town. We have to take care of our people and if you only have one option left to go with, so be it.”

Though the commissioners seemed agreeable to increasing the park sewer rate, the question is how much. Commissioner Wayne Hooper said that since the residents didn’t have to pay the entire 695-percent increase at once, perhaps the town increase should be phased in with a 300-percent increase the first year and a 100-percent increase each year thereafter.

Any increase the town passes for the parks won’t go into effect for a year. Burns also pointed out that residents will also see a sewer rate increase no matter what the commissioners do.

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