Sewer-rate increase possible in Thurmont

THURMONT — Thurmont residents may see an increase in sewer rates soon.

The mayor and town commissioners discussed the possibility of raising sewer rates in order to pay debts needed to run the town’s sewer utility.

Mayor Marty Burns recommended a possible increase, suggesting that an additional $1.25 per household would result in more than $174,000 in town revenue, and a $2.50 increase could bring the town $350,000 in added funding.

During Monday’s town meeting, Burns said that Thurmont has raised sewer rates before, but residents have been so diligent in conserving water that they have subsequently been conserving sewer.

“That’s great,” he said. “The problem is, we didn’t realize any growth in revenues.”

The last time the town raised rates was in October 2010, when sewer rates increased by $1 per household and water by $0.50, according to Chief Administrative Officer Bill Blakeslee.

“Why are we back here again talking about increases?” Burns said Monday. “Because we didn’t raise it high enough the last time.”

In 2011, the budget saw a bump in water and sewer revenues, which Blakeslee attributes to a change in the local state parks’ usage contract that raised minimum payments.

“If you want to hit somebody up, hit them hard, hit them once,” Burns said. “So hopefully it lasts a long, long time.”

Board members made no decision to change rates and expect to discuss the topic again at a future meeting.

Mayor, board clash on ordinance amendment

Burns’ stance on the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance amendment regarding a developer’s rights and responsibilities agreement has changed two weeks after the board voiced its opposition to the proposal.

During a recent county/municipalities meeting, director of the county’s Community Development Division Eric Soter explained that the Board of County Commissioners doesn’t want to usurp or ignore the APFO, Burns said. But the ordinance would give developers more predictability without having to wait for the Planning and Zoning Commission to spend months discussing the issue.

“There’s no ‘yes’ or ‘no,'” Burns said. The board is just trying to give the developer an answer up front, he said.

The mayor said Monday that he feels better about the possible change after hearing more from the county. But not everyone on the board agreed.

Commissioner John Kinnaird said his mind wasn’t changed after the county meeting.

“They said that it really doesn’t make any difference if we do it this way,” Kinnaird said. “So why do it?”

No matter what, the final decision is up to the board, Kinnaird said.

“Whatever choice they make is the choice we’ll live with,” he said. “Personally I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Thurmont residents are invited to contact Blakeslee through Friday if they want Soter to attend a town meeting to offer more explanation regarding the APFO ordinance.

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