Milling­ton says county owes it for leaked wa­ter

Kent County News - - OPINION - By PETER HECK pheck@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CH­ESTER­TOWN — The Milling­ton wa­ter leak con­tro­versy ap­pears no closer to a res­o­lu­tion fol­low­ing a meet­ing of town rep­re­sen­ta­tives with the Kent County Com­mis­sion­ers Tues­day.

Mayor C.J. Mo­rales and coun­cil­men David Rice and Kevin Hem­stock pre­sented the town’s case. The is­sue, which has been sim­mer­ing for a num­ber of years, is wa­ter leaks be­tween the town wa­ter sys­tem and un­in­cor­po­rated prop­er­ties in the county that are served by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. Town of­fi­cials say the cost of the lost wa­ter is put­ting an un­ac­cept­able bur­den on the mu­nic­i­pal bud­get.

Mo­rales said when the town brought the is­sue to the com­mis­sion­ers two years ago, the com­mis­sion­ers asked for time to re­view it. He brought in a state­ment show­ing the county’s us­age from 2013 to the present, and pre­sented a bill for some $87,000 he said the county owes.

At­tor­ney Tom Yea­ger, rep­re­sent­ing the county, asked if the agree­ment be­tween the town and the county speci- fied the terms of the billing. He said the county was not ex­pect­ing a bill when it sched­uled the meet­ing.

Rice said the agree­ment spec­i­fies the cost of Equiv­a­lent Dwelling Units al­lo­cated to the county. He said the town in­stalled a me­ter to mea­sure the amount of wa­ter being de­liv­ered to the county.

Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Pick­rum said the agree­ment doesn’t make any ref­er­ence to a me­ter.

Mo­rales said for­mer county di­rec­tor of pub­lic works Wayne Mor­ris told the town to in­stall the me­ter.

Com­mis­sioner Ron Fithian asked if the town agreed there are leaks on both sides of the me­ter.

Rice agreed that there are leaks on both sides. He said the en­tire sys­tem is faulty.

Fithian said the leaks need to be fixed be­fore the con­tro­versy can be set­tled. “You fix yours, we’ll fix ours, then we’ll see what’s hap­pen­ing,” he said.

Hem­stock said the town has fixed most of its leaks, but the county hasn’t. He said the ar­gree­ment re­quires the county to fix the leaks.

County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Shel- ley Heller said the county has spread­sheets show­ing it has put money into re­pair­ing the sys­tem.

“What about our cost?” Mo­rales said. He said the town was con­sid­er­ing le­gal ac­tion.

“As soon as we fix the leaks and see what the dif­fer­ence is, we’ll take care of it,” Fithian said.

After more back and forth about the terms of the agree­ment, Yea­ger said the con- tract spec­i­fies that the county’s share of the bill re­lates to the num­ber of EDUs ac­tu­ally con­nected, not the num­ber al­lo­cated.

Rice said that gave the town a bet­ter fig­ure to work from. He said he would fol­low it up.

In Other Busi­ness:

• Heller gave an up­date on the county’s wire­less tower at the court­house, which was closed for climb­ing be- cause of safety con­cerns. She said she reached out to sev­eral en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tants to get a price for a struc­tural anal­y­sis, which she said will prob­a­bly cost about $10,000.

In re­sponse to re­quests by Del­marva WiFi for per­mis­sion to climb the tower to main­tain its equip­ment, she said, Yea­ger has drafted a hold harm­less agree­ment stat­ing that any­one who wants to climb the tower does so at their own risk, ab­solv­ing the county of li­a­bil­ity. She said ev­ery in­di­vid­ual climber would need to sign the agree­ment.

• Scott Boone, di­rec­tor of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, gave an up­date on the fiber-op­tic in­stal­la­tion in the county. He said in­stal­la­tion is “weeks ahead of sched­ule” with much of the county al­ready in­stalled.

Boone re­layed a pro­posal from FTS Fiber, the con­trac­tor on the project, to re­duce the size of the fiber cable on three legs of the net­work that serve less pop­u­lated ar­eas. He said FTS could eas­ily up­grade the in­stal­la­tion if de­mand proves higher than ex­pected. In re­turn, he said, FTS would con­nect more county fa­cil­i­ties to the net­work.

Pick­rum said he pre­ferred to stick to the orig­i­nal agree­ment be­cause the pop­u­la­tion pat­terns in the county could change over the life of the project. How­ever, he said he would be will­ing to look at a more de­tailed pro­posal. “Come back with a plan and we’ll con­sider it,” he said.

• Sabine Har­vey, hor­ti­cul­ture as­sis­tant at Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion, brought the com­mis­sion­ers a bas­ket of fresh veg­eta­bles and flow­ers grown in the com­mu­nity gar­den at Kent County Mid­dle School as a sam­ple of what her pro­grams are do­ing.

Har­vey out­lined sev­eral of the projects she has led, in­clud­ing one at the Wor­ton Ele­men­tary School sum­mer ses­sion in which the stu­dents made salad from veg­eta­bles they grew and another that taught stu­dents to grind corn and make tor­tillas. She also men­tioned an up­com­ing pro­gram at Ch­ester­town Town Hall, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15, on the cab­bage fam­ily, which in­cludes a wide va­ri­ety of veg­eta­bles.

PHOTO BY PETER HECK/

Mas­ter gar­dener Sabine Har­vey, at left, brings flow­ers and veg­eta­bles from the Kent County Mid­dle School gar­den to the Kent County Com­mis­sion­ers’ meet­ing, Oct. 25. Har­vey re­ported on pro­grams she has pre­sented for the Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion to show stu­dents and other res­i­dents the ben­e­fits of growing their own veg­eta­bles.

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