BOCC mills through grinder pump res­o­lu­tion

County to no longer main­tain af­ter July ’18

The Calvert Recorder - - News - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @CalRecTAMARA

Calvert County’s com­mis­sion­ers strug­gled to agree on a res­o­lu­tion for the 182 county-main­tained grinder pumps, but ul­ti­mately af­ter a series of failed mo­tions and in a split de­ci­sion, the board ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion to have the county Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works con­tinue to main­tain and re­place the pumps through the end of May of next year.

Ef­fec­tive July 1, 2018, the county will no longer main­tain grinder pumps and all home­own­ers will be re­spon­si­ble for the main­te­nance and re­place­ment of their own pumps.

Com­mis­sion­ers Steve Weems (R) and Mike Hart (R) were op­posed.

“My fear is they go home and the sink is backed up and they have an eigh­teen-hun­dred-dol­lar bill,” said Hart, con­cerned about the bur­den to the 182 home­own­ers.

Two weeks prior, the county held a pub­lic hear­ing in which the Water and Sew­er­age Di­vi­sion re­quested the board con­sider im­pos­ing a user fee of $180 on Calvert res­i­dents with county-main­tained grinder pumps. The op­tion for res- idents to main­tain their own grinder pump and pay no fee was also pre­sented.

The board de­cided to de­fer a de­ci­sion and kept the pub­lic record open for 10 days for cit­i­zen com­ments. Since the hear­ing, the di­vi­sion re­ceived six writ­ten com­ments, four of which were against im­pos­ing a fee. The other two com­ments were in­quiries.

On Oct. 31, staff re­quested the board close the record for pub­lic com­ment, ap­prove the an­nual grinder pump fee of $180 and adopt the pro­posed grinder pump fee res­o­lu­tion.

“I’d like to make a mo­tion to grand­fa­ther the af­fected 182 cus­tomers, be­ing that it has been so many years it has been that way, and go­ing for­ward, that any new cus­tomers would be ob­li­gated to pay the grinder fee,” said Hart, ini­ti­at­ing the first of six mo­tions on the is­sue. The mo­tion died due to lack of sup­port from any of the re­main­ing four com­mis­sion­ers.

Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Evan Slaugh­en­houpt (R) shared a his­tory of how water and sewer came about in the county, specif­i­cally nu­mer­ous agree­ments made in dif­fer­ent parts of the county re­sult­ing in dif­fer­ent sewer sys­tems and rates and even “com­mer­cial hookups” with no im­pact fees.

“A num­ber of years ago, the county staff took the ini­tia­tive and the pre­vi­ous board sup­ported a phased-in ef­fort that brought all the sewer and water rates into a com­mon stan­dard,” said Slaugh­en­houpt. “Part of that ef­fort was to help cor­rect, bal­ance, make ev­ery­thing more fair.”

Julie Paluda, deputy di­rec­tor of en­ter­prise funds, said the county has iden­ti­fied 295 res­i­dents con­nected to the pub­lic sewer sys­tem. Of those, 182 are main­tained by the county. The re­main­ing 113, in Phase II of Mar­ley Run, pay the county when their grinder pumps go down.

Slaugh­en­houpt said it is not fair for the 113 res­i­dents pay­ing the county to main­tain their grinder pumps, while 182 cus­tomers are not charged, cit­ing that the ini­tial pro­posal is an ad­just­ment to make the sys­tem fair to all users.

Slaugh­en­houpt in­tro­duced the sec­ond mo­tion to close the record, ap­prove the $180 fee and adopt the res­o­lu­tion as pre­sented. Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Tom Hejl (R) sec­onded the mo­tion, but Hart, Weems and Com­mis­sioner Pat Nut­ter (R) all voted against it.

“I’m not in fa­vor of the fee. I’m more in fa­vor of a time limit when the homeowner them­selves takes over re­spon­si­bil­ity of the pump with­out us do­ing a fee,” said Nut­ter, sug­gest­ing dis­con­tin­u­ing the charge within a year.

Con­cerned about the bur­den of costs to the home­own­ers, Weems in­tro­duced a third mo­tion mod­i­fy­ing the pay­ment of the grinder pump fee to be phased in over four years for those who opt to have the county main­tain their pumps.

The mo­tion also in­cluded a pro­vi­sion that the county will not as­sume re­spon­si­bil­ity for any new grinder pumps. Nut­ter sec­onded the mo­tion, but voted against it along with Hejl, Slaugh­en­houpt and Hart.

“I would be a lit­tle worried not to have an op­tion if they didn’t have a plumber they were com­fort­able with,” said Hart in dis­cus­sion, ask­ing if they could use the county as an op­tion, to which the other com­mis­sion­ers said no.

Nut­ter then in­tro­duced the fourth mo­tion, for the county to con­tinue main­te­nance of the 182 grinder pumps un­til July 1 and af­ter­wards no longer main­tain the pumps. Hart sec­onded the mo­tion, but then voted against it along with Slaugh­en­houpt and Weems. With sup­port from Hejl, the mo­tioned still died.

Tak­ing another shot, Slaugh­en­houpt rein­tro­duced his ear­lier mo­tion with the mod­i­fi­ca­tion that the an­nual fee would be billed quar­terly. Af­ter be­ing sec­onded by Hart, the fifth mo­tion was with­drawn due to con­cern about who will han­dle pump fail­ures and if it would be done across the board.

The fi­nal mo­tion, in­tro­duced by Nut­ter, was to end the main­te­nance and re­place­ment of the 182 grinder pumps ef­fec­tive July 1 of next year. It was sec­onded and passed 3-2.

STAFF PHOTO BY TA­MARA WARD

Com­mis­sioner Mike Hart (R) ex­presses his con­cern Oct. 31 over the po­ten­tial cost bur­den to cus­tomers once the county stops main­tain­ing and re­plac­ing grinder pumps.

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