BOCC mills through grinder pump resolution
County to no longer maintain after July ’18
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.
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.