Preston’s wastewater treatment plant on schedule
— The Preston Town Commission work session agenda on Jan. 30 featured only two items, but a former commissioner added an unexpected challenge by asking the commission to address the “unfairness of the water and sewer charges.”
Ellery Adams, who served on the commission from 2004 to 2009, issued a formal complaint in the form of a letter he wanted read into the minutes. Since minutes are taken only at regular town meetings, Commission President Doug VanDerveer said the complaint would be considered Monday, Feb. 6, when newly elected Commissioner Kathleen Barry will be sworn in.
VanDer veer invited Adams to read the letter to the commissioners and the nine other attendees.
In the letter, Adams expressed concern about the difference between the water and sewer rates of properties he owns in town, a home on Main Street and Jensen-stead Senior Apartments. He said he is willing to pay his fair share, but “the unfair rate differential must be addressed now.”
While Adams did not specify a timeline for the commissioners to address his complaint, he stated in the letter that if “this injustice will be rectified to our mutual satisfaction, I will not ask for any rebate of past unjustified charges. However, if I am forced to take legal action, I will ask the court to award just compensation for past overcharges.”
Discussion ensued with Commissioner Gary Waltemeyer speaking first. “If you want separate meters (in the apartment building), it can be at your cost.” Waltemeyer reminded Adams the $8 rate set in 2008 with $1 a year increases was something Adams was aware of.
Adams told the commissioners, “You do have some control over rates. You have people (on this commission) with high IQs ... I think you can sit around the table with those IQs and work out something.”
Waltemeyer said the commission is looking for funds to offset the cost of the wastewater treatment plant upgrade project as a means of keeping the rates down.
“Trust us, we’re going to look at what’s best and how we can keep the costs down,” Waltemeyer said. “Everybody will have their opportunity to speak. The public will have their input.”
“When the apartments were built, every apartment should have had a meter,” VanDerveer said.
After more discussion, VanDerveer returned to the current difficulty of nailing down numbers. “There are still tons of variables,” he said. Water rates will not be finalized until all the loans come in, and the town needs to start creating a state-mandated reserve fund comprised of a year’s operating expenses or $250,000, he said.
VanDer veer said the results of a rate study by the Maryland Center for Environmental Training were delayed by the holidays. The purpose of the rate study, funded by the state of Maryland, is to provide the commissioners with a research-based water and sewer rate schedule.
The work session began with Commissioner Nelson Anderson conducting a second reading of a resolution “setting a tentative implementation schedule for the upgraded sewer project.” The schedule was submitted by Chris Rogers of the engineering firm AECOM at the Dec. 19 town commission work session. The first reading took place on Jan. 9.
VanDerveer followed by reading a status report on the wastewater treatment plant upgrade. He said the design by the engineering firm AECOM is continuing on schedule and about 30 percent completed.
The report also stated town staff met with Mark Prouty of AECOM and Lenny Gold from MCET on Jan. 19. “A notable outcome” of the meeting “was that the lagoon nearest the town hall would not be regraded but instead would be used for sludge storage,” the report stated. “In addition, the sludge lagoon will also be used for overflow (and) equalization from the influent screen during extreme high flows. Other equalization is also being provided for lesser high flows.”
The Maryland Department of the Environment confirmed no other enhanced nutrient removal effluent limits than those in the major WWTP design would be required, the report stated.
Finally, the report stated the Caroline County Planning Commission reviewed an amendment to the county’s water and sewer plan to recommend approval of the WWTP upgrade. The county commissioners are scheduled to vote on the amendment in February.
The playground section of James T. Wright Memorial Park on Backlanding Road in Preston was completed in January with the addition of state-required engineered wood fiber mulch. The playground was funded by a Maryland Department of Natural Resources grant written by commissioner-elect Barry.
Construction of the fitness area of the park is scheduled to begin during the second week of February and be completed in two or three weeks.
Preston town commission president Doug VanDerveer, flanked by commissioners Gary Waltemeyer, Nelson Anderson and town manager Stacey Pindell, addresses the concerns of Ellery Adams, far left, during the town commissioners’ work session on Monday, Jan. 30 at the town hall.