Rock Hall may in­crease wa­ter, sewer fees

Kent County News - - NEWS - By LEANN SCHENKE [email protected]­coun­tynews.com

ROCK HALL — Wa­ter and sewer fees are likely to rise in Rock Hall af­ter Town Man­ager Ron Fithian sug­gested in­creas­ing them to help off­set the cost of re­pairs to the mu­nic­i­pal plant dur­ing a Dec. 3 meeting.

The coun­cil has not yet set a date for a hear­ing to pro­vide the pub­lic with the op­por­tu­nity to give in­put about rais­ing the fees.

Fithian said he “com­mends” the coun­cil for “at­tempt­ing to hold down the bills,” but there is ur­gent work that needs to be com­pleted on the wa­ter treat­ment plant.

Fithian said Rock Hall has the high­est min­i­mum gal­lons in the county, ex­clud­ing Chestertown and Galena, at 15,000. He said many other towns re­quire peo­ple to pay an over­age sooner.

Fithian said with the wa­ter treat­ment plant is get­ting older; parts are wear­ing out more fre­quently than the town has seen in the past. He called the fee in­crease “over­due.”

“We’ve gone as far as we can,” Fithian said. “The bot­tom line is, things are wear­ing out a lit­tle more fre­quently than we’ve seen in the past and it’s my opin­ion — like I said and some other peo­ple said — we’re over­due and it’s time that we im­ple­ment, I would sug­gest, that we in­crease our wa­ter and sewer rates.”

Fithian orig­i­nally asked for a rate in­crease of 20 per­cent, but said more like 30 per­cent is need. He said even with a 30 per­cent in­crease, Rock Hall would still have the sec­ond low­est fees in the county with Chestertown as the low­est.

He said the amount of peo­ple us­ing wa­ter and sewer helps keep the cost down for res­i­dents, which ex­plains Chestertown’s lower fee.

Coun­cil­woman Beth An­drews asked Fithian for spe­cific ex­am­ples of where the in­creased rev­enue would be used for in re­gards to the wa­ter treat­ment plant.

“We in­crease the rev­enue that we take in so there’s got to be li­a­bil­i­ties. There’s got to be projects that we have. So what would we be rais­ing the money for?” An­drews said.

Fithian said he could have a list of items that need to be re­paired for the coun­cil at the next meeting. He said that list is ever chang­ing and pri­or­i­ties are con­stantly up­dated, how­ever.

An­drews said a list would help the coun­cil “get an idea of what’s out there as we sit here and try to make fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions for the town.”

An­drews said the town’s bud­get will need to be amended af­ter the fee in­crease is fi­nal­ized.

The coun­cil also unan­i­mously ap­proved a pro­posal from Tyler Tech­nolo­gies as a provider of util­i­ties billing soft­ware. An­drews said the town has worked with Tyler Tech­nolo­gies and has a “good work­able re­la­tion­ship” with them.

An­drews said the ser­vice will al­low town res­i­dents to pay their util­i­ties bills on­line. She said the town will never have to buy new soft­ware again.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Cindy Gen­ther, from Rock Hall Prop­er­ties, came be­fore the coun­cil to ask about low­er­ing wa­ter and sewer hookup fees to help at­tract buy­ers to build on empty lots in the town.

The coun­cil, how­ever, choose to keep the hookup fee at $12,000.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a com­mu­nity mem­ber asked the coun­cil to look into an is­sue of chronic flood­ing on a lot he owns in the Har­bor Woods devel­op­ment.

He said he has owned the lot for 11 years and has dealt with flood­ing com­ing from an old bro­ken ce­ment pipe. He said the pipe could be­come an is­sue if a child steps in the flooded area and does not see the pipe.

Fithian, also a Kent County com­mis­sioner, said he will have some­one from the county take a look at the is­sue.

He said he also was plan­ning on dig­ging a ditch to di­vert the wa­ter from the man’s prop­erty.

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