Commissioners set fees for KI sewer project
STEVENSVILLE — Queen Anne’s County Commissioners again heard from the public about the controversial southern Kent Island Sewer Project.
The meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at Kent Island High School, was attended by Commissioners Mark Anderson, Jim Moran and Jack Wilson, and was an opportunity for the public to have their comments entered into the record about the fourphase project started in 2015 and slated to be completed in 2025.
Much of the public ire focused on the project as a harbinger of largely unwanted future development on Kent Island and opposition to rising sewer rates for developed and undeveloped lots.
The Queen Anne’s County Sanitary Commission established the south Kent Island Wastewater Sub-district of the Queen Anne’s County Sanitary District to provide public sewer to nine exclusive communities on South Kent Island.
That includes 1,518 existing single family residential homes, eight non-residential uses and a maximum of 632 vacant infill lots. Phase I of the project is estimated to be complete within the next five years.
Phase I includes Kent Island Estates and Romancoke on the Bay, Phase II expands to Tower Gardens, Phase III develops in Queen Anne Colony and Kentmorr, and the final phase completes Chesapeake Estates, Sunny Isle of Kent, Normans and Matapeake Estates.
Health concerns arose about the need for a sewer system as far back as 1990 when a county Health Department Sanitary Survey documented “70 percent to 90 percent of the septic systems on south Kent Island were directly discharging into groundwater.” Five years later, another Health Department Sanitary Survey “confirmed 80 percent of septics directly discharge into groundwater.”
Not until 2011 did the county propose a public sewer for the area as a permanent solution to the threats to groundwater. In 2013, property owners got their first notice of associated fees for the public sewer with the county announcing a proposal to extend public sewer to the Kent Island communities with a target charge to homeowners of “less than $100 per month for a 20-year assessment term.”
The Aug. 21 public meeting was to adjust methodology to apply special benefit assessments by amending Resolution #14-07.
Amendments included setting maximum special benefit assessments for improved properties at $210 per quarter, or $70 a month. Changes also included setting a default option to collect special benefit assessments on vacant properties to minimum value at $96 per quarter or $32 a month. Also among the revisions included extending the period for voluntary lot combinations or lot adjustments to Oct. 1, 2018.
Finally, the first part of the amendments included clarifying that the Bay Restoration Fund Reserves Treatment Capacity for the subdistrict.
The second part of the hearing was to establish the rate schedule effective Oct. 1, 2018. What followed was a proposed quarterly billing schedule on the first of the months of October, January, April and July with utility bills being mailed to property owners addresses on record. Rates include customer charge Bay Restoration Fee & Usage Charge, Connected Rate, when developed, equaling $90 a quarter or $30 a month. The vacant rate to unconnected lots is $30 a quarter, or $10 a month.
Other fees included the new home construction permit fee at $250, and a sewer allocation fee at $8,550. Any new lots created pay a connection charge of $27,920, and a water conditioner connection charge totals $100 per quarter.
The third and final portion of the hearing focused on two property classes in Kent Island Estates and Romancoke. They are Class B vacant lots without a valid percolation test, estimated to be 357 lots, and Class C vacant lots with a valid percolation test, estimated at four lots. The sewer base cost for Class B is $2,320 with an economic benefit premium of $27,920. Repayment options were offered by the county during the meeting.
Class C lots have a sewer base cost of $2,320 with the same amount being the economic benefit premium. Two repayment options for this designation also were offered to the public.
During the Aug. 28 county commission meeting, Resolution #14-07 passed with a unanimous vote. The proposed rate schedule, titled Resolution #18-44, also passed with the exclusion of the water conditioner connection fee with a unanimous vote. The establishment of a water conditioner fee of $100 per quarter if the connection of the water conditioner unit was connected to backwash into the system was removed from the rate schedule.
Finally, Resolution #18-45, which deals with classifications and fees for undeveloped lots into Class B and C also passed unanimously.
Kent Island residents study the maps provided by the county to see the financial impact of the proposed amendments.