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Thurmont ponders changing sewer-rate system

Tuesday - 2/14/2012, 2:00am  ET


THURMONT -- Changes to

Thurmont

sewer rates could become a reality for town residents as early as April.

Mayor Marty Burns commended residents on their conservation of water and sewer during tough economic times, but said the town's debts are suffering from a lack of revenue.

"We don't have enough money to run the department the way it needs to be done," Burns said during Monday's town meeting.

If the town adopts a $2.50-per-month sewer rate increase, it would raise almost $350,000 in funding; an additional $1.25-per-month would earn about $170,000, based on a yearly flow of almost 1.4 million gallons of water.

Both amounts would then factor in an $89,000 predicted deficit, leaving the town with almost $90,000 less to budget.

Commissioner Ron Terpko said Monday that the higher the town's rates go, the less water and sewer the residents will use.

"You're chasing your tail," he said. "You're going to keep forcing people to keep conserving and conserving."

Discussion of previous ideas such as a base rate or tiered system inspired the board to look into a hybrid -- creating a base rate for all users to pay while charging a tiered rate for additional use.

"That's the most equitable thing," Terpko said, adding that people who conserve more won't be penalized.

A base rate would be determined by the annual sewer and water costs.

"The bottom line is you use it, you have to pay for it," Terpko said.

Thurmont last raised town rates by $1 for sewer and $0.50 for water in October 2010.

The $2.50 rate increase was a discussion point, Burns said Monday.

Now, he wants the board to decide what the appropriate amount is, without having to raise rates again in six months.

The town expects to compare other local municipalities' systems and report back during Monday's town workshop.

No matter what system the board chooses, Terpko said the commissioners are all in agreement that it has to change.

Ideally, Burns said he'd like to have the new system in place by the end of April. Realistically, he said, it will take effect sometime in July.

In other business, council announced that beginning March 6, Thurmont town meetings will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The board agreed to change the schedule from Monday, a common day for federal holidays, to Tuesday, the same night the previous boards used to meet years ago.

Town meetings are televised on Channel 99 and available via the Internet on Granicus.