The St. Mary’s County commissioners on Tuesday, for the second year in a row, removed plans to bring central sewer service to Charlotte Hall and New Market.
The board also considered halting plans to replace a water tower knocked out during an 2011 earthquake, which is intended for fire protection in the area of northern St. Mary’s County. That water tower was allowed to proceed on a 3-2 vote.
Charlotte Hall and New Market are designated areas of growth in St. Mary’s, and county policy says central water and sewer lines should support development there.
The Lexington Park Development District is still being updated, but scheduled next is an area plan for Charlotte Hall. To support that plan, MetCom had a $5.4 million project scheduled in future years to start studying how to bring sewer to the area.
Commissioners Larry Jarboe (R) and Dan Morris (R) said they wanted to hear from the public first on the Charlotte Hall plan before plugging in sewer.
“That public sewer project represents a major policy change,” Jarboe said in front a large audience of people from northern St. Mary’s.
Residents there have private wells and septic systems and some don’t want to have to pay to connect to a central system. “I think there’s a lot of people here concerned today that’s going to happen,” Jarboe said.
He also said residents are concerned about high-density development around them. “Charlotte Hall has developed as a county suburbia and it’s a buffer from the kind of development we’ve seen on Billingsley Road” in Charles County, where there has been a surge of multi-family housing built.
“The northern end of the county should not be south Waldorf,” Jarboe said.
“We’re following your direction,” said Dan Ichniowski, MetCom director. “If it’s not going to happen, take it out.” If sewer ever is going to come to the Charlotte Hall area, it’s going to take a lot of time to find a site suitable to treat wastewater through ground application, he said.
Jarboe moved to remove the sewer project, which was supported 4-1. Commission President Jack Russell (D) voted against its removal.
However, Jarboe first proposed also scrubbing plans for a replacement water tower in Charlotte Hall. The $3.1 million for the water tower is budgeted after July 1 and should be ready to go to bid this summer or fall, said David Elberti, MetCom chief engineer.
Without the replacement tower “there is no overhead storage for that area. There is no fire protection for that area,” Ichniowski said.
The Aug. 23, 2011, earthquake broke the 27,000-gallon water tower behind the McKay’s grocery store. A new tower, between 300,000 and 400,000 gallons, will be erected off Golden Beach Road.
There is another existing water tower in the area, used and owned by the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home. That tower can be used to fight fires, but MetCom doesn’t own it. Ichniowski said without the new MetCom tower, fire protection in the area is minimal.
“The water tower now has me concerned on the public safety side,” said Commissioner Todd Morgan (R). Morgan, Russell and Commissioner Cindy Jones (R) voted down the initial motion to remove the water tower project.
But the commissioners agreed that MetCom’s project estimates in general are too far off from actual budgeted costs, making it difficult for the MetCom board to set rates each year.
“The figures next year, it has to be improved,” Jones said.
“I think we got that message,” Elberti said.