Secretary deals with water rates in speedy fashion

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SECRETARY — Secretary Mayor Susan Dukes and Commissioners Jennifer Rebert, Henry Short, William Lauk, and Tom Shimick made short work of a 12 item agenda at the June 16 town meeting. After 17 minutes the meeting ended and all items were covered.

Front and center were revised Water/Sewer rates to increase funds in the town’s water and sewer account “because is in such dire straits,” said the Mayor. “We have to have a minimum of $36,000 in the account at all times. Right now we have $39,000 which leaves us only $3,000 to pay the bills.”

During a work session the commissioners agreed that flat rates will remain the same on Residential and Commercial water charges. Recommended increases include:  Residential water usage from $1 to $1.25 per 1,000 gallons for the first 15,000 gallons with all gallons over 15,000 remaining at $2 per 1,000 gallons; Commercial water usage charges will increase from $1.50 to $1.75 per 1,000 gals.

All vacant lots that have a tap-in fee will pay a fee of $25 per quarter. Vacant homes have never been charged a water fee but the recommendation is a flat fee of $60 per quarter. Fees of $50 are suggested for water turn-off and turn-on. If the request is based on an emergency there will be no charge. If requested after hours the fee will be $100. A public hearing for the fee increases is slated for July 7, 7 p.m.

Changes in the Fee Schedule were introduced based on recouping costs charged by the Middle Department Inspection Agency, Inc. (MDIA) for inspecting accessory structures and renovations, alterations, or repairs. MDIA is an independent inspection company that offers safety inspection services, including plan review, building, plumbing and fire protection in addition to electric.

Charges for residential accessory structures, including basements over 150 sq. ft., renovations, alterations, and repairs will increase from $60 to $75 if DMIA provides inspections. A certificate of occupancy based on the changed use of a building would increase from $10 to $25. A re-inspection fee rises to $75 to cover MDIA charges. To recoup advertising and other costs a Board of Appeals meeting will cost $100. Sewer Tap-in fees are erroneously shown as $2,500 on the town’s Fee Schedule. A correction will be made since the fee is and has always been $6,000.

The MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) has sent a preliminary eligibility report and indicated the agency is willing to pay 42.95 percent or $5,141,063 of the cost for a proposed waste water treatment plant. That figure does not include prospective funds from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The local share of over $7 million will be paid for with a combination of USDA funding, loans, and available grants.

MD Department of Planning’s head, David Craig, requested that municipalities who have specific questions, concerns, or issues as they plan for growth advise the department. Mr. Craig noted the numerous complaints about the plethora of regulations that complicate the planning process.

The commissioners approved a $25,000 loan from the general fund savings account to the water and sewer fund “to tide us over until the money comes in from bill payments in July,” said Mayor Dukes.
The motion requires a $1,000 minimum monthly repayment.   The commission moved to introduce and waive the second reading of a permit application for a 47”x84” concrete pad for a generator at the Secretary Volunteer Fire Department on Myrtle Street. The motion passed unanimously.

The MDE, Tidal Wetlands Divisions notified the town that the comment period for a dredging application by Phillip Harrington III ends on July 1. The commission agreed to submit a letter of approval for the project.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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