Mayor of Havre de Grace proposes 20% water rate increase.

Last year they raised the rates 5% with an additional 5% this year alread in effect. To the editor. This administration has been abusing the water and sewer fund for years. The Current Mayor was part of the sitting City Councils that knowingly spent the Capital Improvement Funds from the Water and Sewer Fund 9. They did this because they didn’t want to raise the water rates when they had money in the bank. Raising rates means mad voters who may decide to vote them out of office. This money was to pay for future improvements to the plants and infrastructure. Eight years ago during my first year in office this practice was hopefully stopped. When the question was asked how long this practice had been going on the answer was at least 15 years. Fifteen years of no rate increases, but fifteen years of raises and cost of living increases for the employees, average 6% a year, not counting the increased costs of supplies and chemicals. Eight years ago the first Water and Sewer Commission was appointed. The mayor who was part of the City Council that knowingly spent the funds appointed three other members that were either still sitting or had been a part of the city councils that spent the money. I served on the first interim Water and Sewer Commission established by the Mayor’s Executive Order. My first statement to the committee was how we can save on operating expenses. If we join forces with everyone in the business on chemicals we may save 5%. Our biggest expenses are employee costs. We need to modernize the operations to make the plant more efficient. I asked that an independent efficiency audit be conducted on the water plant. The waste water plant was under construction at the time, so hopefully the new plant would operate more efficiently than the old plant. The mayor refused the request. At the time a Maryland Environmental Service (MES) employee was under contract to work at the Water Plant as all of the plant supervisors were out. MES is a self-supporting, independent State agency, combining the public sector’s commitment to environmental protection with the private sector’s flexibility and responsiveness. I spoke to representative from Maryland Environmental Service. I asked them if they could submit a proposal to conduct an audit and by having one of their employees working at the plant they would know quickly what improvements were needed. The Mayors final answer was to hire the MES employee full time and move one of the plant supervisors to a trainer position. Think back a couple years and try to recall the orange pump that sat at the corner of Van Buren Drive and 155. This was there to pump water up the hill in order to keep the water tank full. Day and night for many months this pump did its job. Unfortunately the problem that caused the need for the pump was a water valve that was shut off and forgotten about. An updated water and sewer map and a little neglected maintenance on the water valves could have prevented this. The city is in a unique situation. While other jurisdictions are doing everything they can to get people to conserve water. The city needs to sell more water. Fund 9 needs to sell more water to bring in more money. By raising the rates to bring in more money, it forced people to cut back on their consumption. Cars stayed dirtier longer and the grass was a little browner. Conserving water doesn’t pay the cities bills. Just last year the Water and Sewer Commission recommended a 5% increase with an additional 5% going into effect this year. 5 + 5 = 10% Now the Mayor wants to raise the rates an additional 20%. One of the tricks the city uses to generate more money from the water users is to wait until the rate goes up and then bill the user for the water used the previous quarter at the higher rate. The distributed expenses that takes over a million dollars from the Water and Sewer fund is put in the general fund. I asked the Director of Finance to explain where the money was going. In DPW the break down was as follows. Director of DPW 55%, Deputy Director Streets 55%, Deputy Director Water and Sewer 100%. Finance Department two employees 100%, Police Department one dispatcher 100%. This is just the tip of the iceberg. City elections are coming up in May and it’s time the citizens stand up and elect people that will do some work and help the city. The time for feel good awards ceremonies and anecdotal stories has to end.
Steve Oleszczuk February 21, 2014 at 09:24 AM
When is enough, enough???? The mayor doesn't care since this is his last term in office!!!!!!!!
whatswiththewater February 21, 2014 at 11:37 AM
Sounds like a desperate attempt to balance some books before that county water authority ‘study’ is done. They must be afraid of what will be found. Who has the power to dismantle this local monkey show? Hdg should be stripped down to nothing more than a historic district and 711 Pennington Ave can be the MUSEUM OF IRRESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT (what not to do…).
Cindy Moore February 22, 2014 at 11:02 AM
I recall the water rates over the last 3 years were increased 9% per year.
g37hotshot February 28, 2014 at 12:18 PM
I am jumping on this bandwagon and agreeing that our water rates are already ridiculous. Unless it was "silently included", I have never lived anywhere else where I have been charged by the size of our meter or any kind of fee for living on the water/bay. And I used to live on a river right by the ocean where there was a manatee sanctuary. I did live in Baltimore County for a few years and our quarterly bill was approximately $17. While I am aware that the population is far greater there etc etc, I did not expect my bill to be more than ten times that when I moved here. I attended a kind of town meeting of our local politicians and we were told that the high costs were due to Bulle Rock being built and having to enlarge and improve upon our local facility for that. Seeing as how Bulle Rock isn't that old, why are we needing to charge for more improvements already? Their wise solution was for us to use more water to help lower the costs, like buying in bulk. That was met with a collective snort of derision. People will just keep cutting back because how much do you have to spend for it to start being affordable? While I enjoy living here, Havre de Grace isn't all that and they are going to price themselves out, if they already aren't doing so; as shown by the difficulty in keeping small businesses here. How do the less fortunate families here afford this? I know that I am not completely in the local loop, but instead of floundering around trying to figure out unstable ways to bring in revenue, maybe the leaders of this town should go to other states with similar small tourist-y towns to see how they conduct business and stay profitable without constantly relying on higher taxes from their citizens. I can name several off the top of my head, so they are out there.
whatswiththewater March 01, 2014 at 01:25 PM
First the story was the new sewer treatment mandates and expensive new chemicals created the need for new development to pay into the water usage system. Then, as g37hotshot mentions above, it morphed into new development (like Bulle Rock) requiring expansion of treatment facilities, resulting in increased debt that raised water and sewer rates. Now the population as a whole is perpetually not using enough water to balance the ‘fund,’ which is completely independent of all other city operations and tax revenues. Obviously this narrow-minded plan is not working. Logic would dictate that increased water usage would create a subsequent increase in sewer treatment expense. Higher rates will lower usage as more people simply cannot afford it. Property values are falling which lowers property tax and homes are being abandoned which means no income tax or water usage. This plan is not working for anyone. According to the city, building permits are consistently below projections, yet they are annexing more land to –that’s right—continue more development without regard to what the roads can handle. Search this site for “84 Homes Approved for Scenic Manor” (Scenic Manor was halted in March 2012). There are some interesting comments posted by a F. Cullum, such as “…the 3,000 new homes that were projected to be built that required the expansion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant.” I especially like “I am going to guess that all the posters here actually live in Old Town HDG and not in any of the developments west of Us 40, since they are all apposed (sic) to new housing and growth.” Wow. Bad attitude Freddy. Who was it that posted something about “know-it-all bulle rockers” being elected to council? This know-enough bulle rocker can tell you that the shit town of hdg should have been shut down a long time ago!


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