Patch asked the candidates for the May 3 election to share their opinions on more than a dozen topics relating to the city.
In this installment, the candidates for Havre de Grace mayor—incumbent Wayne Dougherty and challenger City Councilman Mitch Shank—discuss the deficit in Fund 9, the water and sewer fund:
Dougherty points to recently mandated facility upgrades for enriched nutrient removal (ENR) as the reason why citizens are looking at a potential rate hike in water and sewer fees.
Dougherty said the city’s hands were tied by the state when it came to a $43 million ENR upgrade at the wastewater treatment plant.
“Five, six years ago, it was BNR (biological nutrient removal upgrades). That was just scrapped. If you go out [to the plant], you wouldn’t even know where BNR was,” Dougherty said of the previous biological nutrient removal upgrades. “When you’re getting regulations handed down from the federal and the state government, we’re the last ones to take a beating. While it's to protect our environment, which is extremely important, the cost has to be handled here.”
Dougherty pointed to grants as one of the main helping hands for Havre de Grace.
“We did get the $26 million grant to offset and help us with that. Right know we have close to $4 million in grants we’re waiting for approval on,” he said.
Dougherty sees the issue improving in the near future.
“The facility itself is now being monitored. What I’m looking to do in the next budget is to have a cost analysis done, because everything is operational now,” Dougherty said. “I signed the final [grant] forms, which brings us our $2 million, which will certainly help. I look at positive things with water and sewer, and I look for much more improvement.”
Shank points to a friend and disabled veteran as a prime example of those being affected by rising costs in water and sewer.
"He now schedules his appointments at Perry Point so he can get his showers over there because he can’t afford the water bill. That’s sad," Shank said.
Shank sees one solution that will help everyone—a regional water authority that would combine operations of Havre de Grace, Aberdeen, Bel Air and Harford County. He said it’s a vision shared by County Executive David Craig.
“They would take the assets, but they would also take the liabilities,” Shank said of the proposed authority. “All of our employees in DPW would stay, they would just shift over. One of the things that was out there was, ‘Oh, we’re all going to lose our jobs.’ They still need people to work the plant. They still need people to work the meters. It would be a separate authority.”
Shank pointed to aging infrastructure on the east side of Route 40 as a major concern, and said he’s asked the Maryland Environmental Service about having an independent operational efficiency audit performed on the lines.
Shank said he was told there was an audit done in 2003, but that a report was never presented. The most recent audit prior to that was in the mid-'90s, he said.
“Think of all the improvements, all the upgrades, all the things we’ve done, and we haven’t had an efficiency audit,” Shank said. “It doesn’t make sense. A business would not operate without that. Yet, they won’t agree to that. That might be the thing to do first.”