CUMBERLAND — Allegany County’s share of a $28 million upgrade of the Georges Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, ordered by a federal initiative, is almost $9 million that has been borrowed for 20 years at an interest rate of 1.1 percent, according to Paul Kahl, county engineer.
Kahl spoke at Thursday’s public meeting of the county commissioners, outlining the project that began in 2004 and is nearing completion.
Kahl said the 66 larger treatment plants throughout Maryland have been ordered by the state’s Department of the Environment to revamp so that water flowing to the Chesapeake Bay contains less nitrogen and phosphorous.
The plant is used by residents of Barton, Lonaconing, Midland, Shaft, Klondike, Midlothian and surrounding areas.
Letters to users of the system, who will pay for the upgrade, were mailed about a week ago. Tax rates increase from 16 cents to 47 cents for each $100 of the assessed value of the property.
“We had no choice in the matter,” Kahl said. “The last thing we want to do is increase the payment amount. We told the users that this is not the fault of the county commissioners.”
Kahl said he was part of a group from county staff that traveled to Baltimore several times in an attempt to reduce the economic impact upon the county and the water users.
“At first we were told our share would be $13 million, but we got that down to $8.9 million,” he said. Grants are paying for the remaining $16 million in expenses.
Kahl said it is customary in Allegany County to have the users of a system pay the bill rather than spreading the cost out to everyone from Westernport to Little Orleans. He said the same process took place when the Celanese plant was upgraded, with Cresaptown users seeing an increase on their bills.
Kahl said that since the letter was sent to users, he has received 30 calls inquiring about the increase in payment. “People were very courteous, and I appreciate that. Two or three were extremely unhappy.”
Commissioners Dale Lewis and Bob Hutcheson agreed that customers should have been directly informed about the matter much sooner.
“We made a mistake not sending the letter earlier,” Hutcheson said. Commissioner Jim Stakem was absent Thursday.
Kahl said that once the work is done, the Georges Creek plant will be brand new.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at email@example.com.