Vote expected Monday on connection fee increase

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ELKTON — Town residents had little to say Monday night about a proposal to raise fees Elkton charges customers who connect to its water and sewer systems.

A public hearing on the proposed hikes drew only one query.

Cathy Morrison asked if the increased rates would supersede the promise to lock in sewer connection fees at $ 1,800 for properties brought into the town via annexation in 2004.

Wayne Printz, Elkton’s mayor and acting town manager, said the pledge would be honored as long as the owner at the time of the annexation still owns the property. However, town officials are checking to see if the low connection fee is transferable to others.

Elkton Town Council is expected to hold a second reading and vote on the proposal at its Monday, April 17 meeting.

The proposal calls for water-line connection fees to increase as much as 550 percent. The residential and commercial fees for a three-quarter-inch pipe would be $7,000, up from $4,300, while the 1-inch pipe fee would climb to $7,500 from $3,600. Commercial users have six larger options, with the costliest being the 8-inch line available for a $100,000 fee, up from $15,400.

To connect to the sewer system, the proposal calls for residents to pay $7,500 for a three-quarter-inch connection and $ 8,000 for a 1-inch line, up from $4,700 and $4,400, respectively.

Proposed commercial sewer hookup fees would range from $12,800 for a three-quarter-inch line up to $200,000 for an 8-inch line. The proposed 8-inch fee represents an increase of more than 1,000 percent from the current $17,800 charge.

If approved, the connection- fee revisions would be the first for Elkton since 2008.

New Plant Needed
The elected leaders are considering boosting the fees to collect more money to help fund the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant, Printz said after the meeting. Groundwater infiltration into the aging system has pushed output up to 2 million gallons a day, five times its permitted capacity.

“It’s just old and shot,” the mayor said. “We’ve spent 10 years trying to get this thing under control.”

A new plant is expected to cost $17 million to $20 million, Printz added.

Boosting the connection fees isn’t expected to reap major revenue for the town, he said, because only seven properties connected to the systems in 2016. Printz, however, said if a large subdivision or major industrial or commercial client were to connect, the extra money would lessen the amount users would have to pay in increased water and sewer charges to pay for the plant.

Town officials also are seeking grant money.

“We’re laying the groundwork for the future,” he said, “so possibly we won’t have to force it on our citizens.”

Two clarifiers are under construction at the plant to separate solid and liquid waste. That, Printz said, is a $3.6 million project.

The upgrades are being made based on an agreement the town entered with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in September 2015.

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