Westernport eyeing water, annexation for Horse Rock

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
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By Ronda Wertman

Tribune Correspondent

WESTERNPORT – The Westernport mayor and council have agreed to meet with residents of Horse Rock to discuss the upcoming water project and answer questions about possible annexation into the town.

When the council announced in February that a survey would be included on the water bills to ascertain if those outside the town limits but receiving town water service would be interested in being brought into the town and receiving other benefits such as street lights and snow removal, it started many rumors and questions flying throughout the area.

Numerous residents were therefore on hand for this week’s council meeting seeking details of the upcoming water project and how it will impact them.

While exact figures aren’t known yet on what cost will be passed on to the customers, residents questioned the rates paid by each of the town’s users, including water going to Piedmont and Luke.

Mayor Laura Legge explained that both Luke and Piedmont are metered and pay for raw water.

When asked what it would mean for Horse Rock residents if they became part of the town, Legge shared that taxes paid would come to the town and there would be a property tax increase of .6 per $100.

The estimated cost of the water project is $14 million, with $2 million pledged from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the remaining $12 million being a loan through MDE.

Finance commissioner Allen Shapiro explained that it’s a 40-year loan at a quarter of a percent interest.

Also there is the possibility of debt forgiveness.

“The State of Maryland spent a lot of money on COVID, so we don’t know what we are going to get,” said Shapiro, noting the hope that the town may only have to pay on $6 million, but worst case scenario it would be repaying the $12 million.

“You will benefit from this,” Shapiro said to the Horse Rock residents during the meeting, noting the new pump station, water lines and streets resulting from the project.

“There’s problems with the water up there; this would be a fix for the next 40 years,” he said.

“We had to make a decision,” he added of going forward with the project, given the interest rate and availability of funds.

Resident Karen Kelly asked the council for a step-by-step plan for the water phases and a timeline on the water for Horse Rock.

“This is a work in progress and we want to see what’s ahead for us,” she said.

Also concerning the water system, residents questioned low pressure from a fire hydrant during a recent house fire.

Members of the fire department, along with Commissioner Judy Hamilton, explained that regardless of the hydrant, water for fire suppression is available from the apparatus responding.

“At no time were the lines ever empty for fighting fire,” she assured.

Legge noted that the fire hydrants will also be part of the new water project.

“With the water phases, every one of the fire hydrants will be replaced. That will create more pressure on our system,” she said.