Meeting Minutes

Meeting Minutes
posted: 06/04/09

County Council Meeting Minutes

County Council of Dorchester County and Dorchester County Sanitary District Meeting Minutes

May 14, 2009

County Council of Dorchester County and

Dorchester County Sanitary District

Meeting Minutes

May 14, 2009


The County Council of Dorchester County and the Dorchester County Sanitary District met in regular session on May 14, 2009 at the Madison Volunteer Fire Department regarding the establishment of a Madison/Woolford Sanitary District.  The following members of the County Council were present:   Jay L. Newcomb, President; William V. Nichols, Vice President; Ricky Travers; and Rick Price.  The following members of the Dorchester County Sanitary District were present: Robert T. Tieder, Jr., Chairman; Charles Hutchinson,  Ray Klingensmith and Clinton Waters.  Also present were Jane Baynard, County Manager; E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney; Joyce DeLaurentis, Community Development Director, Maryland Rural Development Corporation; Denise MacLeish, United States Department of Agriculture; Amanda Pollock, George, Miles and Buhr; Steve Dodd, Planning and Zoning Director; Bill Forelifer, Environmental Health Officer, Dorchester County Health Department.






Councilman Travers led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.




Councilman Jay Newcomb and Robert T. Tieder, Jr., Chairman, Dorchester County Sanitary District introduced themselves and the members of their respective Councils and their staff.




E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney, recognized that the development of the Madison-Woolford sewer extension project spans 10 years.  He explained the legal requirements to establish a new sanitary district are that the service area must be needed for public health and safety and economically feasible from a financial and engineering standpoint.


Bill Forelifer, Environmental Health Officer, stated that based on a sanitary survey conducted in March 2000 it was determined there were 38% failing septic systems in the area and that it was necessary for public health to pursue establishing sanitary district.  He cited letter in 2003 from Roger Harrell, Health Officer, that confirmed that finding.




Amanda Pollock, George, Miles and Buhr, explained that she has been involved with the project since 2001 when the initial feasibility study was conducted.  She noted that the service area has been carefully designed based on serviceability and was economically feasible based on the conditions in the area and need.  Ms. Pollock gave a brief project demonstration.   She explained that tonight’s hearing is to discuss and define the boundaries of the proposed sanitary district.  Ms. Pollock noted that a relatively large area on the map is to be the district and that the shaded parcels are slated to receive sewer service based on a survey conducted in 2000.  She clarified that only those properties are to be served initially.  Ms. Pollock stated that the parcels originally cited have been reviewed by State and that the State has been clear that the project is not to encourage growth but, instead, to provide service to parcels with failing systems.  She noted that project has been carefully scrutinized by the Maryland Office of Planning under Smart Growth guidelines.


Ms. Pollock stated that a future public hearing will be held to discuss specific construction issues and to answer any questions.  She said that there are proposing the use of the same type of system in Church Creek now with grinder pumps/low pressure sewers for the sewer extension.  She said that the new system will tie into the pumping station in Church Creek as well as an additional pumping station near Deep Point Road.    She noted that all sewage is to be collected and treated at the Cambridge Wastewater Treatment Station.


Ms. Pollock reviewed a Frequently Answered Question handout that was provided to all of the individuals who were present at the meeting.  She stated that several funding sources are involved in the construction of the system as well as American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding.   She said the targeted user fee was $750 per year but noted the actual fee cannot be set until actual prices are received for construction. 


Ms. Pollock explained that the mainline pipes will be installed down all roads with low pressure sewers and will be buried approximately four feet deep.  She said that each property served will have a grinder pump assigned to the house on the property.  She noted that it will be hooked up to an electric meter with a service line from the main line in road to the grinder pump.  Ms. Pollack said that a part of the project is that the contractor that is awarded the project will hook up the grinder pump, install lines, and abandon septic tank.    She advised that it would be a turnkey operation. 


Ms. Pollock noted that the City of Cambridge will charge a $2,800 impact fee per parcel and that the cost will be funded as a part of the project.  She advised that the goal is to start construction in the fall of 2009.  She explained that current project tasks include seeking permits and developing bids.    She said that they are targeting an aggressive timeline in keeping with ARRA guidelines and to maintain all funding levels.  Ms. Pollock estimated that the design public hearing will be held in late June/early July 2009.


She clarified that all property owners that will receive service are to be given a certain wastewater allocation and noted that there will be no allowance for increased housing units per parcel beyond those parcels anticipated in the 2000 survey, which serves as the basis for the project.


Ms. Pollock stated that parcels not on the list are not initially slated for service.  She noted that if a house has been constructed since that survey or parcel is currently vacant, a property owner must go through specific process including amending County’s water and sewer plan which has to be reviewed by Maryland Department of Environment and Maryland Department of Planning, as well as obtaining approval from the City of Cambridge for additional flow allocation and the final approval by the Sanitary District.  She stated that, however, every parcel within the district boundaries, whether identified in the original survey or not identified will have a “T” for future hookup off the system despite the strict connection application requirements.


Mr. Tieder stated that the Sanitary District will pay hookup costs for all property owners who were in the initial survey.




Bill Foxwell, a Dorchester County resident, stated that he had to put in a new system valued at $15,000 and does not want to hook in to the sewer extension.  He stated that he believed his investment is lost as he had no choice but to put in the new system because the Madison Woolford Sewer extension project was still under review at that time.


Gillis Todd stated that he has been a resident of Dorchester County for 21 years.  He said he believes his existing service is outstanding and cannot be improved.  He advised that he does not want to pay the $750 annual fee.  Mr. Tieder clarified that the intent of the project is not to provide better individual service but to improve the entire watershed and protect the environment.


In response to a question from Steve Wagner, a Dorchester County resident, regarding how the areas of service are defined, Ms. Pollack said that the service area includes all of the improved properties with existing septic systems that were present at the time of the 2000 survey.    Mr. Merryweather told Mr. Wagner that he is not scheduled for inclusion in the new system because there are existing shared services in the Deep Point area.


Dianna Gray, a Dorchester County resident who resides in Susquehanna, asked for clarification on the “opt out” provision in which a property owner will have to pay costs in the future but can opt out.  Joyce DeLaurentis, Community Development Director, Maryland Rural Development Corporation, stated that hookups in identified service areas are mandatory which is necessary to manage the user fees charged per household.  She noted that any prior information that a property owner could choose to participate if the parcel is in the identified service area is incorrect.


Gary Adkins questioned if the system was vented.  Ms. Pollock stated that the force main has air release valves and cleanouts in man holes.  In response to a question from Mr. Adkins regarding what will happens if the system were to fail, Mr. Tieder stated that the system is a sealed system and that there are environmental standards that must be met. 


Mr. Merryweather stated that the health department permit for any existing systems requires that if a community system is available, a property owner adjacent to that system must hook in.

Sam Horseman, a Dorchester County resident, questioned whether a “T” hookup will be located at his lot.   Ms. Pollock stated that a hookup would be installed at the subject property.  In response to a question from Mr. Horseman regarding the 11 unimproved parcels shown in blue on the map of the proposed boundary area, Ms. Pollock advised that the unimproved lots were the only lots that could be included in the sewer extension area because these properties were in an area designated as “rural villages” or Priority Funding Areas (PFA’s) by the County.


In response to a question from Tony Lecompte, a Dorchester County resident, Ms. DeLaurentis noted that if his property is listed as on the map as in the allowed service area, the property will be able to access services.


Ms. Gray questioned the timeframe to apply for service if a property is not in the initial service area.  Ms. DeLaurentis explained that the Maryland Department of Environment in an effort to avoid sprawl has cautioned that the service area should not be expanded for newly developed or undeveloped properties of the Sanitary District may jeopardize the funds for the project and even cautioned that expended funds may have to be refunded. She noted that it was very difficult to obtain the health exception for the project and stated that, due to Smart Growth concerns and the sole intent to solve environmental problems, enlarging the service area would be risky.


Mr. Tieder said that the project has always been intended to add 347 new customers and believes that additional homes will jeopardize the 100,000 gallon per day allocation with the City of Cambridge and the funding resources that have been approved based on a health exception. 


Ms. Gray acknowledged that she understood that it was the intent of the new District to provide the new system for health and safety protections but noted that platted building lots need options for development.  She questioned if the Health Department will reconsider prior denials for individual septic systems based on the community septic option being afforded to the 347 allocations in the separate district.  Mr. Forelifer said that project had always been intended for existing systems.    Ms. DeLaurentis noted that the PFA’s and Rural Village designations are clearly defined and lots outside of those areas are not intended for service.


Kenneth Maze, a resident of Russell Road, asked if the tile field will be removed.  Ms. Pollock said the tile fields will remain, which is standard practice when entertaining a community system although all septic tanks will be abandoned and filled.  In response to a question from Mr. Maze, Ms. Pollack recommended removing the tile field before a structure is built over the field. 


Ms. Todd questioned why the Deep Point community lagoon was deemed environmentally sound while his private lagoon is considered a danger to the environment.  He said prior Health Department officials had indicated his system was very sound.   Mr. Forelifer explained that berm filtration systems do fail and that he believes the life of such a system is approximately 20 years.  Mr. Todd said his system has a reserve area for expansion.  Mr. Forelifer said that when pond fails the only way to rectify the problem is to make existing ponds larger or replace them.  He noted that ponds become anaerobic and dark in color when they fail.  He cautioned that many of the systems in this area are of an age where failure may be a danger.  He also advised that due to the number of dry years recently, systems could be prone to failure.

Mr. Tieder stated that over the last few years the project has been defined and the Sanitary District was ready to move forward but was unable to obtain funding to begin the project.  He noted that the current funding allowances have resulted in a cost of approximately $7 million for hookups but noted that all costs will be borne by the Sanitary District with only the annual fees being assessed to the property owner.


Denise MacLeish, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), stated that USDA was able to provide significant funding for the project because of the passage of a New Farm Bill.  She said that they provided over $ 3 million in grant funding and that ARRA contributed $2.2 million in grant funds for the projects.  She said that one obstacle to the project has always been feasibility of cost to the user and noted that, due to the grant funds now in place; the project has finally come to fruition.


Ms. DeLaurentis thanked residents for answering the income surveys mailed to them.  She said that she received 230 surveys and that 53% of those who responded were below cutoff income level so the project qualified for Community Development Block Grant funding.    


One member of the audience advised that she has lived in Dorchester County for 40 plus years in the same residence.  She said that her septic has worked during that time period but that she is concerned with longevity of system. 


Mr. Foxwell stated he is not against the system but commented that his system is brand new and working fine.  He said that, in his opinion, many properties are closer to the water than his need and those parcels should be included in the service area rather than mandating him to abandon his system.


Mr. Merryweather asked Ms. DeLaurentis if there is any latitude to reconsider any of the identified properties without jeopardizing the funding sources or existing approvals of the project.  Ms. Pollock said that it would be difficult to redefine the service area since the properties were defined in a survey conducted in 2000 and all resulting approvals have been specific to that survey.  Mr. Merryweather stated that he understands the definition being nine years old but asked if there is any remedy for those that have had to update their system since the original survey was completed.  Ms. MacLeish said that the State’s approvals are very strictly defined and that she does believe that the funding agencies will allow the District boundaries to be altered.  She said that ARRA money can be jeopardized based on the project currently being defined as shovel ready and that other funding agencies may withdraw their contributions.


Tom Hastings stated that it was his understanding the project was based on 347 EDU’s but asked if he could elect out with a trade off to an unserved property.  Ms. MacLeish said that the lots outside of PFA’s could not be substituted for identified properties within the District’s boundaries.  She noted that agencies are looking to ensure that service areas are in keeping with PFA definitions by State law in or around 1996.  Ms. DeLaurentis noted that Rural Villages are defined by the County and approved by the Department of Planning. 


Steve Dodd, Planning and Zoning Director, stated that he hoped it was clear that if a property is not intended for service, the changes of achieving service via the formal application process is very poor.  He said the process is very restrictive to ensure that the purpose of serving existing properties with existing septics in the new district is maintained.


Mr. Forelifer said that septic system owners in Woolford/Madison should be aware that the 2009 General Assembly adopted legislation entitled the Nitrogen Reduction Act which requires that nitrogen reduction technology be installed for all new and replacement septic systems.  He said that while there are Bay Restoration funds available for the system upgrades, there are not nearly enough funds to cover the number of estimated upgrades that will occur each year.  He said those upgrades currently average between $11,000 to $13,000 just for the nitrogen portion of system.  He reminded everyone that is in addition to ongoing operation and maintenance costs for the new nitrogen reduction technology which costs several hundred dollars per year.  Mr. Forelifer said that the initial legislative proposal was to require septic upgrades statewide but was reduced to require the upgrades in the critical areas only.


The Sanitary District unanimously approved the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Cambridge and the County Council regarding the new sewer expansion area and treatment of the sewage, contingent upon approval by the City Council.  The Sanitary District also unanimously approved a resolution to create a new Madison-Woolford-Susquehanna Point Sanitary District No. 7. 


The County Council approved the resolution to create the Madison-Woolford –Susquehanna Point Sanitary District.


With no further business to discuss, the Council adjourned.



ATTEST:                                                         DORCHESTER COUNTY COUNCIL:


______________________________            ____________________________________

Jane Baynard, County Manager                       Jay L. Newcomb, President



                                                                        William V. Nichols, Vice President



                                                                        Effie M. Elzey



                                                                        Ricky Travers



Approved the ______day of ________, 2009.                       Rick Price