Story By Bryan P. Sears
The bill, sponsored by Councilmen Bryan McIntire and Joseph Bartenfelder, was originally scheduled to be voted on during Monday's legislative session but it was pulled from the agenda.
The measure would have reduced water bills for the community of Sunnybrook. The 109-home community, just east of Jarrettsville Road near Jacksonville, currently uses a well system that was built by the county in 1963 after private wells were discovered to be contaminated.
By agreement with the county, residents are repaying the cost of building the system over a 40-year period. That agreement expires in the next year.
Residents are also charged for the operating costs of the system resulting in water bills that are about five times higher than what customers on the metropolitan water system pay.
The average bill in Sunnybrook is well over $300 per year. Even then, the county subsidizes the cost of running the system to the tune of almost $20,000 per year.
The bill would lower the rate per 1,000 cubic feet from $33.29 to $7.69. The shortfall, estimated to be about $29,000 per year, would be picked up by other users of the metropolitan water system.
Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville Democrat, said he was ``philosophically opposed" to the bill because it sets a precedent that makes it harder for the county to say no to other communities who may want the county to build or maintain well systems for them.
McIntire rejected that argument, saying Sunnybrook is ``unique in all the world."
Kamenetz added that he opposed forcing metropolitan water system customers to absorb the shortfall resulting from the lower rates.
McIntire, who currently represents the Sunnybrook community, said most people would not notice the increase which would amount to about 25 cents per year per home.
``These homes cost $400,000 and up," Kamenetz said, ``They (the residents of Sunnybrook) knew this was the deal when they moved in there."
Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat who used to represent the Sunnybrook community, said the bill would be sent to the county executive's office for review and could be re-introduced at a later date.
In other council news:
* Just hours after being sworn in as the county's first black councilman, Ken Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat, cast his first votes during Monday's legislative session.
Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, publicly welcomed Oliver, saying it was ``a historic day" for the the county.
* The council unanimously approved a 60-day extension for Arnold Eppel, acting director of the Department of Aging. Eppel took over the post in September after the death of then-director Charles L. Fisher.
* The council passed a resolution asking the county Board of Elections to require all candidates to sign a form acknowledging the county's regulations regarding political signs.
Kamenetz, the sponsor of the resolution, said the measure is needed because of the growing number of campaign sign problems this year. Two of the biggest problems, he said, were signs in residential areas that are too large and signs left up longer than the law allows.
Because the Board of Elections is a state agency, the resolution is non-binding.