Friday, January 13, 2012

New sewer hike not just bad luck


The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) found the Town of Berlin’s proposed $10 increase for sewer service over five years unacceptable and that they had to tack on another $25 for 2013. 
The MDE wasn’t just making a financial suggestion. Compliance was tied to a $5 million finance deal Berlin frankly needs if it is to get the facility complete without reaching even deeper into the ratepayer’s pockets.
What’s disconcerting is that the town didn’t arbitrarily decide back in May that $10 was a sufficient increase to cover its estimated costs. They paid someone to figure it out. Additionally, there was a bit of heated discussion leading up to the decision, centering on the question whether the growth projected to cover the debt service was too aggressive.
We endorsed the decision the Council made for that decision, as they faced an amount of heat for it, because it was the fiscally responsible thing to do. This week the $10, that caused all fuss in May was increased 150 percent, payable not in several years but next year, without a word.
So while it is easy to blame MDE, it is probably not fair. The Town dropped the ball on this one, mostly in its choice of consultant. The ratepayer cost would not likely have changed much, but it is going to be tough to defend reliance on professional consultants in the future when they can be egregiously off base.

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