From Friends of Harford:
Harford County and its three incorporated municipalities have been studying the costs, benefits and operation of a common water and sewer Authority, rather than the several independent pieces that now exist among them. On the surface this seems a smart decision for the citizens of the county as the county continues to grow. However, the concept of an independent Authority, appointed by the several governments, operating independently of those governments, with no direct responsibility to the voters may be a step too far. Other approaches, such as a board, commission or cooperative agreement, were not considered. One or more of these alternative approaches may be less authoritarian while offering equivalent benefits.
The Maryland Environment Code, Title 9, Subtitle 9 “Water and Sewer Authorities” states that such authorities are specifically authorized to “Do anything necessary or convenient to carry out the purpose of this subtitle.” This includes the right to sue in court; buy and sell land and water rights – including taking private land via eminent domain; issue bonds to pay for what it does and the salaries of the Authority members making the decisions; and must set fees, rates, and other charges high enough to pay the bondholders on time and the amounts they are owed. ”
An Authority is essentially an independent corporation. In addition to the latitude given in the above paragraph, it may have the ability to subvert the county long range land use planning by independently deciding where and when water and sewer service will be provided.
– The Water and Sewer Authority study is completed. That was Phase I.
– Phase II is to determine the details of an implementation plan for an Authority. There will be no other alternative evaluated.
– When do citizens get a voice in this process?
We recommend that you follow and get involved in this effort.
The Harford County Department of Public Works web page contains an overview of what this is about and progress to date. The information below comes from that page. Not included on this page is a very important discussion of the legal issues involved in establishing this authority which may be found here: http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/dpw/download/2268-1409.pdf
Harford County Regional Water & Sewer Authority Formation Study
Harford County, the City of Aberdeen, the City of Havre de Grace, and the Town of Bel Air are considering forming an independent regional water and sewer authority for potential benefits, including economy of scale, improved level of service, self-sustainable financial operations, among others.
The process of forming a regional utility authority typically occurs in four phases:
– Phase 1 consists of a Concept Study to determine what the major challenges of forming the authority are and if those challenges can be overcome, as well as identification of criteria to be met as a condition of forming the regional authority. It is during Phase 1 that stakeholder participation and agreement must be obtained to define exactly what the regional authority’s services, service area, and responsibilities will be. Phase 1 typically concludes with a decision by each participating agency to move forward with the process or not. Those agencies that do elect to move forward continue into the next phases.
– Phase 2 is the planning stage during which the detailed approach and implementation plan are developed including identification of critical tasks, resources, responsibility, schedule, and cost allocation.
– Phase 3 focuses on the execution of the plan developed in Phase 2. It is the phase during which all of the transitional activities occur leading up to the transfer of assets, liabilities and operational responsibilities to the regional utility authority.
– Phase 4 encompasses the first year of operation of the newly-formed agency. It is a time for measuring results and adjusting strategies and tactics to ensure optimum performance.
Water & Sewer Authority Workshop Minutes