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Port Royal is asked to look at county takeover of water system

Posted on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 5:35 pm

MILFORD—A county official on Tuesday asked Port Royal officials to consider allowing the county to take over the town’s ailing water system.

The town must make improvements to its water system, which is danger of being condemned. In July, Port Royal was turned down for federal grant funds for a project to replace its water tower, which is on the verge of caving in, town officials have said. The town has no money to upgrade its water system, which has low pressure and grit in the water. Water lines often rupture.

Estimates range from $330,000 to replace the water tower to $1 million for a complete overhaul of the water system.

During a Caroline County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Floyd Thomas, chairman of the board, asked Port Royal Mayor Nancy Long, “Have you considered having the county take over your water system?”

“We will consider it,” the mayor said. “But we need a system that will provide fire protection, and attract businesses and property owners.”

In late 2012, the Port Royal Town Council asked the Board of Supervisors to allow the town to expand the boundary lines to allow the town to take in more tax revenue from businesses. The two governing bodies met and discussed the matter in February.

In March, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ask the county staff and attorney to prepare a boundary line adjustment proposal for the town and county to consider. The staff also was directed to see if the board had any conditions or considerations in the boundary adjustment proposal.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to put the boundary line on the agenda for a public hearing at the September meeting.

Five times as much revenue could start streaming into the town with a boundary change, Councilor Jim Heimbach has said. A boundary change would shift $70,000 in annual revenue from the county to the town, officials have said.

An initial proposal to enlarge the town’s boundary would increase it from 78 acres to hundreds, if not thousands, of acres and from 126 residents to 160. It would also boost annual revenue from $17,000 to $87,000 through additional business licenses, sales taxes, and food/beverage taxes from the businesses now on the fringe of the town limits.

The town’s request for a boundary change was prompted by Union First Market Bank’s decision to close its Port Royal branch in May 2012. The bank accounted for about 30 percent of the town’s annual revenue. To compensate for the loss of revenue, the town turned off half its street lights, increased water rates, and hired a new water operator at a lower cost.

Supervisor Reggie Underwood on Tuesday said a boundary adjustment would “bring some business into the town” and generate revenue, build town services, take care of its citizens, and provide better services.

Supervisor Jeff Black asked about the $70,000 and the mayor said it is not a stable figure and noted that it has dropped to roughly $60,000.

Black mentioned the federal grant that didn’t materialize for the town and asked, “What’s next? The county takes over your water system as well?”

“In a worst-case scenario,” the mayor answered.

Supervisors Jeff Sili and Wayne Acors noted that farming and hunting would not be affected by a boundary change.