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Port Royal municipal water woes continue

Posted on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 8:15 pm

PORT ROYAL—The Town of Port Royal needed to replace one of its two municipal water pumps and the control system last month at a cost of $7,695. This follows over $11,000 in repairs to the water pipes last year.

The town’s ailing municipal water system, which is often afflicted with pressure too low for a shower, was the main topic during the Port Royal Town Council meeting on Aug. 20.

The town must make improvements to replace parts of its aging water system, which dates back to 1942 and is in danger of being condemned by state health officials. 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 collapsing, town officials have said.

The town grant proposal failed to receive funding for a variety of reasons, but one the primary reasons was that the town’s current revenues are not adequate to maintain a new system.

Estimates range from $330,000 to replace the water tower with a ground-level system with capacity similar to the existing raised tank to $1 million for an overhaul of the water system and installation of a larger tank that would have the capacity needed to provide for fire hydrants and other fire-protection devices.

In late 2012, the Port Royal Town Council asked the Caroline County Board of Supervisors to allow the town to expand the boundary lines to allow the town to take in more tax revenue from Port Royal 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 Aug. 13, the Board of Supervisors voted to put the boundary line adjustment 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, giving the town the resources it needs to maintain its water system, keep its streetlights turned on, and provide other needed town services.

An initial proposal to enlarge the town’s boundary would increase the town’s area from 78 acres to about 340 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.

In an Aug. 7 letter to the Board of Supervisors, Port Royal Mayor Nancy Long described the town’s latest water system problems. She wrote that the control box, as well as one of the relays that controls the system “failed, and had to be replaced.” The pump for one of the wells also broke beyond repair, and must be replaced.

Councilors firmly stated that the town won’t have the “resources to cover routine expenses” due to a shortfall in revenue.

Long wrote in her letter that if the county prevents the expansion of the town’s boundaries, then the town would “simply cease to exist in its present form.”

If approved, the boundary line adjustment will move the boundary line to the south and west, which will “incorporate the businesses along U.S. 301 and U.S. 17 to generate revenue for the town” and provide space for “future growth,” according to Long’s letter to  supervisors.

“We’re feeling very confident,” Long said of getting the boundary adjustment. “We have addressed the fact that it is not a gift. We are part of the county too.”

Long suggested that the council take up the matter again to prepare for a public hearing with the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 17. Long also suggested that the county attorney review the information before the hearing.

In addition to these measures, Long asked councilors to contact citizens who would be willing to support the boundary line adjustment by writing letters and speaking at the upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting.

During the Aug. 13 Board of Supervisors, Floyd Thomas, chairman of the board, asked the Port Royal mayor, “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.”