SNOW HILL – County officials agreed to extend a sewer line down Gum Point Road this week.
On Tuesday the Worcester County Commissioners voted unanimously to create the Gum Point Road Area Sanitary Service Area and extend sewer line down the road.
“The removal of septic systems is in the best interests of the residents of the county and this community,” said Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs. “The adjacent waterway, which is Turville Creek, does exhibit high bacterial influence during heavy rain events.”
County staff began looking into the extension of sewer line early this year when a Gum Point Road property owner sought permission to set up a temporary sewer connection at Bay Point Plantation so he could redevelop. Instead, the commissioners decided to extend sewer line down Gum Point Road and allow the property owner to connect to that, as plans to run sewer line down the road existed as far back as 2005. Cropper’s client agreed to contribute what he would have spent on the temporary connection to the extension of the sewer line.
Jessica Wilson, the county’s assistant finance officer, said that the total cost of the project was $318,000. With a $50,000 contribution from the property owner, the cost per property to hook up to the line would be just under $22,000.
Staff said residents of Gum Point Road would not have to hook up to the sewer line unless their septic systems failed or they planned to redevelop their properties. Commissioner Diana Purnell said a hookup cost of nearly $22,000 was still a concern.
“That can be a burden,” she said.
Commissioner Chip Bertino agreed.
“That just seems like a big amount,” he said, adding that a payment plan could be helpful to citizens.
Wilson said payment plans had once been offered but had been discontinued because the service areas couldn’t afford to offer financing.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said that if a resident’s septic system did fail the cost to replace it would likely be more than the cost of hooking up to the sewer line.
“They’re going to be stuck in that situation one way or the other,” he said.
Mark Cropper, attorney for the Gum Point Road property owner whose inquiry led to the sewer line extension plan, thanked the commissioners for moving forward with the project. He pointed out though that his client had agreed to pay the county what the temporary connection would have cost — $44,000 — and not the $50,000 referenced.
Commissioner Ted Elder said the hookup costs calculated by Wilson had been based on $50,000.
“We need to hold people accountable for what they’ve actually offered at our meetings,” he said.
After consulting with his client, Cropper said the $50,000 would be provided.
A few Gum Point Road property owners submitted written opposition to the proposal.
“We oppose the proposal for not only financial reasons, but also for the impact it will have on the environment and potential future development of land between Gum Point Road and Ocean Pines,” Kenneth and Eeva Huffer wrote.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the sewer extension.