Reserve Fund Expense Discussed

OCEAN PINES – Discussion over the county’s use of service area reserve funds to pay a $540,000 Bay Restoration Fee highlighted a recent meeting of the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors.

Last month, the Worcester County Commissioners voted 5-2, with Commissioners Chip Bertino and Jim Bunting opposed, to use the Ocean Pines service area reserve fund to pay a $540,000 Bay Restoration Fee for failing to meet nitrogen limits. Officials at the time explained an unidentified county public works employee had clogged a pipe at the treatment plant with a rake head, causing crews to drain the tank and impact the plant’s nitrogen levels.

“We were not able to meet the 3 milligram per liter permit values,” Worcester County Public Works Director Dallas Baker said last month. “Our actual value is 4.3 for the year which then triggers Maryland Department of the Environment to charge the Bay Restoration Fee which is roughly $60 per EDU through the Ocean Pines district.”

The commissioners ultimately voted to pay the fee through the Ocean Pines service area reserve fund, rather than through a grant from the county’s general fund. During the recent Ocean Pines board meeting, Director Monica Rakowski provided community members with an update.

“The money is coming out of a reserve from the county’s money that was earmarked for Ocean Pines,” she said. “There won’t be any rate increase. That’s the reason for paying it upfront.”

When asked how the reserves would be replaced, however, General Manager John Viola said it was an ongoing discussion with the county.

“The answer I received was they do have a plan to fund it …,” he said. “One of them was the waste they’ve carted off from Glen Riddle. That would replace it, by billing for that.”

In recent years, the county has been hauling wastewater from the Glen Riddle wastewater plant to Ocean Pines for treatment. Rakowski said discussions overcompensation are currently being held at the county level.

“Since March, meetings and discussions have been taking place at the county level to see OPA is compensated for the processing of trucked-in sewage,” she said. “More details will be available in coming months, but at this time no further discussion is warranted until we get that additional information.”

Director Frank Daly, however, noted the association had no control over the county’s decisions.

“I don’t want anyone to leave thinking that the board is proposing to tell the commissioners to do anything because that ends up in a canyon with the rockslide falling on us,” he said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.