Post, 18 Feb 2009 (Shaver ).
Decades of acrimony between the Montgomery and Prince George's county commissioners who oversee suburban Maryland's beleaguered water system have come to this:See:
The three Montgomery members say they so distrust their Prince George's colleagues that they now boycott monthly meetings to prevent a quorum unless all of them can attend.
The six-member board of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has been stalemated, 3 to 3, for a year on the choice of a general manager. One Prince George's commissioner has filed a state ethics complaint against two Montgomery commissioners, accusing them of racial bias in the search.
And the board became so bogged down in minority contracting and other matters at its 12-hour January meeting that it has yet to scrutinize the Dec. 23 rupture of a 66-inch water main beneath River Road in Bethesda, which forced firefighters to rescue stranded motorists from the resulting torrent.
* * *
In the past eight months, four huge pipes have burst, some decades short of their life expectancies. The larger breaks have led to advisories to boil water, shut down schools and restaurants, left hospitals scrambling for fresh water, snarled roads and left some homes and businesses without running taps or flushing toilets. Last month, WSSC officials blamed 611 breaks and leaks -- the largest monthly total in the utility's 90-year history -- on old pipes and freezing temperatures.
* * *
The board will consider the utility's $1 billion capital and operating budgets today. WSSC officials have proposed a 9 percent increase in water rates, which would add about $4.50 a month to the typical residential bill. While some of that money would fund increased pipe inspections, WSSC officials said, it is far short of the 15 percent rate increase needed for "critical proactive maintenance."
* * *
The budget does not include additional fees for longer-term infrastructure renewal. Commissioners deadlocked last year on how much to charge, and members from both counties say they won't try to impose such a fee now that the economy has soured.
* * *
Relations between the two counties hit a low point this fall, when Counihan said the Prince George's commissioners tried to "ram through" their candidate for general manager. He said Starks, the board's chairwoman, unexpectedly called for a vote after Moore, his Montgomery colleague, had to leave the meeting early.
Moore said he had told Starks at least twice that he had an appointment he couldn't reschedule. He said it's "obvious" that Starks waited for him to leave before calling for the vote. "That's the kind of nonsense that goes on," he said.
* * *
Legislation has been introduced to appoint a seventh commissioner to break tie votes. But WSSC-related bills typically die because they are difficult to bring to a floor vote without both Montgomery and Prince George's delegations approving them.
* * *
- WSSC sets dubious record: Most main breaks in a month, 4 Feb 2009
- Maryland Politics Watch reports on the WSSC
- WSSC Commissioner Raises Money - and Eyebrows, 11 Feb 2009
- Who Will Call the Question on WSSC?, 3 Feb 2009
- WSSC Put To Shame By Others In Response To PCCP Crisis, 30 Jan 2009
- Can Anyone Believe What WSSC Says About Its PCCP?, 29 Jan 2009
- More Chaos at WSSC, 28 Jan 2009
- Former WSSC Commissioner Responds to MPW, 28 Jan 2009
- Johnson Appointees Run Amok at WSSC, 22 Jan 2009
- WSSC Endangers Us By Failing To Confront The PCCP Problem, 8 Jan 2009
- Crisis at WSSC, 24 Dec 2008
- WSSC Needs to Get Flushed, Part Two, 21 Nov 2008
- WSSC Needs to Get Flushed, Part One, 20 Nov 2008
(Posted 18 Feb 2009)