Panel to examine water, sewer rates, and fees for connecting to WSSC pipes

February 3, 2013

A panel that will examine water and sewer rates in two Maryland suburbs — and look at possible overcharges to homeowners — is scheduled to convene Monday in Annapolis to begin its work.

A measure sponsored by Maryland State Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s), enacted last year, set up the panel in response to complaints from residents about rates, among the nation’s highest, and possible overpayments for connections to Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission pipes. The commission serves Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Peters said it cost him $4,000 to replace a pipe that he initially paid the water and sewer commission more than $15,000 for when he bought his Bowie home several years ago.

The panel, which includes several legislators, will look at overall rates and payments consumers have made. The panel also will examine the actual cost of the connections to WSSC pipes to determine if the water and sewer commission or private firms are making a profit and not disclosing the markup.

The fee is known as a front foot benefit charge, which some residents told Peters are billed for more than 20 years after the actual connection is made. In some cases, the fees are not disclosed when property is sold and homeowners have been surprised to learn that they could owe hundreds of dollars, Peters said.

In Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, WSSC still collects some of the fees, but since 2000 the fee largely has been collected by private companies set up by developers.

The panel’s first meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Prince George’s Senate Delegation Room on the 4th floor of the state senate office building in Annapolis.

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