Officials of Prince George's and Montgomery counties are planning to meet soon to decide how they may transfer some functions of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) to the county governments.
Two alternatives have been recommended in a $100,000 study which was commissioned by the two county councils after they said they received complaints of WSSC ineffectiveness from citizens and elected officials. Under both alternatives, described in the study, the counties would have control over water and sewer operations within their own borders. Responsibility for operating facilities serving both jurisdictions would be held by a bi-county agency, much smaller than the present WSSC.
One approach described in the study as the "limited alternative" would transfer all planning, policy-making and permit functions now performed by the WSSC to the two county governments. Prince George's County would also assume control of construction and maintenance of its own strom drains - a power already granted to Montgomery County.
The other approach, the "major alternative," would give each county government responsibility for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the water and sewer distribution and collection systems within its borders. Those functions would be in addition to the functions transferred under the limited alternative. The county government also would assume all debt issuance and customer relations responsibilities.
Under both alternatives, the present WSSC commission would be eliminated and a new board consisting of the two county executives and county council heads would be appointed. They, in turn, would appoint a director who would be in charge of daily operations of the bi-county agency. His position would be roughly analogous to that of the current general manager, who is appointed by the commissioners.
In addition, each county would maintain its own water-sewer department.
Prince George's County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr., said he has no opinion yet on which alternative he favors. Montgomery County Executive James P. Gleason said he favors the "major alternative" because it would permit the agency to "show accountability."
Gleason also said that Montgomery County's delegration to Annapolis will submit legislation to transfer WSSC functions o the counties this year after the two counties have reached agreement on the process. A final decision on a WSSC division would be made by the General Assembly and the governor.
Under the "limited alternative," 45 positions would be transferred from the current WSSC to Montgomery county. The jobs would be involved in planning, issuing permits, licensing, inspections and regualtion activities. Capital and operating expenses for the county would total $1 million per year.
An estimated 141 similar positions would be transferred to Prince George's County. In addition, personnel would be required to manage storm drains. Capital and operating expenses necessary for the county would be $9.5 million.
he remaining bi-county agency would retain 1,839 positions and would have an annual budget of $281.2 million. Budget figures are based on existing rather than projected costs.
According to the study, the "limited alternative" would have little long-term impact on the sewer and water rates charged to customers.
Under the "major alternative," a bi-county agency would retain 560 employees to perform functions not taken over by the counties themselves, such as maintenance of sewage and water treatment plants, raw water storage facilities and several other function.
The "major alternative" would transfer 559 positions from the current WSSC To Montgomery's county and 906 to Prince George's. Because most WSSC facilities are in Prince George's, the number of positions assigned to that county would be larger.
The revenue requirements of the counties and bi-county agency would be: Montgomery County, $121 million per year, Prince George's $110 million per year; bi-county agency, $61 million per year.
Under the "major alternative" it would not be necessary to continue the existing uniform rate and charge structure, and implementation of the alternative could increase or decrease existing rates by up to 5 per cent, the study said.