The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, scheduled to vote on a huge rate increase for people who want to connect their homes to the Maryland suburban water and sewer system, failed to meet yesterday because no representative from Prince George's County showed up.
Two Montgomery County commissioners immediately charged that the WSSC had been prevented from voting on the controversial rate voting on the controversial rate increases "for purely political reasons." Prince George's County Executive Winfield M. Jelly Jr. is involved in a tight battle for reelection in which taxes are the principal issue.
Therefore, the Montgomery commissioners said, Kelly had prevented the WSSC from having a quorum by detaining the only Prince George's WSSC commissioner who was not out of town yesterday in Upper Mariboro all afternoon.
Instead of appearing at the WSSC offices in Hyattsville to vote on the sewer increase, Prince George's Commissioner Andrew M. Vislosky was sequestered in a closed 'very important meeting on sewer issues' with Prince George's County Administrator Robert W. Wilson, according to a kelly spokesman.
The spokesman said Commissioner Vislocky was kept from the meeting so that the three Montgomery commissioners - who would have had a 3 to 1 majority - could not one on other issues "that would not vote on other issues "that would terests."
Action on the proposal for higher sewer connections fees for many new WSSC customers already had been postponed twice before yesterday's meeting.
At present, all water and sewer hookups cost a total of $1,095. Under the higher rate schedule proposed by WSSC general manager Robert S. McGarry, the amount charged home owners to connect to the water and sewer system in built-up areas would cost a total of $4,150 - an increase of almost 400 percent. McGarry said the big increase is to cover the high installation costs in built-up areas.
At present, McGarry said, the higher costs are spread among all WSSC customers, at a cost to them of more than $2 million a year.
In other proposed increase, residents of existing homes would have to pay a total of $1,525 instead of the present $1,095. New construction in umimproved areas would be able to get water and sewer hookups for only $5 more than the present $1,095 price.
McGary said failure to enact the higher rates is costing customers $40,000 a week.
Both the Montgomery and Prince George's County Councils have approved the proposed increases, and the three Montgomery commissioners on the WSSC have said they are prepared to approve the higher rates - if they get a chance to vote on them.
A spokesman for Kelly said the county executive "is still studying the (Prince George's) council action. We don't have a position on it yet."
On the charge that Kelly was trying to halt a preelection increase in some residents' utility hookup costs, a spokesman said, "No one wants to be responsible for rate increases.