Prince George's County residents, already facing a 35 percent hike in water and sewer rates, attended a County Council hearing this week to voice another complaint against the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) -- the proposed expansion of its Hyattsville headquarters.
In addition to its Hyattsville facility, the WSSC leases office space in Laurel and in the Presidential Building in Prince George's Plaza at an annual cost of $578,000. The agency would like to consolidate its offices.
WSSC officials said the new building it wants in Hyattsville would be built on a parking lot the agency owns next door to its present headquarters building, and would cost about $3.5 million.
Residents of the neighborhood, which borders on Magruder Park, vehemently objected to the new building, charging it would lead to increased traffic and crime in the surrounding residential area.
Others questioned the necessity of the expansion, pointing out that the WSSC has proposed staff reductions as a way to trim its budget.
"The WSSC seem to operate on some strange kind of inverted logic," said Anthony Pauletti, spokesman for an ad hoc group called Concerned Citizens of Hyattsville. "When water and sewer usage drops, rates go up and the WSSC must expand."
In the past, the Hyattsville City Council has rejected expansion bids by the WSSC. Last December, however, it voted 8-2 to approve the new building tentatively. The decision will be made by the County Council, which usually follows the desires of the city.
"The community doesn't want it," said Douglas Dudrow, one of the disenting members of the council, at this week's hearing.
"It's irrational," said Sharon Zeender, who lives on Hamilton Street across from the WSSC headquarters, of the expansion proposal. "There's Rte. 1, industrial parks, the area around the Beltway -- use them. This should be the last place the WSSC builds."
Because the WSSC is a bicounty agency, both the Montgomery and Prince George's councils must approve the expansion.
Council members gave no indication this week whether they would support the agency's request. The final budget does not have to be approved until next month.
County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan, in a recent letter to council chairman Parris Glendening, said he opposed the new facility.
The council will meet in work sessions April 16 and 17 to consider the WSSC budget.