The Calvert Board of Commissioners decided that the county -- not the Chesapeake Ranch Water Co. -- will supply water for the Lusby town center as well as a proposed office park nearby.

Tuesday's decision came after the commissioners reviewed a staff report recommending that Chesapeake Ranch Water Co. bid be rejected because it would be too "costly" to future customers, among other reasons.

"I think we have to do what is in absolutely the best interest of the county," Commissioner Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large) said.

Tuesday's decision came a week after the commissioners approved extending the county's water and sewer system and services to the Lusby town center, a key part of both the town's master plan and an effort to develop an office park in the area. At that same public meeting last week, the commissioners left open a decision on a source of water until this week.

In the interim, county staff members compiled a report evaluating the Chesapeake Ranch proposal as it applied to the county's overall plan for development in the area. In a memo to the commissioners, County Administrator James Allman urged rejecting the bid because "it places an unnecessary financial burden" on potential users in the Lusby area. Allman also recommended using excess capacity at the county's Solomons well to supply water to Lusby and the business park while it is developing. He additionally recommended that the county pursue other potential sources of water.

That pursuit, Allman said in the memo, should include applying for permits to drill wells on site, negotiating with the Navy as a source of water and seeking to connect with other systems, including Chesapeake Ranch Water Co. and the Navy, whether they supply the water to the Lusby system or not. "Redundancy will only strengthen all systems," Allman said.

After Tuesday's vote by the commissioners, Chesapeake Ranch attorney Stephen D. Ball said he and the company representatives were "weighing our options" as to how to respond. The company had maintained that using county water and service would result in competition for source water and duplication of infrastructure.

"There's a risk -- imminent danger to the Chesapeake Ranch water system," Ball said.

In January 2002, the previous Board of Commissioners adopted a master plan for Lusby that envisions new roads to ease traffic congestion and a distinct shopping district in the town center.

The plan calls for a 10-year infrastructure development program that includes installation of public water and sewer facilities to serve all property within the town center, plus a large piece of adjoining land that is the site of a proposed office park.

Some board members, such as Commissioner Susan Shaw (R-Huntingtown), suggested that the county needs to further address its long-term water-usage plans for fast-growing Calvert.

"We're taking more water out of the aquifer than we're replacing," Shaw said.