Officials Praise Decision to Defer Water Tower

Owings Mills-Reisterstown Patch

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s decision to indefinitely defer a water tower planned for the Reisterstown/Owings Mills area has been met with praise from public officials, who were concerned that neighbors would be fighting neighbors.

If there was one point elected officials wanted to drive home at last week’s water tower meeting, it was that an 850-foot structure did not belong in any residential area.

“The constituents were loud and clear that they weren’t going to be able to make a decision that would pit neighbor against neighbor,” said Councilwoman Vicki Almond. She, along with State Sen. Bobby Zirkin and State Dels. Dana Stein and Jon Cardin, urged the county to revisit commercial sites after Baltimore County Public Works revealed that the six most ideal sites for the proposed Reisterstown/Owings Mills water tower were all in residential areas.

To the delight of officials and the community, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced Monday he would indefinitely defer the construction of the water tower and reallocate the $6 million budgeted for the water tower to other water and sewer projects in the county.

“While I am confident that the engineering data supports the construction of the tower, it is also clear to me that reaching a community consensus on any of the six proposed locations is not likely to occur,” Kamenetz said in a letter.

Don Mohler, spokesman and chief of staff for Kamenetz, said the county executive arrived at his decision after attending the meeting and speaking with special assistant Tony Baysmore.

Mohler went on to say it was too early to say which projects would be funded with the $6 million.

“Obviously, Baltimore County has a lot of water and sewer needs,” he said.

Zirkin also applauded the county executive’s decision, saying it was “ludicrous” that the debate got to the point it did.

“Assuming what they are saying is correct – there is a need – there are other spots, and hopefully what the county is going to do is take a couple giant steps back and look at commercials sites and sites that are desolate,” he said.

Baltimore County Public Works officials said the 2 million-gallon water tank is needed to keep up with water demand, ensure there is enough water for fire protection and emergency situations, to better distribute water throughout the system and ensure high water quality. A firm hired by the county studied commercial sites, but none made the cut.

Public Works Director Ed Adams said if there were two fires on a day in which there was high water usage, firefighters could run out of water. Public works officials could not be reached for comment late Monday afternoon.

Almond said she does not believe there to be an immediate public safety concern.

“I think if there were any public safety concern that we’d still be in discussions,” she said. “I’m almost certain when public works explained the need that yes, there is need, but I don’t think it’s as immediate as we thought in the beginning.”

Kamenetz said the county’s public works and public safety departments will monitor the situation and will let him know if anything changes and the county needs to revisit the project.

“In such event, I will communicate those facts to the community as well,” he wrote.

All in all, Almond thought residents should be proud of themselves for coming together and getting their message to the government. She plans to stay in touch with the Stop the Water Tower group and the county’s public works department.

“I think a lot of good has come out of this,” she said. “People got together and got to know their neighbors and decided they couldn’t take this from their backyard and put it in their neighbors’.”