As officials from most population centers know, development goes where the sewer flows. The grandest plans, no matter how well refined or well financed they might be, are nothing but scrap paper if sewer and water service aren’t available — or affordable.
The latter can be a major problem, as Pocomoke City Manager Bobby Cowger observed this week during his pitch to cut the sewer and water connection fees by half — for one year only — to stimulate residential growth.
As Cowger told the City Council, governments often use these connection fees as a source of revenue rather than for their stated purpose of covering costs.
That’s fine if the secondary objective of high hookup charges is to keep a lid on housing development by adding thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home.
In Pocomoke’s case, that additional one-time charge is $9,000, which is enough to be an unacceptable financial burden on the builder and the buyer. Further, as Cowger explained, the city will do just fine financially even at the $4,500 it would levy for water and sewer taps.
When a town needs more tax revenue to pay for the services and improvements its residents want, the best approach is to bring in new taxpayers, rather than raise the levy on existing property owners.
That’s what this reduction in the tap fees is designed to do. It’s not only a one-time deal that could pay dividends to the town for years to come, it also might serve as a signal that the “Friendliest Town on the Eastern Shore” is determined to regain its prosperity by becoming one of the shore’s most affordable places to live.