The Maryland Court of Appeals issued a 4-3 decision to permit the sale of county water and wastewater treatment facilities to Artesian Water to go to settlement. The ruling gives the county the right to proceed with the $13 million sale of those facilities to Artesian Water and Wastewater of Maryland and enter into a franchise agreement to privatize county water and sewer services. When the Board of County Commissioners made the decision in 2008 to enter into the franchising agreement, Appelton Regional Community Alliance filed a petition with the court arguing that the agreement was not legal. The Newark Post states the long awaited decision comes more than a year after lawyers for Cecil County and Appleton Regional Community Alliance (ARCA) argued the case in front of the Maryland Court of Appeals on June 2, 2010.
Artesian of Maryland is part of Artesian Resources, which is based near Newark. The utility has expanded into Cecil County in hopes of tapping into a growing population. The court decision also triggers a prior agreement with Artesian that the pending sale must go to settlement within six months of the court decision. Despite the green light from the courts, the sale still hinges on approval from the state Public Service Commission, the appointed board responsible for regulating public utilities in Maryland.
The court’s ruling essentially indicates the Cecil County Board of Commissioners acted properly when they made a decision to sell a county water and wastewater treatment facility to a private entity (Artesian Water) that had been granted a franchise to provide water services to county residents.