Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Executive will leave WSSC

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The general manager of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission is leaving the utility on Feb. 28 after three years.

Andrew D. Brunhart’s departure was announced Thursday to employees of the agency, which provides water and sewer services to about 1.8 million customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The news was first reported by WTOP radio Friday.

Brunhart — an electrical and civil engineer and retired Navy captain — came to the WSSC in the wake of a bitter struggle that divided the utility’s governing board and ousted his predecessor in buyout deal.

Brunhart clashed with some members of the board, particularly those from Prince George’s County.

Montgomery’s and Prince George’s county executives each appoint three of the six members who make up the utility’s governing board.

In his first year as county executive, Isiah Leggett (D) replaced all of Montgomery’s members. He said he and Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) were working cooperatively to appoint commissioners who can work together and hire employees to address issues such as minority contracting and morale.

Leggett said he hoped Brunhart would stay another year to build on improvements he had made.

But ‘‘we are not where I thought we’d be in solving some of the challenges,” Leggett said. ‘‘The commission viewed his performance as somewhat uneven.”

Brunhart’s departure comes as the agency faces a record number of breaks from aging water mains and pipes that need to be repaired and replaced and whose maintenance had been long deferred.

The agency is expected to ask for new fees and higher rates to pay for the backlog at a time when the economy is struggling and residents are facing higher taxes, at least from the state.