PRINCESS ANNE — The town has authority to take control of the water and sewer system that serves Somerset County, according to a legal opinion that positions Princess Anne to move forward with a plan to seize the systems that serve 4,000 customers, including 1,400 in the municipal limits. Now, the question is whether town elected officials will take on the task of winning the systems from the Somerset Sanitary Commission that has supervised the operations since the 1970s.

“The municipal charter gives the town authority to operate and maintain a system, and state law gives the municipality the ability to acquire an existing system,” Jordan Gilmore, an attorney at Seidel, Baker & Tilghman, said Tuesday. “It would have to be done by resolution and an ordinance, but the (law) gives them the authority.”

Gilmore rendered the legal opinion a day earlier to members of the Princess Anne Town Commissioners, who in July agreed to begin steps to take over, saying they were “being held hostage” by the Sanitary Commission that has, for more than a year, enforced a moratorium on major construction because of a water shortage.

The moratorium has caused tension between Princess Anne and Somerset officials — both sides lobbying the state to either relax restrictions on water sources with high concentrations of fluoride, or to finance a reverse osmosis plant to treat water with fluoride levels higher than allowed by the Maryland Department of the Environment.