County Council Meeting Minutes
September 22, 2009
County Council of
Regular Meeting Minutes
September 22, 2009
The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on September 22, 2009 with the following members present: Present were Jay L. Newcomb, President; William V. Nichols, Vice President; Effie M. Elzey; Ricky Travers; and Rick Price. Also present were E. Thomas Merryweather,
The Council adjourned from a Regular Session and convened in a closed Executive
Session pursuant to State Government Article §10-508(A)(1) to discuss the appointment, employment, assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation, or performance evaluation of appointees, employees, or officials over whom it has jurisdiction; pursuant to §10-508(A)(3) to consider the acquisition of real property for a public purpose and matters directly related thereto; and§10-508(A)(7) to consult with counsel to obtain legal advice on a legal matter.
Voting in favor of the closed Executive Session were all Council members.
Jane Baynard, County Manager, advised that Councilman Price was not present at the meeting due to work obligations and that he had provided her with his written proxy.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Councilman Nichols led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.
CALL FOR ADDITIONS OR DELETIONS TO AGENDA
The Council approved the following additions to the agenda: discussion regarding legal services for the Board of License Commissioners and County appropriation funding to local volunteer companies.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Council approved the regular session minutes for September 8, 2009 as presented. Councilman Price voted in favor by written proxy.
The Council approved the regular session budget review minutes for September 8, 2009 as presented. Councilman Price voted in favor by written proxy.
The Council approved the budget work session minutes for September 1, 2009. Councilman Price voted in favor by written proxy.
The Council approved the amended August 11, 2009 minutes to change the amount to be borrowed to $14,297,298 in Bill No. 2009-10 because it was noted incorrectly in the original minutes. Councilman Price voted in favor by written proxy.
APPROVAL OF DISBURSEMENTS
The Council approved vouchers as presented.
FINANICAL REPORT: CASH AND INVESTMENTS
Councilman Newcomb reported total cash and investments as $3,517,336.34.
EXECUTIVE SESSION SUMMARY
The County Council of Dorchester County convened in an Executive Session at 5:00 p.m. on September 22, 2009 in a closed session at Room 110, County Office Building, 501 Court Lane, Cambridge, Maryland, pursuant to the State Government Article §10-508(A)(1) to discuss the appointment, employment, assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation, or performance evaluation of appointees, employees, or officials over whom it has jurisdiction; pursuant to §10-508(A)(3) to consider the acquisition of real property for a public purpose and matters directly related thereto; and§10-508(A)(7) to consult with counsel to obtain legal advice on a legal matter.
Motion made, seconded and carried to conduct a closed session pursuant to the above. All members of the Council voted in the affirmative to conduct the closed session for the purposes stated above and to discuss the topics listed above.
Action taken at the closed session: 1) Discussed personnel issues relating to FY 2010 budget and identified funding to maintain a shared position in County’s Maintenance Department by a 5 to 0 vote with Councilman Price voting by written proxy; 2) approved the request of the Emergency Medical Services Director to promote an individual to an EMT-1 by a 4 to 0 vote with Councilman Price voting by written proxy; 3) denied the request of the Tourism Director to restructure certain positions and restructure department duties in light of recent budget cuts by a 3 to 1 vote with Councilman Price voting by proxy; 4) discussed a resident’s request to sell property to County-took no action; 5) discussed a matter concerning contractual services – took no action; 6) discussed a matter relating to incurring legal fees for Board of License Commissioners-agreed to discuss in open session.
The above information is being provided to the public pursuant to and in compliance with Section 10-509(b) and (c) of the State Government Article.
The Council presented a commendation to Henrietta Jarrett congratulating Ms. Jarrett on her retirement and recognizing her 20 years of dedicated service to
Rachel McCullough introduced herself as the new Eastern Shore Outreach Coordinator in the Governor’s Office. She explained that the coordinator position was a new position developed to work with local government officials to assist with the receipt of timely responses and answers from State agencies and to inform the Governor of any concerns by local officials.
The Council welcomed Ms. McCullough.
SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL PROGRAM UPDATE-ERIN HILL
Erin Hill, Highway Safety and Injury Prevention Project Coordinator at the Dorchester County Health Department, provided the Committee with an overall grant summary on the Safe Routes to School initiative. She noted that they have received grant funding in the amount of $664,300 for this initiative and have applied for additional funding in the amount of $330,200. She explained that the development of a multi use pathway from Jenkins Creek Road to Washington Street is part of the initiative and that construction on that pathway should commence in October 2009. Ms. Hill noted that walk to school day is also part of the initiative and that several of the County schools have scheduled their walk to school days. She said she will provide the Council with a list of those days once confirmed and encouraged that Council to participate in these events.
The Council thanked Ms. Hill for providing an update on the Safe Routes to School program.
Margaret Wolff, member of the Choptank River Lighthouse Committee/Society, presented to each Council member, Ms. Baynard and E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney, a framed digitally rendered photograph of the proposed Choptank River Lighthouse, which will be built at the end of Pier A in the Cambridge Municipal Marina in appreciation of Council’s support of the project. She also provided the Council with brochures. The Council thanked Ms. Wolff and the members of the Committee/Society for the photographs.
DOG CONTROL DISCUSSION
Ms. Baynard advised that the Dorchester County Humane Society closed for “open admissions” on September 15, 2009 and transitioned to a “limited admissions shelter.” She acknowledged that Sheriff James Phillips and representatives from the Humane Society were present.
Ms. Baynard explained that since 2007 the Council has contracted with the Humane Society for services rather than funding a portion of that entity’s budget. She stated that, as a vendor, the Humane Society provides for housing of dogs for a five day period at a flat rate as well as a payment quarterly for extended hours of operation. She noted that even though the last contract the County entered into with the Humane Society expired in June 2008, the Humane Society continued to bill for services and accept payment under the terms of the agreement. Ms. Baynard noted that there is $172,000 in the County’s FY 2010 allocated for Dog Control of which $92,150 is approved services provided by the Humane Society, based on the agreement.
Ms. Baynard explained that in January 2009 the Humane Society Board requested a $50 increase of the per dog housing fee and she advised that the adopted budget did include an additional $15,150 for services provided by the Humane Society intended to provide for that increase. In response to a question from Ms. Baynard, Sheriff Phillips advised that County Dog Control Officers took 336 dogs to the Humane Society shelter in FY 2008. Ms. Baynard stated that the increased funding approved in the budget would allow the Sheriff to pay the higher rate provided submissions remain consistent with the prior year.
Ms. Baynard noted the County received a letter from the Humane Society Board members dated September 3, 2009, which stated that they were unable to continue their contractual commitments with the County based on financial constraints requiring them to transition to a limited admissions facility as of September 15th and, as such, would not accept dogs brought to the shelter by the County’s Dog Control Division. She explained that included in the letter was a statement that the Council would need to pay 56% of the operating expenses of the Humane Society in order for the shelter to continue to be an open admissions shelter and offer services to the County. She said that, based on that percentage requested the County would need to fund an additional $58,000 over the existing budget FY 2010 allowance.
Councilman Newcomb noted that funds were increased in the FY 2010 to pay for the services provided by Humane Society while other vendors, agencies and organizations unilaterally received a decrease in funding. Based on a question from Councilman Newcomb regarding the decision made by the Board members to cease being an open admissions shelter, Sharon Keutmann, President of the Humane Society Board explained that when they billed the County at the rate of $157.50 per dog for the month of July 2009, which included the requested increase of $50, but that they were advised by Sheriff Phillips that they should re-bill at $107.50 per dog. She said that indicated to the Board of Directors that the increase requested per dog had not been approved in the new budget. Sheriff Phillips explained that because there was no new negotiated contract recognizing the new rate prior to that billing, he paid the Humane Society based on the previously contracted amount. He said that on August 18, 2009 he notified the Humane Society Board President that a new contract needed to be executed based on the FY2010 budget allowance and that he advised Ms. Keutmann by email on August 20, 2009 that the Council did approve funds sufficient to meet the agency’s January 2009 request.
Sheriff Phillips explained that he and Ms. Baynard met with Humane Society Board members on September 10, 2009. He advised that the representatives of the Humane Society present at that meeting reiterated the written offer included in the September 3rd letter for an increase in order to fund 56% of that agency’s budget or a 30 day extension at the cost of $12,500. He explained that he and Ms. Baynard asked the Board members to accept the remaining FY2010 funding allowed for the County’s contract for services for this agency, even if that extension funded only five to six months, in order to allow time for staff to identify alternatives with Council. He noted that Jerilyn Gibbs, Secretary for the Humane Society Board, then advised he and Ms. Baynard that the Humane Society was not seeking funds but rather wanted to meet in person to explain the reasons the shelter needed to reorganize. Sheriff Phillips expressed confusion as to the conflicting message from the Humane Society Board of Directors based on Ms. Gibbs’ comment.
Sheriff Phillips explained that since September 15, 2009 his staff has continued to enforce dog control in the county and that he is in the process of identifying alternative shelter sites and developing policies and procedures should the County Council chose not to renew the contract for services at an increased rate with the Humane Society. He expressed his opinion that the Council can either seek legislation to abandon the legislation entitled “Dog Control”, give additional funding to the Humane Society or allow the Sheriff’s Office to continue to operate Dog Control in the County by establishing new partnerships. He said that he believes he can maintain minimum services to enforce the County’s ordinance by establishing new partnerships and stay within the amount allocated in the FY 2010 budget.
Based on an inquiry by Councilman Newcomb, Mr. Merryweather confirmed that the County is only legislative mandated to enforce Dog Control.
Councilman Newcomb questioned if the Humane Society Board members will be willing to accept the $50 per dog increase for the remainder of the year. Tom Keating, Human Society Board member, noted that the contract between the Humane Society and the County ended on July 1, 2008 and that they can no longer operate as an open admissions shelter based on financial constraints. He said that the $50 per dog increase, requested in January 2009, was no longer sufficient to meet costs of operation and advised that the Board of Directors need an additional $58,000, for a total of $150,000, in order to keep the shelter in an “open admissions” status.
In response to a question from Councilman Newcomb regarding ratio of dogs surrendered to the shelter from all sources, Ms. Keutmann said that in the previous operating year 30% of the total animals brought to the shelter were surrendered by the County’s Dog Control offices while 70% were surrendered by owners and or public. She stated that approximately 40% of dogs at the shelter come from municipalities and noted that municipal governments contribute approximately $200 to $400 funding per year.
Mr. Keating stated that 1410 animals were brought to the shelter in 2008. In response to a question from Councilwoman Elzey, Mr. Keating stated that the figure includes dogs, chickens, birds, cats and other animals.
Rebecca Eismann, Vice President of the Humane Society Board, expressed her opinion that although the County Ordinance only pertains to dog control, she believes from a public health standpoint the feral cat population should be addressed by the Council. She said that the Human Society Board of Directors have been using funds from investments to subsidize costs over the past years in order to maintain the shelter. She said the Humane Society Board has determined that the organization cannot continue to do so based on the fiduciary responsibility to maintain the investment funds. She expressed her hope that an arrangement can be reached between the Council and the Humane Society to address the problem.
In response to a question from Councilman Newcomb, Ms. Eismann stated that the Humane Society is currently not accepting any animals at the shelter under the restructuring and said that the focus for the next 30 days is to continue to house the animals already in the shelter and work on finding homes for them. Councilman Newcomb noted that he had received complaints from several residents that the gates were locked at the Humane Society facility. Suzanne Stitley, Interim Humane Society Director, stated that the gate is locked for security reasons when the shelter is closed. Ms. Eismann stated that the Humane Society hours have not changed and noted that they are as follows: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 pm. and Saturdays 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Ms. Keutmann advised that the hours of operation are on the website and the Humane Society’s answering machine.
Penny Pink, a Dorchester County resident, expressed her opinion that the Humane Society Board was protecting its resources by choosing to close the gates and such closure will preclude public access which facilitates abandoning animals at the shelter.
Ms. Eismann said that several residents have expressed a strong desire for the shelter to remain a no kill shelter and that they have provided care to a lot of the animals that in the past would not have been given the change to recover. She commented that operating costs continue to escalate. Dana Dickerson, Treasurer, affirmed Ms. Eismann’s statements.
In response to a question from Councilwoman Elzey regarding whether there was a plan implemented for the Humane Society shelter to become a no kill shelter, Ms. Eismann stated that no plan has been developed and that they have slowly moved toward that goal.
Dr. Erin Giza, a veterinarian, and Humane Society Board Member stated that she volunteers her services to the Humane Society, and expressed concern about the Board’s decision to become a no kill shelter because she believes it is impossible based on the amount of animals being surrendered by the public as they are unable to afford costs associated with taking care of animals. Councilman Travers expressed concern that the cost to adopt a “no kill” policy may have contributed to the Humane Society’s financial problems.
Councilwoman Elzey noted that the decision to move forward with adopting that policy and the request for additional funding was made by the Humane Society after the Council approved the County’s budget in May 2009 for FY 2010.
Susan Todd, a Dorchester County resident, stated that she was a former Humane Society Board Member and President of Snip Tuck, Inc. She said her company had assisted in spaying and neutering of feral cats and that she had submitted a Letter to the Editor with a copy to Council, regarding the actions taken by the current Humane Society Board members. She expressed her concern that despite several requests, financial information regarding the Humane Society has been provided, and questioned how fiscally responsible the board members have been in maintaining the shelter and its services. She said a $100,000 donation was bequeathed to the shelter and questioned how those funds were used. Ms. Todd also expressed concern about the cost of becoming a no kill shelter and noted that, even though there is a fully equipped hospital for spaying and neutering at the shelter, it is unused. She expressed her personal opinion that the Humane Society Board members should step down.
Ms. Eismann said the Humane Society budget is available to the public. She stated that the $100,000 donation was made public and how it was invested and used was addressed in a Humane Society newsletter.
Jim Wilcox, a Dorchester County resident, noted that there are approximately 32,000 residents in Dorchester County, with 9.4 million collected in income tax revenue by the County while Wicomico County consists of 94,000 residents with a 42 million income tax base. He advised the Wicomico County operates its Humane Shelter at the cost of $279,000 compared to Dorchester County’s commitment of $172,000. He expressed his opinion that the Humane Society Board members should operate its facility at a comparable rate and focus more on fundraising.
Mr. Keating expressed his opinion that the Council provides the lowest funding for the Humane Society than any other county on the Eastern Shore and suggested that the Council agree to provide funding of $150,000 with the execution of a one year contract. Councilman Newcomb noted that the Board members have already refused an offer of the remaining $73,000 in the FY 2010 budget after July expenses to allow for additional time for the Council to consider alternatives.
Libby Nagel stated that out of the 25 residents she talked to no one was aware that the Humane Society offers paid memberships. She also noted that a resident in the County provides $6,000 in cat food to the Humane Society annually. She recommended that the Sheriff’s Office take over dog control and utilize inmates to care for the animals in the same fashion as is being done in the State of Arizona. She also suggested that the Board members step down.
Glenn Payne, a Dorchester County resident, expressed his opinion that it is inhumane to let dogs run loose and that he was not interested in how other counties operate their animal shelters. He also expressed his support for the services provided by the Humane Society Board members and suggested that the ordinance to be revised to include cats.
Mr. Payne questioned whether a contractor can be hired to act as an animal control officer part time without benefits. He then offered to volunteer his services to animal control.
Verla Bowser, a Dorchester County resident for four years, advised that she was conducting a personal campaign to increase Humane Society membership.
John Geisan, a Dorchester County resident, expressed his understanding that two of the bordering counties, Talbot and Caroline, which have essentially the same population as Dorchester County contribute significantly more than Dorchester County’s spending. He questioned how the County Council determined the budgeted allocation for Humane Society services. Councilman Newcomb explained that the Council, pursuant to the January 2009 Humane Society Board’s budget request, increased funding for the services the Humane Society provides and noted that the County’s budget must be adopted by May of each year.
Pam Airey, a Dorchester County resident, stated that because she believed she was treated unfairly by the Dorchester County Humane Society while trying to adopt a dog from that facility and noted that she adopted a dog from Caroline County instead. She advised that she will not donate to the Dorchester County Humane Society. She expressed concern about the condition of the Society’s shelter and her opinion that the Society’s Board members should not rely on County funding but should garner financial support from County residents.
Blanche Powell, a Dorchester County resident, said she was in support of the Humane Society Board members. She expressed her hope that the Board members will graciously receive any offer of assistance from the Council and her opinion that they the shelter should be a no kill facility.
Dr. Mary Dietz stated that she understands there are budget constraints but questioned why there was only one animal officer on duty at a time. She explained that on Sunday, September 20, 2009 calls to the County’s Animal Control regarding an animal in distress went unanswered for a long period of time until Regina Harris, County Animal Control Officer, on her personal time, answered the call. She asked the two entities to consider a compromise. Sheriff Phillips explained that he does not have sufficient staff for 24/7 operations and noted that one of the County’s officers is on sick leave.
In response to a question from Dr. Jo Chapman, Sheriff Phillips stated that Sheriff’s Deputies routinely help animal control officers but, due to limited manpower, he is unable to assign one of those deputies to undertake animal control. He said that Town of Hurlock Police, City of Cambridge police and Maryland State Troopers can also respond to dangerous dog complaints. He noted that Cambridge police responded to the incident.
Carol Embrey, a Dorchester County resident, asked the County to partner with a cross section of the community and establish a committee to work toward a positive solution to problems relating to the care and control of animals. She expressed her opinions that euthanization after five days was unacceptable and that the shelter should be relocated to a more suitable location. She recommended an increase in the County’s dog license fee.
Councilman Travers explained that since the County’s FY 2010 budget was adopted in May 2009, the Council had to reduce that budget by $1.8 million due to recent State reductions in local aid including a 90% reduction in highway user revenue funds. He noted that Governor Martin O’Malley has announced that there may be additional State reductions. He said that the Humane Society was the only vendor to receive additional funding in the current budget and encouraged them to work to change public perception of the organization. He noted that the Council had agreed to provide funding of $12,000 to the Humane Society in 2008 for spaying and neutering in addition to that years’ funding allowances in the budget.
Councilman Newcomb advised that he was contacted by three families who left memorials to their spouses to the Humane Society and said that they had noted that despite several requests, were not told how much was donated. Ms. Eismann said that the information is available and asked Councilman Newcomb to advise them to contact the Humane Society.
Ms. Eismann thanked the Council for their time and consideration. Mr. Keating extended a personal invitation to all residents to tour the Humane Society facility to give constructive criticism and to consider fostering animals.
The Council asked the Dorchester County Humane Society Board members to accept the additional $15,150 allocated in the FY10 Animal Control budget for the remainder of FY2010 as a $50 per dog increase to the Humane Society for each dog brought to into the shelter by County animal Control Officers for that period. The Council requested that they also work with Sheriff Phillips to execute a revised contract if they accept the additional funding. The Council acknowledged that the Board will provide its answer to accepting this funding and remaining an open admissions shelter at its October 6, 2009 meeting. Additionally, the Council gave authority to Sheriff Phillips to establish whatever partnerships are necessary to maintain the County’s Dog Control Ordinance in the interim until such time as the Humane Society Board members render a decision on whether to accept the funding for FY 2010.
Ms. Baynard advised that the Council met on August 25, 2009 meeting and discussed initiatives for the 2010 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session. She explained that at that meeting they agreed to pursue legislation amending Section 4-201 of the Education Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland to require that, upon appointment, the Dorchester County Superintendent of Schools must reside in
Portia Johnson Ennals, a Dorchester County resident, questioned if the new requirement will be noted in the advertisement for requests for proposals for the position. Councilman Newcomb noted that the Board of Education members have stated that they are not in favor of the proposed legislation. Ms. Ennals expressed her support for the residency requirement.
In response to a question from Rosie Travers, a Dorchester County resident, Ms. Baynard explained that if the Board of Education does not adhere to the requirement, if the legislation is passed, they will be in violation of State law.
The Council agreed to amend the draft legislation to include that the appointed Superintendent maintain his/her primary residence and to give that individual one year after being placed on the Board of Education payroll to obtain residency.
Ms. Baynard advised that, at its August 25, 2009 meeting, the Council also requested that legal advice be obtained from Charles MacLeod, Special Legal Counsel, about whether to pursue legislation to implement taxes/fees associated with projects regarding the transmission of electricity during the 2010 legislative session. She noted that Mr. MacLeod provided the Council with two memorandums pursuant to its request. The Council agreed to meet in a work session with Special Legal Counsel and Finance staff to discuss options regarding the possible implementation of taxes/fees associated transmission of electricity projects.
The Council adjourned into Legislative Session.
The Council introduced Bill No. 2009-11 AN ACT OF THE COUNTY COUNCIL OF DORCHESTER COUNTY, DECLARING THAT A CERTAIN PARCEL OF LAND SITUATE ON THE SOUTHEAST SIDE OF HIGH STREET, IN THE CITY OF CAMBRIDGE, CAMBRIDGE ELECTION DISTRICT OF DORCHESTER COUNTY, MARYLAND KNOWN AS 120 HIGH STREET, CAMBRIDGE, MARYLAND 21613, IS NO LONGER NEEDED FOR PUBLIC USE BY THE COUNTY PROVIDING FOR THE CONVEYANCE OF THE PROPERTY TO GARNETT MCCOY FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF TWO HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($225,000.00).
Mr. Merryweather explained that a bill was being introduced to declare property located on the southeast side of High Street, in the City of Cambridge, Cambridge Election District of Dorchester County Maryland, known as 120 High Street Cambridge as no longer needed for public use and providing for the conveyance of the property to Garnett McCoy for $225,000 contingent upon purchaser living up to all obligations of contract. Authorize president and
The Council agreed to proceed with publication of a public hearing on this matter. Councilman Price voted in favor by written proxy.
The Council introduced Bill No. 2009- 12 AN ACT approving the issuance by the Dorchester County Sanitary District, Inc. (the “District”) of (1) a bond anticipation note of the District in the principal amount of $2,044,000 to be known as “Dorchester County Sanitary District, Inc. Sewer System Bond Anticipation Note (Madison-Woolford-Susquehanna Point Sanitary District No. 7) (the “Note”) and (2) two series of bonds of the District in the principal amount of $1,754,000 and $290,000 to be known as "