Meeting Minutes

Meeting Minutes
posted: 12/22/09

County Council Meeting Minutes

December 1, 2009

County Council of Dorchester County

Regular Meeting Minutes

December 1, 2009


The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on December 1, 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, County Attorney; Jane Baynard, County Manager and Donna Lane, Executive Administrative Specialist.





The Council adjourned from a Regular Session and convened in a closed Executive Session pursuant to §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; and pursuant to §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.





Councilman Price led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.




The Council approved the following additions to the agenda: 1) consideration of a letter to the Economic Development Administration regarding the Business and Technology Park; and 2) an addition to the proposed legislative initiatives item regarding a proposed State owned land.


Councilwoman Elzey suggested that a letter be sent to the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) explaining that the Dorchester County Council is requesting legislation be introduced during the 2010 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session to institute a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for State owned land located in Dorchester County and to ask MACO staff to share that information with the other members.


Jane Baynard, County Manager, noted that the audit presentation was removed from the agenda because the audit documents are still in draft form.


At the request of Councilman Nichols, the Council agreed to defer the election of officers until its December 15, 2009 meeting.




The Council approved the minutes for November 10, 2009 as presented.




The Council approved vouchers as presented.




Councilman Newcomb reported total cash and investments as $5,752,719.30.




The County Council of Dorchester County convened in an Executive Session at 5:30 p.m. on December 1, 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; and pursuant to §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) approved the request of the Warden of the Dorchester Detention Center to promote an individual to a Corporal by 5 to 0 vote; 2) approved the request of the Youth Services Director to move an individual to full-time status from a part-time as a Counselor II due to the resignation of an individual by a 4 to 1 vote; 3) reviewed an administrative resolution regarding a cell phone/electronic device policy-agreed to discuss in open session; 4) approved the request of the Sheriff to confirm the hiring of an individual to fill a patrol deputy position by a 5 to 0 vote; 5) discussed with legal counsel a proposed open meetings and videotaping policy – 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 the members of the Dorchester Citizens for Safe Energy for their work in preserving the rural beauty, heritage and culture of Dorchester County.   Libby Nagel, Chair and Lin Spicer and Bill Malkus, Co-Chairs, accepted the commendation.




Councilman Newcomb explained that the County Council sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on October 8, 2009 regarding the closure of waters located in Dorchester County from the Talbot County shoreline of Warwick River to the Dorchester County shoreline for the harvesting or storing of shellfish.  He noted that a response was received from MDE on November 20, 2009 and that staff at DNR recently advised that Secretary John R. Griffin did not respond to the letter because closures of waterways for water quality issues are not under DNR’s jurisdiction.  Councilman Newcomb advised that Ben Parks, Second Vice President, Board of Directors, Maryland Watermen’s Association, was present to provide information regarding the closure. 


Mr. Parks explained that the waterways were closed due to poor water quality between East New Market and Secretary.  He explained that approximately 15 years ago the Choptank River was divided in three zones with the intention of placing hatchery seed in those areas to increase the oyster population.  He noted that only hatchery seed from Horns Point at the University of Maryland is used in order to prevent transmission of disease.


Mr. Parks expressed his opinion that “Zone A”, in the Choptank River, located above Green Point Road to Cabin Creek, will never be open for shellfish harvesting.  He noted that “Zone B”, located primary by the City of Cambridge Marina, is in a conditional closure area and is closed frequently if there is poor water quality due to the sewage treatment plant or if rainfall exceeds two inches.  Mr. Parks defined “Zone C” as from the Cambridge Marina to the northern part of the County.    He stated that the Hoopers Strait sanctuary has been closed for years with the understanding that the Honga River, Fishing Bay and lower areas in the Tangier Sound are to be designated for shellfish harvesting.  He noted that 56% of the oyster harvest in the State of Maryland in 2008 was harvested in those waters.


Mr. Parks explained that another sanctuary exists near Sandy Hill which runs from the Hyatt Chesapeake Regency Hotel and follows the channel to the number 13 green buoy and then on to Horns Point.  He noted that there is also a 50 acre area near Sandy Hill in which watermen can harvest shellfish.


Mr. Parks advised that State legislation was passed during the 2009 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session that lifted the prohibition on the leasing oyster beds.  He introduced Mr. Donald Webster, Agent with Agriculture and Natural Resources, Marine Science, at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension.  


Mr. Webster explained that the State of Maryland will obtain three year permits for the leasing of oyster beds and will in turn sublease them to individuals.  He expressed his opinion that reseeding the oyster beds will promote growth and improve the environment.  He noted that aquaculture enterprise zones have been established and that the best shellfish fishery areas were retained for public fishing. 


In response to a question from Councilman Newcomb, Mr. Webster explained that harvest data from the past three years was used to determine the most productive areas which were then designated for public use.   He explained that several watermen have expressed an interest in leasing oyster beds and that the University of Maryland Extension staff is providing training and educational programs for these watermen.


Mr. Parks noted that funding for that training is being provided by the Federal Disaster funds set aside for watermen.


Councilman Price questioned whether the creation of aquaculture enterprise zones will create more competition for local waterman because waterman outside of the County will lease oyster beds.  Mr. Webster stated that he does not foresee much competition from watermen from other counties because the hatchery seed needs to be tended to regularly.

In response to a question from Councilwoman Elzey, Mr. Webster expressed his opinion that it will not take three years before the hatchling seed develops into oysters.  He said that there are new breeds of oysters and some of them grow from seed to market size within nine months to a year.  He confirmed that the Asian oyster will not be migrated in the Choptank River.


Mr. Parks stated that it was his understanding that there may be legislation introduced during the 2010 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session to implement individual transfer quotas for each person holding a waterman’s license.  He expressed his belief that if it passes the seafood industry, particularly in Dorchester County and Somerset County, will be crippled. 


Councilman Travers stated that it was his understanding that it takes three years for oysters cultivated at Horn’s Point to grow to a saleable size.  Mr. Parks expressed his belief that it takes less than three years.  He noted that some of the seeds planted in Bolingbroke Creek in August are now an inch and a half in size and that some planted in 2006 are over four inches.  He encouraged the Council to visit Horn’s Point Research Laboratory. 


Based on an inquiry from Councilman Price, Mr. Parks offered to talk to those watermen who are interested in obtaining information regarding the shellfish closure.


The Council thanked Mr. Parks and Mr. Webster for the information they provided on shellfish harvesting and leasing of oyster beds.




Mr. Rick Woods, Senior Emergency Response Analyst, Constellation Energy, provided the Council with written information on the Calvert Cliffs emergency preparedness plan and the Calvex drill. 


Mr. Woods noted that there are four emergency levels at Calvert Cliffs.  He said that at all levels Federal, State and local officials are notified.  He explained the course of events that must take place at each level of emergency including necessary notifications. 


He stressed that once notification is made and offsite officials are notified they are responsible to take the actions they feel are necessary include notifying the public.  He said that there is telephone hotline from their control room to the Dorchester County Emergency Operations Center and the 911 Center.  He noted that staff at the WCEI and WCEM radio stations as well as other media contacts will also be contacted and the sirens may be used.


Mr. Woods explained that an exercise known as Calvex is held every two years for those within a ten mile radius and every five years for those within a fifty mile radius.  He explained that during those exercises Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) regulators conduct evaluations.


In response to a question from Councilman Price, Mr. Robinson stated that reverse 911 public notification will be used in the case of an emergency.


Mr. Woods presented Mr. Robinson with a certificate recognizing him for his participation during the past six years of Calvex exercises and for obtaining excellent evaluations during those evaluations.


Mr. Robinson stated that Steve Garvin, Emergency Planner, and Chuck Weber, Public Works Director, along with representatives of other State and local agencies partner with him at the Emergency Operations Center during these exercises and thanked them for their team effort.


The Council members expressed their appreciation to staff and thanked Mr. Woods for the information regarding Calvert Cliffs and those exercises.


PROPOSED ADDITIONAL LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES                                                                            

Ms. Baynard stated that in addition to the proposed legislative initiatives the Council presented to local legislators on November 10, 2009, the Council members recently agreed to discuss potential legislation to extend or remove the expiration date (“sunset”) of the County transfer tax and to further discuss their decision to pursue an amendment to the marshland assessment cap.


She explained that the transfer tax was currently set at .75% of consideration paid for an instrument of writing and the revenue from that tax is dedicated specifically to the Circuit Court building, specifically for payment of debt service and then for maintenance and repair costs.  She noted that any remaining funds may be dedicated to fund school construction costs after an appropriate accounting of the fund is completed.    She explained that pursuant to enabling legislation, the tax, is set to expire on June 30, 2014.  In response to a question from Councilman Travers, Ms. Baynard stated that if the tax does expire, the Council will need to fund in excess of $300,000 from the general fund to cover costs specific to the Circuit Court building.


Councilmen Newcomb and Councilmen Travers recognized that the transfer tax revenue has been used for costs associated with the North Dorchester Middle School and will be targeted to cover some of the costs for the Dorchester Career and Technology Center construction.


Mr. Merryweather expressed his opinion that the Council should move forward to make the transfer tax a permanent part of the County Code citing the existence of such a tax in other Maryland counties.


The Council agreed to pursue a legislative initiative to continue the County’s Transfer tax.


The Council deferred the discussion on legislation to amend the marshland assessment cap until Ms. Baynard could clarify with Mr. Merryweather.




The Council deferred the election of officers to its December 15, 2009 meeting.      






At the recommendation of Councilman Newcomb, the Council agreed to reappoint George Howard to the Board of Zoning Appeals.  The Council acknowledged that Mr. Howard’s term will expire on December 1, 2012.


Councilman Price advised he will provide a recommendation for a District 4 representative to the Board at its December 15, 2009 meeting.




The Council agreed to provide a proposed Administrative Resolution on cell phone and electronic devices used by County employees while operating a County vehicle to County Department Heads for comment.




The Council approved a policy regarding recording, photographing and videotaping open session meetings by tape recorder or other recording device and acknowledged that such action is allowable under the State open meetings law. The Council acknowledged that the policy also requires an individual to provide notification of the use of such equipment prior to use.




The Council approved the request of Chuck Weber, Public Works Director, to enter into a Storm Water Management Facilities and Sediment Control Construction, Inspection and Maintenance Agreements between the County Council and Close Quarters Defense, Inc. for a firing range and security training facility located outside of the Town of Vienna.




The Council approved the Third/Fourth Quarter FY09/10 meeting schedule as follows: January 5, January 19, February 2, February 16, March 2, March 16, March 30, April 13, April 20, April 27, May 4, May 11, May 18, May 25, June 8 and June 22.


The Council acknowledged that the meetings scheduled on April 20, May 4 and May 18 are being held to accommodate budget introduction, public hearings and adoption only.




Ms. Baynard noted that the Council took the following actions in the interim between meetings: 1) Based on a request from Keasha Haythe, Economic Development Director, accepted a grant award from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) in the amount of $3,000.000 for funding under the EDA investment of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 by a 5 to 0 vote to implement the construction of water and sewer extensions to serve the industrial/technology park and storm water management elements to accommodate run-off from the park.  The Council acknowledged that the source of funding for the local match will come from a USDA Loan ($1,718,896), FY 09 Capital Debt Issuance ($1,000,000), DBED/MEDCO ($279,000), and County Paygo Funding ($2,104); 2) approved the request of Don Keyes, Information Technology Director, to purchase a backup system for the Public Safety Complex at the cost of $8,170.18 with Homeland Security Funds which have been identified and approved by the State Grant Administrator to be reallocated for the purchase of this equipment by a 5 to 0 vote; 3) agreed to place a proposed resolution to establish a cell phone/electronic device policy for County employees on the December 1, 2009 regular session agenda by a 5 to 0 vote; 4) approved the execution of an addendum to the contract of sale between the Dorchester County Council and Garnett McCoy for 120 High Street with following modifications: a) settlement will occur on December 3, 2009; b) Buyer shall have the right to extend the settlement as late as December 17, 2009; c) Buyer is not required to post a deposit.




Based on a request from Keasha Haythe, Economic Development Director, the Council agreed to the execution of a letter to the Economic Development Administration that acknowledges that before advancing the balance of a $1,750,000 loan to the Maryland Economic Development Corporation for the Technology Park project, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development intends to secure the repayment of the loan with a lien on the property with the proceeds of the sale of the lots within the Park being used to repay the loan from DBED to MEDCO.




Portia Ennals-Johnson, a Dorchester County resident, on behalf of the League of Women Voters, invited the Council to attend an educational forum on the Mid Atlantic Power Pathway project to be held by that organization on December 8, 2009 at the Cambridge South Dorchester High School from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.


Wendell Foxwell, a Dorchester County resident, questioned if there are provisions in the County’s retirement plan which provide that a County employee who is convicted of crimes against the County will in any way forfeit their retirement benefit.  Because County employees are enrolled in the Maryland State retirement plan, the Council requested that Ms. Dennis contact representatives of that agency to inquire as to whether there are any provisions relating to criminal activity.


Mr. Weber stated that on November 17, 2009, the Council approved his request to award the re-bid for the Elliott Island Shoreline Restoration and Wetlands project to Environmental Concern, LLC, the lowest bidder contingent upon the approval of the supplemental bid price by Mr. Weber and the Maryland Department of Environmental.    He noted that he received an approval letter on November 24, 2009 from the Maryland Department of Environment of the supplemental bid price and the bid award.  In response to a question from Councilman Newcomb, Mr. Weber stated that the notice to proceed with the construction will be issued by December 31, 2009 and that construction will last approximately nine months.




At the recommendation of Councilwoman Elzey, the Council made the following reappointments:  1) Joe Layton to the Agricultural Reconciliation Committee, until January 2, 2013; 2) Charlotte Lankford to the Senior Council until December 31, 2012; and 3) Rick McCollister to the Electrical Examiners Board until January 2, 2013. 


Councilman Price advised that several residents have contacted him regarding the status of discussions on public access to a parcel of land on Green Point Road.  Ms. Baynard explained that at its May 19, 2009 meeting, the Council deferred any continued discussion of this parcel of land until Daniel Creighton returned from deployment in the Middle East.   She noted that at that time Mr. Creighton was scheduled to return to the States in December 2009.  She said Council was recently advised that Mr. Creighton’s deployment has been extended until January 2010 and that she anticipated the matter will be placed on a January 2010 agenda.


With no further business to discuss, the Council adjourned.



ATTEST:                                                         DORCHESTER COUNTY COUNCIL:


______________________________            ____________________________________

Jane Baynard, County Manager                       Jay L. Newcomb, President



                                                                        William V. Nichols, Vice President



                                                                        Effie M. Elzey



                                                                        Ricky Travers



                                                                        Rick Price


Approved the ______day of _____________________, 2009.