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Meeting Minutes
posted: 01/08/10

County Council Meeting Minutes


December 15, 2009

County Council of Dorchester County

Regular Meeting Minutes

December 15, 2009

 

The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on December 15, 2009 with the following members present: Present were Jay L. Newcomb, 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.  Councilman Nichols was not present.

 

REGULAR SESSION

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION

 

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; pursuant to §10-508(A)(3) to consider the acquisition of real property for a public purpose and matters directly related thereto; 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.

 

REGULAR SESSION

 

INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

 

Councilman Travers led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.

 

CALL FOR ADDITIONS OR DELETIONS TO AGENDA

 

There were no additions or deletions to the agenda.

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES-NOVEMBER 17, 2009 and DECEMBER 1, 2009

 

The Council approved the minutes for November 17, 2009 as presented.  The Council also approved the December 1, 2009 minutes as presented.

 

APPROVAL OF DISBURSEMENTS

 

The Council approved vouchers as presented.

 

FINANICAL REPORT: CASH AND INVESTMENTS

 

Councilman Newcomb reported total cash and investments as $4,838,117.42.

 


EXECUTIVE SESSION SUMMARY

 

The County Council of Dorchester County convened in an Executive Session at 4:30 p.m. on December 15, 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 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) denied the request of the Sheriff to release position frozen as a result of budget cuts for 2010 by a 4 to 0 vote;                2) approved the request of the Warden of the Detention Center to hire one individual to fill a vacant Correctional Officer position by a 4 to 0 vote; 3) discussed with legal counsel a request regarding a lien release for a County property; 4) received an update from special legal counsel on the Mid Atlantic Power Pathway project; 5) received clarification from legal counsel regarding an issue relating to the Sheriff’s Office; and 6) discussed with legal counsel a funding policy to local fire companies for equipment purchases.

 

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.

 

Councilman Newcomb announced that expert witness testimony had been filed in the Mid Atlantic Power Pathway Public Service Commission case and was available for the public review in the Council’s Office.

 

 CAPITAL BUDGET EXPENDITURE-STATE’S ATTORNEY

 

The Council approved the request of William Jones, State’s Attorney, to expend FY08 State’s Attorney Office capital funds in the amount of $6,793.30 for the final payment for Judicial Dialog case management software.

 

REGULAR SESSION

 

COMMENDATION-RETIREMENT-DANIEL SKIP MAHAN                                                               

The Council presented a commendation to Daniel Skip Mahan who rendered three and a half years of service to Dorchester County in his capacity with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency as Regional Administrator.   Mr. Mahan accepted the commendation.


LEGISLATIVE SESSION

 

PUBLIC HEARING 

 

A public hearing was held on Bill No. 2009-14 – AN ACT OF THE COUNTY COUNCIL OF DORCHESTER COUNTY MARYLAND TO ADD NEW CHAPTER 12 ENTITLED “CRIMINAL LAW” TO THE CODE OF PUBLIC LOCAL LAWS OF DORCHESTER COUNTY MARYLAND BEING ARTICLE 10 OF THE CODE OF PUBLIC LOCAL LAWS OF MARYLAND TO ESTABLISH REGULATIONS TO PROHIBIT THE POSSESSION AND DISTRIBUTION OF SALVIA AND ITS RELATED PARAPHERNALIA.

 

E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney, stated that a public hearing was being held on a bill to add a new Chapter 12 entitled “Criminal Law, to the Code of Public Local laws of Dorchester County, being Article 10 of the Code of Public Local Laws of Maryland to establish regulations to prohibit the possession and distribution of salvia and its related paraphernalia.  He explained that the Ocean City Commissioners and the Worchester County Council passed similar bills.  He noted that he prepared this draft legislation based on Council’s request.

 

There was no public comment.

Mr. Merryweather advised that Sheriff James Phillips, William Jones, State’s Attorney and Roger Harrell, Health Officer, Dorchester County Health Department, previously provided written support for the introduction and passage of the bill.

 

The role call on the enactment of Bill No. 2009-14 was as follows: Nichols-absent; Newcomb-aye; Elzey-aye; Price-aye; Travers-aye.

 

INTRODUCTION    

 

DANGEROUS DOGS-MANDATORY SPAYING OR NEUTERING

 

Ms. Baynard advised that Johanna Norris has submitted a written request to the Council to consider introducing local legislation requiring owners of dogs defined as dangerous to obtain a permit and a background check in order to breed their dog.  She explained that if an individual failed to obtain the permit, sold puppies without proper documentation or the dog is found to be unneutered fines will be assessed.  Ms. Norris advised that her address is 31248 Bruceville Road, Trappe, Maryland.

 

Mr. Merryweather questioned if Ms. Norris had copies of legislation from other jurisdictions.  Ms. Norris stated that she has a copy of a bill passed in the State of California and noted that Delegate Jeanne Haddaway was also going to be introducing legislation during the 2010 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session regarding dangerous dogs.  Mr. Merryweather noted that Delegate Haddaway’s draft bill does not require that an individual obtain a County dog license to breed dangerous dogs.  Ms. Norris concurred and advised that even though Delegate Haddaway’s draft bill does not address the assessment of fines she wants the County’s bill to include them. 

 

The Council deferred Ms. Norris’ request for the introduction of legislation that will require owners of dogs defined as dangerous to obtain a permit and a background check in order to breed their dog and requested that Ms. Norris provide proposed language and copies of legislation from other jurisdictions relating to possible local legislation.  The Council recognized that once Mr. Merryweather receives that information he will prepare a draft bill for the Council to review for possible introduction.

 

REGULAR SESSION

 

ANIMAL CONTROL - CAROL EMBREY                                                                                                               

 

Carol Embrey, a Dorchester County resident, congratulated representatives of the following municipalities for adopting the County’s Dog Control ordinance in their jurisdictions: City of Cambridge and the Towns of Brookview, Church Creek, Eldorado, Galestown, Hurlock and Vienna.

 

Ms. Embrey formally provided to the Council a list of individuals from those municipalities that are interested in partnering with the County Council regarding animal control.  She asked the Council to sanction that partnership and establish a committee to discuss and make recommendations regarding animal control issues.

 

In response to a question from Councilman Newcomb, Mr. Merryweather stated that the County Council has the authority to establish an ad hoc committee.  Based on a question from Councilwoman Elzey, Mr. Merryweather confirmed that the committee can be established without Council members being participants.

 

Councilwoman Elzey questioned the feasibility of forming a committee in light of the current economic uncertainty.

 

Ms. Embrey explained that the reason for establishing a partnership is for the participants to work with the County Council to review budgets, combine resources and identify costs savings to assist in the payment of animal control costs.  She said that one of the items the Committee members will address is the most effective way to handle animal control including whether the Sheriff should continue to manage that function or if the Humane Society or another contractor should be considered in the future.

 

In response to a question from Councilwoman Elzey, Ms. Baynard advised that she is not aware of any complaints that have been made by the public regarding Animal Control since this function has been assigned to the Sheriff’s Office.  She said that when she last spoke to Sheriff James Phillips he advised that he believes Animal Control staff is appropriately enforcing the County’s Dog Control Ordinance within the current Animal Control budget.  She noted that the Council has recently approved the expenditure of funds from that budget to purchase an additional building to house dogs at the Fieldcrest Drive Public Safety facility to satisfy issues with required five day quarantines.

In response to an inquiry from Ms. Embrey, Mr. Merryweather clarified that Sheriff Phillips can serve on the ad hoc Committee if he elects to participate.

 

Councilman Newcomb reminded the Council County is only legislatively mandated by local code to enforce dog control.  Ms. Embrey confirmed that she is not asking the Council to consider anything beyond the current dog control ordinance but did note that the ordinance can be amended to include cats. 

 

Councilman Price expressed concern about the formation of a Committee by the Council relating to Animal Control, particularly in light of the fact that Sheriff Phillips is currently handling the enforcement of the Dog Control Ordinance.

 

Councilman Travers also expressed concern about moving forward with establishing a County sanctioned committee.  He noted that the individuals on Ms. Embrey’s list can meet and provide the Council with information that is obtained from those meetings without Council formally endorsing the group.

 

No motion was made on Ms. Embrey’s request to form a Committee regarding Animal Control.  The Council thanked Ms. Embrey.

 

ROAD BOARD

                                                                                               

2010 SNOW REMOVAL PLAN

 

Based on a request from Chuck Weber, Public Works Director, the Council accepted the 2010 snow removal plan as presented.  The Council acknowledged that County staff as designated in the plan will operate the equipment and that if additional drivers are needed landfill staff will be utilized.  The Council further acknowledged that if those individuals are unavailable or more drivers are needed Mr. Weber will ask specific retired County employees to operate the equipment, after obtaining verification that those individuals have the required motor vehicle license.

 

CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT PROPOSAL-ELLIOTT ISLAND ROAD SHORELINE RESTORATION/WETLANDS PROJECT

 

The Council agreed to waive bids and approved the request of Mr. Weber to enter into an agreement with McCrone, Inc. for management services for the Elliott Island Road Shoreline Restoration and Wetlands project at the cost of $57,933.76.  The Council acknowledged that the 100% of the cost for these services will be paid from Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) grant funds designated for the project.  The Council further acknowledged that pursuant to MDE requirements prices were solicited from five firms with only one response being received.

 

Henry Immanuel, a resident of Elliott Island, reminded County that it has the duty to protect the roadway to Elliott Island but expressed his opinion that the public’s rights to access Fishing Bay for fishing, canoeing and kayaking are not being protected.  Mr. Immanuel advised that he has fished in that area for over twenty years.  He also expressed his belief that the project will create more marshland for the owners of property at the construction site.  He advised that he has contacted several entities, including the Environment Protection Agency regarding his concerns.   Based on Mr. Immanuel’s comments of adverse possession based on past use, Mr. Merryweather advised that Mr. Immanuel may have been trespassing on private property when he was fishing in that area and that in order to obtain the legal right to use that property he will have to file an action in the Circuit Court claiming such adverse possession.

 

Councilman Newcomb noted that the purpose of the project is to save the roadway and that the same shoreline erosion/wetland measures were taken with Taylors Island Road. 

 

Mr. Weber noted that there is no County maintained public access at the site of the proposed restoration project on Elliott Island Road.    

 

OTHER

 

In response to a question from Councilman Price, Mr. Weber stated that County highway personnel are still addressing those roadways that were affected by the recent rain storm.

 

Based on concerns expressed by Libby Nagel, a Dorchester County resident, the Council asked Mr. Weber to provide a report on the drainage concerns on Middletown Branch Road.

 

ELECTION OF OFFICERS       

 

The Council elected Councilman Newcomb as President of the County Council and Councilwoman Elzey as Vice President of the Council.  The Council also elected Councilman Price as Roads Board President and Councilman Nichols as Roads Board Vice President.

                                                                                                                            

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION-PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVE-MARSHLAND ASSESSMENT CAP

 

Ms. Baynard noted that on November 10, 2009 the Council asked local legislators to introduce State legislation to establish a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for State owned property designated as agricultural land marshland and woodland in the County, consisting of 29,000 acres, and had asked staff for a recommendation on the amount per acre to request as the proposed State PILOT payment.  She said approximately 29,000 acres fall in those three categories and that the County is already receiving a PILOT from the State for an additional 11,000 acres of land previously owned by Chesapeake Forest.   Ms. Baynard advised that staff is proposing that the Council either seek a PILOT based on the lowest agricultural rate of $125 per acre of assessed value for the entire 29,000 acres or at $125 per acre of assessed value for the marshland and at the same amount per acre that is currently paid on the Chesapeake Forest property for the woodland on the identified acreage.  She said that they recommend that the Council select the first option of a uniform PILOT for all 29,000 acres.

 

In response to a question from Mr. Merryweather, Michael Spears, Finance Director. advised that at the assessed value of $125 per acre the total amount that the County could collect if the legislation passed will be approximately $40,000.

 

A motion to proceed with seeking a pilot based on assessment value of $125 per acre for all State owned land in the County classified as agricultural, marshland and woodland died due to lack of majority.  The Council unanimously agreed to withdraw its request for legislation for a payment in lieu of taxes for State owned land in Dorchester County will be withdrawn from its list of proposed legislative initiatives for the 2010 General Assembly session.

 

Ms. Baynard noted that on November 10, 2009 the Council also asked local State legislators to introduce legislation in the 2010 General Assembly to increase the cap on the assessment of privately owned marshland from the current regulation of $37.50 per acre to $150 per acre, the lowest agricultural rate currently allowed by State law.  She explained that because any amendment to this cap will have a Statewide impact, the State legislators had agreed to ask the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) to poll all counties in the State to determine if they will support this legislative initiative.  She said a response was received from MACo representatives earlier in the day that none of the counties are interested in supporting this legislative proposal.   Ms. Baynard advised Council that upon receiving the poll results from MACo she believes such non –support will cause the initiative to fail if introduced.  She noted that Senator Colburn has advised that, if Council is still willing to move forward, he will introduce the legislation, but also expressed his opinion that it probably will not pass because of the lack of support garnered from other counties.

 

The Council agreed to withdraw its request for legislation to amend the assessment on marshland from its 2010 General Assembly request.

 

MANAGERS COMMENTS

BRUSH, TREE LIMBS AND STUMPS, PALLET GRINDING –SOLID WASTE

 

The Council approved the request of Mr. Weber to waive bids and contract with E & K Land Management for the grinding of brush, tree limbs, stumps and pallets at the Beulah Landfill at the cost of $20,000 from Landfill Enterprise Fund.  The Council acknowledged that three firms were asked to provide price quotes for this work and that staff recommends a contractor be hired due to the need for specialized equipment that the County does not own.  The Council further acknowledged that the recycled wood will be used to place on landfill roads for traction during bad weather.

 

COMPOST TARP PURCHASE-BEULAH LANDFILL

 

Based on a request from Mr. Weber, the Council waived bids and agreed to sell the remaining compost tarps from the old compost site adjacent to Beulah Landfill to Carol Handley with Handley Farms for $1,000.

 

REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL ENGINEERING SERVICES-GALESTOWN DAM-PUBLIC WORKS

 

The Council denied the request Mr. Weber made on behalf of Andrews Miller & Associates (AMA) for an increase in their contract with the County Council for design of the Galestown Dam fish ladder of $6,570 for the following items based on its determination that the services were part of the original contract: 1)  installation of a concrete splash pool in the spillway to allow fish to bypass the ladder and migrate downstream ($2,640); 2) changes made as a result of multiple reviews by the fish ladder fabricator ($1,240); and 3)  revision to the plans and drawings for the design of the ladder ($2,690).  The Council acknowledged that the work has already been completed and that no change orders were requested prior to or during the actual construction of the fish ladder. 

 

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING-MARYLAND DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENT-LOCAL EMERGENCY PLANNING COMMITTEE

 

The Council approved the request of Wayne Robinson, Emergency Management Director, to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding between the Dorchester County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and the Maryland Department of Environment which will allow the local LEPC to be eligible for funds under the Maryland State Community Right-to-Know Fund (CRTK).  The Council acknowledged that the MOU is a five year agreement for each of the annual CRTK fund grant periods from March 1, 2010 through February 2015.  The Council further acknowledged that the grant awards are dependent upon annual revenues generated through fees paid by facilities to the reporting requirements for Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act and the number of local emergency planning committees requesting funds.

 

PLANNING GRANT PRE DISASTER MITIGATE GRANT PROGRAM-EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

 

The Council approved the request of Mr. Robinson to negotiate with S & S Planning and Design, LLC and Eastern Shore Regional GIS Cooperative in order to obtain a cost for the update of the County’s All-Hazards Mitigation Plan for which funds are available through the Planning Grant Pre Disaster Mitigation Grant program.  The Council acknowledged that a final price will be presented by Mr. Robinson for final approval and authorization to proceed.

 

REVISED MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION CAPITAL GRANT-DELMARVA COMMUNITY SERVICES

Based on a request from Santo Grande, President of Delmarva Community Services, the Council approved the execution of a revised FY 2010 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Capital Grant Agreement between Dorchester County, The Maryland Department of Transportation and The Maryland Transit Administration amending the original agreement dated April 28, 2009 in the amount of $165,600.00 to $175,931.67.  The Council acknowledged that the original grant award was based on an estimated cost for the replacement of three buses while the amended agreement reflects the actual cost.  The Council further acknowledged that there is no local match.

 

FY10 MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION OPERATING GRANT-DELMARVA COMMUNITY SERVICES    

 

The Council approved the request of Mr. Grande to accept the following FY 2010 Maryland Transit Administration grant awards and the execution of the FY 2010 Operating Grant Agreement for the following: Americans with Disabilities Act Assistance Grant (ADA) in the amount of $55,605.00 including a local match of $5,605.00; Statewide Special Transportation Assistance Program Grant (SSTAP) in the amount of $182,243.00 including a local match of $59,519.00; Public Transportation Program Grant (5311) in the amount of $609,927.00 including a local match of $185,788.00.  The Council acknowledged that these grant funds will be used to support local public transportation services under the ADA, SSTAP and 5311 Programs.  The Council further acknowledged that the total local match required under this grant is $250,912.00 which will come from the County budget appropriation provided to Delmarva Community Services (DCS) for the current fiscal year and the current DCS budget and will require no additional commitment of County funds.

 

Based on a request from Councilman Price pursuant to concerns expressed by residents, the Council agreed to extend an invitation to Mr. Grande to attend a future County Council meeting to provide information regarding the transit system in Dorchester County.

 

TRAVEL REQUEST-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

 

The Council denied the request of Keasha Haythe, Economic Development Director, to attend the workshop entitled “Create Entrepreneurship Programs and a Competitive Entry Level Workforce”.

 

BUDGET PREPARATION DISCUSSION

 

Ms. Baynard explained at its November 17, 2009 meeting, the Council agreed to use the FY09 Fund balance of $500,000 to offset revenue shortfalls in the current budget despite the Council’s historic fiscal policy to use this undesignated fund balance for PAYGO capital expenditures for the subsequent fiscal year.     Ms. Baynard further noted that there will not available debt capacity in 2011 due to the County’s commitment to the financing of the construction of new Dorchester Career and Technology Center.  She advised that, additionally, preliminary indications are that the State Board of Public Works will limit its FY 2011 capital commitment to that project to $ 5 million rather than the $8 million requested by the Board of Education which may require the County to consider short term funding of the unfunded $3 million to finish the school’s construction.  Ms. Baynard stated that based on the Council’s approval for the use of the FY09 fund balance coupled with the debt load for the Dorchester Career and Technology Center construction, she and Mr. Spears are recommending that the Council

suspend its capital budget program for 2011 for all Departments and agencies.   She explained that if the Council agreed to that suspension all references to capital budget requests will be removed from the budget adoption schedule and Department Heads will not be required to submit an updated five year capital plan.

 

In light of the funding and debt restrictions identified, the Council agreed to formally suspend its capital budget program for the FY 2011 budget deliberations but did request that Department Heads provide an inventory of capital items in their offices with anticipated repair and/or replacement data and any items from their intended FY2011 capital program that require special attention. 

 

Based on an inquiry from Councilwoman Elzey, Ms. Baynard noted that emergency capital requests for funding will be reviewed by Council on a case by case basis.

 

Council agreed to forward correspondence to the Board of Education and Chesapeake College advising them of the Council’s decision to formally suspend the FY 2011 capital program because those two entities typically provide annual capital requests.  The Council acknowledged that it will be referenced in the Board of Education letter that operating budget funding will be limited to Maintenance of Effort only for FY 2011 and instructing the Board of Education to draft the budget accordingly.

 

The Council agreed that no budget presentations will be scheduled for the FY 2011 deliberations and, instead, Council will request any additional information they may need.

 

Additionally, the Council agreed to hold a budget work session on January 4, 2009 at 4:30 p.m.

 

BOARD APPOINTMENT – 911 ADVISORY BOARD

 

The Council reappointed Steven Stack to the 911 Advisory Board as the consumer representative for an additional two year term that will expire on March 13, 2011.

 

NOXIOUS WEED CONTROL COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT-MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

 

Ms. Baynard noted that the Council received a written request from Earl F. Hance, Secretary, Maryland Department of Agriculture, to enter into a Cooperative Agreement regarding weed control which noted that because of State budget reductions approved by the Board of Public Works no funding will be provided to the County for weed control services for the term of the proposed agreement.

 

Mark Smith, Program Manager, Maryland Department of Agriculture, stated that last year the weed control generated over $1 million in revenue and that they intend to raise more revenue in this upcoming year to account for the State reduction.  He explained that the Cooperative Agreement authorizes him to delegate State employees to assist County employees by providing technical experience and work with them in garnering additional revenue to support the weed control program. 

 

In response to a question from Councilwoman Elzey, Mr. Smith said that invoices recently mailed out to Dorchester County residents totaled $29,000.  He said that the major expenditure for weed control is the purchase of herbicides, which costs have substantially decreased since last year.

 

Ms. Nagel questioned whether farmers can purchase the herbicide and only paid for the application.  Mr. Smith stated that he will consult with Jeff Fitzhugh, the individual who does weed control spraying in Dorchester County.  He noted that because the State buys herbicide in bulk, the price farmers and other individuals may pay more for a smaller quantity.

 

The Council agreed to the execution of a Grant Agreement between the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Dorchester County with no funds being provided by the County or the Maryland Department of Agriculture for the control and eradication of specific noxious weeds (Johnsongrass, shattercane, thistles, multiflora rose) for the period of July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010.  The Council acknowledged that because of reductions approved by the Board of Public Works to eliminate noxious weed support agreements in the amount of $58,000 that the Maryland Department of Agriculture will no longer provide funds to support this program in the County.  The Council recognized that Mark Smith, Program Manager will work with the County to generate funds to continue this program.