Meeting Minutes

Meeting Minutes
posted: 05/12/10

County Council Meeting Minutes

May 4, 2010

County Council of Dorchester County

Regular Meeting Minutes

May 4, 2010


The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on May 4, 2010 with the following members present: Present were Jay L. Newcomb, President; Effie M. Elzey Vice President; William V. Nichols; Ricky Travers; and Rick Price. Also present were E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney; Jane Baynard, County Manager and Donna Lane, Executive Administrative Specialist.





Councilman Travers led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.




There were no additions or deletions to the agenda.  The Council agreed to meet in a brief executive session after the meeting to discuss one personnel item.



The Council approved the vouchers as presented.



Councilwoman Elzey reported total cash and investments as $6,458,087.52.

Councilman Newcomb joined the meeting.


Councilman Newcomb stated the proposed FY 2011 budget was presented to the Council at its April 20, 2010 meeting and that a budget public meeting is being held on that proposed budget.   Pursuant to a request made by Councilman Newcomb, Michael Spears, Finance Director, compared the FY 2010 budget to the proposed FY 2011 budget.  Mr. Spears said in FY2010 the operating budget was $57.6 million and the proposed FY 2011 operating budget is $54 million which represents a $3.6 million decrease from FY 2010.  He explained that the FY 2010 capital budget is $21.5 million and the proposed FY 2011 capital budget is $2.9 million.  Mr. Spears advised the FY 2010 grant budget is $2.3 million and the proposed FY 2011 grant budget is $1.9 million.   Mr. Spears noted noting that the total adopted budget for FY 2010 is $81.5 million versus a total proposed FY 2011 budget of $58.8 million.



Sheriff James Phillips expressed concern about the proposed implementation of a 171 hour over a 28 day work period overtime threshold in the Sheriff’s Office for FY 2011 because he feels overtime costs will increase once it is instituted.   He also expressed concern that the Council is considering the creation of an Emergency Services Director position to commence at the beginning of the fiscal year when employees are receiving pay reductions and furloughs while facing increased health insurance costs.  He asked the Council to reconsider implementing new overtime thresholds in the Sheriff’s Office and creating a new Emergency Services Director position.


Kenny Mason, a Dorchester County resident, recommended Council consider new revenue sources for the County budged and suggested asking for legislation to increase the hunting season for Sika deer within the County.  He also suggested that out of County residents be required to obtain a permit to use County boat docks in order to generate revenue to pay for the portable toilets and trash containers at those locations.    He said he heard the Sheriff is receiving a pay cut and noted that the Sheriff is an elected official. 


Councilwoman Elzey noted a bill was passed in 2009 that implemented a graduated pay raise for the Sheriff of Dorchester County over the next several years.


Mr. Mason said during Hurricane Isabel, he called the County’s Emergency Operations Center several times and the individuals who answered were not well informed on the process of the storm.  He expressed his opinion that an Emergency Services Director does not need to be hired and that the Council should ask residents to volunteer during storm events, to call in status reports, particularly those who live in low lying areas in the County.


Stephen Mills, Assistant Chief of the Hurlock Volunteer Fire Company, expressed concern about the funding of a new Emergency Services Director position at a time when employees are receiving pay reductions and furloughs.  He also expressed concern about decreasing budget appropriations to local fire companies by $1,000 in FY 2011.


Maureen Harper, a Dorchester County resident, explained that she is a representative of Americans for Prosperity Maryland which is a nationwide organization in support of restraining state, local and federal government spending, the reduction of taxes and promoting fiscal responsibility.  She said that the Mid Shore Chapter of that organization was created in October 2009 and that most of those 300 members are from Dorchester County.  She expressed concern that employees will receive pay reductions and furloughs when the unemployment rate in the County is 12.8% and Council is considering the creation of a new Emergency Services Director position.  She said it is her understanding that the salary for the Emergency Services Director position is $73,000 plus benefits and office costs and will be in addition to the salaries already budgeted for the Directors for the County’s Emergency Management Department, 911 Center Communications and Emergency Medical Services Department.  She urged the Council to stop unnecessary spending and to not proceed with plans to hire a new director.


Bob Harper, a Dorchester County resident, questioned if County staff is actively pursuing the collection of delinquent real property taxes in the County.  Mr. Spears explained that pursuant to the tax laws of Maryland, those properties in the County are sold at tax sale after a two year waiting period with the net result being that the arrearages are collected.    He noted the Council recently made the decision to purchase the certificates for those properties that were not sold during this year’s tax sale.  He said that the staff is actively pursuing the purchase of those seven properties through foreclosure proceedings.  He explained that his recommendation to Council, once those properties are acquired, will be to auction them off to pay off the delinquent taxes while placing them back on the County’s tax rolls.  Mr. Spears noted that reminder letters were sent in the late 1980s or early 1990s to homeowners whose taxes were delinquent and he advised that that procedure has been reinstituted resulting in some additional collections.


E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney, noted that the two year allowance for property owners to pay real property taxes or face losing the property at tax sale has been longer in prior years and previous County Councils have taken legislative action to reduce the requirement.


Mr. Spears advised Mr. Harper that in addition to a specific process for the collection of real property taxes, the County is also phasing out personal property in the County.


Susan Monaghan, a Dorchester County resident and President Dorchester Humane Society, said, at the request of some of the County’s residents, a proposal was submitted on behalf of the Society to provide dog control services and the housing of animals within the County.  She stressed under the Humane Society’s proposal that the animals will be properly housed and will not be kept in crates, as they current are kept at the County’s Animal Control facility.   She said that Society staff will ensure that all confiscated dogs will be spayed and neutered and that potential adopters will be carefully screened.  She said that it is noted that Suzanne Stitley, Humane Society Director, has 12 years of experience in the control, care and housing of animals which will be beneficial to the County.


Ms. Monaghan said that they provided a budget proposal of $172,000 but are willing to reduce that request by $2,100 to match the amount in the proposed FY 2011 budget for Dog Control.    In response to a question from Councilman Newcomb, Mr. Spears verified that the proposed County’s Dog Control budget is $169,903.   Based on questions from Council, Ms. Baynard advised that the Dog Control budget includes the cost of vehicles, vehicle maintenance, fuel and salaries for two Dog Control Officers.

In response to a question from Councilman Newcomb, Ms. Monaghan said the proposal includes picking up dogs and providing housing but that Humane Society staff will not respond to calls in the middle of the night.  She said it is her understanding that Animal Control phones calls are not being answered nor returned.    The Council asked Ms. Baynard to verify that statement with Sheriff Phillips.


Steve Dodd, Planning and Zoning Director, said that while employees within his department understand that pay reductions and furloughs are necessary to offset reductions in State aid, they are concerned about the proposed increase in doctor visit and prescription co-pays.  He said that majority of the employees in Planning and Zoning will be adversely financially impacted due to these increased costs.  He asked the Council to reconsider those health insurance plan design changes, particularly in light of the fact that employees’ salaries are already being reduced.   Mr. Dodd noted that FY 2011 is the third year that Department Heads’ have been asked to reduce their operating budgets.  He said that he is not concerned about the increase in the insurance premium and the 85%/15% split but with the increased doctor visit and prescription co-pays. 


Councilman Newcomb noted that several County employees have expressed concern that spouses and dependents are also enrolled in the County’s health plan on a cost share basis. 


Les Simering, a Dorchester County resident, expressed concern about the reduction of County budget appropriations to local volunteer fire companies.  Councilman Newcomb explained that in FY 2010, after the budget was adopted the Council was advised that there was a $15,000 increase in Workers Compensation costs for those fire companies which were paid from the County’s FY 2010 Contingency Fund and in order to account for that increase each fire company’s FY 2011 budget appropriation was reduced by $1,000. Mr. Simering said contributions to local fire companies have decreased because nonprofit organizations and residents have been impacted by the recent economic decline. 


Mr. Simering said more activities are needed for the youth in the County.  He expressed concern about the creation of a new Emergency Services Director position.  He said that he has heard that the position has already been offered to an individual and that the submission date for applications has passed.  Ms. Baynard said pursuant to County policy, an in-house advertisement for the position was posted for five days and that the position is currently being advertised in local news publications.   She said interviews will not be scheduled prior to the budget adoption.   Councilman Newcomb advised the Council has made no decision to fill that position.    Mr. Simering said it is his understanding there may be some discord within the County’s current emergency services departments but that with the proper management any problems can be corrected without creating a new position.   He advised that he would rather have Council use the $73,000 to hire two employees or one employee and use the remaining funds to provide more programs for the County’s youth.   Councilman Newcomb noted that the Local Management Board Department, the Board of Education and the Recreation and Parks Department offer youth programs. 


Councilman Price advised that he has also been asked by several residents about activities for the County’s youth.   He said that in response to those inquires he spoke to Scott Eberspacher, Recreation and Parks Director, who explained to him that State Program Open Space funding will not be available for projects within the County for two years which limits the development of new areas for the youth including basketball courts and parks. 


In response to an inquiry from Ms. Harper, Councilman Newcomb explained that the Council agreed to advertise the position contingent upon it being in the adopted budget in order to have an individual ready to fill the position at the start of the fiscal year if approved in the final budget bill.


David Rothwell, a Dorchester County resident, said he opposed moving forward with an Emergency Services Director position and asked who voted to create the position.  Ms. Baynard advised Council reached a consensus during a budget work session to include the position in the proposed FY 2011 budget and agreed to advertise the position contingent upon being included in the adopted budget in regular session.   Councilman Newcomb, Councilwoman Elzey and Councilman Travers advised they voted to advertise the position and Councilman Price and Councilman Nichols noted they opposed. 


Brady Bradford, a Dorchester County resident and a County employee, asked Council to reconsider the creation of an Emergency Services Director position, in light of recent pay reductions and furloughs to County employees.   He also expressed concerns regarding the proposed overtime policy to pay based on actual hours worked.


Chuck Weber, Public Works Director, expressed his appreciation to Council for its support in funding the Highway Division in light of the recent loss of highway user revenues, used primarily for the repair and maintenance of County roads.  He said the costs for snow removal during the past winter snow events also further decreased funding for that division.   He said that as a result of those snow storms roads have further deteriorated. 


Mr. Weber expressed concern about the proposed change in the overtime threshold because he felt it will negatively impact employees.  He noted that overtime only represents a small percentage of his budget and is only incurred in the Public Works Department on an on-call basis only during emergency events, such as snow storm, flood or a fallen tree or sign.   


At the request of Councilman Newcomb, Ms. Baynard explained that the overtime policy amendment being referred to in speaker’s comments will require an employee to actually work a certain amount of hours to meet an overtime threshold instead of including leave, including vacation and personal time, into the allowed hours to qualify for overtime.    


In response to an inquiry from Mr. Bradford, Ms. Baynard advised Council has determined that the furlough days to be scheduled in FY 2011 will be counted has hours worked when determining overtime hours.  He expressed concern about not calculating leave into the overtime calculation when determining overtime hours.


Pete Macinta, a Dorchester County resident, thanked the Council for not raising real property taxes in FY 2011 and questioned when personal property taxes will be phased out.  Marcie Wooters, Treasury Manager, said the collection of personal property taxes is scheduled to end in six more years. Councilwoman Elzey noted that are no proposed increases in fees in the FY 2011 budget.  


Mr. Harper expressed concern about reductions in State aid to local governments.


There was no public comment.


Councilman Newcomb advised that the next regular County Council meeting is scheduled for May 11, 2010 6 p.m. during which there will be budget public hearing.


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. 


Voting in favor of the closed Executive Session were all Council members.


With no further business to discuss, the Council adjourned.


ATTEST:                                                         DORCHESTER COUNTY COUNCIL:


______________________________            ____________________________________

Jane Baynard, County Manager                       Jay L. Newcomb, President



                                                                        Effie M. Elzey, Vice President



                                                                        William V. Nichols



                                                                        Ricky Travers



                                                                        Rick Price


Approved the ______day of _____________, 2010.