Meeting Minutes

Meeting Minutes
posted: 11/12/10

County Council Meeting Minutes

October 19, 2010

County Council of Dorchester County

Regular Meeting Minutes

October 19, 2010


The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on October 19, 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.





The Council adjourned from a Regular Session and convened in a closed Executive

Session pursuant to the State Government Article §10-508(A)(7) to consult with counsel to obtain legal advice on a legal matter and 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. 


Voting in favor of the closed Executive Session were all Council members present at the beginning of that meeting.





Councilman Price led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.




The Council approved the following additions to the agenda: two telephone poll confirmations as a result of actions taken on Friday, October 15, 2010; a request to advertise a Motor Equipment Operator IV position in the Landfill Division; and a Motor Equipment Operator III position in the Highway Division; and a discussion with Sheriff James Phillips regarding possible spay and neuter programs within the County.



The Council approved the minutes of October 5, 2010.


The Council approved vouchers as presented.


Councilman Newcomb reported total cash and investments as $9,571,154.23.


The County Council of Dorchester County convened in an Executive Session at 5:00  p.m. on October 19, 2010 in a closed session at Room 110, County Office Building, 501 Court Lane, Cambridge, Maryland, pursuant to the State Government Article §10-508(A)(7) to consult with counsel to obtain legal advice on a legal matter and 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. 


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 with Sheriff Phillips and legal counsel the enforcement of the County’s Dog Control Ordinance and related matters – requested certain additional information; 2) discussed a request from Public Works Director to advertise a vacant Motor Equipment Operator IV position in the Landfill Division and an MEO III position in the Highway Division– agreed to discuss in open session; 3) discussed personnel issues in Emergency Medical Services Department –agreed to continue discussion at a future regular session meeting; 4) approved a request from Public Works Director to hire an individual to fill a vacant Mechanic II position and an individual to fill a vacant Motor Equipment Operator II position by a 3 to 0 vote.

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 congratulating Alfred Slacum on his retirement and recognizing his 16 years of dedicated service to Dorchester County.   Mr. Slacum accepted the proclamation.



The Council approved the request of Sheriff Phillips to coordinate with local organizations to start a spay and neuter program which will include both dogs and cats.  The Council acknowledged that, based on current legislation, only the County’s Dog Control Ordinance will be enforced and therefore only dogs will be spayed and neutered and spay/neuter programs implemented for cat populations will be in partnership with an established feline rescue organization and only at the request of property owners. 

BOARD OF HEALTH                                                                                                         


Roger Harrell, Health Officer, Dorchester County Health Department, introduced Caroline Hallowell, School Health Supervisor, and advised that she was going to provide an update on health services provided in the County’s public schools.    


Ms. Hallowell explained that funding for school health services is provided by the County and the Board of Education.  She noted that there is a school nurse in 11 of the schools within the County which provide services to both teachers and students, review immunization records and provide coverage during student field trips.  She explained that during the last school year there were 58,000 trips to the school nurse including 6,000 visits from individuals who were sick, 11,000 injured students and teachers and 5,000 individuals who needed medical treatments, including treatments for asthma.


Ms.  Hallowell explained that nurses perform vision and hearing screenings for students in Kindergarten, first grade and eighth grade and are currently administering the seasonal flu vaccine to those students in Kindergarten through fifth grade whose parents submitted permission slips.   


In response to a question from Councilwoman Elzey, Ms. Hallowell advised that the flu shots and/or nasal mist are being administered to approximately the same number of students who received the vaccine during the last school year.  She said that some children are not eligible for the mist vaccine due to medical conditions. 


The Council thanked Ms. Hallowell for providing an update on the health services provided in local schools. 




The Council adjourned into Legislative Session.




Mr. Merryweather said a public hearing is being held on legislation to amend Chapter 155, Section 155-37 of the Dorchester County Code to require that the lowest floor of all new construction of residential and non-residential structures and substantial improvements of residential and non-residential structures, including manufactured homes and basements, be elevated to or above the flood protection elevation and to add the definition of flood protection elevation and freeboard.


Nick Lyons, Codes Official and Building Inspector, said the proposed legislation will

change the term “base flood elevation” to “flood protection elevation” so that it corresponds to the State of Maryland’s definition.  He noted that the only other proposed change to the County’s Flood Plain Ordinance is the addition of a “freeboard” requirement.  He explained that “freeboard” is defined as an elevation above that elevation required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.    Mr. Lyons further explained that the change will result in an individual who lives in a six foot flood plain being required to elevate a newly constructed or substantially renovated residence to nine feet.  He advised that the freeboard requirement would have helped to address flooding issues that occurred during Hurricane Isabel in 2003.    He explained that during Isabel flood waters rose above the six foot flood plain which resulted in substantial damage to homes in the County.  Mr. Lyons advised that if the freeboard requirement is implemented, the County will assist the County’s eligibility in participating in the Community Rating System which will allow residents to receive discounts on flood insurance.  He explained that the cost savings will result in the reduction of mortgage insurance premiums.  He noted that proposed model legislation is being drafted by the State that includes a two foot freeboard requirement and explained that each county can use this model to draft their own and establish a freeboard requirement for their respective jurisdictions.  He expressed his opinion that because Dorchester County has more shoreline than other counties in the State a three foot freeboard requirement is necessary in order to reduce flood damage during future storms.


John Battista, a Dorchester County resident, expressed his concern that restrictions are continuing to be placed on the use of resident owned property.  He noted that new Critical Area buffers were recently implemented which, in his opinion, severely limit the use of property within the County.  He also expressed his opinion that property owners should be allowed to decide if they want to elevate their homes above the County’s base flood elevation dependent upon how much risk they are willing to take that their home may flood during a severe storm.   He recommended that the Council provide guidelines on elevating structures and not pass additional mandatory building regulations.    He said residents should view the 1988 Federal Emergency Management “How to Protect Your Home booklet and that some of the ideas in that booklet, such as the use of dykes, should be incorporated into the County’s Floodplain Ordinance.  In response to a question from Mr. Battista, Mr. Lyons explained that the definition of a 100 year flood is that there is a 1% chance per year that a flood will occur.  Mr. Battista said he would rather risk those odds than have to elevate his home above the base elevation.   He questioned how structures will look once elevated.  Mr. Lyons said dirt can be used to elevate a home and that he does not believe structures will have to be built on stilts in order to meet the freeboard requirement if implemented.   


In response to a question from Gage Thomas, a Dorchester County resident, Mr. Lyons explained that pursuant to the Federal Emergency Management Agency the term “basement” is defined as an enclosed space under a living floor and includes a crawl space.    Based on an inquiry from Mr. Thomas, Mr. Lyons said that the flood elevation requirements in the County vary and that properties in the City of Cambridge and other incorporated areas will not be subject to the freeboard requirement if the legislation passes. 


Councilman Travers questioned why staff is requesting that the Council adopt a three foot freeboard requirement when State representatives will shortly be considering legislation to implement a two foot freeboard requirement.   Mr. Lyons said that the three foot freeboard elevation is being recommended to compensate for the three foot wave action that may occur during severe storms in Dorchester County.


Mr. Lyons introduced Dave Guignet, State Flood Mapping Coordinator, Maryland Department of the Environment.  Mr. Guignet said he provides assistance to counties and municipalities in developing flood plain regulations.  He explained that the State model ordinance is given to those entities to use as a guideline to develop regulations for their respective areas.   Mr. Guignet noted that Worchester County representatives have advised that they do want any freeboard requirement implemented within that County.     He explained that since 1960 it has been a State requirement that a property be elevated one foot above the base flood elevation in non tidal areas before a waterway construction permit can be obtained.  He further explained that a two foot elevation was selected as a compromise in order to meet the needs of all 24 counties based on statistics regarding sea level rise and coastal conditions within the State and future anticipated needs.     He noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements are minimum requirements and that each local jurisdiction has the opportunity to add an additional freeboard requirement which should assist in mitigating and reducing losses during future storms.  


In response to a question from Councilman Travers, Mr. Guignet said it is his understanding that the builders in Worchester County are opposed to the implementation of a freeboard requirement because they feel it will increase construction costs.     Mr. Guignet expressed his opinion the cost of the extra two sets of blocks which will have to be used to elevate a structure will be offset by the decrease in flood insurance costs residents will receive.   In response to a question from Councilman Travers, Mr. Lyons estimated that the cost to homeowners is 1% of the total cost of a house and foundation and is based on square footage.    Councilman Travers noted that the Council recently agreed to proceed with legislation to seek to exempt Dorchester County from the Maryland Building Performance Standards Code amendment that sprinkler systems be installed in all new single family homes based on concerns that it will increase costs for homeowners.  He expressed concern about imposing a freeboard requirement and thereby raising construction costs which will be passed on to those same property owners.  


Wayne Robinson, Emergency Management Director, noted that during the past year there have been several days when there has been flooding in the southern part of the County, with some of those flood waters entering into homes.  He expressed his opinion that implementing the freeboard requirement may prevent that from happening during future rain events.

In response to a question from Councilman Newcomb, Mr. Guignet said that it is estimated that residents will receive a 15% to 20% decrease in flood insurance rates if the freeboard requirement is implemented.   Councilman Travers noted that staff has been advised that certain roadways within the County cannot be raised pursuant to Maryland Department of Environment regulations and questioned why roads cannot be raised so that flooding does not occur. 


Bud Hankins, a Dorchester County resident, said he elevated his home after Hurricane Isabel and noted that he received a discount on his flood insurance.  In response to a question from Mr. Hankins, Mr. Lyons said that he should receive another discount in those insurance rates if freeboard is implemented and the County participates in the Community Rating System.


Councilman Travers questioned whether the freeboard requirement will apply to garages and out buildings.  Mr. Lyons noted that an enclosed accessory structure that exceeds 900 square feet must be elevated pursuant to the County’s current Building Code and Flood Plain Ordinance.  He explained that a shed only has to be vented and anchored and that the freeboard requirement will not apply to a building that is used for agricultural purposes if one side is open.   


Councilman Nichols said that although flood insurance rates may decrease if the freeboard requirement is implemented he is concerned that the end result may be a substantial increase in construction costs which will negate the insurance rate decrease.

He expressed his opinion that in the current economic climate, implementing a freeboard requirement will only burden a new homeowner. 


Councilman Travers said he believes a property owner should make his or her own decision on whether to elevate their home and that Planning and Zoning staff should provide them information regarding the benefits of elevating a structure.   Councilman Price echoed Councilmen Travers and Nichols’ comments that the proposed legislation will place a financial burden on a new home owner. 


 The Council agreed to not proceed with Bill No. 2010-20 with the following role call: Newcomb- aye; Nichols-aye; Elzey-nay; Price-aye; Travers-yes.






Donald Gray, a Dorchester County resident, repeated the request he made to the Council at its October 5, 2010 meeting, that the County’s Zoning Ordinance should be changed to allow an owner to keep two untagged vehicles on their property.  He also reiterated his opinion that the enforcement of the County’s Property Maintenance and Zoning Ordinances is inconsistent and that the Council should consider using a global position tracking system (GPS) and/or other type of logging mechanism to monitor the activities of the inspectors.   He said he believes anonymous complaints should be investigated.

The Council thanked Mr. Gray.


Councilman Newcomb excused himself from the meeting. 




Pursuant to a written request received from Bill Sieling, Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, the Council agreed to send a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor opposing its current proposal to implement a new rule to calculate wages for all H2-B workers as a result of the recent decision in Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajdores Agricolas, et al (CATA) v. Solis, a United States District Court civil case. The Council acknowledged that its opposition is based on its understanding that if the new regulation is implemented wages for H2-B workers may increase substantially in all industries that utilize those workers.  





The Council approved the written request submitted by Donald Willey on behalf of the Friends of Anchor of Hope Graveyard project and agreed to execute letters supporting the group’s pursuit of grant funding to restore the graveyard in Hoopersville, which is listed as one of the endangered historical sites in the County.  The Council acknowledged that the County cannot provide funding including a local match nor serve as the applicant for any grant opportunity. 




The Council approved the request of Sharon Wilson, President, Visions America Community Development Corporation, and agreed to execute a letter of support for its application for funding in the amount of $470,000 from the Home Initiative Program to construct two energy efficient ranch style modular homes in the City of Cambridge. The Council acknowledged that the funds will be used for land acquisition, pre-development, soft costs, write down and construction cost.  The Council further acknowledged that the County cannot provide funding including a local match nor serve as the applicant for the grant. 




The Council approved the request of Amanda Fenstermaker, Tourism Director, and accepted a grant award from the Maryland Heritage Area Authority in the amount of $100,000 for FY 2011 operating assistance to support management and activities of the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area.  The Council acknowledged that the grant will be matched through a cash match from the Tourism Operating Budget ($62,045); the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byway Program ($6,948); the private sector ($10,000); and with in-kind services of $21,285. 




The Council approved the request of Chuck Weber, Public Works Director, to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration for funding in the amount of $2.1 million, less the required 10% match, to relocate a section of the rail line being displaced as part of the project to extend the Cambridge Dorchester Airport runway.    The Council also approved the use of $117,000 in FY 2010 Airport Capital Budget funds to be used as part of the 10% match.  The Council acknowledged that the remainder of the match will be provided through in-kind services, including the value of the rail to be used for the project which is being provided to the County at no charge from another source.  The Council further acknowledged that the Federal Aviation Administration will provide the funding for the removal of the existing rail line.  




The Council approved the request of Mr. Weber to award the project for brush, tree limbs & stumps and pallet grinding at the Beulah Landfill to the low bidder Green Waste Recyclers in the amount of $14,885.   The Council acknowledged that funding for this work will come from the FY 2011 Landfill Enterprise Fund and that since this vendor has not been used by the County staff will monitor Green Waste Recyclers’ progress to ensure they perform the work satisfactorily.




Mr. Weber explained that on April 27, 2010 he provided the Council with three possible options to alleviate flooding on Harper Road/Palmer Mill Road including an option to construct a new drainage ditch from Harper Road to a drainage stream that travels under Palmer Mill Road at the estimated cost of $15,000.  He noted that the other options included the installation of catch basins at the intersection and 1,000 feet of closed storm drainage to the drainage crossing under Palmer Mill Road at an estimated cost of $110,000 and the re-establishment of ditches or swales on both sides of Palmer Mill Road from Harper Road to a drainage crossing with excavation of shoulders and slopes and removal of trees at an estimated cost of $60,000.  He said that the Council took no action on April 27th with the expectation that Mr. Weber would continue to address possible solutions and would present to Council a final recommendation including cost estimates at a later date.  Mr. Weber said that after consulting with Public Works and Soil Conservation staff he is recommending that the Council consider option number one to construct a drainage ditch along a portion of Harper Road and new outlet ditch across a property owned by Warren McWilliams’ behind three or four residences that front Palmer Mill Road at an estimated cost of $15,000 which includes $5,000 for materials and $10,000 in County labor and equipment.  He noted that Soil Conservation staff has completed the design of the drainage ditch and outlet drainage ditches and that right of ways have been secured from property owners on both sides of the road.  He expressed concern that there will be continued cleaning and maintenance costs due to the sandy soil in the area.


In response to a question from Councilwoman Elzey, Mr. Weber explained that funding from the current FY 2011 Highway Division budget under the drainage supplies line item can be used for the project but that those funds may be needed in the future for snow removal.    Based on additional questions posed by Councilwoman Elzey, Mr. Weber said flooding may occur once or twice a year in that area and that Harper Road is not heavily traveled.  Councilman Price said it is his understanding that farmers use Harper Road and Palmer Mill Road and that there has been an increase in the volume of heavy truck traffic on Palmer Mill Road which has caused wear and tear on that roadway. 


The Council agreed to not move forward with the Harper Road Drainage project due to current funding restraints, and suggested that Mr. Weber include this project in his FY 2012 budget request.




The Council agreed to waive bids and approved the request of Mr. Robinson to purchase a new emergency notification system to replace the current system, generally referred to as the reverse 911 system from Twenty First Century at the cost of $13,393 (including trade in of current system) for the first year and $16,227 for the second year for a total of $30,020 from FY 2008 Homeland Security Grant funds with no local match.  The Council agreed that the one year contract with Twenty First Century include the one year renewal option and unlimited use with no additional charges for extra contact information.  The Council acknowledged that the system can be used for the following purposes: 1) notify residents of emergencies; 2) notify County employees of office closings; 3) call employees in the event of an emergency; 4) fill a shift; and 5) alert residents of situations in the County like possible road closures.  The Council further acknowledged that other agencies such as the Dorchester County Health Department can utilize the system to make announcements such as reminding residents of the availability of flu shots or how to prepare for the flu season.



The Council approved the written request of Holly Ireland, Acting Executive Director, Mid Shore Mental Health Systems, to appoint Frank Foxwell and John Winslow, Program Director, Dorchester County Addictions Program, Dorchester County Health Department, to the Regional Mental Health Advisory Committee to represent Dorchester County.  The Council acknowledged that their terms will expire in June 2013.




Ms. Baynard presented the Council with recommendations from the Traffic Safety Committee members based on items discussed at an October 14, 2010 meeting. 


The Council acknowledged that the Committee members deferred a request made by Councilman Price, due to resident’s concerns, to lower the speed limit on Cabin Creek Road from 35 mph to 30 mph and agreed to place a counter on the road and review the data collected from that counter before making a final recommendation to the Council.   Additionally, the Council acknowledged that the Committee members also deferred a request from Otto Heintz, a Dorchester County resident, for the placement of a 25 mph speed limit sign on Kim Drive in Hudson under the same conditions.


In response to a question from Councilwoman Elzey, Mr. Weber said that the condition of the road and its location, whether residential, rural, etc. should be factored into any decision to establish or reduce the speed limit on a roadway.   He noted that both Cabin Creek Road and Kim Drive are both part of a residential subdivision and expressed his belief that a standard speed limit should be established for roads in residential subdivisions.     He explained that the road counter will count the number of vehicles that travel on those roads and will also measure speed.  Based on a question from Councilman Price, Mr. Weber further explained that because the County only has one counter, the Committee may not be able to make any recommendations on whether to lower the speed on the roads until both roads have been monitored.  He noted that the counter will be placed in each area for four days which will include weekends.  Mr. Weber advised that a request was recently submitted for a reduction of the speed limit on Backlanding Road (from Wrights Wharf to Backlanding Bridge), which is not located in a subdivision, and that the counter will also be placed on that roadway.


The Council acknowledged that the Committee members did not provide a recommendation on how to address the request of Mark Christopher, a Dorchester County resident, for the use of speed limit display equipment from Wicomico County on Lakeshore Drive in Galestown and the placement of speed humps in the Galestown town limits based on their belief that the request should be made by the Town Council. 

The Council agreed to take no action because no formal request was made from the Town Council.  



Ms. Baynard explained that the Committee members discussed a request from Councilman Newcomb for the placement of a weight restriction on Maple Dam Road.  She said that although no formal recommendation is being made by the members, Mr. Weber suggested to the Committee that a weight limit of 40,000 lbs be considered. She said that he explained that the weight limit will restrict tractor trailers, including logging trucks and tandem dump trucks, from using that roadway.    She noted that Mr. Weber also recommended that if the Council did agree to move forward with placing a weight restriction on that roadway signs be clearly marked and installed in area to give motorists time to see the sign before using it.  She advised that Sheriff Phillips also told the Committee members that enforcement will be by the Maryland State Police, which has mobile scales.  Mr. Weber explained that he spoke to a State Highway Administration staff member who advised that the County does have the right to place a weight restriction on a County road provided there is an adequate alternative route.   He said Mr. Merryweather also confirmed that based on the County’s local code, the Council can establish a weight restriction on a County roadway. 


In response to a question from Mr. Merryweather, Councilman Newcomb said there is an alternate route.  He explained that individuals operating trucks which are hauling stone and logs are frequently using the road and as a result it is deteriorating.   Mr. Merryweather cautioned that Council will be setting a precedent if a decision is made to establish a weight restriction on the road. 


In response to questions from Councilwoman Elzey, Mr. Weber said he does not believe that Maple Dam Road is a major route used by farmers.  He also expressed his belief that the road can be marked as a non-truck route but that fire trucks and equipment should be allowed access.  Councilwoman Elzey suggested Council considering restricting the use of the roadway to passenger trucks and vehicles only.   The Council agreed to defer consideration of the establishment of a weight restriction on Maple Dam Road and requested that Mr. Weber provide recommendations for signage that indicate that only passenger trucks and vehicles can use the road. 


Ms. Baynard advised that Committee members, based on concerns expressed by

Matthew Parks and Rainey Astin, Elliott Island property owners, about the safety of residents in light of the recent dock burning incident, agreed that public access should be allowed and suggested that Sheriff patrols be continued.  She noted that the members acknowledged that additional lighting was recently installed at the dock. 

She explained that although the Committee members are not recommending any action be taken, they recommend that a letter be sent to Mr. Parks and Mr. Astin acknowledging their concerns.


Ms. Baynard noted that there was another fire at the dock in the last day or so and that the Fire Marshall is investigating the incident.  Mr. Weber advised Council that he has been told that the Fire Marshall is considering the placement of cameras at the dock. 


The Council agreed to ask Sheriff Phillips to continue patrols in the area and acknowledged that the Fire Marshall is considering the placement of surveillance equipment at the dock.   The Council also agreed to send correspondence to Mr. Parks and Mr. Astin noting that they have requested that patrols be continued and its understanding that the Fire Marshall may place security cameras at that location.


Ms. Baynard noted that the Committee members were advised during its October 14th meeting that Erin Hill, Highway Safety and Injury Prevention Project Coordinator at the Dorchester County Health Department, has identified funds for school zone signs and is putting together a proposal for funding for school crossings and sidewalks.