County Council Meeting Minutes
December 21, 2010
County Council of Dorchester County
Regular Meeting Minutes
December 21, 2010
The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on December 21, 2010 with the following members present: Present were Jay L. Newcomb, President; William V. Nichols, Vice President; Ricky Travers; Rick Price and Tom Bradshaw. 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 State Government Article 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 §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.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Councilman Travers led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.
CALL FOR ADDITIONS OR DELETIONS TO AGENDA
The Council approved the addition of a request to advertise two grant funded positions in the Youth Services Department to the agenda.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES- DECEMBER 7, 2010
The Council approved the minutes of December 7, 2010.
APPROVAL OF DISBURSEMENTS
The Council approved vouchers as presented.
FINANICAL REPORT: CASH AND INVESTMENTS
Councilman Newcomb reported total cash and investments as $10,335,756.49.
CAPITAL PAYMENT AUTHORIZATIONS-BOARD OF EDUCATION
The Council approved a capital payment authorization request from Henry Wagner, Superintendent of Schools, in the amount of $53,870 from Bond Proceeds for the replacement of the Dorchester Career and Technology Center.
The Council also approved a capital payment authorization request from Mr. Wagner in the amount of $4,500 from 2008 General Funds/PAYGO for three media inventory scanners.
The Council further approved Mr. Wagner’s capital payment authorization request in the amount of $1,915.67 from 2008 Transfer Tax Fund/PAYGO for the electrical distribution system at the Cambridge South Dorchester High School Complex, $595.67 and for the removal of old carpet and the installation of new carpet at Cambridge South Dorchester High School, $1,320.
Additionally, the Council approved the following capital payment authorization requests from Mr. Wagner: 1) $51,277.23 from 2008 Bonds for the replacement of the North Dorchester Middle School; 2) $27,136.02 from 2009 Transfer Tax Fund/PAYGO for paving and concrete site work ($22,955.73); wiring for student classroom computers and repairs to the pneumatic system at Hurlock ($4,049.29) and installation of a masonry base for a sign ($131); 3) $4,695 from FY 2010 Bonds for the Dorchester Career and Technology Center replacement; 4) $17,469.78 from 2010 General Funds/PAYGO.
EXECUTIVE SESSION SUMMARY
The County Council of Dorchester County convened in an Executive Session at 4:30 p.m. on December 21, 2010 in a closed session at Room 110, County Office Building, 501 Court Lane, Cambridge, Maryland, pursuant to the State Government Article 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 §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) received information from Interim Emergency Medical Services Manager regarding personnel in probationary status - took no action; 2) approved a request from Youth Services Director to hire an individual as a Counseling Supervisor and to consider a request to advertise two positions in open session by a 5 to 0 vote; 3) confirmed the hiring by the State’s Attorney of an individual to fill a vacant Senior Assistant State’s Attorney position by a 5 to 0 vote; 4) approved a request from the Public Works Director to: fill one vacant Motor Equipment Operator III position by promoting a current employee to that position; promoting another employee to fill the resulting Motor Equipment Operator II vacancy; moving two part time employees employed through a temporary employment agency to full time Motor Equipment Operator I positions; and re-hire an employee through a temporary employment agency in a part time capacity by a 4 to 1 vote; 5) received an update on the Mid Atlantic Power Pathway project from Special Legal Counsel-took no action; 6) discussed with legal counsel a public safety agreement-agreed to execute the agreement by a 5 to 0 vote; 7) discussed with legal counsel a legal agreement regarding a contract to purchase a new Notification System for the Emergency Management Department - agreed to accept staff’s recommendation to proceed with the agreement as proposed by the vendor regarding indemnification ; 8) received information on pending litigation and accepted the recommendation of legal counsel.
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 adjourned to Legislative Session.
BILL NO. 2010-21 – ACTING PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 25A, CHARTERED COUNTIES, SECTION 5T, BUILDING ORDINANCES, OF THE ANNOTATED CODE OF MARYLAND, AND TITLE 12, OF THE PUBLIC SAFETY ARTICLE OF THE ANNOTATED CODE OF MARYLAND, TO ADD NEW SECTION 65-6 (Y) TO ARTICLE IV OF CHAPTER 65 OF THE DORCHESTER COUNTY CODE TO DELETE IN ITS ENTIRETY SECTION P2904, DWELLING UNIT FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS, OF THE INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CODE FOR ONE AND TWO FAMILY DWELLINGS.
E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney, said a public hearing is being held on proposed legislation to eliminate the mandatory requirement to install a sprinkler system in one and two family dwellings in Dorchester County, which requirement is scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2011. Prior to the hearing, Mr. Merryweather clarified that the County Council had no knowledge and did not participate in the distribution of an email that was sent by Planning and Zoning staff soliciting support for the passage of this bill or the information advertised in the Daily Banner regarding this public hearing again asking for supporters of the bill to attend tonight’s hearing. He said that the official advertisement placed by the Council advertising this hearing was printed in the Star Democrat on November 30, 2010 and December 7, 2010. Mr. Merryweather explained that the Council will be making its decision on the proposed legislation based solely on the evidence and testimony provided during this public hearing.
Rodney Banks, Assistant Planning and Zoning Director, advised that Mr. Merryweather reviewed and approved the proposed legislation as to its legal format and sufficiency. He explained that the proposed bill will add a new Section 65-6(Y) to Article IV of Chapter 65 of the Dorchester County Code to delete the section of the International Residential Code (IRC) requiring the installation of sprinkler systems in one and two family dwellings. He clarified that the legislation will eliminate that requirement in Dorchester County.
William E. Barnard, Fire Marshall for the State of Maryland, expressed his opposition to the bill. He said that the 2009 edition of the International Residential Code requires that sprinkler systems be installed in all one and two family dwellings effective January 1, 2011 and that he believes the requirement will save lives and property. He noted that the code includes minimum requirements. Mr. Barnard said that 12 counties and over half of the municipalities in the State of Maryland require that sprinkler systems be installed in one and two family dwellings, including Prince George’s County. He advised that in the State of Maryland since 1992 installation of sprinkler systems in townhomes have been required in the State and that as of January 1, 2011 all modular homes in the State must be equipped with these systems. He expressed his opinion that the use of sprinkler systems reduce deaths related to fire and protect fire fighters based on his 19 years of experience. He explained that the closest sprinkler will be activated during the early stages of a fire which will allow time for occupants, including the elderly and those individuals with limited mobility, to exit the dwelling. He said that pursuant to the International Residential Code a sprinkler system for a residential home should have a single flow of approximately 13 gallons per minute. He noted that typically a fire doubles in size every 30 seconds and that the national average response time by fire fighters is six minutes. He also expressed his opinion that modern building materials burn faster, produce more heat and deadly smoke and that synthetic materials and plastic produce deadly toxins. He said that he and staff of the Fire Marshall’s office strongly oppose the legislation to allow Dorchester County residents to “opt out” from the sprinkler system requirements.
In response to a question from Mr. Merryweather, Mr. Barnard said that in a home that is not connected to a community water supply system, the sprinkler system will be tied into existing plumbing or be added as a stand alone component with a 10 minute water supply requirement which is usually achieved by the installation of a storage tank pump or a specific type of well pump. Mr. Merryweather questioned whether the storage tank will be located in a residence. Mr. Barnard said that the location of the tank will depend on the floor plan of the home and that the typical storage tank is 300 gallons. He expressed his opinion that the cost for the system will average $1.50 to $2.00 per square foot with the cost of $85 per sprinkler head and will include the cost of a larger meter in a public water area and the pump and/or well. He noted that both in Prince George’s County and the City of Laurel property owners for one or two family homes have been required to install sprinkler systems in new homes for twenty years.
Bill Maucer of Todays Manufactured Homes in Hurlock said that under the International Residential Code sprinkler systems must be installed in all modular homes in the State of Maryland. He explained that his company staff have installed sprinkler systems in homes in Talbot County as well as in Hurlock with the cost exceeding $1.50 to $2.00 per square foot. He said that the cost for a sprinkler system for a 2,000 square foot home is approximately $4,000. He explained that in addition to the installation of pipes, storage tanks must be installed and upgrades must be made to wells and water systems. He expressed concern that individuals will not have the financial resources to build a home if they are required to install sprinkler systems.
Councilman Newcomb questioned whether Mr. Maucer had witnessed how a sprinkler system worked and if he was aware of what maintenance and upkeep needed to be performed. Mr. Maucer said he has never had the opportunity to view a system that had been activated. He said that company staff have installed several systems with wells and one system that was connected to a public water supply. He explained that there is a red box attached to the water heater which is accessible by key and that an individual must open the box and unlock a chain in order to turn off the water system. He expressed concern that some individuals, particularly the elderly and those with mobility problems, may not be able to locate the box before extensive water damage occurs. He said there is also a possibility that sprinkler system heads in rooms may be hit accidently which will result in water damage.
In response to a question from Mr. Maucer, Mr. Barnard said that sprinkler heads must be installed in the living area of the house, including the basement but do not need to be installed in attics, small bathrooms or garages.
Based on questions from Les Simering, a Dorchester County resident, Mr. Barnard said the only required inspection is the inspection performed by the Fire Marshall staff after the installation of the system and that the storage tank should be installed in a heated space. He noted that they are typically installed in a basement or closet.
Santo Grande, CEO/President of Delmarva Community Services, noted that the organization owns 30 group homes, 15 in Maryland and 15 in Delaware and that the majority of those homes are in a rural area. He said that the cost to install sprinkler systems in the homes located in a rural area is more expensive because a storage area needs to be constructed to house the tank. He suggested that developers consider installing public wells when constructing a housing development in order to make water available to fire fighters to put out a fire as some homes are located in such a remote regions that it takes fire company members a long time to respond to a fire.
Aaron Ruark from Custom Home Builders expressed his opinion that some individuals will not be able to afford a new home if they have to expend additional funds to install a sprinkler system. He said that companies in Dorchester County will be adversely impacted if the Council does not approve the legislation to opt of out the sprinkler system requirement because individuals may choose to build in other counties that do not have this requirement.
Cynda Twilley, a Dorchester County resident, said she is a builder, a farmer and rental property manager and expressed her belief that property owners should have the right to choose whether or not they want to install a sprinkler system in their home. She also expressed her belief that the additional cost can make the difference in an individual deciding whether or not to build a home.
Mr. Simering asked the Council members to defer their decision on the proposed legislation. Mr. Merryweather said that without passage of this legislation, the sprinkler requirement will become effective January 1, 2011.
Nick Lyons, Codes Official, explained that the legislation is being provided to the Council members to give them the opportunity to decide whether or not to amend the County’s building code to remove the sprinkler system requirement. He said he is not for or against the proposed legislation and expressed concern that the gross income earned by residents in Dorchester County is less than residents receive in Prince George’s County. He noted that at the request of builders in the County an email was sent by the Planning and Zoning Office to those individuals noting the date and time of the public hearing on this proposed legislation.
Mr. Barnard said that St. Mary’s County requires that sprinkler systems be installed in all residences which are hooked into a public water system and in all residences in Charles County and Carroll County.
Mark Mills, a Dorchester County resident, questioned how much research has been conducted to identify alternatives to sprinkler system requirements that will enhance fire code protections for homeowners. Mr. Lyons noted that the sprinkler requirement is a State mandate unless a specific jurisdiction chooses to exempt themselves via local legislation.
Portia Ennals Johnson, a Dorchester County resident, expressed her opinion that residents who live in counties on the western shore are more financially stable than Eastern Shore residents and that first time homeowners typically have limited funds available. She noted that property owners are required to pay impact fees in the City of Cambridge and excise fees in Dorchester County in order to build in those jurisdictions. In response to a question from Ms. Johnson, Mr. Barnard said that the State Fire Marshall’s office charges $75 to inspect a sprinkler system after installation.
Richard Yinger, a Dorchester County resident, said there are 35,000 volunteer members in the Maryland State Fireman’s Association. He noted that firemen are killed in the line of duty and expressed his opinion that sprinkler systems should be installed in residences which will save lives, including the lives of those volunteer fire members.
Mr. Ruark expressed his belief that if individuals are unable to afford a new home because they will have to expend additional funds to install a sprinkler system, they will be forced to stay in a home with old wiring which may be hazardous to their health.
Councilman Price expressed his appreciation to the individuals who made comments regarding the legislation. He said that while he understands that sprinkler systems may save lives he is concerned about the additional cost new homeowners will be faced with to install the system and how the passage of the legislation will affect local building contractors in the current economic climate. He said that more information should be made available to potential homeowners regarding the installation of sprinkler systems so that they make their own decision on whether to install one.
In response to a question from Councilman Travers, Mr. Barnard said that the residents who install sprinkler systems typically save 8% to 10% on the fire portion of their homeowner’s insurance policies during the life of the property.
In response to a question from Councilman Travers, Mr. Lyons explained that there are several amendments to the building code, including a change in ceiling insulation requirements and electrical requirements that will take effect January 1st that will raise costs for homeowners. Councilman Travers questioned why the Council was not advised of those changes. Mr. Lyons explained that