County Council Meeting Minutes
March 1, 2011
County Council of
Regular Meeting Minutes
March 1, 2011
The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on March 1, 2011 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,
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 present Council members.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Councilman Nichols led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.
CALL FOR ADDITIONS OR DELETIONS TO AGENDA
The Council approved the following additions/deletions to the agenda: a request for a bid waiver for the emergency replacement of a water heater at the
APPROVAL OF MINUTES- FEBRUARY 15, 2011
The Council approved the minutes of February 15, 2011.
APPROVAL OF DISBURSEMENTS
The Council approved the vouchers as presented with Councilman Newcomb abstaining for a payment for the reimbursement of the cost for his Winter MACo Conference registration.
FINANICAL REPORT: CASH AND INVESTMENTS
Councilman Newcomb reported total cash and investments as $7,660,704.93.
EXECUTIVE SESSION SUMMARY
The County Council of Dorchester County convened in an Executive Session at 4:45 p.m. on March 1, 2011 in a closed session at Room 110, County Office Building, 501 Court Lane, Cambridge, Maryland, pursuant to the State Government Article pursuant to 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) approved a request from the Tourism Director to hire on-call Tourism Clerks by a 5 to 0 vote; 2) deferred a request from the Public Works Director to hire four individuals for part time seasonal grass cutting positions using a temporary employment agency by a 5 to 0 vote; 3) deferred a request by Maintenance Director to fill a vacant custodian position by a 5 to 0 vote; 4) continued discussions regarding
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.
DISCUSSION WITH SHERIFF JAMES PHILLIPS
Councilman Newcomb noted that at the Council’s February 24, 2011 budget work session several residents expressed concerns regarding issues specific to the Sheriff’s Office and asked Council to schedule a meeting to allow them the opportunity to discuss these concerns with Sheriff James Phillips at a future open session County meeting.
In response to questions from Maureen Harper, a Dorchester County resident, Sheriff Phillips said there is a take home vehicle policy in the Sheriff’s Office but no personal use of vehicles is allowed. Ms. Harper questioned whether Deputies are issued a 1099 tax form for the use of the vehicles, whether Deputies pay for fuel individually and if the County will be liable if a Deputy is involved in an accident while traveling back and forth to their residence. Sheriff Phillips explained that Deputies do not pay for fuel individually and are considered on duty when driving to or from home. Michael Spears, Finance Director, advised that they do not receive a 1099 tax form for the use of their vehicles based on an IRS exclusion.
Les Simering, a
Mr. Simmering said his statements at the budget work session were presumptuous because he believed personal use of County vehicles by Deputies was allowed and, based on that presumption, was concerned about the cost associated with that use as well as the cost to insure passengers. He explained that since that meeting he has spoken with Sheriff Phillips who assured him that there is no personal use of County vehicles allowed. He further explained that Sheriff Phillips also advised him to contact him if he views a Deputy using a County vehicle for personal use so he can take appropriate measures to address the matter.
In response to a question from Ms. Harper, Sheriff Phillips advised that all of the Deputies live in the State of Maryland with three of them living outside of Dorchester County. Ms. Harper also questioned whether the Sheriff has considered purchasing or leasing more fuel efficient vehicles in order to achieve a savings. Sheriff Phillips said that all vehicles rated for police work are tested and are almost as fuel efficient as other 8 cylinder vehicles. He noted that the vehicles used by Deputies are either Dodge Chargers or Crown Victorias.
Charlotte Hughes, a
Sheriff Phillips thanked everyone for the comments they made and encouraged the public to contact him if they observe personal use of a vehicle and provide either the tag number or the car number and he will address the matter.
Kathryn Geisler, a Dorchester County resident, said an individual who is employed as a Deputy with the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office lives down the street from her and that she has not observed him using the County vehicle for personal use. In response to a question from Ms. Geisler, Sheriff Phillips said he uses an escalating scale of disciplinary action for infractions of policies in his office.
Councilman Newcomb noted that several residents have expressed concern about Deputies traveling at high rates of speed through the Town of Church Creek which is a small community and have asked that they use caution when traveling that roadway.
The Council thanked Sheriff Phillips for attending the meeting to address residents’ concerns.
MAINTENANCE OF EFFORT WAIVER/REDUCTION DISCUSSION
Mr. Spears explained that the deadline to file a request for a Maintenance of Effort Waiver to the State of Maryland Board of Education is April 1, 2011 with the final determination being made by that Board by May 15, 2011. He questioned whether the Council wanted to move forward with such a request for the FY 2012 budget. He explained that his counterparts in surrounding counties are of the opinion that the State will not be providing much new funding to local Boards of Education and therefore, there may be no effective penalty for not complying with the State requirement to provide Maintenance of Effort funding.
Mr. Spears pointed out that, pursuant to Council’s directive, County Department Heads are reducing their FY 2012 proposed budget by 5% and said that if Council chooses to seek a waiver, he recommends they ask for a 5% reduction in maintenance of effort which will equal $869,477. He noted that legislation has been introduced during the current Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session to change the provisions the State Board of Education members will consider when making a determination on whether to grant a Maintenance of Effort waiver. In response to a question from Councilman Newcomb, Mr. Spears explained that maintenance of effort funding is based on student enrollment and enrollment in local public schools for FY 2012 has decreased by 40 full time students which equates to a funding reduction of $157,657 over the prior year. He said that the total for Maintenance of Effort for FY 2011 is $17,231,888. Mr. Spears said if the Council chooses to seek maintenance of effort waiver it will only be for one year. Councilman Travers questioned what impact such a waiver will have on the Board of Education.
Henry Wagner, Superintendent of Schools, addressed the Council and acknowledged that Gary McCabe, Assistant Superintendent for Administration; Lorenzo Hughes, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction; and Tim Brooke, Controller, are present. He acknowledged that the Council is faced with a fiscal deficit and expressed appreciation for the past and present working relationship the Council members have with the Board of Education staff. Mr. Wagner provided the Council with the written results of a study that was conducted in the Fall of 2011 which shows that residents’ top priorities include text books and recruiting and retaining highly qualified staff. He said over the last two fiscal years the Board of Education’s text book budget has decreased by one-third and there have been staff reductions. He expressed concern about not keeping pace with other school systems in terms of step and salary increases for employees and that it is his understanding there are 40 bills relating to education that are being discussed during the current Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session that if passed, may increase costs to local Boards.
Mr. Wagner noted that construction of the Dorchester Career and Technology Center is almost finished and that in addition to the 11 classes that were taught at the old school eight new programs will be offered in the new Center. He stressed existing staff will be used to teach those new programs in order to achieve a savings. He explained that teachers and school staff have had no raises or step increases in the last two years and that he anticipates that will continue in FY 2012. He also noted that a $1.5 million savings has been achieved within the last two years by reducing operating expenditures. Mr. Wagner asked the Council to consider meeting with the Board of Education staff in a work session before any action is taken regarding the County’s action to seek a Maintenance of Effort waiver from the State.
Mr. McCabe said if funds are provided to a local Board of Education below Maintenance of Effort requirements by County government, pursuant to State regulations, that board will be denied additional funds it would otherwise have received from the State. He expressed concern about that possible loss of funding if that were to occur in Dorchester County and about the potential loss of $515,000 in State funding if Governor Martin O’Malley’s proposed FY 2012 budget is adopted.
Mr. Wagner explained that pre-kindergarten enrollment is not factored into the maintenance of effort calculation and that although enrollment in kindergarten through twelfth grade is down, enrollment in pre-kindergarten has increased substantially.
He said that they are faced with having to fund a 7 to 10% increase in health care costs and continuing to pay for the lease with Dell Corporation for computers in the next fiscal year. He stated that 1500 computers will be replaced over a five year time period. Mr. Wagner noted that the Board of Education staff and members worked cooperatively with the County during the last fiscal year to fund the Dell lease within the FY 2011 Maintenance of Effort allowance.
In response to a question from Councilman Price, Mr. Wagner said that they are currently offering a number of courses on-line which require staff monitoring.
Based on a question from Ms. Harper regarding the average salary of full time teachers in Dorchester County, Mr. McCabe said he believes the annual salary range is between $40,000 to $70,000 and that the County ranks 23rd in teachers’ starting salary in the State. Mr. Wagner explained that Ms. Harper can request a copy of the salary scales.
Mr. Simering said he is in favor of reducing maintenance of effort by 5% based on the information he learned at previous Council budget work sessions. He explained that during those meetings he learned County employees have not received a raise in three years and have had a reduction in pay which has been offset by furlough days. He said it is his understanding that teachers have not received a reduction in pay nor have they taken furlough days. He noted that the Council will have to now provide funding of approximately $343,000 for the local State Department of Assessment and Taxation Office if the Governor’s budget proposal is approved. He encouraged Mr. Wagner, Mr. McCabe and Mr. Hughes to attend future budget work sessions.
Councilman Newcomb noted that in addition to being faced with a $4 million reduction in highway user funds, the Council is faced with a $1.6 million reduction in property tax revenue based on recent property assessments by the State. He said several County employees expressed concern about teachers not taking furlough days and are concerned about the number of administrative personnel that are employed at the Board of Education.
In response to a question from Councilman Price, Mr. Wagner said that consideration can be given to designing a semester course for half a credit on local history and that there is Curriculum Council and the members of that board decide whether to implement a new course. He expressed concern that there may not be enough funding available to provide a teacher for that course. Councilman Bradshaw said volunteers at the County’s Historical Society may be willing to teach the course. Mr. Hughes noted that there are opportunities throughout the school year for students to learn local history.
Mr. Wagner again asked Council to meet with the Board of Education members and staff in a work session before making a decision on whether to request a waiver of maintenance.
The Council agreed to meet with the Board of Education in a budget work session during the following week.
ANNUAL TRANSPORTATION PLAN-DELMARVA COMMUNITY SERVICES
Santo Grande, President of Delmarva Community Services, introduced Andrea Waters, Grants Coordinator, and advised that they are before the Council to seek approval to submit a grant to the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) for FY 2012 annual transportation plan funds.
Mr. Grande explained that the local match for the operating grant is supported, in part, by the County’s budget appropriation to Delmarva Community Services with the rest of the matching funds being from other sources. He noted that the buses are operated under the umbrella of Delmarva Community Transit. Mr. Grande explained that in addition to providing transportation to local residents, medical transportation is provided including transportation to and from dialysis appointments. He said the United Fund provided funds in FY 2011 to assist in providing transportation to dialysis patients and is giving Delmarva Community Transit $20,000 for FY 2012.
In response to a question from Councilman Price, Ms. Waters said the only comment that was made during the public hearing on the Annual Transportation Plan held by Delmarva Community Services staff on February 9, 2011 was a suggestion to charge individuals when they are transferring from one bus to another. She said that there have been no alterations to the transportation schedule as a result of that hearing.
Councilman Newcomb expressed his appreciation to Mr. Grande for his efforts in providing individuals who do not have insurance and/or family transportation for medical appointments.
In response to a question from Ms. Giesler, Mr. Grande said that the trolley is used as a backup vehicle and not for tourism purposes.
The Council approved the request of Mr. Grande to submit the FY 2012 Annual Transportation Plan for operating funding from the Mass Transit Administration and the Federal Transit Administration for transportation services from the following programs: 1) the Statewide Specialized Transportation Assistance Program in the amount of $169,343 (State and Federal) with a $56,448 local cash match for a total of $225,791; 2) Section 5311 Operating Assistance funding in the amount of $506,522 (State and Federal) in operating with a $127,725 local match for a total of $634,247; and 4) the Americans with Disabilities Act in the amount of $54,704 (State) in operating funds with a local match of $6,320 for a total of $61,024. The Council also approved Mr. Grande’s request to submit the FY12 Annual Transportation Plan for capital funding from the Mass Transit Administration and the Federal Transit Administration for transportation services in the amount of $209,125 (Federal and State) with a $23,236 local cash match for a total of $232,361 to purchase two 12 passenger/ 2 wheelchair buses ($195,281), 5 Motorola radios ($15,000), 10 AVL Units ($4,080) and five software licenses ($18,000). The Council acknowledged that the local match may be supported, in part, by the County’s budget appropriation to Delmarva Community Services and that the company will provide any remaining match funds.
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY-REQUEST FOR WAIVER/EXEMPTION OF EXCISE TAX
Nancy Andrew, Deputy Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity of Choptank , introduced Ed Colaprete, Volunteer, and said they are present to request the reimbursement of excise tax for the fifth and sixth homes to be built by Habitat on Wright Street and High Street. She explained that since she submitted her request she realized that the Council does not have the authority to waive or exempt the payment of excise tax. Mr. Colaprete explained that Dorchester County Habitat for Humanity was combined with the Talbot Chapter and is now located in Trappe, Maryland. He noted that the Council previously agreed to reimburse Habitat for Humanity for the first, second and fourth homes and thanked Council for that prior support. Mr. Colaprete explained that homeowners are given an interest free mortgage and are required to provide “sweat equity” as well as pay a down payment.
In response to a question from Councilman Nichols, Ms. Andrew said that the cost to construct the one and a half story home with a bedroom and a bathroom on the first floor on Wright Street is $95,000 which is the price the homeowner will pay for the home through a 30 year no interest mortgage. She explained that the homeowner will be responsible for the payment of property taxes.
Ms. Hughes questioned whether Ms. Andrew or Mr. Colaprete has given any thought to constructing a home in the northern part of the County and more particularly in the Town of Hurlock. Ms. Andrew said they are currently focusing on providing housing within the City of Cambridge based on a partnership between Habitat for Humanity and City representatives to improve the pilot Maple Street Program that is located within the Pine Street neighborhood but are in discussions with landowners about the possible construction of a house in Hurlock.
In response to a question from Councilman Price, Ms. Baynard said that the excise tax on each property is $3,671 for a total of $7,342. Councilman Nichols expressed concern about making exceptions for excise tax collection and said the tax should be applied uniformly. Ms. Andrew said it is her understanding that there is a State law has been passed that encourages counties and municipalities to waive fees for affordable homes.
Portia Johnson-Ennals, a Dorchester County resident, expressed her opinion that the Council should not provide a reimbursement for the excise taxes for the homes in light of the County’s current fiscal deficit which has resulted in County employees having to take furloughs and not receiving a raise for several years. She said it is her understanding that the Wright Street property was donated to Habitat by City of Cambridge representatives. She noted that another property on Wells Street was also donated by the City of Cambridge to Habitat. Ms. Andrew confirmed that the Wright Street property was donated by the City and that the High Street property was purchased with grant funds.
In response to a question from Councilman Nichols, Ms. Andrew explained that if the Council does not approve the reimbursement of the excise tax for the Wright Street and High Street properties they will solicit funding from County residents.
A motion made by Councilman Travers to provide Habitat for Humanity a reimbursement of excise tax of a total of $7,342 for the fifth and sixth homes to be constructed by Habitat at 710 Wright Street and 439 High Street in Cambridge failed with Councilmen Bradshaw, Price and Nichols opposing.
Jackie Noller, Vice President of the Choptank River Lighthouse Society, addressed the Council and introduced George Wright, President. She provided an update on the progress in raising funds and securing permits to construct a replica of the former Choptank River Lighthouse at the end of Pier A in the expanded
Ms. Noller said plans for the lighthouse are identical to the plans of the original structure that was built in the 1870s and that the land and riverbed is owned by the State of
She said $236,000 has been raised for the project and that formal requests for funds in the amount of $700,000 have also been submitted to various entities. Mr. Wright said they are selling steps to the lighthouse which will raise $15,000.
Mr. Noller explained that pursuant to a memorandum of understanding between the City of Cambridge and the Society, the lighthouse will be deeded to the City once constructed and will be operated primarily as the dock masters office for the City marina. She said Society members are also raising funds for the continued maintenance of the structure once it is built. Ms. Noller asked for clarification of any applicable fees or charges which would be payable to the County for the project. She said that the property that the lighthouse is to be constructed on is in the City of Cambridge and that City representatives have waived all permit fees. Ms. Baynard said initial staff research indicates that there are no permits that must be obtained or fees to be paid at the County level.
Libby Nagel, a
The Council thanked Ms. Noller for providing an update on the Choptank River Lighthouse project and instructed staff to confirm that there are no County fees or taxes that must be obtained prior to the construction of the lighthouse.
EMS APPROPRIATIONS-VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANIES
Ms. Baynard explained that the Council, pursuant to a written request by Keith Adkins, President of the Dorchester County Volunteer Firemen’s Association, agreed to discuss the distribution of the FY 2011 emergency medical services appropriation of $12,211 to local volunteer fire companies at its March 1, 2011 meeting. She said in advance of this meeting the Council and staff continued discussions with Sam Yockey, President, Secretary Volunteer Fire Company, regarding the members of that company entering into a basic life support agreement with the County. Ms. Baynard noted that the members are still billing for their BLS services and confirmed that the remaining volunteer fire companies in the County have executed BLS agreements with the Council. She noted she provided a report to Council regarding the recent meeting she and Scott Wheatley, Interim Emergency Medical Services Manager, had with Mr. Yockey regarding this matter.
Councilman Newcomb asked Mr. Yockey if the fire company members have made a decision on whether to enter into the BLS agreement with the Council. Mr. Yockey said the members questioned how the Council can guarantee a reimbursement of $100 per call in the current economic climate. He said because they have long term debt that will not be paid off until December 2012 and there has been a decrease in donations. He stated that it is his understanding the members still want to bill for their own services.
Councilman Nichols expressed his understanding that the Council’s original intent in allowing SVFC fire members to bill for their services was so that they could pay off a loan for a new ambulance. Mr. Yockey explained that the ambulance loan has been combined with a loan for a fire engine and will not be paid off until November 2012. Councilman Nichols recalled that there was no reference to purchasing a truck in addition to the ambulance when Council made its original decision to allow the company members to bill for their services. He further said that Bill Trego was a member of the fire company when that decision was made and had advised that the ambulance loan was for five years. Councilman Nichols expressed concern about SVFC being the only fire company that has not entered into a BLS agreement with the Council. Councilman Newcomb reiterated that concern noting that although in the beginning stages of negotiations members of the Taylors Island and Neck District volunteer fire companies were reluctant, those companies eventually agreed to enter into a BLS agreement with the Council.
Councilman Price noted that when negotiations first began with Mr. Yockey he asked Council to enter into an ALS Intercept agreement with the SVFC members. He asked Mr. Yockey if any other billing options have been considered. Mr. Yockey said he discussed with Ms. Baynard and Mr. Wheatley the possibility of SVFC members being allowed to continue to bill for services until November 12, 2012 with the understanding that the fire members will sign the BLS agreement which will become effective December 1, 2012. He said under that scenario the Council will receive $125 per ALS call pursuant to an ALS Intercept Agreement until the BLS agreement is executed. Councilman Price questioned which billing option the members preferred. Mr. Yockey said that he will have to ask the members again if they are still willing to enter into an ALS Intercept Agreement with the County but reiterated his understanding that they do not feel they can accept the $100 per call reimbursement when taking into consideration the cost of maintaining ambulance service.
Councilman Travers stressed that if SVFC members agree to enter into a BLS agreement with the Council they will be guaranteed a $100 per call reimbursement regardless of whether funds are collected from an insurance company or patient. In response to questions from Councilman Travers, Mr. Yockey said fire company members have an 80% or better collection rate and that the ambulance is collateral for the truck loan, which loan was obtained prior to the purchase of the ambulance.
A motion made by Councilman Price to release the FY 2011 EMS appropriation to all volunteer fire companied died due to lack of a second. A second motion made by Councilman Nichols to release the EMS appropriation to all volunteer fire companies with the exception of Secretary Volunteer Fire Company passed with Councilman Price opposing.
SCHOOL ZONE ENFORCEMENT GRANT ACCEPTANCE-HEALTH DEPARTMENT-SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Ms. Baynard noted that the Council asked Delegates Rudolph Cane, Adelaide Eckardt, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio and Senator Richard Colburn to introduce legislation entitled “Electric Transmission Privilege Tax” during the current legislative session. She explained that the legislation authorizes the Council to impose by ordinance a privilege tax on certain public utilities, persons or corporations engaged in the business of transmitting electricity through one or more long distance, extra-high voltage electric transmission lines located in the County. She further explained that there is specific formula referenced in that legislation that will be used to calculate that tax and that the revenue will be divided by thirds and used to reduce the burden on electric ratepayers, for environmental programs and services and for tourism and economic development to offset any impacts those high voltage lines may have on the County and its residents. She noted that Delegate Cane did submit House Bill 1204 entitled “Dorchester County-Electric Transmission Tax” and Senator Colburn cross filed Senate Bill 914. Ms. Baynard expressed her understanding that a letter of consent must be signed by the three Delegates and be submitted with House bills in order for the bill to move out of the Rules Committee. She said Council has been made aware that on the letter of consent for House Bill 1204 only Delegate Cane indicated he was in favor of the House Rules Committee proceeding with the legislation. Councilman Newcomb expressed con