Meeting Minutes

Meeting Minutes
posted: 06/03/11

County Council Meeting Minutes

May 17, 2011

County Council of Dorchester County

Regular Meeting Minutes

May 17, 2011


The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on May 17, 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, 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 pursuant to § 10-508(A)( 10) to discuss public security, if the public body determines that public discussion would constitute a risk to the public or to public security, including: 
(i) the deployment of fire and police services and staff; and (ii) the development and implementation of emergency plans.           


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





Councilmen Nichols led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.




The Council agreed to remove a request to advertise for a vacant position from the agenda.



The Council approved the minutes of May 3, 2011.


The Council approved vouchers as presented.



Councilman Newcomb reported total cash and investments as $995,557.78.


The County Council of Dorchester County convened in an Executive Session at 4:30 p.m. on May 17, 2011 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 pursuant to § 10-508(A)( 10) to discuss public security, if the public body determines that public discussion would constitute a risk to the public or to public security, including: 

(i) the deployment of fire and police services and staff; and 

(ii) the development and implementation of emergency plans. 


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 specifics of a County-wide return to work policy-agreed to discuss in open session; 2) reviewed information provided by staff relating to the filling of the Emergency Services Director position- took no action at that time; 3) discussed issue relating to emergency medical services billing –requested additional information.


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 proclamation declaring May 15 to May 21, 2011 as Emergency Medical Services Week.  Scott Wheatley, Interim Emergency Services Director, accepted the commendation.





The Council agreed to award the bid for food services at the Detention Center to ABL Management, Inc., based on the lowest per meal price of the three responding companies when considering the per meal price for both the average inmate population and high inmate population counts for the facility.  The Council acknowledged that the budgeted annual cost for food services will be approximately $296,000 for FY 2012, based on this award, a savings of least $64,000 over the current yearly contract amount.  The Council further acknowledged that the proposal includes providing food for inmates, detainees and staff at the Detention Center and an allowance for maintenance replacement of the kitchen equipment.  The Council recognized that there is a 90 day termination clause with the existing vendor.  The Council requested that staff prepare a notification to Aramark, pursuant to the existing contract, to terminate services effective August 31, 2011 in order to expedite this transition.  The Council also recognized that there will be a transition to ABL Management, Inc. for the provision of food services at the Detention Center effective September 2011.  The Council requested that Warden Satterfield provide a proposed contract to include the contract period and any renewal options and/or escalation clauses and any specific stipulations including a termination clause.   


Based on the single response to the request for proposals for medical services, Council agreed to renegotiate that contract with Conmed Healthcare Management, Inc., the current vendor.  Additionally, based on the recent proposal, the Council requested that the Warden provide a new contract for review and approval.  The Council acknowledged that Conmed agrees to provide medical services at a reduced annual cost of $597,000, an overall yearly savings of $24,000 over the current contract.  The Council further acknowledged that the main components of the Conmed proposal in order to achieve the savings is to (a) bundle the costs of mental health services and medical expenses and (b) include certain costs that have historically been billed separately including medical supplies expenses and costs for laboratory services and infectious waste removal.


Based on concerns expressed by Warden Satterfield that the facility, at times, incurs costs for medical and mental health services which must be obtained from third party medical and mental health agencies and do not fall within the scope of the County’s agreement with ConMed, Council did agree to retain $10,000 of the anticipated savings from the new contract as an addition to the medical expenses line in your budget.  The Council acknowledged that these funds will be targeted to cover these unanticipated costs for FY 2012. 




The Council approved the request of Michael Spears, Finance Director, to declare the following three properties Council purchased as a result of foreclosures through the tax sale process as surplus to be advertised for sale by sealed bid with the right of refusal:  5516 Rhodesdale Road, 1024 Pine Street, 501 Edgewood Avenue.   The Council acknowledged that including these three properties, 15 properties will be advertised for sale with plans to release the advertisement, activate webpages and send out email notices on May 18, 2011.  




Jane Baynard, County Manager, advised Council that staff is currently working with Injured Workers Insurance Fund staff regarding the renewal of the County’s Workers Compensation policy for FY 2012.   She said there are significant cost increases in that policy and noted that staff is reviewing options to control costs.   She advised that in a recent meeting with IWIF representatives, they strongly recommended the Council adopt a County-wide return to work policy.  Ms. Baynard explained that it is a shift from the current policy and will bring employees back to work from an injury to perform light duty.    She noted that Becky Dennis, Human Resources Director, has provided to Council an Administration Resolution to establish the policy for its review and consideration.  She advised that Ms. Dennis is also asking that Council approve a safety policy which will be provided to all employees for their signature. 


The Council accepted an Administrative Resolution for the adoption of a County-wide Return to Work program to return eligible employees to the County workforce at the earliest medically allowable date and in accordance with their medical treatment plan.  Additionally the Council approved the Statement of Safety Policy which will be distributed to all County employees for signature.




Ms. Baynard explained that Council was asked by Sheriff James Phillips to informally consider the submission of an application to the COPS Program prior to his engaging grant writer services.  She said the first informal discussion gave staff no instruction to proceed.  She advised that,  based on a follow-up request from a Council Member, staff conducted a phone poll due to the short time frame for grant submission.  Ms. Baynard noted as a result of that phone poll the Council voted 3 to 2 not to proceed with the grant application.  She explained that Council was concerned that there was a retention component at the end of the grant period.


Councilman Travers said he had reviewed information that Ms. Baynard provided from Sheriff Phillips relating to individuals who will be retiring from the Sheriff’s Office in the near future.  A motion made by Councilman Travers to allow Sheriff Phillips to proceed with submission of the application to the COPS Program failed with Councilmen Newcomb, Nichols and Price opposing. 



In response to a question from Les Simering, a Dorchester County resident, Councilman Newcomb explained that by a 3 to 2 vote the Council denied Sheriff Phillip’s request to apply for funding from the COPS Program for the funding of two positions for three years with a hiring retention component by the County of one year.  He expressed his opinion that all Department Heads, including Sheriff Phillips, should be required to reduce costs.


Based on a question from Pete Macinta, a Dorchester County resident,  Ms. Baynard said an initial meeting for the Redistricting Committee is being scheduled pending receipt of census data.


CONSTANT YIELD HEARING                                             


Ms. Baynard clarified that pursuant to State law local jurisdictions are required to hold a constant yield hearing.  She explained that the constant yield calculation is prepared by State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) staff for each taxing authority and represents the tax rate the Council could set in order to generate the same revenue as the previous year.  She further explained that as property assessments increase the constant yield decreases and as assessments decline the constant yield increases.   She stated that there are strict procedures governing the advertisement of the constant yield hearing which are closely monitored by the State of Maryland.  She explained that if any violations of those procedures, including the use of incorrect wording or typeface of the ad or the timing of the hearing, may cause a local jurisdiction to be required to amend its tax rate even after tax bills have been issued.  She stated that it is the Council’s responsibility to set the property tax rate for FY 12 or to indentify the date, time and location Council will take that action.  She said the constant yield rate is calculated in February based on an estimate of assessable real property, which is several months prior to annual budget actions taken by local jurisdictions.   Ms. Baynard noted that the constant yield set for the Town of Hurlock is 0.8379 per $100 of assessed value, which is a two cent reduction from 0.8570 from FY 11, and the constant yield rate for the City of Cambridge is 1.0260 per $100 of assessed value which is a 16.9 increase over the current rate of 0.8570.  She advised that for the remainder of the property located in the County, the constant yield rate is 0.8881 cents per $100 of assessed value which is eight tenths of one cent from the current real property tax for Dorchester County which is 0.8960 per $100 of assessed value.


Dr. Paula Ruark Gibb, a resident and retired County educator, expressed confusion about the wording used regarding the constant yield tax rate and questioned whether her real property taxes will be increased.  Ms. Baynard explained that the hearing is on the constant yield tax rate which is calculated by SDAT staff and is the rate required in the Town of Hurlock, the City of Cambridge and other areas of the County in order to generate exactly the same real property tax revenue as the previous fiscal year.  She clarified that it is a recommendation based on real property assessment estimates.  Dr. Gibb advised that she is handicapped, living on a fixed income and has not received an increase in her retirement for the past three years.  She expressed concern about rising costs including the one cent sales tax increase that was implemented by Governor Martin O’Malley.   She asked the Council to consider not reducing the wages of public safety employees and teachers as they provide valuable services to residents.   She expressed concern about how individuals who are living on a limited income will cope with increasing costs and taxes.  She expressed her appreciation of the services the Council members provide to citizens and asked them to not increase the real property tax rate.    Dr. Gibb said she is willing to go to Annapolis to speak on behalf of the County in order to assist the Council in any way possible in seeking a restoration of State aid. 


Councilman Newcomb announced that the Council will formally set the real property tax rate at its May 24, 2011 meeting in the Room 110, the meeting room, after 6 p.m.   The Council also agreed to declare Tuesday, May 24th as a special legislative day.




The Council adjourned into legislative session for a public hearing on Bill No. 2011-3 to adopt the County budget which consists of an Operating Budget, Capital Budget and Grant Budget for the appropriation of funds for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 and ending June 30, 2012.


Wendell Foxwell, a Dorchester County resident, reiterated the opinion he expressed at  the May 3rd public hearing that furloughs for County employees should be increased to 12 in order to re-hire those full time and part time employees that were laid off.    Based on comments previously made at the budget public hearings, he agreed that lights should be left on at night at public school facilities as a deterrent to crime and that he is also in favor of  irrigating a playing field at the Cambridge South Dorchester High School.  He expressed his understanding that in order to address concerns regarding student drop-out rates at the North Dorchester High School officials formed a student committee of seniors who provided tutoring assistance to classmates in order to ensure all seniors will graduate.  He suggested that the Board of Education implement the same tactic in other schools in the County.  He said he understands that athletes who are struggling to maintain a good grade point average in order to remain in sports are being tutored by teachers who are paid $24 an hour and that by having classmates tutor students those funds can be saved.   He expressed his opinion that Board of Education staff should be more assessable to the public and provide information on a regular basis regarding school expenditures.  He said he believes there are too many Assistant Superintendent positions in the Board of Education.  Mr. Foxwell said he opposed to a real property tax increase but that if the Council does increase those taxes he would like those funds to be used to re-hire those individuals who were previously laid off.


Danielle Cox, a resident and teacher in the County’s school system since 1998, said she is present to represent the Dorchester Educators of which there are 400 members from the public school system including principals, teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers and custodians.  She expressed concern that there may further reductions of funding to the Board of Education and said she believes employees should not suffer as a result of any reductions.  She explained that pursuant to a recent State mandate public school system employees are now required to provide an additional 2% towards their State Retirement pensions despite increasing costs.   Ms. Cox said it is her understanding that Dorchester County teachers receive the lowest starting salary than teachers in all but one county in the State.   She acknowledged that the Board of Education has tried to maintain jobs while facing declining funds and rising costs.    Ms. Cox said she understands that there is budget deficit but asked Council to not reduce Maintenance of Effort funding to the Board of Education.  She noted that school employees contribute to the local economy and have not had a pay raise since 2008 even though costs are rising.    Ms. Cox expressed her understanding that the Board of Education operating budget has been reduced over the last few years which has resulted in larger class sizes and teachers having to purchase some of the materials they use in their classrooms.


Dianna Boston, resident, said she has been a public school system employee for 33 years and asked the Council to continue to fund the Board of Education.


Councilman Newcomb called Richard Forrest to speak but received no response.


Frank Narr, a resident, said he is a parent who is representing the Boys and Girls Cross Country team and that Coach Sean Reincke, Dr. Lois Narr, Dave Bromwell, Cambridge South Dorchester High School Principal, are all present in reference to the team’s use of the Egypt Park.  He advised that it is his understanding the Council has decided to close the park to save on mowing costs and explained that he is present to discuss the continued use of the course by the team.   He said that parents and team members created a cross country course at the park after the Dorchester Career and Technology Center was built over the old course.   Mr. Reincke explained that he met with Scott Eberspacher, Recreation and Parks Director in 2009 about creating a course on the grounds over different types of terrain and that a 2 mile trail was created by volunteers.  He said prior to each cross country season students, parents and teachers clean the debris off of the course.  


Mr. Narr stated that he is not asking for the Council to provide funding to maintain the park but is asking that they allow the team to use the park with the understanding the property will be mowed at no cost to the County.  He explained that several local lawn care business owners have agreed to maintain the law at the park for the cross country season, August through November, at no cost to the County.


Mr. Reincke noted that two years the Bayside Cross Country Conference was held at the park and coaches and athletic directors from other schools in the State voted to continue to hold that conference at Egypt Park annually.  He said that the host County for the Regional Conference is Kent County and that there is a possibility that event can also be held at Egypt Park.   In response to his inquiry as to who is present in support of the team continuing its use of the park, approximately 15 people stood up.  He encouraged the Council to make a decision as soon as possible because the new season is less than three months away.    He noted that three cross country meets and the Bayside Championships are to be held at the park this year.


Ora Bartrum, a Dorchester County resident, noted that in order to participate in cross country students have to maintain a 2.0 average and asked the Council to consider allowing the team the continued use of the park.


Mr. Simering expressed his support for allowing the Cambridge South Dorchester High School Cross Country Team to use the park based on his understanding that there will be no cost to the County.  He said he believes the Council should reduce Maintenance of Effort funding to the Board of Education.  He noted that County employees, like Board of Education employees, have not received a raise since 2008 but have also 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 takes.   Mr. Simering encouraged the Council to consider preparing multiple year budgets.    He noted that although there was discussion regarding a possible 23% decrease of funds to the local volunteer fire companies which was ultimately reduced to 11%.  He expressed concern about decreasing funding to local volunteer fire companies in light of rising fuel costs and suggested Council revisit that decision.   Mr. Simering implored the Council to reverse its decision to not allow the Sheriff to apply for COPS Program funding.  He said it is his understanding that in addition to the Town of Hurlock officials, the City of Cambridge representatives are also applying for that funding which he believes will assist in deterring crime.  He said he is opposed to a real property tax increase for FY 2012 and for the next fiscal year.  Mr. Simering encouraged the Council to identify new revenue sources instead of depending on State and Federal grant funding.   He noted that he presented a proposal to Council during its budget work sessions for the placement of speed cameras in the County and that Council took no action on that proposal.  He advised that the City of Cambridge representatives are moving forward with the speed camera program.


Kathleen Clough, resident, said the Town of Hurlock officials are applying for COPS grant funding and that she believes it covers salary, uniforms, gear including guns and vests and that it pays for insurance and retirement for three years.  She said she does not believe there is a match although there is a personnel retention component for one year.   Ms. Clough expressed her opinion that Council should allow the Sheriff to proceed with the submission of the application.


The Council adjourned and closed the legislative public hearing with the understanding, based on a prior motion that the legislative session is for consideration of budget only.



Councilman Price asked for the status of the scheduling of a work session between Council, Planning and Zoning staff and Economic Development staff to address existing local level obstacles, including State mandated regulations, pertaining to the expansion of existing businesses within the County and prospective new business.  Ms. Baynard said it is her understanding that the last direction Council provided was that the work session not be scheduled until after the budget is adopted. 


The Council agreed to hold a budget work session on Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 5:00 p.m.  


With no further business to discuss, the Council adjourned.



ATTEST:                                                         DORCHESTER COUNTY COUNCIL:


______________________________            ____________________________________

Jane Baynard, County Manager                       Jay L. Newcomb, President



                                                                        William V. Nichols, Vice President



                                                                        Ricky Travers



                                                                        Rick Price



Approved the ______day of ___________, 2011.                 Tom Bradshaw