County Council Meeting Minutes
April 17, 2012
County Council of Dorchester County
Regular Meeting Minutes
April 17, 2012
The County Council of Dorchester County met in regular session on April 17, 2012 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;
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; §10-508(A)(3) to consider the acquisition of real property for a public purpose and matters directly related thereto;
§10-508(A)(4) to consider a preliminary matter that concerns the proposal for a business or industrial organization to locate, expand, or remain in the State; 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 Nichols led the invocation and the pledge of allegiance.
CALL FOR ADDITIONS OR DELETIONS TO AGENDA
The Council agreed to add a request for proposals to purchase fan coil units for HVAC systems at the County Office Building to the agenda and to move the request for a resolution in support of a joint land use study to be initiated by the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Southern Maryland prior to the Legislative Session.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES- April 10, 2012
The Council approved the April 10, 2012 minutes.
APPROVAL OF DISBURSEMENTS
The Council approved vouchers as presented.
FINANICAL REPORT: CASH AND INVESTMENTS
Councilman Newcomb reported total cash and investments as $7,556,327.48.
EXECUTIVE SESSION SUMMARY
The County Council of Dorchester County convened in an Executive Session at 4:30 p.m. on April 17, 2012 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; §10-508(A)(3) to consider the acquisition of real property for a public purpose and matters directly related thereto;
§10-508(A)(4) to consider a preliminary matter that concerns the proposal for a business or industrial organization to locate, expand, or remain in the State; 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.
Councilman Newcomb announced that the Council reconvened into an Executive Session on April 10, 2012 to discuss one public safety item- discussed with Emergency Services Director information pertaining to public safety – took no action. He also announced that the Council convened into an Executive Session on April 12, 2012 to discuss personnel items relating to budget. Additionally, Councilman Newcomb announced that the Council convened into an Executive Session at 4:30 p.m. on April 17, 2012 to discuss the following items: 1) discussed with Public Works Director information pertaining to personnel and legal issues-requested additional information for April 18, 2012 budget work session; 2) received an update on a possible economic development project-agreed to proceed with a public presentation at May 8, 2012 regular session meeting; 3) discussed matters regarding the Dorchester Regional Technology Park-took no action; 4) discussed matters relating to a possible economic development project-deferred to a future meeting; and 5) discussed with legal counsel a matter relating to the County Charter-took no action.
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.
PROCLAMATION- IAAP ADMINISTRATIVE PROFESSIONAL WEEK AND DAY 2012
The Council presented a proclamation declaring April 22 to April 28, 2012 as Administrative Professionals Week and April 25, 2012 as Administrative Professionals Day. Linda Bradford, International Association of Administrative Professionals Tidewater Chapter member, accepted the proclamation.
PROCLAMATION-OLDER AMERICANS MONTH
The Council presented a proclamation declaring May 2012 Older Americans Month. Vivian Johnson Keene, on behalf of Delmarva Community Services, accepted the proclamation.
PROCLAMATION FOR SENIOR CITIZENS MONTH-MAY
The Council presented a proclamation declaring May 2012 Senior Citizens Month. Tom Wilson, representing the Board of Directors of the Commission on Aging, Inc., accepted the proclamation.
The Council presented a commendation to Perry Hall on his retirement and recognizing his 33 years of dedicated service to Dorchester County.
REQUEST FOR RESOLUTION OF SUPPORT-JOINT USE STUDY-NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER-MID SHORE REGIONAL COUNCIL
Based on information provided by Mr. Wayne Clark, Executive Director for Tri County Council for Southern Maryland, and Christopher Jarboe, NAVAIR Ranges Sustainability Office, the Council agreed to execute a resolution of support for a joint land use study to be initiated by the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Southern Maryland. The Council acknowledged that the local match to the Office of Economic Adjustment (Department of Defense) grant for the preparation of the study will be provided by Southern Maryland counties. The Council further acknowledged that there is no obligation to adopt any of the recommendations included in a final study.
The Council introduced Bill No. 2012-2 AN ACT OF THE COUNTY COUNCIL OF DORCHESTER COUNTY, MARYLAND PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORITY OF TITLE 15, SUBTITLE 8 OF THE STATE GOVERNMENT ARTICLE OF THE ANNOTATED CODE OF MARYLAND TO REPEAL CHAPTER 88 OF THE DORCHESTER COUNTY CODE ENTITLED CODE OF ETHICS AND TO REENACT CHAPTER 88 OF THE DORCHESTER COUNTY CODE ENTITLED ETHICS PROVISIONS FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENACTING A NEW PUBLIC LOCAL ETHICS LAW FOR DORCHESTER COUNTY ELECTED OFFICIALS, EMPLOYEES OR APPOINTEES, RELATING TO PUBLIC ETHICS ON A LOCAL LEVEL, INCLUDING CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE AND LOBBYING DISCLOSURE, ESTABLISHING A LOCAL ETHICS COMMISSION; AND SPECIFYING CERTAIN PERSONNEL AND CHARACTERISTICS OF IT; PROVIDING CERTAIN DUTIES, RESPONSIBILITIES, POWERS AND PROCEDURES TO THE LOCAL ETHICS COMMISSION, TO PROVIDE FOR THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE ORDINANCE; AND GENERALLY RELATING TO THE REGULATION, CONTROL AND SUBJECT MATTER OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE, LOBBY DISCLOSURE AND ETHICAL CONDUCT ON THE PART OF DORCHESTER COUNTY OFFICIALS, EMPLOYEES AND APPOINTEES.
E. Thomas Merryweather, County Attorney, said the proposed legislation before the Council for introduction is to repeal and re-enact Chapter 88 of the Dorchester County Code entitled “Code of Ethics” pursuant to a change in State law enacted during the 2010 General Assembly session. He said the intent of the new State law is that local jurisdictions’ Ethics Ordinances must be at least “equal” to State law where prior State law only required a local jurisdiction’s Ethics laws to be “similar” to the State. He noted that the State Ethics Commission has reviewed and given preliminary approval for the proposed legislation.
The Council agreed to proceed with publication of a public hearing on this matter.
PUBLIC HEARING-CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION REPORT
Mr. Merryweather called the Public Hearing to order and announced that Richard Newcomb, Charter Review Commission Chair, will present the results of the Charter review. Mr. Newcomb presented the report, which is attached.
Pete Macinta, as the Redistricting Commission Chair, thanked the Charter Review Commission members for including that Board’s suggestions in their report. He said as an individual, he strongly encourages that the Council approve the recommendations to have the Redistricting Commission seated by April 1st after each decennial census date in order that the members can take care of procedural matters and to allow the Commission members the opportunity to re-review the plan if not adopted in full or in part and return the plan to the Council within 30 days.
Mr. Merryweather advised that the Council will take the recommendations of the Charter Review Commission under advisement.
The Council thanked the Commission members and adjourned the public hearing.
REQUEST FOR TEMPORARY ABATEMENT OF EXCISE TAXES FOR TARGETED AREAS-CITY OF CAMBRIDGE/MUNICIPALITIES
Brian Roche, resident, said he is present on behalf of various municipalities in Dorchester County to request that the Council consider the temporary abatement of excise taxes for targeted areas in the County in order to encourage economic development and increase the County’s tax base. He said it is his understanding that the excise tax is used to offset costs for schools, public safety and public works. He provided the Council with written information and letters of support for the temporary tax abatement from the Towns of Vienna, East New Market and Secretary. Mr. Roche expressed his belief that Town of Hurlock representatives will also be forwarding a letter of support in the near future. He referenced a survey conducted by Sage Policy Group consultants, in which it was suggested that the excise tax may be a barrier to development. He noted that the paperwork he provided the Council also includes maps of the City of Cambridge and the Towns of Vienna, East New Market, Secretary and Hurlock which show that there was a minimal amount of excise tax collected in those municipalities from 2008 to the present.
In response to questions from Councilman Travers, Mr. Roche stressed that the request is to temporarily abate excise tax only in certain areas in each municipality and said it is his understanding that the majority of those areas will include business and commercial properties as well as residential. He said he envisions representatives from each municipality working with the Council to identify the areas within their jurisdictions that are targeted for redevelopment. Councilman Travers expressed his support for a temporary abatement of excise taxes in designated areas on a trial basis to encourage economic development.
Councilman Price questioned whether the proposed temporary excise tax abatement will include both existing and new structures. Mr. Roche expressed his personal belief that the focus should be on existing infill areas of each of the municipalities since most of the infrastructure in those areas already exists.
In response to a question from Richard Lalka, resident, Councilman Newcomb explained that the County collects an excise tax while the City of Cambridge collects impact fees. Mr. Lalka said he supports the collection of a County excise tax in order to offset the increased cost for infrastructure due to new construction.
Allen Nelson, resident, strongly encouraged the Council to consider the temporary abatement of excise taxes in targeted areas in municipalities to spur development, particularly in those areas where infrastructure already exists.
James Chaney, resident and developer, expressed his belief that the excise tax is a hindrance to development. He encouraged the Council to consider the temporary excise tax abatement and noted that City of Cambridge representatives have agreed to waive the impact fee in certain areas within that municipality.
Portia Johnson Ennels, resident, expressed her opinion that the City of Cambridge representatives should also provide other incentives for development and to support the community initiatives. She questioned which areas will be targeted in the City and noted that there are several areas in t that need revitalization.
Frank Stout, City of Cambridge Commissioner, expressed his belief that working with the various municipal representatives to develop a proposal to present to the Council regarding an excise tax request has been as a positive experience and expressed his belief that a temporary abatement would be appropriate to encourage growth.
Wendell Foxwell, Dorchester County resident, noted that in a recent local newspaper article there was a reference to Natalie Chabot, City of Cambridge Economic Development Director, and the fact that she received a letter from a developer in support of a temporary excise tax abatement. In response to a question from Mr. Foxwell, Ms. Chabot explained that the developer who presented her the letter has previously invested in the community and has expressed an interest in continuing to do so. Mr. Foxwell expressed his concern that existing residents will be responsible for covering the cost for increased infrastructure needs for an individual and/or developer to develop their property. He questioned if Dorchester County’s excise tax is comparable with other counties. Councilman Nichols stated that it is understanding that Dorchester County has the lowest excise tax.
Mr. Roche again expressed his opinion that the excise tax is prohibiting redevelopment and noted that property tax revenues may increase if a property is redeveloped and is reassessed at a higher value.
Marty Mullaney, resident and business owner, noted that he owns several lots in the City of Cambridge and expressed his opinion it is cost prohibitive to build houses on those properties due to the County’s excise tax. He said he supports a temporary excise tax abatement.
Mr. Chaney suggested that the Council consider an excise tax abatement for a five year period based on his belief that it will promote home ownership and will benefit local businesses.
Jeff Gabrielson, resident, questioned whether Council can initiate a site by site waiver process. Councilman Nichols clarified that the local excise tax legislation does not grant Council the authority to consider a waiver request.
Councilman Price questioned whether municipalities would support a three year abatement of excise taxes in specifically designated areas and if a reduction of the excise tax is an option rather than a waiver of the entire assessment. Mr. Roche said the specifics of any approval is at the Council’s discretion.
In response to a question from Councilman Nichols as to a specific district that may have already been defined in the City of Cambridge, Mr. Roche said that the “Downtown Development District” includes waterfront property by Cambridge Creek, on High Street through the intersection of High and Washington Street and down the Creek to Race Street to the best of his recollection. Councilman Nichols expressed his belief that a temporary excise tax abatement limited to a specific area would provide an unfair benefit to a select few. He explained that he voted against the original legislation that established the County’s excise tax and noted that the Council, under the current law, has no authority to waive or abate the tax. He stated that the Council has denied such requests in the past and said he is not in support of an abatement now that would be selectively applied.
In response to an inquiry from Councilman Nichols, Ms. Haythe noted that the following counties assess an excise tax: Calvert County, $12,950 per dwelling; Caroline County, $5,000 per dwelling; Charles County, $12,361 per dwelling; Dorchester County, $3,671; Frederick County, $15,185 per dwelling; Howard County, $2.23 per square foot; Washington County, $3 per square foot. Councilman Nichols expressed his belief that development is occurring in those counties even though an excise is collected and reiterated that the tax in Dorchester County is lower than that of other counties.
Mr. Roche expressed his understanding that only nominal excise taxes are being collected in the County. Councilman Nichols questioned the reason for temporarily abating the excise tax when a nominal amount is being collected and stated his belief that the Council should not consider this request.
Mr. Mullaney again addressed the Council and stressed his belief that the excise tax discourages individuals and/or developers from developing property in the County. Mr. Chaney reiterated his hopes that the leadership will consider the municipalities’ request in order to encourage individuals to invest in the County which will help to create a broader tax base.
In response to a question from Councilman Travers, Ms. Haythe noted that the State and Federal government have divided Dorchester County into zones and offer economic development incentives to the businesses that locate in those areas.
Ms. Ennals said there are designated enterprise zones in the City of Cambridge that she believes are not being properly promoted. She noted that the excise tax is a one time fee.
Councilman Nichols suggested that the municipalities in the County consider reimbursing individuals and businesses for excise tax in order to spur economic development in their jurisdictions. He questioned whether there are any legal or constitutional issues that may limit the Council’s ability to amend the legislation to provide an exemption for a certain sector of the County’s population. Mr. Merryweather said he will have to review State law to determine whether the Council has the authority to amend its local bill or if the State’s enabling legislation would first have to be amended. Mr. Merryweather also advised Council he would like an opportunity to investigate the constitutionality of the proposal based on the doctrine of fairness.
A motion to consider a three year temporary abatement of the excise tax in targeted areas in the requesting municipalities in the County failed with Councilmen Nichols, Bradshaw and Newcomb opposing. The Council took no action and requested that additional information be obtained including an estimate of funding losses that may be incurred for a five year period and to allow legal counsel to review legislative and constitutional issues.
PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT APPEAL BOARD NOMINATIONS
The Council acknowledged that the term of Leland R. Wheatley, Dorchester County Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board member, will expire on June 1, 2012 and
recognized that pursuant to Section 3-103 of the Tax Property Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland a list of three nominations for this appointment must be submitted to Governor Martin O’Malley for his consideration. The Council took no action.
REQUEST TO REPAIR FILE ROOM SECURITY SYSTEM-CIRCUIT COURT
Based on the request of Amy J. Craig, Clerk of the Court, the Council agreed to single source with Reed Security Systems, Inc. to repair the Clerk’s Office file room security system at the cost of $2,056.26. The Council acknowledged that single sourcing with Reed Security will expedite the repair based on the consistency of equipment in the building. Additionally, the Council acknowledged that the repair will be funded through the Transfer Tax fund.
FY13 SCOPE OF WORK FOR CRITICAL AREA FUNDING-PLANNING AND ZONING
The Council approved the request of Rodney Banks, Assistant Planning and Zoning Director, to execute the FY 2013 Scope of Work and Contracts between the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays and Dorchester County for Critical Area Program funding of $14,000. The Council acknowledged that funding will be used to offset the costs to enforce these regulations in accordance with the County’s April 18, 2007 Grants Administration policy. The Council further recognized that the Critical Area Planner will be funded by the County’s General Fund at the current rate and the grant dollars will be used to purchase supplies to fulfill the requirements of the local Critical Area Program.
REVISED TRAFFIC SAFETY COMMITTEE RESOLUTION-INCORPORATION OF NEW POLICY
The Council agreed to execute a Resolution to amend Resolution 454 which established the Traffic Safety Committee to reflect the new policy that was approved at its March 20, 2012 meeting, regarding the referral of traffic safety items to the Traffic Safety Committee in an effort to ensure a better flow of information.
HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE FACILITY WELL REPLACEMENT BID AWARD –PUBLIC WORKS
The Council approved the recommendation of Tom Moore, Public Works Director, to award the bid for the replacement of the Department of Public Works Highway Maintenance Facility well to Lifetime Well Drilling Company at the cost of $7,625. The Council acknowledged that capital funding of $7,500 is available for project and that current budget building maintenance funds will cover the remaining $125 and any support electrical and plumbing services and water quality certification to complete the installation for a working water supply. Additionally, the Council acknowledged that no bids were received at the original advertised bid opening so staff followed up and contacted well drillers for prices. The Council requested that staff explore the possibility of downsizing the pump well motor which may possibly result in savings over the bid price.
PROPOSED VERIZON UPGRADES-BUCKTOWN TOWN-INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Based on information provided by the Chris Abbott, Information Technology Communications Technology Specialist, the Council recognized that a representative from Verizon Wireless has expressed an interest in upgrading their existing equipment at the County's tower located at 2946 Greenbriar Road to include the addition of antennas and the necessary cabling and amplifiers to support the company's new 4G LTE cellular platform. The Council also recognized that the company will perform a structural analysis of the tower. Furthermore, the Council acknowledged that the Verizon representative is also requesting an extension of its agreement with the County with an increase in the monthly rate if the upgrade is completed. The Council requested that Mr. Abbott negotiate with company representatives regarding the terms and conditions for a possible extension and return a final agreement for its review and consideration. Additionally, the Council asked staff to inquire as to whether there is any opportunity for 4 G LTE service to be provided to the southernmost end of the County, particularly the Smithville area.
REQUEST FOR FLOOR REPLACEMENT-CIRCUIT COURT HOUSE
The Council approved the request of Brett Wilson, Circuit Court Judge, to single source and expend $59,247.30 to replace flooring in the Circuit Court House in two phases. The Council acknowledged that phase one will replace flooring in the courtroom, Jury Commissioner’s office and hallway areas of the old section of the building ($34,451.00) and phase two will replace floor covering in the Clerk’s office area ($20,796.80). Additionally, the Council approved the expenditure of $4,000 from Transfer Tax Funds for moving expenses and agreed to waive bids and contract with Mark Elzey to move the larger work stations in the Clerk’s office during phase two of the project. The Council acknowledged that three local carpet contractors were contacted and only B & B Floorcovering submitted a bid.
OPEN AIR BURN BAN CONFIRMATION
The Council confirmed its decision, by telephone poll, to institute an Open Air Burn Ban effective April 12, 2012 at 12:00 p.m., based on the recommendation of Scott Daniels, Forester. The Council acknowledged that the ban exempts barbeque and charcoal grills and is in place until Council acts to cancel.
TELEPHONE POLL CONFIRMATIONS
Ms. Baynard advised that in the interim between meetings Council, by means of a poll, agreed to not to seek a Maintenance of Effort waiver for Board of Education funding for FY 2013 by a 5 to 0 vote. She explained that legislation was passed during the 2012 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session which amended the deadline and requirements for the submission of a Maintenance of Effort waivers and therefore staff felt there was insufficient time to compile a request pursuant to the new legislation.
REQUEST TO ADVERTISE FOR PROPOSALS-FAN COIL UNITS-MAINTENANCE
The Council approved the request of C.R. Newman, Maintenance Director, to advertise a request for proposals for 59 fan coil units for the County Office Building HVAC system, which will be purchased with remaining funds in the Maryland Emergency Administration (MEA) grant, which entity has approved the expenditure. Additionally, the Council recognized that Mr. Newman has requested a three week extension from MEA to complete the project, and if extension is approved, the work will need to be completed by the end of June 2012 and that if no extension is granted, the completion deadline will be June 1st. The Council also recognized that the bid opening will be advertised for May 4th and that bid recommendations will be submitted to Council’s office staff shortly thereafter to allow a telephone poll to be conducted in order to authorize a bid award and expedite the final expenditures due to time restraints and pending approval of a grant extension by MEA. The Council recognized that once the bid is awarded and the units have been received, the air conditioning system in the County Office Building will have to be shut down for a period of up to five days in June 2012 during the replacement of the fan coils.
There were no public comments.
Councilman Bradshaw said he shares Councilman Nichols’ belief that if an individual or developer is prepared to expend funds to redevelop a property, they would also have the funds available to pay the excise tax.
Councilman Price noted that residents have shared with him their concerns that the excise tax may be a deterrent to individuals and developers who want to purchase property in the County for development. He advised Council that at the Social Services Board meeting earlier in the day, Board members were advised that the Habitat for Humanity home at 439 High Street is almost complete and that the next targeted location is 701 High Street in Cambridge. He expressed concern that legislation was passed during the legislative session that shortened the deadline to submit a Board of Education Maintenance of Effort waiver. He commended two County emergency responders for providing assistance to a gentleman at a recent Little League game.
Councilman Nichols said he stands by the comments he made regarding the request to temporarily abate the County’s excise tax for designated areas in the County and welcomed public comment on the issue.
Councilman Newcomb announced that a budget work session is scheduled for April 18, 2012 at 4:30 p.m. He said an April 24, 2012 meeting is scheduled for the introduction of a budget bill introduction only and that the next regularly scheduled meeting is on May 8, 2012 at 6:00 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