ENM Council deals with finances, walking trail and train station

By Susan M. Bautz
Dorchester Banner

EAST NEW MARKET — East New Market Mayor Caroline Cline called on Clerk/Treasurer Patty Kiss to present a brief year-end financial report. At the end of June, fiscal year 2016, the General Fund balance was estimated at $151,151 but actual receipts totaled $139,711; a decline of $10,440. Accumulated late fees were $4,386. Ms. Kiss explained, “We lost six lots in the Crossings when the county had them. However, they sold them mid-year so we made a small gain there.” The expected recovery is $5,054 due plus a 9 percent late fee of $455 for a total of $5,509 which was $545 less than anticipated.

Utilities garner $20-24,000 monthly depending on the season. “We are averaging about $12,000 a month in non-payment,” she said, “with half including non-payment from the previous months.” Over the previous three months, Ms. Kiss sent 58 overdue notices with water and sewer bills; 32 of which included turn-off notices, or “red tags” that hang on a door, with 13 red-tagged for a second time because of non-payment or partial payment.

Ms. Kiss explained “we created three payment plans available on request. We have 4 active to date; 11 defaulted.” The payment plan says “if you default it is automatic termination. Two payment plans have been satisfied; this past month three services have been terminated. The payment plan is working very well. One resident I have been working with for 7 years finally got caught up.”

Mayor Cline responded, “Not every small town offers a payment plan. We feel we are doing the right thing by addressing needs in our small town. I feel we go above and beyond to cooperate with people who may be having difficulty of one sort or another.” Ms. Kiss said she works with people individually who come to the office and explain their situation.
Ms. Cline added, “It’s not fair to those people who try very hard to maintain their agreement … Many times we go above and beyond. We have to have the revenue. We have to run our town.”

The walking trail is not ready for a planned Sept. 10 ribbon cutting. The Mayor, Public Works Director Gordon Heck, and Ms. Kiss walked a large portion of the trail and determined there was more work to be done in preparation for public use. She noted that while some compacting has occurred due to recent heavy rains, “We cannot in good conscience have the ribbon cutting.”

Restoration and renovation of the train station is proceeding, albeit slowly. Mayor Cline said the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) said that an account is being set up between MHT and SHA (State Highway Administration). “Nothing can be done to draw from an account until it has been set up between the two groups. We are waiting now to find out how long it will take. Sometimes the wheels of government move very slowly.”

Vice Mayor David Tolley reported that he has been in touch with Soil Conservation officials about problems with overgrown ditches that block water flow during heavy rains and to “get some action on ditching.” They agreed to survey the situation and prioritize the areas of need.

In her FY2016 wrap up report, Mayor Cline said: Phase II of Friendship Park will be completed as soon as the walking trail issues are addressed; energy saving lighting for street lights was completed with positive savings on the town’s lighting bill; there was no increase in property taxes; murals depicting the town’s history were installed at the main intersection; work continues on the Municipal Building façade; an agreement was reached with SHA transferring title of the corner lot at Rts. 16 and 14 to the town; in recognition of land preservation, East New Market received the String of Pearls award; and, the town held the first known Christmas tree lighting ceremony in North Dorchester County.

A curfew in East New Market? Perhaps. Mr. Tolley raised the possibility based on complaints about recent incidents of vandalism and trespassing and suggested an ordinance to allow law enforcement personnel to patrol the area. An open work session, slated for Aug. 30, 7 pm, will discuss the pros and cons of a curfew. “We need to do something and I would like to see us act on this and get something concrete going,” said Mr. Tolley.

Chairman of the Historic District Commission (HDC) Chuck Hurley suggested a meeting between the HDC and town officials “to share some things that we think are not being done.” A heated discussion ensued about zoning regulations for a building under consideration for purchase, the constraints established by the HDC, and following requisite procedures.

Mayor Cline said, after things had calmed down, “you know what Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Write a letter tonight but don’t post it until tomorrow.’” Mr. Hurley laughed, “Do you know how many of those I’ve written?” The meeting ended on a convivial note as it usually does in East New Market.

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