Secretary Council approves water rate increase

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SECRETARY — Following a public hearing at the July 7 town meeting Secretary Commissioners unanimously approved the proposed water rate increase and revised fee schedule introduced on June 16. Increases are based on lower water use revenues and increased expenses. No residents attended the session to comment on the recommended increases. Mayor Susan Dukes explained that increases and revisions will appear on the Oct. 1 billing.

Ordinance 2015-2, delineating boat ramp and slip regulations, was introduced on July 7 with a public hearing scheduled for the July 21 town meeting. The new ordinance replaces one adopted in 2006 and creates definitive boat ramp regulations for the town’s public boat ramp on Temple Street.

The new ordinance states that only boat owners who have signed a lease may use the public boat slips. Dockage is rented on a “first come-first served” basis and slips are limited to one per household. Time limits will be posted for usage of the designated loading and/or unloading area. Boat owners and operators will each be held responsible for violations with penalties of $50 per day “and/or the booting or removal of any boat, craft, or vessel at the owner and/or operator’s expense.”

Marina dredging and pilings replacement will begin in the fall with all work scheduled to be completed by spring, 2016. The improvement project has been on the drawing board for over a year and consultations with the MD Department of Natural Resources are ongoing.

A major project for Commissioners is refurbishing the town’s water tower. One vendor’s proposal offers a 10-year contract that includes a complete overhaul plus yearly maintenance for a $15,000 yearly fee. After 10 years the town can opt to renew the contract. If at any point during the 10-year period the Commissioners decide to end the agreement, the town is obligated to pay the balance due on the original $150,000 cost. Basically, said Mayor Susan Dukes, the contract will ensure that the tower is returned to good condition and maintained every year. “We still have a MD Department of the Environment (MDE) loan for the last time we had the tower re-done,” she explained, “and we still owe about $35,000 on it.” The town is seeking funds to pay off the loan and provide the first $15,000 for start-up of the project.

Commissioner Jennifer Rebert researched solutions at the recent Maryland Municipal League (MML) conference and learned that while the desired solution, forgiveness of the loan debt, was not possible; there were other avenues to explore. Mayor Dukes noted that Ms. Rebert asked contacts about “grant money for the start-up. We would do it ourselves from then on and add the $15,000 to our budget. But that would give us a year to get our budget straight.” She said Ms. Rebert learned that Gov. Hogan has set funds aside specifically for Eastern Shore projects and the commission agreed to continue investigating all possibilities.

“We have to get this water tower in better condition,” said the Mayor. “The inspection showed how bad it is and it absolutely has to get done. We need to come up with the $15,000 to get us on the program and reimburse ourselves using a grant or a loan. Commissioner Henry Short said rust is eating through the pipe from the bottom to the top.

At the MML convention Mr. Short met with former state delegate and current Hogan staffer, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio who said she “looks forward to working with the town.” He also met with Sens. Cardin and Mikulski staffers, both of whom explained there is federal money available for the new wastewater treatment plant and asked that the town contact them for further information.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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