County Council discusses flooding, livestreaming, jail

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Gary McQuitty of Friends of Honga River asked the Dorchester County Council for support on Tuesday.

CAMBRIDGE — At their meeting Tuesday evening, the members of the Dorchester County Council heard a request for support from Gary McQuitty of the Friends of Honga River. The group was formed to seek solutions to issues damaging Middle Hoopers Island from the causeway to Hoopersville, he said, including flooding and erosion.

“This is now or never,” he said. “This is a doomsday request.”
Mr. McQuitty asked for and received unanimous approval for the county to apply for a grant to study environmental issues concerning the area. Erosion has carried away so much of Hoopers Island that he said residents fear it will not be there in 50 years.

• Glenna Heckathorn of the League of Women Voters – Mid Shore asked to Council to reconsider its earlier, 3-2 decision not to livestream meetings. The technology would present the meetings as they happen on the Internet.

There have been four motions to allow livestreaming, between the current board and the previous one. Most recently, a motion by Member Lenny Pfeffer (District 4) failed 3-2, with Members William Nichols (District 2), Libby Nagel (District 5) and Jay Newcomb (District 1) opposed. Member Ricky Travers (District 3) and Mr. Pfeffer were in favor.

“The goal of the public is to have an educated public,” Ms. Heckathorn said. “Do you think you would reconsider?”

Mr. Nichols said, “We discussed this four times. The vote came back the same.”

Ms. Heckathorn distributed to Council members copies of the league’s position on the issue. The full letter appears in this week’s Dorchester Banner.

• Members voted 3-2, with Mr. Pfeffer and Mr. Travers opposed, to have comments from a suggestion box at the Dorchester County Detention Center put in a spread sheet for the Council to review. At a previous meeting, it had been decided to place the box at the jail.

Ms. Nagel said she has received calls from employees at the jail, complaining about working conditions. When Mr. Pfeffer asked her why she was going to the jail to collect the anonymous comments, rather than County Manager Keith Adkins, she said it’s because the employees accept her presence there. “I’m not part of the establishment,” she said.

Mr. Pfeffer said the county’s charter prohibits council members from becoming involved in operations. “I have done this with the purest intentions,” Ms. Nagel said.

“We are not go-betweens,” Mr. Pfeffer said. “It concerns me that the county manager is being left out.”

Mr. Travers asked Mr. Nichols what the practice has been in the past when anonymous notes are left at the County Building. “We look at them, and we ignore them,” Mr. Nichols said.

“I don’t know why we’re addressing anonymous comments,” Mr. Travers said.

In comments to the Banner after the meeting, Mr. Pfeffer said, “If any employee has an employment issue, I encourage them to submit their complaints or concerns through the appropriate channels as directed in the Rules and Regulations. It is the county policy to not take action based on anonymous allegations.”