County Council meets with legislators over local concerns

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CAMBRIDGE—Dorchester County Council met on Tuesday evening , Oct.6, to conduct county business. In addition, a meeting with state legislators and the Maryland Department of Transportation kept the meeting in session until past nine o’clock.

First up was the meeting state legislators, with Senator Addie Eckardt and delegates Sheree Sample-Hughes and Chris Adams attending. Delegate Johnny Mautz joined the meeting later, having been detained by a funeral.

The hot topic of the discussion was the state annotated code residential sprinkler requirement, and how Dorchester County can opt-out of the requirement. Reasoning behind the opt-out desire is that adding sprinklers to a new construction home would increase costs by at least $6000, a cost that residents of a relatively impoverished county do not want to bear. It was noted that since the requirement was put into law construction of new homes has virtually stopped in the county. Also, the question of mobile homes and sprinklers was raised, at which point a member of the audience who had experience with the topic pointed out that mobile homes and trailers are not exempt, that if the mobile home is moved to a new location it must eb retro-fitted with a sprinkler system. Also that new mobile home/manufactured home builders have been informed that new models must be sprinklered Hurlock Council Member Charles Cephas also spoke out against the sprinkler law, saying it would put an undue burden upon county residents.

Secretary Mayor Susan Dukes spoke about the water treatment plant in Secretary that will need to be replaced to meet new regulations, saying that the cost to replace the plant will be 14 million dollars, and the town is trying to find how they can raise the money for the project.

Councilman Tom Bradshaw spoke on behalf of watermen against the current state laws regarding bottom leases for oyster aquaculture businesses, saying that the current laws restrict fishing, crabbing and wild oyster harvesting. He would like to see the laws changed to better benefit watermen in the region.
Other topics quickly discussed included restoration of highway user revenue funds, the desire of the county to be included in the decision to increase Dorchester County Election office salaries (since the money for same comes out of county funds), funding of teacher pensions, potential future increases in fishing licenses, permits and fees, concerns about the special events recycling laws, and pursuing possible legislation to allow home-schooled children to attend the Dorchester Career and Technology Center.

Before the Annual Transportation Meeting with the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henry Wagner asked the council for approval to seek funding for the new North Dorchester High School, slated to begin construction as early as next summer. The project needs funding commitments to finish the final design work and to begin construction, and the school board must have the council’s blessing to seek any funding available from state resources. Council replied that they have worked on some creative funding plans with the Finance Department, and that they are awaiting decision of legal council to make sure of the legality of their desired strategies. Dr. Wagner warned the council that he must have the county’s support by an October 19 deadline, to which Councilman Nichols replied, “We need to get approval on the legal issues, but you will receive a letter of support from this council by the 19th.”

During the MDOT presentation, Secretary of Transportation Pete K. Rahn made a presentation of the state of infrastructure repair and replacement in the county. One interesting fact he spoke of was that it now costs more to paint a bridge than it originally cost to build the bridge. With that in mind, he also let the meeting know that the Dover Bridge replacement was now 43 percent complete. He noted that the bridge was expected to be done before the connecting roadway, which was due to the tricky soil conditions in the area and the state’s desire to build a road that wouldn’t crumble in the first year.

Council also brought up the question of widening and adding bicycle lanes to Golden Hill Road from Blackwater to Gootee’s, with Pete noting that it will be a very difficult task to get the project approved by the environmental department. Council president Ricky Travers then said, “What’s the problem? They’re the state, you’re the state, it should be easy to work it out!” All of the representatives from MDOT got a big chuckle out of that one.

Things moved along quickly in the Managers’ Comments section of the meeting. Issues included the following:

Requests from the Public Works department:
Appointment of Airport Manager Meighan K. Chisholm, Sr.
Request to sole source tub grinding at Old Beulah landfill
Change Order #3 concerning capping Old Beulah landfill
Airport layout plan approval request
Request to sole-source stairwell treads and flooring replacement in the Circuit Court
Airport apron expansion project construction contract award to Dixie Construction
Snow removal service contract approval for 2015-16
Approval of an agricultural scrap tire drop off event (poss. late winter)
Carpet replacement award approval for Veterans/Assessments offices
FY16 Paving Contract approval, of department recommended Russell Paving
Approve the proposed FY16 hot mix paving list of roads to be repaired
Request to purchase up to three new snow plows
Other requests included:
FY16 Rental Allowance Program grant award for Delmarva Community Services
A Pass Through Grant request by Delmarva Regional Healthcare Mutual Aid Group for emergency medical equipment
Five different budgeted travel requests from the Tourism and Economic Development departments
FY16 Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grant agreement & disbursement request from Tourism dept.
Ratification of revised resolution for the Economic Development Advisory Council
Affordable Care Act reporting requirements for Human Resources
Approve a special events agreement for the Horn Point Open House 5k Walk/Run
Approve a Sanitary Commission appointment request
Approve a transfer of property for the town of Brookview
No action was taken on a Traffic Safety Committee referral concerning Hip Roof Road, as the study had already been done
Approve a letter of support request submitted by University of Maryland Shore Regional Health
Approve a number of telephone poll confirmations
A bid award recommendation for an after school program submitted by the Local Management Board
Approve a tax sale property counter-offer in the Crossings subdivision
Approve a request by the Schooner Rendezvous to use the County lot and dock for their event
Finally, the county agreed that observance of Halloween would be on October 31 between the hours of 6 to 8 p.m. for kids 12 and under.
In the public comments portion of the meeting concern was voiced about the choosing of Jeremy Goldman as County Manager, pointing out that Mr. Goldman doe snot reside in Dorchester County. The resident was assured that Mr. Goldman had six months from appointment to change his residency, and that he would be in full compliance of the county charter by then.
In the closing of the meeting Council President Ricky Travers revealed—on this, his birthday—that he received the best birthday present he could ever hope for when he heard the news earlier in the day that post-operation biopsy revealed that his wife did not have cancer. The audience gave a warm round of applause at the news.

There being no other business to come before the council, meeting was adjourned at 9:18 p.m. The next County Council meeting will be on October 20 at room 110 of the County Office Building.

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