Project Clean Stream to focus on Hurlock April 2

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Dorchester Banner/Susan M. Bautz
Beth Ann Lynch of the Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth spoke to Hurlock residents at the Feb. 22 Town Council meeting about Project Clean Stream. Slated for April 2, 9-11:30 a.m. this year’s event will concentrate on the Hurlock area.

HURLOCK — It’s the time of year when local streams and woodlands get a fresh start. Each spring thousands of volunteers come out for one of the largest clean-up events in the Chesapeake Bay region – Project Clean Stream. The focus this year is on the Hurlock area. Slated for April 2, 9-11:30 a.m., the Hurlock train station will serve as the base of operations for volunteers to receive instructions, trash bags, and gloves.

At the Feb. 22 Town Council meeting Beth Ann Lynch of the Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth spoke to residents and asked for volunteers. “Last year, she said, “we had 25; two years ago we had 30 so we were able to clean up a lot. For the past 4 yrs we have joined with Project Clean Stream, a national organization, and cleaned up at Great Marsh. Three years ago in the Neck District we picked up 100 bags of trash in ditches and streets. Last year we were around East New Market. This year we would like to work in the Hurlock area.”

Ms. Lynch and other board members will count the bags, take photographs, document the project, transport bags to the dump site, then verify the information and send it to the national organization. She noted that ‘thousands and thousands and thousands of pounds of trash are picked up on that one day all across the United States.” Anyone who wants to volunteer for this “rain or shine” event can contact Ms. Lynch 443-366-3741 or beth5846@yahoo.com.

Town Administrator John Avery reported that the new police station is 70 percent completed. He said repairs to the Nealson Street water main are finished. The Main St. water main replacement project will begin on March 7 and continue for approximately four months.

Town Attorney Robert Merriken presented Ordinance 2016-1 for introduction by the council. The ordinance is for a general obligation installment bond not to exceed $1,110,000 to fund the water main replacement project.

During yearly budget deliberations the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation recommends a Constant Yield Tax Rate for each jurisdiction in the state and every year its complexity has to be explained as jurisdictions figure out how to pay the bills. The purpose of the tax rate is to maintain the same amount of revenue as the prior year. The Department says, “The constant yield tax rate is the tax rate a jurisdiction would have to impose in order to obtain the same amount of property tax revenue in FY2016 as it received in FY2015.”

The concept is that as property assessments rise, which they did in the last assessment, the tax rate should drop to the point that property tax revenue stays at a constant level, or a “constant yield” of revenue.

Mr. Avery said the state-recommended constant yield tax rate for FY2016 is .8342. “We do this every year. Because the property assessment values have gone up a little bit this year, in order for the revenue to stay the same the recommended tax rate went down a little bit. Last year the rate was .8349.” He said the council’s only options are to increase it, leave it alone, or decrease it. The council recommended the decrease as suggested by the state.

Councilman Charles Cephas said, “We don’t have to accept the state’s recommendation. If we went ½ a percentage lower than recommended how would it affect our current tax rate?” Mr. Avery said they would have to look at the numbers. The council voted 4 ayes to accept the state constant yield tax rate and to keep the corporate tax rate at the current 1.4 percent. Councilman Cephas abstained for both votes.

During council comments, the Rev. Cephas explained that his abstentions on tax rate votes were not “adversarial” but reflected his belief that citizens should benefit from the money saved by the mayor and administrator.

Woods Edge resident Paul Grahe detailed numerous problems with storm drains in the development which he said are due to poor seals on the pipes connected to storm drains. The question of who is responsible for repairs was discussed: The original builder, the town, or the homeowner’s association. In addition the liability issue was raised since the problem has caused lawns to sink, dramatically in some instances.

Councilman Earl Murphy, also a Woods Edge resident, noted that the builder turned the development over to the town at the end of 2007. He said the previous administration signed a bond that the homeowners “begged them not to sign.” Councilman Cephas remembered that then attorney Hugh Vinson sent a letter to the builder detailing several problems and asking him to fix them. Town Attorney Merriken noted that he believes the statute of limitations, 3 years from the time the “breach was known” by the council, has probably expired but he will review the pertinent paperwork. The council may not have been aware of the seriousness of the problem until recently.

Mr. Avery said each storm drain and pipe must be dug up and corrected with an asphalt patch in the roadway. Mr. Grahe said the builder was supposed to repave all the driveways and streets after the last house was built and it was not done.

The next Downtown Committee meeting is March 15, 6:30 p.m. at the Pizza Palace.
March 14 is the next council meeting.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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