Secretary offers ENM excess solar panel electricity

EAST NEW MARKET — Secretary Mayor Henry Short was first on the agenda at the Sept. 9 East New Market Commissioners meeting. He said he has been in contact with solar power developer Urban Grid about a proposal to install solar panels at the new Twin Cities Wastewater Treatment Plant (TCWWTP). Mayor Short explained that Urban Grid representative Michael Morris asked if East New Market would agree to accept any excess electricity generated by the solar panels.

Mr. Short said, “We sent them some electric bills from the water plant and the average cost per month is about $2,200 for electric only.” The project will not begin until 2016 but the design, permit process, etc. needs to begin shortly. East New Market Mayor Caroline Cline said, “It may not impact us today or tomorrow but it certainly is going to impact us down the road.” Mayor Short added the Twin Cities Commission aims to keep costs low and save money for the residents of both communities. “It’s a joint venture,” he said.

Vice Mayor and Commissioner David Tolley represents East New Market on the Twin Cities Commission. He explained, “If any extra credit were to come it would be in the form of a credit only. No money would be exchanged.”

Mayor Short responded that the new installation may fill all Secretary’s electric needs. He noted that if East New Market does not accept the excess it would be sold to the general public on the open market. “It’s available to you if you want it at no cost to the town. He (Mr. Morris) said it would be very easy to do because the municipalities are so close.”

Mayor Cline said “My knee jerk reaction is ‘I think it’s a great idea.’” Mr. Short suggested that representatives from both town commissions attend the next meeting with Urban Grid and “work together for a common goal.”

A meeting at the Sept. 23 work session to discuss solar panel legislation and new ordinances governing their placement will include: Representatives from Dorchester County Planning and Zoning and the Historic District Commission, plus Keith Lackie, regional planner with the Maryland Department of Planning. The public meeting is slated for 7 pm.

The commission discussed “one of the stickier issues we’ve had to deal with in a while,” according to Mayor Cline. M&T Bank, which represents The Crossings 16 lot property, was cited and fined for grass cutting infractions. The bank was charged for the cost after the town assumed the cutting responsibility. The properties were subsequently sold and the bank representative called Mr. Tolley to complain that he thought the billing was “unfair,” asked for a rebate of prior payments, and said he was surprised by the attached fees although, according to Ms. Kiss, she had sent him a fee schedule. Administrative fees for many different infractions were set at $25 for each property. The commissioners will discuss a reduction to $15 per transaction at a future work session.

Ms. Kiss noted that three billings with fees of $25 were sent for each of the 16 properties for a total of $1,200. She added, “It’s no more or no less than anyone else is fined.”

Mayor Cline noted that an administrative fee is not unusual. “If you bounce a check you are charged the fee. It takes time to send these extra citations, extra postage, and people who do not comply usually expect to be penalized in some fashion.”

Clogged and overgrown ditches have been a sore point at recent commission meetings. According to clerk/treasurer Patty Kiss, phase I of a two phase plan is slated for Sugar Drive. Phase II will be the Richardson Road area. Permission to access all properties adjacent to ditches has been obtained.

Ms. Kiss reviewed two quotes to pave the municipal building’s adjacent parking lot. The first, from Delmarva Paving, Seaford, Del., was $13,178. The second, from Russell Paving Co., Church Creek, was $10,785. According to Town Engineer Gordon Heck the two proposals are comparable in quality. The commission unanimously approved Russell Paving. Despite the loss of most Highway User fees, the amount received in FY2014 and budgeted for FY2015 of about $16,000 will cover the paving cost.

Hurlock Postmaster Joe Turner noted that East New Market is also part of his “charge.” He expressed concern over use of the parking lot adjacent to Friendship Park and explained that federal regulations prohibit “unattended vehicles” in the lot. An outgrowth of 9/11, the regulation treats unattended vehicles like unattended suitcases at an airport. Mr. Turner said his concerns “are safety and health.” There are two big issues: One, using the lot for playground parking; two, skateboarders and bike riders in the lot who could get hurt. “We can’t be the parking lot for the park,” he said.

Mayor Cline explained, “The issue of skateboarding and bike riding is not because of the park.  I’ve spoken to Sheriff Phillips and he’s well aware of our mutual problem.” Mr. Tolley said the commission has discussed the problems at length in work sessions and hopes to have a solution for more park egress in the near future.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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