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Board of County Commissioners' Actions: Commissioners Hold Public Hearing on Weed Ordinance, Hear Storm Cleanup Report, Get First Capital Budget Overview for FY 2011

Board of County Commissioners' Actions
Commissioners Hold Public Hearing on Weed Ordinance, Hear Storm Cleanup Report, Get First Capital Budget Overview for FY 2011

In its regular meeting on February 9th, 2010, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners held a public hearing on proposed changes to the County Weed Control Ordnance.
The current Weed Control Ordinance was adopted on September 19, 1989 and has not been amended since that time. During the past several years, it had become evident that the Weed Control Ordinance was in need of some revisions. The amendments proposed include changes relating to the scope and coverage of the Ordinance and the manner of enforcement. Changes included revised prohibitions of noxious weeds, height limitations of weeds, exemptions for environmental mitigations and other reasons, and fines for non-compliance.
Robin Jones of Sharpsburg testified against the current ordinance and the proposed changes, calling for increases in buffer zones, and asking that the Ordinance be taken to public referendum. Philip McNamee of Sharpsburg testified against the current Ordinance. James Devine of Hagerstown testified in favor of the proposed revisions.
Changes proposed by the Board will be incorporated into the revisions and returned for further discussion.
Commissioners heard a report from Director of Public Works Joe Kroboth on costs and effort involved in the recent storm cleanup.
Kroboth praised crews from the Highways, Parks, Landfill, Transit, and the Airport and Emergency Services personnel for actions during the snow emergency the weekend of February 5-7, and told the Board that snow removal from the first round of cleanup could cost as much as $900,000. Reimbursement of costs is available through the Maryland Emergency Management Administration (MEMA) due to the State of Emergency issued by the Governor during the period. Emergency Services is logging all actions taken, and the report will be submitted to MEMA for those reimbursements.
With the impending second storm, Kroboth requested citizens to have patience while roads and subdivisions are plowed out. Priorities for plowing are public safety first, snow emergency routes second, and subdivisions third. County crews go on 12-hour on-off shifts during such emergencies. Maintenance of vehicles is a primary concern during these incidents. Use of contractors for snow removal is being heavily relied upon, he said.
Citizens were advised to get cars off roadways to facilitate plowing, especially in cul-de-sac subdivisions. Those living in urban areas should keep their sidewalks clear so that Transit vehicles can load passengers, when pubic transportation services can be provided.
County Administrator Greg Murray commented on the efficiency that the new Emergency Dispatch Center provides in this sort of situation. The Center has adequate room for the Emergency Operations Center for the first time, and all agencies involved were able to work together well to achieve the common goal.
Commissioners got a first look at the austere Capital Improvement Plan budget (CIP) for the six year period from Fiscal Year 2011 through 2016.
Budget and Finance Director Debra Murray told the Board that $110 million has been removed from the proposed CIP due to reductions in projected revenue and cuts from the State. Income Tax revenue projections have been rolled back to FY 2007 levels, and $22 million in paygo cash reserves will have to be used over the 6-year period. Bond issuance will be reduced by $7 million. Revenue from excise, transfer and recordation taxes will also be severely impacted.
Sections of the budget reviewed included Airport, Bridges, Drainage and the Washington County Free Library.
The Airport budget sees no new projects in FY 2011, even though the terminal will undergo an upgrade. That upgrade had been moved from the 2010 budget to 2011, Murray said.
CIP budget Committee member Joe Kroboth told the Board that the Bridge category priorities are driven by inspection programs. The only new project is a necessary repair on Burnside Bridge Road. Total for FY 2011 in the category is $2.84 million.
Under the Drainage Category, Woodside Drive improvements are the only new project and the total for the category is $705,600.
The Washington County Free Library rehabilitation project was discussed with data presented including revenues and expenses. $9 million of the total $24.11 million is included in the FY 2011 CIP budget.
In other actions, The Board heard a report from Budget and Finance Director Debra Murray on the pending IRS audit of pass-through bonds issued in 2003 to a local developer for the Village at Robinwood senior housing project. The Board approved granting a Power of Attorney to the County's bond counsel firms to represent the Commissioners in that audit. The County had no liability in the bond issuance.
Gaming Commission Office Director Jim Hovis reported to the Board on what was called an erroneous report in local media involving slot machines in local clubs. The County did not have a "proposal" to this effect, Hovis said, rather had been asked by the Local Delegation to the General Assembly to look into possible interest of private clubs in slot machine gambling. Information was presented regarding other counties' plans for this form of gaming.
Commissioners' President John Barr, who was in attendance during the legislative committee session echoed Hovis' statements that there was no County agenda put forth.
Hovis asked if the Board had an interest in pursuing slots further and there was no support for the issue. County Permits and Inspections Director Dan DiVito commented that the gaming laws were set up to apply equally to private clubs and the restaurant and bar owners and that preference to one group would be contrary to that law's intent.
A workshop was held to discuss the Grading portion of the proposed Stormwater Management, Grading, Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance. The Grading component is new, and was discussed by Division of Public Works (DPW) Director Joe Kroboth and Deputy DPW Director for Land Development Engineering Jennifer Smith.
Need for inclusion of Grading in the Ordinance was discussed, with examples of poor grading of lots presented. Language in the Ordinance would include minimizing disturbed areas, maximum slope percentage for driveways, types of fill material to be used, and requirements for grading plans and permits. Public comment will be taken on the provisions of the Ordinance at a later date.
The Board heard a report from Community Partnership/Local Management Board Director Stephanie Stone on legislative attempts to change the way state pass-through funds for children, youth and family programs are administered.
Stone told the Board that the Local Management Board Director's Association is working with the Governor's Office for Children to maintain the approximately $15.7 million in Early Intervention/Prevention funding that has previously been available to local jurisdictions through the Community Partnership Agreements with LMBs.
In the original FY 2011 budget proposed by the Governor, this funding was set aside to be awarded through a competitive bid process in a Request For Proposal where LMBs and other parties across the state would be eligible to respond. The Association's stand is that if the funding is available competitively, the smaller rural counties would be at a disadvantage in the process and may lose local funding.
Moving the funding would impact the ability to provide local input as to how to utilize this funding for the local jurisdiction, Stone said.
Stone serves as President of that State Association.

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