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Board of County Commissioners' Action: Commissioners Hear Capital Budget Review, Pass Weed Control Ordinance, Visit Sharpsburg

Board of County Commissioners' Actions
Commissioners Hear Capital Budget Review, Pass Weed Control Ordinance, Visit Sharpsburg

In its regular meeting on February 23rd, 2010, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners heard discussions on remaining items in the proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Members of the CIP committee Debra Murray and Joe Kroboth presented proposals for the Board of Education, Hagerstown Community College (HCC), Railroad Crossings, Transit, and Water Quality.
The committee introduced a Capital Plan for the Board of Education and HCC that showed planned projects for a ten-year out period, rather than the 6-year schedule that had been used. Murray told the Board that the change in this section of the CIP was due to the size of some projects and the expected time needed for completion.
In the first draft, Board of Education Capital funding would see cuts totaling $7.4 million from maintenance projects due to reduced revenue available, land acquisition costs, Eastern Primary School's construction budget due to bid award, and the Bester Elementary Project due to revenue availability and growth. Some projects were shifted further out in the ten-year plan, due to the need for austerity in Fiscal Year 2011. Board of Education Capital projects would total $13.4 million for the coming fiscal year.
Hagerstown Community College projects in FY 2011 and 2012 were adjusted for base costs. Changes in projected funding were seen for the Arts and Sciences Complex, the Teacher Education/Child Learning Center, and the Performing/Visual Arts Center. The State of Maryland funds for about 60% of such projects, with Washington County providing about 40%.
Total Capital Project costs for HCC were projected at $10.1 million for FY 2011.
HCC has seen double digit growth in enrollment over the last 6 semesters, and the construction projects underway reflect the need for additional classroom space.
There are no new Railroad Crossing projects in the 2011 CIP. Projected costs over a 6-year period would be $1.4 million.
The Transit CIP showed only one category for funding, Buses, in FY 2011, for a total of $418,000. That line item is not new, and reflects the scheduled portion of a $1.7 million 6-year project. Transit capital projects are 80% federal, 10% state and 10% county-funded as a rule.
The Water Quality CIP budget for FY 2011 is $1.74 million, reflecting reductions of some $13 million due to changes in construction schedules for some projects. Affected would be the Smithsburg Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade, moved to FY 2013 and 2014, the PO-2 Pump Station on Governor Lane Boulevard moved to FY 2013, and the Potomac Edison Pump Station and Force Main relocation project, moved to FY 2013.
In a later discussion of budget issues, Murray told the Board that the General Fund budget is continuing to see cuts and that state cuts will result in long-range funding concerns for the County. Baseline costs have been cut by $3.5 million, but there continues to be about $10 million in revenue shortfall. Operating budgets are scheduled to be reviewed in detail starting with the March 2nd meeting.
Commissioners approved the Washington County Ordinance for the Control of Noxious Weeds by a 3-2 vote. In general, homeowners would be liable for an 18-inch limit on weeds and grass unless exempted under a number of conditions including Agricultural use, nature study areas, wetlands, game/bird sanctuaries, woodlands, three acres or more of unimproved areas, and other natural areas. The 18-inch height requirement could be exempted for environmental management areas approved by the Washington County Soil Conservation District, for undeveloped lots, some lots not in subdivisions as long as the owners were participating in programs sanctioned by the federal, state or county government for practices such as stormwater management, Chesapeake Bay pollution control or other environmental purposes. A 15-foot buffer would have to be maintained between adjacent lots with different owners.
If notified by Permits and Inspections, land owners would have a reasonable amount of time to comply. If a second notice were issued, a ten-day compliance period would be imposed with $50 per-day fines and mowing expenses assessed.
In other actions, the Board discussed House Bill 734, regarding the Advisory School Design Committee and changes to that legislation requested by the Board of Education involving the use of professionals in construction disciplines on that committee. The Commissioners reached consensus to advise the Local Delegation to move ahead without making changes. Local legislators set up that committee to oversee construction costs of school-related projects of $2 million or above.
Discussion took place on questions raised last week by Commissioners regarding the Washington County Free Library CIP budget. Public Works Director Joe Kroboth presented a timeline for that project, showing cost estimations and private support funds. Increases resulted from land acquisition costs and new building code requirements. The $7.3 million County share of the project reflects 30% of total cost, well below the usual 40% the County would contribute to such a project.
Regarding the Devil's Backbone Park dam, Kroboth told the Board that a Purchase Order has been issued for engineering evaluation services to Wallace, Montgomery and Associates, one of several firms the County uses for such professional services. The firm will provide that report in 90 days in order to meet the Maryland Department of the Environment-mandated schedule for repair or removal of that structure.
Commissioners approved County funding of $21,572 for a Gang Analyst position at the Sheriff's Department for FY 2011, as 50% share of those costs with the City of Hagerstown. Sheriff Doug Mullendore and Chief Art Smith stated that the position has generated vital data on gang activity in the County, City and region, and serves as a contact point with federal, state and other jurisdictions' agencies on gang-related enforcement issues.
Commissioners took no action on a request by Federal Little League for an interest-free loan of $15,000 from the Hotel-Motel Tax. The League requested the funds to build a batting cage at its field located off Northern Avenue. Commissioners concerns included using the tax for loans, and auditing issues. The Board suggested use of the Gaming fund, or requesting assistance from the City's portion of the Hotel-Motel Tax.
The Board adopted an agreement between the County and Hagerstown Community College for the proposed Senior Center. The County and HCC have continued discussions concerning the Senior Center Agreement and Land Lease Agreement reviewed by the Board on January 12, 2010. Commissioners had a concern about the length of the lease and the determination of the exterior aesthetic of the building. HCC has approved two 50-year terms and has agreed that the parties will mutually agree to the exterior design. Other changes involved the County's inclusion of the building and contents under its liability insurance, change in the maximum square footage of the center for possible future expansion, and ensuring any expansion would fit within the original land parcel.
An evening meeting, designed to allow citizens to have a greater opportunity to become involved in local government was held at Sharpsburg Town Hall at 7pm.
Commissioners lauded Permits and Inspections employee Kathy Kroboth and Economic Development Commission employee Sarah Lankford for their work on this year's United Way Campaign. Both county workers were presented awards at the recent United Way Luncheon.
Appointments to Boards and Commissions included Scott Wisher and Cindy Jackson to the Animal Control Authority, the reappointment of Elias Shilling to the Area Agency on Aging and appointments of Blanton Croft and Elizabeth Creech to that body.
County Administrator Greg Murray explained the County's Tax Differential program to Sharpsburg citizens and officials. The County will now allow towns to collect the portions of taxes that pay for services provided by the municipalities, which were once collected by the County. The process can provide tax saving benefits to town citizens, Murray said.
Bill Poffenberger of Mondale Road commended the County for snow-removal efforts in Sharpsburg, and requested pavement maintenance on Mondale Road.
Mayor Hal Spiel man requested information on federal or state reimbursements for costs associated with February's storms. The County and towns can receive 70% or more in costs expended during the event, if a Presidential disaster declaration is made. Local Emergency Management officials are in the process of collecting expense reports from towns, County departments, fire and rescue companies and state agencies in order to file a comprehensive report. Commissioners told the Mayor they will assist in getting Sharpsburg the proper application and report forms.

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