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Board of County Commissioners' Actions: Commissioners review operating budgets, discuss fees, visit Funkstown

Board of County Commissioners' Actions
Commissioners review operating budgets, discuss fees, visit Funkstown

As part of its regular meeting on April 5th, 2011, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners further reviewed departmental operating budgets for Fiscal Year 2012, and discussed moving proposed fees from several departments to Public Hearing.
The Engineering Review fee structure would feature a simplified Storm Water Management Plan Review and two-year update review fee of $200.00 that would replace current plan fees of as much as $5,000.00. Other fees in the structure include a $150 fee for a waiver review, a $450 fee for a revision plan review, $500 for an as-built plan review, a $125 fee for a standard grading plan review and a $15 engineering technology fee. The fees will be considered in the annual budget Public Hearing in May.
New Solid Waste fees will also be taken to public hearing, with a provision regarding moving recycling bins tabled until after a joint meeting with the City of Hagerstown on April 12th. Proposed fee increases included $5 for regular, non-senior, permit fees to $130 per year, additions to municipal and commercial tipping fees, increasing the minimum scale fee and a new $15 fee to dispose of mattresses. Yard debris would rise $3 per ton, mulch costs would go up $5 per ton, the price for Compost would rise $8 per ton, tire recycling would go up by fifty cents and the cost of bulk tire recycling would rise by $22 per ton. County citizens could purchase a second Residents residential permit for $62.50 per year.
Commissioners heard a request to increase Gaming sticker fees on tip jars from $1.25 to $2.00. Gaming Office Director Jim Hovis told the Board that the tip jar legislation provided for administrative costs to be covered by sticker fees so that taxpayers would not bear the burden of those costs. This is the second requested increase since 1995. The first increase was in 2009, when the fee was raised 25 cents to $1.25 per tip jar.
Budget and Finance Director Debra Murray reviewed General Fund budget line item requests for General Operations, Planning and Permits, Buildings, Other, Medical, Public Works, Parks and Recreation and Economic Development.
General Operations contains expenses for administrative departments, and shows an overall decrease of $9,580.00 or 0.12% for FY 2012.
Planning and Permits showed an overall decrease of $301,370.00 or 9.47% due to reorganization of departments.
The Buildings category, which includes expenditures for 8 County-owned buildings showed a reduction of $15,140 or 1.04%
The Other category, containing expenses for the Women's Commission and the Historic District Commission was reduced by $500.00 amounting to 16.95% of total expenditures.
Medical category expenses for the Medical Examiner, Contract Service for Ambulance and Pauper Burial were static at $19,400 for the fiscal year.
Public Works showed a decrease of $25,300 or 1.03% made possible by reorganization in the Land Development department.
Parks and Recreation showed a decrease of $71,180 due to elimination of 2 positions.
Economic Development showed an increase of $103,420 or 16.5% due to transfer of personnel into the department.
The total overall General Fund expenditures for the coming fiscal year would be $196,841,440, 00, a reduction of $307,140.00 from the previous year.
Also under discussion was a landfill household sticker fee reduction for Veterans who have been granted VA Disabled status. The proposal would provide those eligible veterans with the $95 per year fee that Seniors currently pay. Standard landfill household sticker fees are proposed to rise by $5.00 to $130 per year, in July.
The Election Board budget received a second review, with a plan put forth to fund two additional judge positions at the previously budgeted level of $14,000. This item will receive additional review.
Reduction of Permit fees for small, residential projects was also discussed. Under the current fee structures a homeowner could pay more for the permit than the renovation would cost.
All budget items will be further reviewed prior to the Public Hearing set for May 10th.
The Board held a joint meeting with the Mayor and Council of Funkstown during the evening hours.
During Commissioner Comments, President Terry Baker discussed possible additions to the Election Board budget to consider the cost for Alternate judges and the Election Board President's salary. Further discussion on these items will be forthcoming.
Commissioners' Vice-President John Barr reported on a meeting of the Maryland Association of Counties with Governor Martin O'Malley last week. The Governor announced that Teacher Pension costs will not be moved to the Counties in the coming fiscal year. The County will probably have to bear half the cost of operating the State Assessments Office in FY 2012.
Mayor Paul Crampton welcomed the Commissioners to Funkstown and thanked the Board for its assistance to the town. Crampton called on all municipalities and County Government to present a united front to the state for reinstatement of the Highway User Fund to help pave roads.
In Appointments to Boards and Commissions, Steven Ryan was appointed to a full term on the Electrical Board of Supervisors.
County Administrator Greg Murray commented that the County has an open door policy to hear from its citizens at any time, through participation in meetings, emails or phone calls.
In Staff Comments, Public Works Director Joe Kroboth told the Board that newly-appointed Airport Director Phil Ridenour had attained the Certified Airport Manager designation from the American Association of Airport Managers, and that Communications Maintenance Manager Pete Loewenheim has been chosen as Radio Frequency Technologist of the Year for Maryland by the Mid-Eastern Chapter of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.
Under Citizens' Participation, Barry Warrenfeltz of Funkstown commented on the high cost of service permits for electrical and plumbing repairs, and cited a recent permit fee of $780.00 to raise a tent for a 24-hour religious event. County Administrator Greg Murray explained the day's earlier discussion on reduction of permit fees for small household projects, citing the Board's intention to reduce those costs where possible.
In other actions earlier in the day, the Board voted to accept the "Underage Drinking Enforcement Program" grant from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention for a total of $11,656.00 to the Sheriff's Department. The program will target the enforcement of underage drinking laws in Maryland and will support law enforcement officers involved with ID Verification and Compliance Checks to ensure licensed retail establishments are selling alcohol to patrons of legal age. Deputies will also patrol "Hot Spot" areas where underage persons gather for the purpose of drinking alcoholic beverages.
Commissioners approved real property option agreements in the amount of $70,100 for partial real property acquisitions at 19413 Longmeadow Road and 13502 Marsh Pike. Several properties along Longmeadow Road and Marsh Pike will require partial acquisition to allow future widening and improvements.
The Board approved advertising the French Lane property for sale and to take the sale to public auction. The property was given to the County in 1998 during the Tru Serve development off Hunters Green Parkway. It was a 36 acre tract with several deteriorated buildings. The County was required to place an easement on the historic farmhouse under the grant requirements. The majority of the site has been utilized for a forest conservation area. The farmhouse and outbuildings with 4.70 acres of land will be taken to auction. Real Property Administrator Joe Kuhna told the Board that cost for that auction will run about $2,000, and that a starting price will be set at $137,000 or 30% below the 2007 appraisal of $191,300.00.

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