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County Comment: Anatomy of a Town Meeting

PHOTO CAP: County Commissioners visit with over 400 Summer Play Camp participants during "Happy Campers' Day"

County Comment
Anatomy of a Town Meeting
by Norman Bassett, Public Information Officer
Washington County, Maryland

As part of its commitment to hold joint meetings with citizens and officials of the nine municipalities in the County, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners met in Boonsboro on the evening of July 22nd.
On the agenda were the weekly Citizen's Participation and Town Comments. Topics of concern included Recycling, the Permits and Inspections process, Library Branch issues, and Public Transportation needs.
Opening the Citizen participation portion of the meeting, Janeen Solberg reported on the Boonsboro Recycling Task Force survey of homes regarding curbside recycling. 40% of the town's 1200 homes were surveyed, and 86% of those polled stated they would be in favor of such a program, even if it meant an increase in fees. Solberg distributed results from that survey to the Board.
Kathy Vesley of Boonsboro commented on a recycling effort at Boonsboro High School that has handled 6,000 pounds of paper and 400 pounds of plastic and glass bottles, and requested similar programs be started in all schools.
School Board member Donna Brightman responded that recycling initiatives are underway system-wide, that students receive service hours for volunteering with the programs, and that there is a staff person in charge of overseeing those projects.
Councilperson Barb Wetzel requested information on the feasibility study the County is doing on management of solid waste and why the cost of that study doubled when the bid was announced.
Commissioners explained that Waste Energy and a Sorting Facility were two items recently added to that study. Commissioner Wivell said that a cost-benefit analysis would look at the feasibility of curbside recycling versus a sorting facility. Such a facility would remove recyclables from the waste stream at the landfill, rather than individual citizens having to remove and sort recyclables in the home.
Commissioner Jim Kercheval addressed the issue of incinerating solid waste, stating that energy is created by incinerating trash using current technology and that the systems do not cause adverse effects on the environment.
County Administrator Greg Murray stated that a Request for Proposal for that study will be issued within 6 weeks, and projects recommended by the study could be underway in as little as 6 months.
Boonsboro Town Councilman Richard Hawkins reported a 183% increase in use of the Town Library branch since the new facility opened, and requested County assistance with installation of 17 concrete traffic barriers in the parking lot, at the side facing the storm water management pond, for safety reasons.
Commissioner Kristin Aleshire made a motion to use $1,200 from the Commissioners' contingency fund for that project, and the measure was approved by unanimous vote.
Hawkins also requested assistance with signage for the Library, stating that the existing signs cannot be viewed at night. Commissioner Kercheval requested that the Town Library Board create a design for the signs and cost out the project, then make a presentation to the Commissioners.
Hawkins also requested additional funding from the County for the upgrades underway to Shafer Park. Phase I of that project is out for bid at a cost of $1.5 million, and would provide multi-purpose fields and other playing fields. Hawkins requested consideration of a no-interest loan from the County for further park development.
Councilman Frank Nuice and Town Planner Megan Clark commented on problems encountered in getting town-issued permits passed through the County system, and on issues relating to rehabilitation of older structures.
County Permits and Inspections Director Dan Divito stated that status of any permit can be checked online through the Velocity Hall system, and that lines of communication should be opened between the municipalities and his office when snags occur.
Divito also explained the Maryland Rehabilitation Code's provisions for older structures and requirements under the International Building Codes. Towns using the County Permit and Inspection system must conform to the IBC or the MRC as adopted by Washington County, Divito said.
Mayor Skip Kaufman thanked the Board for holding the meeting in the Town, commented on the open dialog between the Town and Permits & Inspections, and the support the County is providing to the Library branch.
Kaufman lauded Commissioner's President John Barr, County Administrator Greg Murray and Sheriff Doug Mullendore for the support provided during the Boone Hotel fire in February, and called the actions a good example of intergovernmental cooperation. The Mayor stated that more Town citizens need to get involved on County Boards and Commissions, and commented on park expansion needs, water and sewer issues, and school needs.
Kaufman also cited a need for County Commuter public transportation to the town. Commissioner Jim Kercheval provided a report prepared by Transit Director Kevin Cerrone on the federal-state transportation funding process and rural routes. Transportation service was formerly provided to Boonsboro, but was discontinued due to lack of rider-ship after a 1996 survey revealed that an average number of riders for the twice-weekly service was less than 5 per trip.

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