Board of County Commissioners' Actions:Commissioners hold public hearing on excise ta

Board of County Commissioners' Actions
Commissioners hold public hearing on excise tax, welcome trade delegation, review proposed capital budget, visit Sharpsburg

As part of its regular meeting on February 22nd, 2011, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners held a public hearing on eliminating of "doubling" of excise tax on some new home development.
Any resident of Washington County was able to appear and testify concerning the proposed amendments to the Building Excise Tax Ordinance for Washington County, Maryland ("BETO"), intended to eliminate the doubling of excise tax for building permits applied for in excess of 25 in a single subdivision or redevelopment per fiscal year as provided for in Section 3.03 of the BETO.
Four citizens testified in favor of the amendment, while 5 citizens testified against the amendment. Groups represented included the Washington County Homebuilders' Association, Citizens to Protect Washington County, and Westfield's LLC.
No decision was needed on this day, and Commissioners requested additional time to review the public input. The issue will return to the Board in several weeks for a vote.
Human Resources Director Bill Sonnik and Kaplan University representative Larry Glenn introduced a group of Chinese government officials visiting the Board as part of an internship opportunity. The 21 mid-level and senior managers in training to become port managers have been in Hagerstown at Kaplan since December 2010, and are nearing completion of the program.
The Guangxi Bureau of Foreign Expert Affairs notified Glenn that all participants in the training should receive several days internship shadowing mid or senior level government managers. The group attended the Commissioners' meeting during the Public Hearing and an ensuing Capital Improvement Budget review for FY 2012.
Members of the delegation are scheduled to visit Hagerstown Regional Airport, the Department of Water Quality, and the 9-1-1 Dispatch Center in learning about local government operations.
Commissioners reviewed the final installments of Draft #1 of the Capital Improvement Budget for Fiscal Year 2012, covering the Board of Education, Hagerstown Community College, Railroad Crossings, Transit, Water Quality and General Government.
The Board of Education requests $10.29 million for various improvements to educational facilitates in the coming fiscal year including $101,000 for ADA compliance, $500,000 for Capital Maintenance, $8.19 million for the Ruth Ann Monroe Primary School project, $693,200 for planning of the Bester Elementary School project, and $800,000 for land acquisition for a future school. Cost for the East City High School would not begin to occur until FY 2016, and variables of student population would be taken into account in determining a final size for that facility.
Hagerstown Community College requests would total $2.19 million in FY '12., HCC President Dr. Guy Altieri and Board Vice-Chair Greg Snook told the Commissioners that needs include $1.78 million for the Arts and Science Complex construction project, $482,200 for renovations to the Student Center and Bookstore, $922,800 for the Kepler Theater Performing and Visual Arts Center, and consideration of the campus entrance at the rear of the HCC property. There are 6,500 full-time students and 10,000 continuing education students at HCC this semester, Altieri said.
CIP budget committee member Joe Kroboth told the Board that there are no Railroad Crossings in the FY '12 budget. Washington County works with the railroads each year to determine which crossings those companies plan to renovate, and how those changes will alter County roadways.
The Transit Department capital needs are funded from 80% federal, 10% state and 10% County funds. The total Transit request for FY 2012 is $151,500 for Vehicle Preventive Maintenance, of which $15,100 would come from the County General Fund.
Water Quality capital need for the next fiscal year would total $11,236 million. Highlights include $10.7 million for upgrade of the Winebrenner Wastewater Treatment Plant, $150,000 for a Force Main on Wright Road, $25,000 in contingency funds for both Water and Administration line items, $176,800 for the Highfield Water System upgrade, and $50,000 for general improvements to treatment plants.
Budget and Finance Director Debra Murray told the Board that Tax Supported Public Bonds for Water and Sewer will end in FY 2012 and that the utility will be considered self-supporting after the end of the current fiscal year.
General Government capital costs would total $2.75 million in FY '12 and would include $153,800 for Bond Issuance costs, $151,500 for finance system upgrades to automate time sheets, $40,000 to replace a chiller at the County Administration Building, $155,700 to replace the Air Conditioning System at the County Office Building, $2.23 million for the Commission on Aging Senior Center, $101,000 for Information Technology upgrades, and $30,000 for various Department of Public Works demolition projects on County properties.
County Administrator Greg Murray advised the Board that any additional funding recouped through project effectiveness could be included in the Pavement Maintenance budget discussed previously, which is underfunded.
In other actions, the Commissioners accepted a grant from MEMA in the amount of $32,550, with local match of $8,138, for rewriting of the federally mandated Multi Hazard Mitigation Plan, which must be updated every 5 years.
Commissioners visited the Town of Sharpsburg during the evening hours in order to give citizens of the town the opportunity to have input into the local government process.
Under Other Business, the Board approved the appointment of Brenda Bush of Hagerstown to the Adult Public Guardianship Review Board for a three-year term.
County Administrator Greg Murray commented on House Bull 969, currently before the state legislature, which moves state licensing for Plumbing, HVAC and Refrigeration from the Department of Labor and Licensing Regulation to the Department of Housing and Community Development. Code Enforcement Official Dan DiVito was requested to testify before a legislative committee regarding that issue, and Commissioner review of the Bill is warranted. The issue will be discussed in next week's meeting.
Public Works Detector Joe Kroboth announced that the contract for improvements to Devil's Backbone Dam has been advertised, and that construction could start June 1st.
Essential Air Service funding for Hagerstown Regional Airport is in jeopardy due to a move in Congress to extend the distance requirements from 70 to 90 miles from a major airport, Kroboth said. The Commissioners authorized drafting a letter of support to retain the 70-mile distance, for signature and routing to U.S. Senators Mikulski and Cardin.
A meeting is scheduled with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials on Monday to discuss redrafting of floodplain maps in Washington County. Kroboth said that hundreds of homes could be considered in the flood plain if the FEMA maps are adopted. Mapping techniques and location information will be reviewed in that meeting, Kroboth stated.
Under Citizens' Participation, Jeremy Holder of Sharpsburg commended the Board for its actions in renewing the Residential Stimulus Program.
Darryl Benner, Sharpsburg Fire Company Vice-President requested the Board consider equal funding for the Fire and Emergency Medical Service companies should their operations be consolidated into one building. The two companies are currently in separate buildings, and plans for an addition to the Fire Company building would be jeopardized if individual funding was reduced, Benner said.
Sharpsburg Vice-Mayor Bryan Gabriel commented on water-sewer costs in unoccupied properties and cost of water use that does not require further treatment, such and watering of ball fields. County Administrator Greg Murray explained the water cost model, and stated that meters are available for non-treatment water use.
Sharpsburg Mayor Hal Spielman thanked the Commissioners for holding an evening meeting in the Town.