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State representatives hear board’s requests

By AMANDA HARRISON

Staff writer

The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners met with the county’s state representatives to discuss the board’s legislative package for the 2013 legislative session Tuesday night.

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Prince George’s), Maryland House of Delegates Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s), Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert) and Del. James Proctor Jr. (D-Calvert, Prince George’s) attended the discussion to ask questions and voice their concerns on some of the county’s requests.

Clark told the delegates that the county’s “main push” is for the $33.8 million in bond authority, which is set to be spent on the emergency communication system upgrade and expansion, the Appeal waterline extension, Parris Oaks pump station rehabilitation and St. Leonard Well and Storage, among other qualifying projects.

Earlier Tuesday, during the regular BOCC meeting, the board unanimously approved the support of the bond authorization request.

Clark pointed out that the proposed bond authority also includes improvements to the intersections of Route 231 and Skipjack Road at the industrial park, and the College of Southern Maryland Prince Frederick Campus.

“These are scheduled in fiscal year ’14, and we may be able to do pay-go funds [fund balance, or “rainy day” funds],” Clark said, explaining that the county may not need to use all the bond authority. “But we want to secure this bond authority in case.”

“This is worst case scenario,” Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) said of the total bond authority amount.

Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-Calvert, St. Mary’s, Charles), who was unable to attend the evening session but attended the earlier BOCC meeting to share his views and concerns, told the commissioners Tuesday that he supports the bond authority request because Calvert is “most stringent with spending your bond money.”

O’Donnell said he wanted the county to keep in mind the “inoperability” of the upgraded and expanded emergency communication system with similar systems in surrounding counties.

O’Donnell’s next concern was about the ceiling on the county’s bond authority, but Clark and other county staff assured him “we’re not close to the limit.”

Fisher suggested the county look into outsourcing the sixth radio communication tower because it “would save the county almost $3 million.”

During Tuesday’s BOCC meeting, the county commissioners also unanimously approved the support of a request from the Department of Community Planning and Building to amend state law to allow the local government to use the local Forest Conservation Fees-in-lieu Fund to pay staff to identify, acquire and prepare planting sites, and the hiring and supervision of planting contractors.

“We have a reasonably-sized in-lieu fund,” explained Clark.

The Calvert County Board of License Commissioners, or Liquor Board, had two proposals for the legislative package, which were both approved for support with 3-0 votes earlier Tuesday. Clark and Commissioners’ Vice President Steve Weems (R) recused themselves from the vote because of their business interests with the liquor board.

The first proposal seeks to amend state law to allow the liquor board to impose a fine for violations of liquor licenses payable to the county treasurer.

The liquor board’s attorney, Gene Pitrof, explained that when he came into the position in April, he noticed the liquor board does not have the authority to fine violators.

During the BOCC meeting, Clark asked liquor board member Beth Swoap if the fines are contributed to charities.

Swoap explained that the fines used to go to Project Graduation, but after a lawsuit, it was determined the fines be paid to the county. She said that since she began on the board two years ago, the fines have always been paid to the county.

The state representatives agreed the board needs that authority.

The other proposal seeks to amend state law to allow the liquor board to issue special event licenses and adopt regulations for the same purpose.

Swoap explained that the special event licenses would be given out at the board’s discretion — a point Clark said would get the board into trouble.

“Discretion gets us in trouble every time,” Clark said.

Shaw said she could not support the law unless training is required for these special event licenses.

Shaw and Clark both pointed out that using the Training Resource and Multimedia Studio Pty Ltd, or TRaMs, responsible service of alcohol training should be required.

“You need to hold these folks to the same standard as those who are under this law every day,” he said of the training employees are required to take if they sell or deal with alcohol.

Dyson agreed, saying he liked the idea of requiring “some sort” of training.

Pitrof, however, said the training isn’t available on short notice, which is the situation when many organizations and people come to request the one- to seven-day licenses currently.

Shaw suggested the license applicants hire one of the “tons of people” that do have the training, if it’s on such short notice.

“You got a lot of holes in this,” Clark told Swoap and Pitrof. “I would like to see more detail in this. There’s so much that needs to be refined.”

He suggested the liquor board work with county staff to create a more comprehensive and “blended” special event ordinance.

O’Donnell had his reservations about the special event proposal, saying that the “hang-up” is that “it’s always sold as the [Calvert] Marine Museum and the Tiki Bar.”

Another proposal, from Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R), allows Calvert County to phase in a defined contribution retirement solution for Calvert County Board of Education employees. During the BOCC meeting, the board voted 2-3 not to support the item with Slaughenhoupt and Clark voting for it.

“It’s just the timing. I think it’s a good idea. I think we just have to do it through the back door first,” Shaw said of her position.

Slaughenhoupt said it at least begins the discussion at the state level.

A proposal from Sheriff Mike Evans (R) to amend the traffic laws to require drivers to travel in the right lanes of a multiple-lane highway and to pass in the left lane was not approved for support with a 4-1 vote Tuesday during the BOCC meeting.

Clark announced at the evening’s public hearing that Evans withdrew the proposal.

aharrison@somdnews.com