Geracimos touts progress, future in annual address
CHESAPEAKE CITY — Mayor Dean Geracimos’ enthusiasm was palpable Tuesday night as he announced the town’s improving financial position during his annual “State of the Town” address to more than 100 people at Schaefer’s Canal House.
He announced, to a round of applause, that the town has received $19.2 million in grants and project contributions from a variety of federal, state and county sources during his tenure as mayor over the past four years. Chesapeake City officials expect to add to that total this year as grants, such as one from the state for Helen Titter Park, have positive outlooks.
“This is an amazing number for a small town like ours,” said the mayor, whose town has a roughly $730,000 operating budget. “And we’re going to keep going in order to enhance the quality of life here.”
“By going out and getting these grants or monies, we haven’t had to take money from the general fund,” he added. “The general fund is there to do exactly what it’s supposed to do for our taxpayers and residents: maintain the town. To enhance our town, we’ve gotten these grants.”
Geracimos also announced that for the first time in almost 50 years, the town’s water and sewer fund is operating as a self-sustaining enterprise fund. For decades, the town has had to supplement its utility fund with money from its general fund in order to balance. The unique bisection of the town by the C&D Canal forced it to run two costly water and sewer treatment plants on each of the north and south sides.
The town council made it a priority to reduce those costs, however, and struck a deal with Artesian Water in 2011 to supply water service to all residents by utilizing a conduit under the canal. Out of a $2 million total project cost, Chesapeake City only paid $13,000, with the rest covered by grants and other funding, Geracimos said.
“We can actually buy water now cheaper than we could making it,” he said, noting that water rates have not been raised since he took office. “And we’re saving $182,000 a year in operating costs.”
The north side water tower was removed in 2014, and the town is amidst plans to remove the south side one, relocating it to the Bohemia Manor school complex south of town. Chesapeake City is also planning to break ground next year on a new $9 million north side wastewater plant that will serve the entire town, also using the underwater conduit.
“This new plant will serve our children’s grandchildren,” he said. “It will be stateof-the-art.”
The mayor said that after recent discussions with providers, he is increasingly optimistic that electrical and telephone cables will be able to buried in the near future, creating a cleaner and more historic look for the downtown.
“The wires going across the road really bug me,” he said. “We’ve really tried hard, but this is going to take a lot of money and more time … but we are making progress than what people thought.”
Geracimos also noted that a 2014 ordinance passed by the town council will require utilities to pay half of the cost of burying the lines when it occurs in the future, saving taxpayers’ money. Town officials and utility engineers have met and agreed that lines can be buried in the downtown.
The mayor implored those in attendance to offer input on the town by getting involved in activities, attending its evening meetings on the second and fourth Mondays or volunteering to serve on a town committee.
The pride in his presentation and talk of what he would like to see accomplished would seem to indicate that the two-term mayor is rethinking his stance from two years ago that he would not seek re-election this year. He notably did not pursue an open district seat on the county council or a run at county executive, and has reportedly been encouraged by town residents to run again for mayor.
Chesapeake City Mayor Dean Geracimos asked town residents to get involved with the revitalization plan and offer input.