Geraci­mos touts progress, fu­ture in an­nual ad­dress

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

Ch­e­sa­peake City Mayor Dean Geraci­mos asked town res­i­dents to get in­volved with the re­vi­tal­iza­tion plan and of­fer in­put.

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