Council OKs interim financing plan
— At a workshop Thursday, Sept. 7, the mayor and a council here took another step forward on the ongoing Catholic Avenue project and unanimously adopted a resolution for interim financing.
The plan is to replace an old water main, drill a new well, resurface the street after the new main is installed, add new fire hydrants and replace the curbs, gutters and sidewalks on both sides. It also calls for demolishing the town’s old water clarifier system.
Town Manager Ron Fithian said the interim financing will come from The Peoples Bank and be about $ 930,000. He said the funding should only be for a three- month period.
Fithian said a pilot well recently was installed and samples were taken from the area. He said the project’s first step is to install the new well.
Also at the meeting, the council unanimously voted to fund two more weeks of mosquito spraying by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Mayor Brian Jones said he and town staff have received numerous complaints about the mosquito population from residents.
The cost for the additional sprayings is estimated to be $ 2,000. Councilwoman Beth Andrews raised concerns that if the town used its budgeted amount of $ 1,200 for the sprayings, there would be a deficit of $ 800.
At the town meeting in July, she and Councilman Timothy Edwards voted to abolish the Festive Fridays on Main Street program to use the funds for other endeavors like additional sprayings.
The motion failed with Jones, Vice Mayor Rosalie Kuechler and Councilman Brian Nesspor opposing the move.
“You’re proposing to go over budget, which is directly in violation of the town charter,” Andrews told Jones at the Sept. 7 workshop. “Spraying for mosquitos benefits everyone in the town, so you should take it ( the money) from somewhere else that doesn’t.”
Jones said if the sprayings cost more than $ 1,200, he will “come back to the table” and work with the council to find a new source of funding.
“We can’t put money in front of our citizens’ safety,” Jones said.
“You cannot violate the town charter,” Andrews said. “You need to stop going over budget and causing deficits.”
The council also voted to have the Rock Hall trams only operate Fridays through Sundays immediately.
Andrews said she recently met with the town’s transportation committee regarding a $3,000 deficit in advertising.
She said one suggestion was to implement a new fee structure that would charge residents $1 and visitors $2. However, Fithian said that only would add “another burden” on the drivers.
“I think it’s a bad idea, in my opinion,” he said. “You take a family of four who’s visiting, that’s eight bucks plus tip, so they’re out about $10 and then they’re out another $10 on the trip back.”
The trams will run on a weekend schedule until the season ends Nov. 1. The council then will revisit the issue until the spring.
“I think it’s a good first start, but it’s not enough,” Andrews said. “We can’t continue running this kind of deficit.”
Andrews asked Town Attorney Charles “Chip” MacLeod about how the town’s engagement letter with his firm — MacLeod Law Group — does not violate the town charter. The council voted to ratify the letter last month, with Andrews opposing and Edwards abstaining.
MacLeod and co-counsel Patrick Thomas previously were affiliated with the Funk & Bolton law firm when contracted as the town’s attorneys. MacLeod Law Group formed last winter after their departure from Funk & Bolton.
The charter states that expenditures for “supplies, materials, equipment, construction of public improvements or contractual service involving more than $5,000 shall be made on written contract.” It also states the town clerk/treasurer should place those expenditures out to bid.
“At the time you took on the legal services, why did you not advise the town to put this out to bid?,” Andrews asked MacLeod.
MacLeod said for legal services, an engagement letter is not a contract. Rather, it is an agreement between a law firm and a client.
“The mayor and council have discretion in everything. ... It’s up to them how they want to approach this,” he said. “We work at the pleasure of the town ... and are only paid if we do the work. If the town stops calling, that’s it. They can go in another direction at any time.”
Andrews said she disagreed with MacLeod’s assessment. She said the charter are the “laws and rules by which we have to govern.”
“I’m going to push back a bit here ... because you’re framing this like somehow I didn’t do my job,” MacLeod said. “I have every confidence in these elected officials and that they know when they need to take action. It’s your all’s decision.”
The council decided to look into the cost of building a dog park to Rock Hall.
Nesspor said he and Edwards researched possible locations, such as an area between the Rock Hall lagoon and the baseball fields off Rock Hall Avenue.
“There’s no timeline about this, so we can get some prices and hunt some money down,” Nesspor said. “Everyone in Rock Hall loves their dogs.”