Coun­cil OKs in­terim fi­nanc­ing plan

Kent County News - - OPINION - By DORIAN MITCHELL dmitchell@thekent­coun­

— 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.”

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