Commissioners hear from Shore Regional Health
CHESTERTOWN — Ken Kozel, president of University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, spoke on efforts to keep health care current on the Eastern Shore during the Kent County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday.
“We have to drive down the cost. If the cost keeps growing, and right now it’s 18 or 19 cents out of every dollar we spend, we are not going to be able to sustain that, and then that’s when rash decisions are made about closing hospitals in communities and dramatically reducing services,” Kozel said.
Kozel visited the commissioners along with Patti Willis, senior vice president, strategy and communications.
Kozel said the hospital in Chestertown is working toward the national trend of using emergency rooms as a last resort. Instead, people are asked to visit an urgent care facility or talk to their primary care physician before they go to the ER. Kozel said this helps lower the cost of health care.
“It appears that you’re in a mode of maintaining what you’ve got without expanding your services,” President William Pickrum said.
Kozel said that is not necessarily true, but the hospital may expand in different ways than what is offered at the facility. He said expansion might include having more specialists set up practices in the county or providing transportation for patients to their doctors.
Commissioner Bill Short said the process of finding specialists needs to be expedited.
Kozel said specialists are in high demand. He said UM Shore Regional Health has to offer a high salary and find ways to connect specialists to the community.
“I want to put a little bit of reality check into what is going on as well. And that is that health care is changing rapidly before our eyes,” Kozel said.
Also at the meeting, Jamie Williams, Kent County’s economic development coordinator, and Jim Luff, chairman of the Economic Development Commission, presented a summary of the comprehensive plan for economic development in the county.
Luff said the plan focuses on jobs, education and housing. He said it has three main goals: business retention, expansion and attraction; promoting workforce development and education; and enhancing infrastructure.
“If we are to achieve those goals we need to be proactive and not expect businesses to come knocking on our doors,” Luff said.
He said the Economic Development Commission met with the mayor of Middletown, Del. to share ideas on attracting business to the county.
“I know at first a lot of people say we don’t want to be Middletown, Del. and I understand that, but the core basis of how they did things worked and it will work for us,” Luff said.
He said Middletown had key factors for bringing business, which included appropriate zoning laws, having the support of the community, having the necessary infrastructure for economic growth and expedited approval processes. He said incentives often do not matter if the other factors have been met.
Luff also spoke on developing the U.S. Route 301 corridor. He said because of Middletown’s development, people are going to the town from Philadelphia and Wilmington.
“We have the opportunity, we just have to act on it,” Luff said.
Pickrum expressed concerns over the Route 301 corridor not including that much land for development, but Luff said there is more land around Millington.
Williams said the economic development plan is still open to comments and revisions.
Additionally, the commissioners passed an amend- ment introduced in July for business personal property taxes. The bill calls for the tax to be imposed on 50 percent of the assessment for equipment used to generate electricity for sale.
Short said he was concerned the amendment would become a “loophole that shouldn’t be there.”
“So anybody who wants to set up one of these solar companies, they can figure out a way to co-op with let’s say Chestertown,” Short said.
County Administrator Shelley Heller said the energy can only be sold to nonprofits and government or education facilities. She said it is “very limited.”
Washington College will be a client of a solar project in Massey and will not be subject to the tax, Heller said. She said it will be called a “solar development.” She said the projects are only available for certain institutions.
“The only thing these guys have to do is outsmart the whole system and develop some type of relationship with all these education services that are exempt,” Short said.
County Attorney Tom Yeager said the bill was patterned after legislation in Queen Anne’s County.
The commissioners also accepted the Town of Chestertown’s request to annex 145.11 acres, which houses the town’s wastewater treatment plant. The matter was met with slight hesitation by the commissioners.
“Why does the town want to annex this? What does it gain?” Pickrum said.
Heller said the land is contiguous to Chestertown, but there is wetland in between. She said the property cannot be used by anything other than the wastewater treatment plant.
It was announced that the courthouse tower will need to be taken down. Upon review, it was discovered that it is not structurally sound.
Heller said there is some equipment on the tower which will need to be taken down. Pickrum recommended taking down the tower and having the equipment moved elsewhere to save money.
“I don’t see why we don’t just remove the tower,” Pickrum said.
Fithian asked if there was another tower the equipment could be moved to. He suggested giving 90 days for anyone to have equipment removed from the tower.
John Crossley was recognized for 27 years of service at the Kent County Detention Center. He was hired July 25, 1990, and will retire at the end of October.
“It’s been a pleasure working for the county,” Crossley said.
Together with his time in the U.S. Army, he ends his career with 30 years of public service.
“I’ve learned one thing about working corrections. You have to treat people the same way you want to be treated. Yes they are inmates, but they are still human beings,” Crossley said.
Crossley received a plaque to commemorate his service for the county and also enjoyed some cake.
Jim Luff, chairman of the Economic Development Commission, provides the Kent County Commissioners with a summary of the comprehensive economic development plan Tuesday.
After 27 years of service at the Kent County Detention Center, John Crossely, center, is retiring at the end of October. Crossley received a plaque commemorating his time there during the Kent County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday.