Shar­ing ideas on how to run a town in South­ern Md.

May­ors from re­gion con­fer with mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers from across state at Solomons con­fer­ence

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By DAN­DAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com

It’s not al­ways easy to run a town, but shar­ing ideas with other may­ors and of­fi­cials from across the state can be a big help.

About 200 town of­fi­cials from about half of 157 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the state gath­ered at Solomons last week for an an­nual fall con­fer­ence to dis­cuss is­sues per­ti­nent to town and city gov­ern­ments in the state.

The main pur­pose of the event, as half a dozen town of­fi­cials in­ter­viewed for this ar­ti­cle men­tioned, is to pro­vide a plat­form for may­ors and coun­cil mem­bers to net­work and share in­for­ma­tion.

“There aren’t many

is­sues that some­one else hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced yet,” said Mark Frazer, mayor of North Beach, stress­ing the im­por­tance of mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials get­ting to­gether and dis­cussing is­sues that small towns face.

The con­fer­ence of­fers two valu­able parts to Leonard­town coun­cil­woman Les­lie Roberts. First is the for­mal ed­u­ca­tion she gets out of the work­shops. The other ben­e­fit is the chance to “have con­ver­sa­tions with other towns to com­pare with what you are do­ing,” she said.

“You learn just as much to sit down and have dis­cus­sions,” Roberts said.

Another im­por­tant as­pect of the con­fer­ence is for Mary­land Mu­nic­i­pal League mem­bers to agree to the leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties pro­posed by MML’s leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee, La Plata Mayor Roy Hale said. The mem­bers unan­i­mously agreed to the three pri­or­i­ties on Friday.

The first and fore­most pri­or­ity, for the sev­enth time in a row, is to re­store the mu­nic­i­pal high­way user rev­enues with an em­pha­sis on the need to pro­vide a longterm, sus­tain­able fund­ing stream for mu­nic­i­pal trans­porta­tion needs. The high­way user fund was heav­ily slashed dat­ing back to 2008. The other two pri­or­i­ties in­volve man­dat­ing gov­ern­men­tal en­ti­ties pay a stormwa­ter man­age­ment fee on gov­ern­men­tal prop­er­ties and pro­mot­ing bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween town of­fi­cials and the Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

This year’s con­fer­ence fea­tured two work­shops on pub­lic safety, one on polic­ing and another one on deal­ing with a sit­u­a­tion of hav­ing an ac­tive shooter.

Dis­cussing pub­lic safety is com­mon for the an­nual con­fer­ence, said Thomas Reynolds, direc­tor of MML’s ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices. The league hosted a work­shop on deal­ing with an ac­tive shooter about three years ago, he said.

“Given the num­ber of shoot­ings we have, some town of­fi­cials made spe­cific re­quest to do that again,” Reynolds said.

Both Frazer and Hale said that they in­tend to bring up the sub­ject with their lo­cal sher­iff’s of­fices at each of their town’s next work ses­sions.

“You have to have a plan,” Hale said. The pur­pose, as sug­gested by the work­shop pre­sen­ter Lt. Keith Runk of the Mary­land State Po­lice, is to have on­go­ing dis­cus­sions.

Hale said he has been an elected of­fi­cial in La Plata for 19 years and has at­tended dozens of the con­fer­ences hosted by MML.

“You al­ways learn some­thing new,” Hale said, stress­ing that it was im­por­tant for him to learn cur­rent is­sues and meet new elected of­fi­cials from other towns in the state.

In­dian Head Mayor Bran­don Paulin is one of the rel­a­tively new of­fi­cials with less than two years in of­fice. Now 20 years old and the youngest mayor in the state, Paulin said the con­fer­ence is an im­por­tant net­work­ing op­por­tu­nity for him to so­cial­ize with other mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials.

“The con­fer­ence has an end­less amount of in­for­ma­tion, and it’s good to meet dif­fer­ent mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials to get some ideas as what ap­ply to your town,” Paulin said.

His idea of get­ting youth in­volved in pub­lic ser­vice was sparked from this year’s sum­mer con­fer­ence. Af­ter pre­sent­ing at a work­shop about the topic, Paulin said he or­ga­nized a youth ad­vi­sory team that meets monthly and comes up with ideas to make In­dian Head a bet­ter place.

Usu­ally be­tween 20 to 25 kids show up at the meet­ing, Paulin said. This is just one ex­am­ple of how one of his take­aways from the con­fer­ence turned into some­thing valu­able to the town.

Paulin said he learned a lot about tech­nol­ogy and leg­is­la­tion at the fall con­fer­ence. It would take him a few weeks to re­view his notes and see what could work for In­dian Head this time.

What stood out for Ch­e­sa­peake Beach Mayor Bruce Wahl is how new tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tive dis­rupters like drones af­fect the towns.

“We can­not reg­u­late them,” Wahl said, men­tion­ing that was the key in­for­ma­tion he learned Friday from a work­shop called mu­nic­i­pal gov­er­nance in an age of in­no­va­tion and change.

“Ap­pro­pri­ate use of drones is cool,” Wahl said. There were drones fly­ing above the crowds at the dragon boat race held in North Beach in June and he said the footage taken by the drones looks great.

How­ever, “Cit­i­zens def­i­nitely have con­cerns, mostly pri­vacy con­cerns,” Wahl said. He added that he hasn’t heard any com­plaints yet. He had been un­aware of a state bill signed by Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) in 2015 that gave the state ex­clu­sive power to reg­u­late drone use, which means lo­cal coun­ties and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties can­not en­act their own or­di­nances.

This is the third time the fall con­fer­ence has been in South­ern Mary­land (MML con­fer­ences in 1997 and 2013 were also in Solomons). Un­like the an­nual sum­mer con­fer­ence, which is al­ways held in Ocean City, MML’s fall con­fer­ence lo­ca­tion ro­tates around the state.

“We had an op­por­tu­nity to ac­quaint of­fi­cials from all over the state. Many of them have never been to Calvert County be­fore,” Frazer said. Dur­ing the re­cep­tion on Thurs­day night, Frazer pro­moted North Beach as a place of po­ten­tial wed­ding venues and he said he saw a lot of in­ter­est from at­ten­dees.

Hale echoed Frazer’s point of in­tro­duc­ing South­ern Mary­land to peo­ple from other parts of the state.

“It lets peo­ple through­out the state to come to what we think is a great part of the state,” he said.

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