County ap­proves school bud­get

Of­fi­cials also dis­cuss Cobb Is­land bridge de­sign

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MATTHEW KUBISIAK mku­bisiak@somd­

The Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously ap­proved the $352.2 mil­lion fis­cal year 2018 op­er­at­ing bud­get for the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing its open ses­sion Tues­day af­ter­noon.

Charles County Public Schools As­sis-

tant Su­per­in­ten­dent of Fis­cal Ser­vices Randy So­tomayor briefed the com­mis­sion­ers on the bud­get, which is larger than the fis­cal year 2017 bud­get by $8 mil­lion, a 2.3 per­cent in­crease. Of that, county fund­ing in­creases by $4.9 mil­lion, So­tomayor said.

Ac­cord­ing to an ac­tion item in­cluded with the brief­ing, the ed­u­ca­tion bud­get in­cludes salary in­creases, health care cost in­creases, manda­tory re­place­ments for ag­ing buses and an in­crease in fund­ing for spe­cial pop­u­la­tion stu­dents.

So­tomayor said in fis­cal year 2017, Charles County Public Schools saw the sec­ond high­est en­roll­ment growth statewide for stu­dents with spe­cial needs. Charles County ad­di­tion­ally saw the high­est en­roll­ment growth in Mary­land for stu­dents iden­ti­fied as hav­ing lim­ited pro­fi­ciency in English.

Dur­ing Tues­day’s ses­sion, the com­mis­sion­ers also unan­i­mously ap­proved a re­newal of the Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion’s Charles County of­fice lease at Po­tomac Square in La Plata for one ad­di­tional year.

Deputy County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Deb­o­rah Hall briefed the com­mis­sion­ers on the re­newal ne­go­ti­a­tions, say­ing the land­lord had orig­i­nally re­quested a two year re­newal with a 3 per­cent in­crease in rent each year. In­stead, Hall said a one year re­newal was agreed upon with a rent in­crease of 2 per­cent, with the op­tion for an ad­di­tional year also with a 2 per­cent rent in­crease, pro­vid­ing the county with flex­i­bil­ity on po­ten­tial re­lo­ca­tion op­tions.

The fi­nal ap­proval of the ses­sion came with the unan­i­mous pass­ing of a bill that up­dates the county’s nurs­ing schol­ar­ship pro­gram policy. Schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ents are re­quired to use the schol­ar­ship at an ac­cred­ited in­sti­tu­tion within the county or, if a class or field of study isn’t pro­vided in Charles County, at an ac­cred­ited in­sti­tu­tion within the state. Re­cip­i­ents who com­plete their stud­ies are then re­quired to prac­tice at any li­censed med­i­cal fa­cil­ity within the county, ac­cord­ing to a draft of the bill.

Be­yond items for ap­proval, the com­mis­sion­ers also re­ceived brief­ings and up­dates on three dif­fer­ent projects.

Charles County Di­rec­tor of Re­cre­ation, Parks and Tourism Eileen Min­nick up­dated the com­mis­sion­ers on the Popes Creek wa­ter­front project. The con­cep­tual plan by Vista De­sign Inc. shows a park­ing lot off of Popes Creek Road fea­tur­ing a wooden walk­way loop to the Po­tomac River shoreline, with a pier and hexag­o­nal ob­ser­va­tion deck ex­tend­ing from the board­walk into the river. A cross­walk span­ning Popes Creek Road would link the park­ing lot with the Popes Creek Rail Trail.

Steve En­gle of Vista De­sign Inc. says the wa­ter­front will serve as the head to the rest of the Popes Creek Rail Trail and would fea­ture beach ac­cess. En­gle, how­ever, stressed that the plan is only a con­cept at this point.

Min­nick said many per­mits and ap­provals would be re­quired, but that in the best case sce­nario con­struc­tion could be­gin by mid-2018. Con­struc­tion would be com­pleted in stages, with the park­ing lot area be­ing com­pleted first, she said.

Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) called the wa­ter­front con­cept “beautiful and am­bi­tious.”

Up­dat­ing the com­mis­sion­ers on the project to con­struct so­lar-pan­eled park­ing canopies at the gov­ern­ment build­ing com­plex, Di­rec­tor of Public Works Bill Shreve said that con­struc­tion is ex­pected to be­gin at the end of this Novem­ber, with the project slated for com­ple­tion in May 2018.

The so­lar park­ing canopy project was cited in the cli­mate change res­o­lu­tion passed by the com­mis­sion­ers last week as one such move Charles County is mak­ing to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions. The so­lar pan­els are pro­jected to save the county more than $35,000 each year on en­ergy costs, of­fi­cials said.

The fi­nal project brief­ing of the ses­sion was for the new Cobb Is­land bridge, for which the Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion is cur­rently in the de­sign phase. Shreve says the state wants the new bridge to in­clude a pedes­trian side­walk and light­ing. While the state pays for the light­ing de­sign, the county would ul­ti­mately have to cover all other light­ing costs, in­clud­ing con­struc­tion, main­te­nance and elec­tri­cal ex­penses, Shreve said.

Robin­son said that pre­vi­ous feed­back from Cobb Is­land res­i­dents showed that many res­i­dents did not want ameni­ties for the new bridge. He sug­gested a public meet­ing for Cobb Is­land res­i­dents to ex­press their thoughts on the pro­posed pedes­trian light­ing de­signs. This public meet­ing is sched­uled for July 11, with the time yet to be an­nounced.

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