Vacations may be over. All county council members were present for the August 23 meeting, and Dr. Cliff Coppersmith, President of Chesapeake College, and Karen Smith, V.P. for Administrative Services, were pleased to see so many students back on campus for the first day of classes.
They had more good news. Teachers’ salaries are being raised, and these increases include a 6% raise for all employees. The revised FY23 budget request, an increase of $1.295 million, was passed unanimously. There’s no change to the county budget. It is all state funded.
Next up, an administrative resolution to establish a Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe committee. County attorney Patrick Thomas recalled that council member Pack had introduced the idea to establish a standing committee for fundraising in 2018. This moved to a vote and passed unanimously.
A policy to establish a sewer connection from Tunis Mills and Copperville to Royal Oak pump station to serve a government-owned property was introduced. Addressing concerns for the possibility of additional development, County Engineer Ray Clarke explained that this service would be limited to government properties. The public hearing for Resolution 334 is scheduled for September 13, 6pm.
Regarding legislation to expand structures for nonconforming uses under certain conditions, Bill 1525 is scheduled for a public hearing on September 13. And a hearing for an amendment to Bill 1524 regarding solar energy installations and the preservation of our highest quality croplands is also scheduled for September 13.
Resolution 331 was up for a vote. Two parcels on Matthewstown Rd. would be reclassified to S1 W1, priority status. This development of 200 homes has been in planning stages since 2008, and the number of homes to be built has been reduced from possibly as many as 550. The Planning Commission has approved this amendment, and Mayor Willey confirmed that traffic issues have been addressed over the years. Our schools haven’t been consulted; but Easton’s highly rated sewer system is ready, and the town is, too.
Concerns remained for possible impact upon our schools and services. There was more discussion of Resolution 331 than of any other this evening, but it was put to a vote and passed 3-2. Price and Packer voted against it. Divillio, Lesher, and Callahan voted for it.
Concerning a suggestion that developers aren’t “stepping up,” their role in these matters remains a concern. Sharing the burdens of development with our town may also complicate matters. The town of Easton collects property taxes. Income taxes are collected by the county, but the county funds schools (nearly half its budget), provides many or most services, and maintains county roads.
Preston Pepper, Director of Talbot County Parks and Recreation, turned the conversation in another direction. He presented the 2022 Land Preservation and Parks and Recreation Plan to preserve our waterways and trails. This plan is revised every 5 years, and his careful supervision is clearly appreciated.
County Manager Clay Stamp then announced committee appointments and funding for new HVAC units for the Hogs Neck remodeled pavilion, dugouts and a playground at the Community Center and Back Creek Park, and eight pickleball courts at the Community Center. Legislation will also be filed for a Talbot County Correctional Officers Retirement system.
Note: The dugouts, playground and pickleball courts are all state funded! We do still work together, and I was recently reminded of our county’s pride in becoming the first in Maryland to extend broadband access to all its citizens.
In this case we received $1.75 million from President Biden’s Recovery Plan, and the county will be working with Easton Utilities to spend $13 million already received from a USDA Program initiated by Obama. This will help our county attract and retain the workers we need.
Another busy meeting adjourned in a timely fashion at 7:34 pm, but there was more news. Talbot Integrity Project has filed a complaint with our Talbot County Circuit Court regarding the award of a contract to Rauch, Inc. to rewrite our Talbot County Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan.
Rauch’s bid was lower than another submitted, but the complaint describes Rauch as unqualified due to a conflict of interest described in Talbot County Ethics Ordinance, Section 60-12A. Rausch, Inc. is also the principal engineer for Lakeside in Trappe.
Trappe was mentioned only once or twice this evening. As the meeting adjourned, Council Vice President Lesher reminded us to drive safely. School is starting.
Carol Voyles is a graphic designer/illustrator who retired to the Eastern Shore and became interested in politics. She serves as communications chair for the Talbot County Democratic Forum and lives in Easton.