MCHENRY – Topics from wind turbines on state land to alcohol sales on Sunday were discussed at a legislative forum held on Saturday at Garrett College.
“We continue to have problems on the southern part of the county (with wind turbines),” Bob Lewis of Oakland said. “But I sense a lot of opposition on this. There are people taking a stand against this that have not previously taken a side on the issue.”
Delegate Wendell Beitzel and Sen. George Edwards both discussed their views on this current topic of debate.
Beitzel said he was opposed to placing industrial windmills on state forests, saying the land is something that needs preserved. He said other parts of the state are coping with the loss of farmland and open space because of development.
“We’re really lucky to have this state land in the county,” he said. “I’m very much opposed to these.”
Edwards said that while he would not give an absolute opposition to the issue, he said state land should be the last land looked into for wind power. He said this was especially true when there are private property owners willing to sell.
He said his focus for such land is to ensure that the state can continue to perform operations previously allowed such as logging and well drilling for public water.
Both Beitzel and Edwards emphasized the necessity to attend public meetings on the issue on Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Grantsville Elementary and on Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Arundel Center in Annapolis. Both lawmakers said strong opposition turnout would be one way to help guarantee the state forests are not used to house the turbines.
The issue of alcohol sales on Sunday was also discussed, with local business owner Greg Mortimer asking the two legislators to put forth some kind of action to see that sales would be available throughout the county on Sundays.
“It would increase our playing field with nearby resorts that offer Sunday sales,” Mortimer said. “Fifty-two days a year customers go to nearby areas or simply stay home.”
Mortimer said he felt the sales would help businesses in the county that sometimes struggle through the slow seasons.
Beitzel said he would ask for a referendum on the issue, putting it to the people in the county to decide because there are differing opinions on the issue. Edwards said he would also request a referendum, rather than a simple yes or no vote on the issue that has been long-standing in the county.
The topic of health care was also presented, with requests made that somehow more affordable health insurance be available to those who cannot provide it for themselves and that there be legislation that helps those on health insurance from having bills to health agencies affect their credit rating.
“The state needs to work in conjunction with the (federal government),” Edwards said. “There will be some money coming in from the federal government, but I think that as the legislature goes into regular session, there will be a little more time to work on things.”
Beitzel said that while he is free market for many issues, health care and insurance are concerns that he feels may need the state government to do something about.
The lawmakers also discussed some of the issues that came from the special session of the General Assembly.
Edwards said in an attempt to “shore up” the structural deficit, the legislature approved tax increases and that a large portion of the proposed funds to help with the deficit would come from the referendum vote on slots.
Beitzel said there were concerns with the slots referendum, saying the state will only be charging $3 million for a license for every 500 slot machines. He said other areas have charged much more and still had those licenses “flipped” and sold to another company or group at a higher price. His concern was that the state may not see a profit, and that it could be charging considerably more for the license.
Both Edwards and Beitzel said the public can contact their offices with concerns they have and that they would do what they could to keep people up to date with where certain topics stand at the state level.
By Sarah Moses
16 December 2007
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