For their part, the commissioners asked the delegation to support Hershey's bill to give local counties a say on the location of commercial wind farms. Pickrum said the commissioners support alternate energy, but the scale of the proposed Mills Branch Wind project would be “devastating to the scenic beauty of the county.” Jacobs said the delegation was working with local opponents of the wind farm, and had “some things in the works."
CHESTERTOWN – Members of the the county’s General Assembly delegation visited the Kent County Commissioners at their Tuesday, Dec. 1 meeting.
State Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr., R-36-Upper Shore, and delegates Jay Jacobs, R-36-Kent, and Jeff Ghrist, R-36-Caroline, heard the commissioners’ priorities for action during the coming legislative session. They also heard from Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino, who asked their help with three issues facing the town.
Two of Cerino’s issues concerned Shore Medical Center at Chestertown. Remediation of an oil leak from nearly 30 years ago has been proceeding under the supervision of the Maryland Department of Environment. Cerino said neither the hospital nor the MDE has made a firm commitment to cover the possibility of contamination of the town’s drinking wells, which are about a quarter of a mile downhill from the hospital. Replacement of the wells could cost $10 million or more, he said.
Cerino asked the legislators to introduce a local courtesy bill to ensure that University of Maryland Medical System, the parent entity of Shore Regional Health, will pay for replacing the wells in the worst-case scenario. “We want to believe, but we have our doubts,” he said.
Jacobs said he was working on a solution. There are legal precedents to hold the hospital responsible, he said, citing a case from Harford County as a parallel situation. He said he would craft something specific to the local issue.
Also, Cerino said, he has been meeting with members of the hospital staff who are concerned that inpatient facilities at the hospital may be closed as part of Shore Regional Health’s strategic plan. He cited the negative effects a closure would have on the town and the surrounding region.
Hershey said the local counties should have more say in the decisions made by Shore Regional Health.
Ghrist said the hospital’s problems were unintended consequences of state regulations that need to be fixed to allow local institutions more flexibility.
William Pickrum, president of the Kent County Commissioners, said a decision to put business concerns above the needs of the smallest county in the state with a significant senior population would be immoral.
Cerino also asked for support for the town’s efforts to find funding for renovations at the Chestertown Marina, which the town has owned since 2012. He said the town expects to pay for the work through state and federal grants, and he asked the commissioners and the delegation to support the town’s applications.
For their part, the commissioners asked the delegation to support Hershey’s bill to give local counties a say on the location of commercial wind farms. Pickrum said the commissioners support alternate energy, but the scale of the proposed Mills Branch Wind project would be “devastating to the scenic beauty of the county.”
Jacobs said the delegation was working with local opponents of the wind farm, and had “some things in the works.”
Also, Commissioner Ron Fithian asked the delegation to find a way to combat the requirement for sprinkler systems in new residences built in the county. He said the cost of sprinklers has made workforce housing in the county unaffordable.
Commissioner Bill Short said the sprinkler requirement is “crippling” housing construction in rural areas, especially starter housing.
Jacobs said the state fire marshal is strongly opposed to rolling back the sprinkler requirement. He said allowing builders to opt out of the requirement for houses below a certain square footage might be the answer.
The commissioners also asked the delegation to explore ways to give counties with declining school populations a way around maintenance of effort requirements in school funding.
In Other Business:
• Rebecca Lepter of the Family & Community Partnerships of Kent County reported on progress in opening the Family Support Center. She said the staff will be assessing community interest in programs it could offer and plans to offer a full slate by January.
Also, the commissioners approved a memorandum of agreement between F&CPKC and the Queen Anne’s County Health Department to provide home visiting services through the Healthy Families program.
• There were no comments during a public hearing on a bill to amend the county’s economic development code. The amendment redefines the duties of the economic development department, The commissioners will vote on the bill at their Dec. 8 meeting. Written comments will be accepted at the county office through Monday, Dec. 7.
• The commissioners approved several personnel appointments. The appointments included a treasury supervisor for the finance department and two child development specialists and a family navigator for the Family Support Center. Also, four paramedics were promoted to paramedic shift supervisors.
The commissioners made two appointments to the library board of trustees. Beverly Birkmire was reappointed, and the Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver was appointed to a five-year term.
The commissioners reappointed three members of the board of electrical Examiners whose terms were expiring. William Baldwin, Charles Langenfelder and D. Michael Usilton were reappointed for three-year terms.
Andrew Meehan was named attorney for the ethics commission.
• The commissioners approved the purchase of two pickup trucks for the county roads department and the detention center. They postponed purchase of a dump truck with snow plow till the next fiscal year.
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