Somerset County

With temperatures still reaching into the 90’s Somerset County has opened up some cooling stations.

The Princess Anne Library and the Crisfield Library will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.

The Somerset Senior Services Center will be open through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

And the Woodrow Wilson Community Center will also be open through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.      


Delmarvans Stay Cool


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Fruitland Police Chief Michael Phillips has been charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol and driving while impaired after he was stopped in Somerset County.

The County Sheriff’s Office says that Phillips was released after being taken into custody Sunday on alcohol-related violation.

Phillip’s attorney John Phoebus told the Salisbury Daily Times that the police chief has asked the Fruitland City Council to put him on paid administrative leave until the charges are resolved which the council did.

Don Rush

There will be no property tax hike for Somerset County residents.

But the 2015 $36.2 million budget will be spending $708-thousand less than the current year because of a fall in tax revenues and fewer grant awards for capital improvements.

The biggest chunk -- $11.2 million -- will go toward education.

Another $6.9 million will pay for public safety.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that instead of raising taxes the budget draws $3.7 million from its reserves to offset the decline in revenues.

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Maryland state Comptroller Peter Franchot says Governor Martin O’Malley should veto legislation that would delay the construction of the wind turbine project in Somerset County by more than a year.

Franchot said the delay would have a profound impact on the local economy of one of the poorest counties in the state.

He pointed to more than 500 construction jobs, $44 million in tax revenues and $200 million in revenue from new investment.

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All eyes now turn to Governor Martin O'Malley as to whether he will veto the a measure that would delay the wind farm project in Somerset County by another year. Supporters of the project say this would effectively kill it, but opponents say the delay is needed to assess the impact of the wind turbines on the radar at the U.S. Naval Air Station on the Patuxent River. Delmarva Public Radio's Don Rush examines the conflict with Jennifer Shutt, who has been covering the legislative session in Annapolis for the Salisbury Daily Times.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Gov. Martin O'Malley says he still has misgivings about a bill to set a 13-month moratorium on the development of tall wind turbines within 56 miles of the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River base in southern Maryland.

O'Malley wouldn't say Monday if he would veto legislation that has been sent to his desk. But the governor, who is a strong supporter of wind energy, says, "I have yet to conclude that windmills are quite the threat to Naval air radar that those advocating for this ban have concluded."

A measure that would delay a wind turbine project in Somerset County by 15 months has made it out of the Senate Finance Committee.

The delay would allow for the results of a $2 million study on the impact of the project on radar at U.S. Naval Air Station on the Patuxent River.

In addition, the measure would limit the height of wind turbines at varying distances at varying distances from the naval base.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that Eastern Shore Democrat Jim Mathias voted no saying the issues could be dealt with through existing state and federal laws.

Legislation to delay the wind project in Somerset County could face a veto by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley as the state Senate prepares to take up the bill next week.

That's according to Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network during a teleconference with reporters yesterday.

"We don’t expect the bill to get to his desk to begin with, but if it does one would assume he being a vigorous opponent of the bill would be facing the prospect of a possible veto."

There could be a delay in putting up those wind turbines in Somerset County.

Representatives from the southern Maryland delegation in Annapolis told a committee hearing yesterday they were concerned the wind mills could cost jobs around the Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

The House measure would prevent the state from approving the wind turbines that exceed a range of heights within the Atlantic Test Range used by the naval base.

The legislation would suspend construction of the 70 megawatt Great Bay wind project in Somerset County.

A settlement could be in the offing within the next 45 days between Somerset county Sheriff’s Deputy James Troy Durham and County Sheriff Robert Jones and other county officials.

The Local Government Insurance Trust which represents the County Commissioners has asked the judge for a postponement to give both sides a chance to negotiate a deal.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the reason for the 45-day time frame is because the County Commissioners only meet once a week.

Durham was fired and then reinstated and is now seeking back pay and benefits.


At 7 p.m. tonight Asbury United Methodist Church in Crisfield will be holding services in the wake of the death of Brad Mason who was killed in a single-vehicle crash in Marion Station. 

Mason was this year’s Crisfield High School valedictorian and headed to the University of Maryland College Park this fall to study engineering.

He also served as a student member of the Somerset county Board of Education for the last two years.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the accident but provided no further details.

Don Rush

If you plan on bicycling from Westover to Crisfield the Somerset County Commissioners could make it a bit safer.

County Administrator Doug Taylor told the Commissioners that the trail would follow the former railroad tracks.

But it would need to deal with the state’s 60-foot-wide right of way along the 13.5-mile stretch.

Julie Widdowson, the county tourism director, noted that unlike Wicomico and Worcester counties Somerset does not have any.

She said that this would boost tourism and bring more business to the region.

Somerset County Seal

There could be a small increase in property taxes for Somerset County residents.

The proposed 2014 budget is expected to hike the rate from 88.3 cents per $100 of assessed property value to 91.5 cents.

This would allow the county to get the same amount of tax revenue as the current year to make up for the decline in assessed property values during the Great Recession.

But the new rate is lower than it was four years ago.


BALTIMORE (AP) — A solar farm on the lower Eastern Shore will help power the University of Maryland Medical System.

University officials held a ribbon-cutting celebration Monday in Baltimore for the 25-acre solar power farm in Somerset County.

Constellation financed, owns and operates the solar power system. The University of Maryland Medical Center will purchase the electricity produced by the solar panels under a 20-year agreement with BITHENERGY, which developed the project.

There has been a suspected arson fire in Somerset County.

It is the second such fire in the last two weeks.

But, the Maryland State Fire Marshall Office says the blaze in Eden does not appear to be connected to the more than 70 arson fires that have struck neighboring Accomack County since mid-November.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that no one was injured in the fire which only affected a small portion of the porch.

Authorities said that there was an odor from some kind of accelerant such as diesel or kerosene.

If you had losses from Hurricane Sandy in Somerset County and are hoping to get some federal relief midnight tonight is the deadline to get your application in.

Residents are recommended to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency by phone or go on line to get an identification number.

Ron Roth of FEMA told the Salisbury Daily Times that about a dozen people have filed in the last two weeks…after the original February 12th deadline was extended to the 26th.

United Way for the Lower Eastern Shore says it is getting $150-thousand in grant money to help out communities in Somerset County which is trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

The funds come from the group’s Hurricane Sandy Recovery Fund.

Rick Nelson, vice chair of the organization’s county branch, told WBOC that there were many elderly people on fixed incomes who are living “hand to mouth” in the wake of the Superstorm.

The date to begin filing for help is February 28 with their offices in Salisbury, Princess Anne and Crisfield.

Construction of a new senior center in Westover is set to begin next month finishing the renovations at the former elementary school.

Currently, it’s being used by several Somerset County agencies.

This week County Commissioners opened bids for the project with costs ranging from just over $1 million to $1.23 million.

The 74-hundred square-foot space will become a new MAC Center for seniors from Crisfield and Princess Anne.

Somerset County residents will get a chance to find out what help they might get if they suffered damage from Hurricane Sandy now that the federal and state agencies have departed.

A meeting of the Somerset County Long Term Recovery Committee will host a town hall meeting at Crisfield High School Wednesday night at 6 pm to outline what the committee could offer.

John Phoebus, chair of the group, said help would be available to anyone who applied for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

There will be money in Somerset County’s 2014 budget for free rabies vaccination clinics held twice a year.

The County Commissioners agreed to add over $12-hundred to the Animal control budget after health officials told them several months ago about the need for better control of rabies among feral cats.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the health department now holds the clinics in the spring and the fall charging a $6 fee per animal.

James Henderson head of Animal Control said his agency sees several wild rabid animals a month. 

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It’s been a month since Hurricane Sandy and hundreds of residents in Crisfield are still waiting for federal assistance to deal with the damage left behind by the superstorm.

Many like Teresa Shallcross had their homes destroyed as waters lapped up from the Chesapeake Bay.

She told the Salisbury Daily Times that her home of 20 years is now uninhabitable because the furnace is slowly falling through her water-damaged floor.

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Somerset County Commissioners say they will look at whether they want to join a coalition to challenge Maryland’s $14.4 billion plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Chip MacLeod is an attorney with Funk and Bolton hired by Dorchester County to get other counties to become part of the TMDL Coalition to fight the plan.

He presented their case claiming that many of the bay’s problems result from sediment and spills from the reservoirs behind the Conowingo Dam.

Counties have expressed concerned over the price tag of the plan.

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Somerset County officials are expected to tighten up conditions for declaring properties a nuisance.

Currently inspectors cannot cite property owners for such things as overflowing septic systems.

Instead the Salisbury Daily Times reports that the health department must go to court which can take months to get action.

Under the amended ordinance authority would be given back to the health department to issue citations for unsanitary conditions.

There are 13 new rules under the proposed revision.

Local humane society and public health officials are now backing a new ordinance in Somerset County that would require all cat owners to vaccinate their felines for rabies.

The current ordinance only dealt with dogs.

The draft ordinance includes a trap, neuter and release policy for dealing with feral cat colonies rather than euthanasia.

The measure also details how the county will handle cats that could have rabies and allows Animal Control the right to make sure cats are vaccinated.

The Somerset County Commissioners will get a briefing today on how the Maryland’s new septic tank law will impact the county.

Under the new law there are restrictions where residential development can take place.

Gary Pusey, the county’s planning director, said the county’s Planning Commission is now working on a map that divides the county into four tiered zones.

County planners will be working closely with the town of Princess Anne and the city of Crisfield which must create their own maps.

Crisfield Mayor Percy Purnell says he wants Somerset County to share the burden of the tax abatement for the Rubberset plant.

The city owns the facility on Silver Lane which opened in 1967.

But the company, which is a division of Sherwin-Williams that makes paint brushes and rollers there, wants to exercise its option to take ownership.

The company has asked the city for two-year abatements on real estate and personal property taxes.

Liquor dispensary sales and profits in Somerset County had one of the worst years on record.

A recent audit found that sales dropped by more than $70-thousand while profits declined by over $26-thousand for the fiscal year ending in April.

Certified public accountant Scott Tawes told the Somerset County Council that the Route 13 store north of Pocomoke city had the worst year with sales dropping by more than $38-thousand from a year ago.

Somerset County officials are hoping a new $1.3 million MAC center will be completed this winter that will provide an expanded space in Westover for senior citizens from Crisfield to Princess Anne.

The County Commissioners opened bids for the design work that ranged from $35-thosuand to $84-thousand for the 6-thousand-square-foot center…which will be located in a former elementary school building.

But the Salisbury Daily Times reports that it could be several weeks before a contract is awarded.

Somerset County Commissioners are set to adopt a $35.9 million spending plan that keeps the property tax rate at 88.37 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Property taxes make up the largest portion of revenues to the county at 39 percent of the budget.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the spending plan also includes $480-thousand to cover teacher retirements for the first time.

But that amount has been offset by an increase in the State disparity grant to the county which will rise from $4.9 million this year to $5.2 million next year.


The video of an alleged bullying incident on a school bus from Carter G. Woodson Elementary School in Somerset County is being kept under wraps by local officials.

Jenna Howard said that last Friday her son Caleb Marshall was crying and upset telling her that another boy had physically hurt him while they were riding on the school bus together.