Wicomico County

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The Maryland Mayors Association will be lobbying in Annapolis for a bill that would give them some tax relief from the counties.

And Mayor Jim Ireton hopes that the legislation will allow him to get as much as $2.2 million in tax relief for a number of country residents.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that a study found the residents of Salisbury is paying for just over $1 million in taxes for service they did not get.

For Fruitland it was just over $98-thousand while for Delmar was $55-thousand.

The legislation would require counties to examine the issue.

Don Rush

Wicomico County has a new Director of Finance Leslie Lewis.

The appointment was approved yesterday by the Wicomico County Council but did not make a decision on a new director of Recreation, Parks and Tourism.

County Executive Bob Culver fired the last finance director Gary Mackes after coming into office along with the Public Works director Lee Beauchamp.

The county executive’s decision to dismiss Mackes came as a surprise to some including the council vice president Matt Holloway.

Wicomico County School logo

Wicomico County could soon have an elected school board.

Last night there was almost unanimous support from those attended a public hearing by the Board of Education.

Harry Basehart said that it should follow the model set by Caroline County where the board reflects the gender, ethnic and racial diversity of the local residents.  

Many complained that the Board is accountable to the governor not the county residents even though education takes up half of the Wicomico County budget.

Don Rush

It’s a fix-it strategy for the West Salisbury Elementary School.

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver has opted to make improvements in the aging structure rather than building a new facility.

Wicomico County released a report on the building needs and the fix-it strategy will come at a much lower price tag.

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Tour

(Questions Raised About Culver's Private Tour of School -- Salisbury Daily Times)

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Salisbury Fire Department Website

Mayor Jim Ireton says the Salisbury is not being fairly compensated for the services that its fire department  provides in Wicomico County.

Under the current agreement the department serves over 56 percent of the county population and responds to more than 62% of the service calls.

But, says the Mayor, it does not get equal funding for the amount of work it does.

Ireton wants the new county leaders to take up the issue in the next fiscal year to address of a gap that, he says, amounts to over $2 million which has been paid by the city tax payers.

Don Rush

It was a good night for Republicans on Tuesday.

Larry Hogan beat the odds by besting Democrat Anthony Brown by a vote of 54 percent to 44 percent to become the only the second Republican since Spiro Agnew to ascend to the governor’s chair in Maryland.

Hogan beat back Brown’s attempt to be the first Maryland Lt. Gov. to succeed to the office and the first African American to hold the office Maryland.

During the campaign the Republican had battered Brown over tax hikes and the flawed rollout of the state’s health exchange.

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A contract agreement appears to have been reached between Wicomico County and the local Fraternal Order of Police.

F.O.P. President Mary Fisher says a deal has been struck that would protect any Wicomico County Sheriff deputies who have been injured on the job.

The new agreement also includes a deal on wage hikes.

Earlier this month the police organization had argued that the county had tried to change the contract so that it did not include disability protection which it said was essential.

Don Rush

Biking advocates were relieved yesterday to learn that while Wicomico County will be expanding the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex to include more soccer and baseball fields a bike trail will still run through the area.

The expansion plan would wipe out most of the nearly 5-mile network of trails that were first established in 1996.

But there will be an access road leading to a creek with a bridge that would be built to provide access to 80 acres of land where new trails could be carved out.

Motorists on the Eastern Shore should get ready for work on five bridges in Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester Counties beginning this Friday.

Work crews will be setting up this weekend for cleaning and painting the bridges.

The Maryland State Highway Administration says it does not anticipate any lane closures or detours but says the staging areas for the maintenance will be set up on the shoulders for each bridge.

Another five bridges will be cleaned and painted later this year for a total cost of just over a million dollars.

Bridges

cbf.org

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says three Eastern Shore counties have failed to file plans with the Maryland Department of the Environment to clean up the bay over the next two years.

Those were Caroline, Dorchester and Worcester Counties.

In addition, CBF and the Choose Clean Water Coalition noted that Dorchester had not submitted a milestone progress report.

Meanwhile, the environmental groups said that Wicomico County has secured $700-thousand in county and outside grants…to begin designing and installing clean-up measures.

Parents told the Wicomico County Board of Education that they are upset by two recent decisions about where their children will attend school in the coming year.

During a public meeting yesterday that they said they were opposed to the district decision to consolidate its Magnet accelerated learning program.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that parents with children enrolled in the Magnet program at Pemberton Middle School complained about the decision to only have the program at North Salisbury Elementary School for the 2014-15 school year.

Don Rush

Property taxes will go up again for the fifth straight year for Wicomico county property owners under a $129 million budget.

On a vote of 5-to-2 yesterday the County Council approved a hike of 5 percent in its annual budget.

This will increase the rate by 43 cents to $9.52 for every $1-thousand of assessed property value.

The increase will go into effect July 1st and is needed to compensate for a decline of 2.5 percent in county property values.

Don Rush

A property tax hike could be coming to Wicomico County in the 2015 fiscal year.

County Executive Rick Pollitt says that with the budget he is reviewing for the next fiscal year a three cent hike is needed just to break even.

The revenue cap would provide an extra penny.

WBOC reports that one of the key concerns is coming up with enough money for road maintenance since the state took away a great majority of their assistance.

In addition, Pollitt says he wants to put more money into education.

Don Rush

The crime rate in Salisbury is at its lowest level in at least 10 years.

Part One crimes that include homicide, rape and robbery dropped to just 2,091 this past year -- close the target of 2,000 set by city officials in their efforts to bring down the crime rate.

There were three homicides in all of Wicomico County this year, compared with five in the county last year.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that of the 10-year span from 2004 to 2013, this was the first year there were no homicides within the city limits, though two were close to the city line.

Don Rush

SALISBURY, Md. (AP) - Wicomico County officials are considering a plant at the county landfill to convert solid waste into energy-producing gas.

The Daily Times reports that supporters say the plant would create a new local energy source and help dispose of tons of chicken manure. County Public Works Director Lee Beauchamp and other officials met with regulators in Annapolis on Wednesday to discuss permitting hurdles for the $75 million project.

Don Rush

Director of Administration Wayne Strausburg told the Wicomico County Council last night that a new study recommends changing the revenue cap on property the property tax.

The Sage Group study suggests that it switch from using the consumer price index to an index that measures components of government spending. 

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that Strausburg believes the revenue cap as it is currently use is flawed and should be changed through a public vote.

Don Rush

Starting July 1 Wicomico County restaurant inspections, building permits and some other health department services will be getting more expensive.

The County Council voted 4-to-3 for hikes in the fees that have not seen an increase for seven years.

These services range from public pool license and septic installations to permits for wells and sewage disposal systems.

Council President Matt Holloway, who supported the fee increase, told WBOC that he blamed unfunded mandates handed down by the state but added that the hikes seemed fair

Maryland Law Enforcement, mug shot

WASHINGTON (AP) - A divided Supreme Court says police can legally take DNA without a warrant from those arrested in hopes of using it to solve old cases.

The justices, on a 5-4 vote, say taking DNA samples from people who have been arrested for various crimes, long before their guilt or innocence has been proven, does not violate the Constitution.

Wicomico County Schools website

Wicomico County has set aside money for the upcoming fiscal year to increase security at public schools.

There is $1.8 million for school security and technology upgrades that would go for more surveillance cameras, buzz-in systems and security training.

Andy Turner, Coordinator of Safe Schools for the district, told WBOC that officials will start shoring up vulnerabilities of the schools whose average age in 43 years old.

He said that the district would prefer to spend its money on enhancing student’s education but there is a need to ensure that children feel safe.

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The list of road repairs in Wicomico County has been mounting over the years with county highway user fees going to transportation projects throughout the state.

This year the money the county is getting will see a major bump from $343-thousand in the last fiscal year to $615-thosuand in 2013.

But Wicomico County officials say that will still not make much of a dent in the backlog of highway projects that have zero funding.

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There’s legislation in Annapolis that could provide a license to  stores, grocery stores, convenience stores and drug stores to sell beer and wine.

In Wicomico County, there are few grocery stores that sell wine and beer.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that they were grandfathered in during the mid-1990’s under article 2 B of the county’s alcohol law.

No new licenses have been issued for grocery stores to sell alcohol.

Residents of Wicomico County saw their property assessments drop by as much as 20 percent.

That’s compared to a seven percent fall for the statewide average.

Within the one-third of the county properties receiving reassessments 94 percent saw their home values decline. 

The upside is that homeowners should see their property taxes do down at least for the first year.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the county is expected to readjust the property tax rate to get the maximum amount of money under the revenue cap.

wicomicocounty.org

Facing compliance with Maryland’s new law restricting septic systems the Wicomico County Council will send out around 7-thousand postcards asking landowners to donate their property for a new designation that limits development.

Newly elected council President Matt Holloway told the Salisbury Daily Times that many people he talked to did not even know about the septic bill.

But they won’t be sent out right away.

The Council wants to work out the wording get a better handle on how much it would cost and wait to send them out until after the holiday season.

Henry Parker, conduit.mdcounties.org

The longtime Wicomico County Council President Henry Parker died on Sunday, according to County officials.

Parker was on the County Council from 1982 to 1998.

The county’s athletic complex on Naylor Mill Road in Salisbury is named after Parker. 

Council Member Stevie Prettyman, msa.md.gov

The Wicomico County Council will take a look at some small changes in the redistricting map during its session tomorrow.

There have been concerns about the cost and a number of precincts that have as few as four people.

And the council members have asked officials to adjust small parts of the map before they give their blessing.

The proposed redistricting plan would have increased the number of precincts from 38 to 50 at a cost of $800 a piece.

123rf.com

Wicomico County voters will be facing some charter changes this fall.

Among the measures on the ballot is one dealing with petitions filed with the election board.

It would require residents to gather 20 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the last presidential election or 10-thousand people whichever is fewer.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that currently the number is 15 percent of registered voters in the county.

123rf.com

The Wicomico County Council has extended the exemption for new one-and-two family dwellings from the state fire sprinkler mandate through 2015.

Council members have expressed concern about houses that are dependent on wells.

The Council voted 6-to-1 this week even though the modular housing industry says this would continue an uneven playing field.

In addition the Maryland State Fire Marshal William Barnard urged the council members to require the fire sprinklers because fires attack a home in a more dangerous way than in the past.

With temperatures expected to rise to triple digits over the next few days Wicomico County health officials say a cooling center will be open starting today to help residents keep cool.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the cooling center will be open today as well as Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Wicomico County Civic Center.

It will be located in Flanders Rooms 5, 6 and 7.

Residents will need to bring their own food, beverages, and medications.

Bottled water will be available.

No pets will be permitted.

 

           The Wicomico County Council voted yesterday unanimously to hike the local income tax rate from 3.1 percent to 3.2 percent the maximum allowed by law.

            But, the legislative body put its budget on hold for the next two weeks after the County Council was told that there would be a $14 million spending mandate from the state.

            The Salisbury Daily Times reports the County’s top financial officer told the Council that this was double what they had anticipated from Annapolis for funding the Maintenance of Effort for the public schools.

 

            Maryland’s Lower Shore is not likely to see a ban on burning this summer with forecasters predicting temperatures moving closer to normal.

            AccuWeather Meteorologist Carl Erickson told the Salisbury Daily Times that this is despite the fact that the area is experiencing unseasonably weather…and slight drought conditions.

            So far this year he said there has been 6.6 inches of rain which is normal for this time of year.

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