Worcester County Notebook

SNOW HILL – The
Worcester County Commissioners briefly discussed land preservation funding,
fees for tall grass nuisance abatement, public water and sewer at Showell
Elementary School, and the proposed closure of the U. S. Postal Service Easton
mail sorting site at their first June meeting.

———

Some of
Worcester County’s lost state farmland protection funding will be replaced by a
federal farmland program grant, staff reported Tuesday morning.

The $1.15 million
in federal funds will be used as the county’s match for the state Coastal Bays
Rural Legacy area land preservation funding.

The county expected about $900,000 from the program, but county
staffer Katherine Munson found $250,000 more in the Federal Farm and Ranch Land
Protection Program, which was awarded to the county.

———-

If
Worcester County staff must step in when property owners fail to cut their
grass and the vegetation gets out of control, those property owners will pay
the price for nuisance abatement.

The commissioners
approved a fee schedule this week that would charge each property owner in a
tall grass nuisance case $150 for administrative costs and mowing costs of $125
for the first quarter acre and $75 for each acre after that.

The fees are intended
to cover the costs to the county, and by law cannot exceed reasonable costs,
which include use and transport of mowing machines, and staff time.

Staff must mobilize
equipment, which could include large machinery on large properties. Workers
often must clean up abandoned trash and other items from the grass as they
work.

Ed Tudor, head of
the county’s development review and permitting department, told the
commissioners that most tall grass nuisance cases involve small properties.

The commissioners
recently streamlined the county’s tall grass nuisance process, allowing staff
to step in and cut the grass much more quickly after hearing complaints from
citizens that areas in the county were not being kept properly.

“We obviously don’t
want to make the fee so low people rely on us to cut it,” said Tudor.

Commissioner Judy
Boggs urged the commissioners to give citation some teeth.

“The fine I think
has to be tough enough to get people’s attention so they don’t depend on the
county to be a mowing service,” said Boggs.

“The law says we
can only charge the actual costs…if they can do it cheaper themselves they’d do
it,” said county attorney Sonny Bloxom.

Commissioner Virgil
Shockley suggested the commissioners review the tall grass cutting fees in the
fall.

“I can see this
becoming something you have no intention of it ever becoming,” Shockley said.

The commissioners
agreed to revisit the fees in the fall.

Commissioner Bobby
Cowger voted against the fees since, he said, he voted against the recent bill
to streamline the tall grass nuisance abatement process.

————

Showell
Elementary School (SES) will be connected to a local public water system by the
beginning of the school year, county officials said this week, as part of a
project to improve the school’s aging utilities.

The original
project scope aimed to connect the elementary school with public sewer only,
after the school’s large septic system began to fail, but the county
commissioners added the public water supply connection last summer.

“They’re not only
getting public sewer, they’re getting public water,” said Worcester County
Public Works Director John Tustin.

The new public
sewer connection at SES will be up and pumping by late winter or early spring
2011, Tustin said.

The project will
cost about $1.4 million. The school system will pay the Worcester County
general fund back at a rate of about $100,000 a year, staff reported.

————–

A proposal
by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)to increase mail sorting efficiency by
consolidating the Easton mail processing center with the Baltimore mail
processing center would slow down mail delivery and cut 127 jobs in Talbot
County, county staff warned.

Overnight delivery
might become two-day delivery and collection times could be earlier, staff
reported to the commissioners.

While Maryland
State Senators have requested the USPS hold informational meetings in several
regional cities including Ocean City, so far a June 15 meeting in Easton might
be the only chance for public comment.

Deputy
Administrator Kelly Shannahan suggested the commissioners write a letter
opposing the consolidation during the review process. Public hearings are
scheduled this summer on the potential consolidation.

“It’s going to take
so many jobs away from the people already in financial trouble, besides slowing
down the mail,” said Commissioner Louise Gulyas.

The commissioners
voted unanimously to send the letter.

“We’ll never get
our mail if it has to go to Baltimore,” said Gulyas.

 

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