Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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With just a few weeks remaining in this year’s General Assembly session, governments continue to wearily keep an eye on goings on in Annapolis.

One bill grabbing the attention of Worcester County lawmakers is House Bill 366, which has the potential to take away Worcester’s right to opt out of residential sprinkler systems in new homes, despite the commission voting to do so amid controversy last year.

After hours of testimony and numerous hearings and presentations, the commission voted last year to opt out of a state requirement that would mandate the installation of fire-suppression sprinkler systems in new single- and multi- family homes. However, this bill could render all of that moot if passed.

Because the opt out for the first year ends June 1, the commission would have the option to vote to continue the policy for another year. However, it would only amount to a three-month extension if the bill becomes law.

“The county can opt out but if the bill in Annapolis is passed it will take affect Oct. 1,” said County Commissioner Virgil Shockley last week.

Another contentious piece of legislation, Senate Bill 236 and crossfiled with House Bill 445, revolves around septic systems in Maryland and, according to Director of Development Review and Permitting Ed Tudor, is incredibly confusing.

“The second part of the bill amends a section of state law that’s not there yet,” he explained, obviously frustrated at last week’s meeting.

Tudor advised concentrating on the first half of the bill, which taken alone was a lot easier to decipher. According to Tudor, the “crux of the bill” is a four-tier program defining where septic systems are allowed. However, he said the bill was “packed full of all kinds of other stuff” as well.

What frightened Tudor the most about the bill was that it would force the county’s comprehensive plan to become “regulatory;” a first for Worcester.

“All of this amounts to condemnation through legislation,” said Commission President Bud Church of both bills. “The tower is leaning further every day.”

Shockley felt the same and asserted that Annapolis has steadily been chipping away at county autonomy for the last several years.

“It’s little by little by little,” he said.

Unfortunately, like previous bills unpopular on the shore, Shockley said that all Worcester can do is watch, wait, and make as much noise as possible, though the county doesn’t have the numbers to play a big factor in Annapolis decisions.

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Early voting begins for the 2012 Presidential Primary Election next weekend. The actual election day will be Tuesday, April 3 with the polls open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

For Worcester County, the early voting center will again be the Gull Creek Community. For Wicomico County residents, the Youth and Civic Center will be the site.

All centers will be opened from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on March 24 and March 26-29 and noon-6 p.m. on March 25.

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Heaven became a better place this week when Bill Rolig’s soul entered it. I have only known Bill for about six years, but it only takes a few minutes with him and his wife Deborah to know they are among the most genuine people you would ever want to meet. Bill lost his cancer battle this week, leaving many in this community with heavy hearts. It’s an understatement to say he will be missed, but his life should also be feted by all who knew him. This is a weekend of celebration on many fronts, featuring numerous tips of the glass. I think the Rolig family deserves a couple toasts while you are at it.

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