In recent letters to the editor, Mr. Ted Elder, president of the Worcester County Bus Contractors Association, has taken exception with the actions of the Worcester County Board of Education (WCBE).
While it is not my habit to debate public policy in this forum, I am compelled to do so as Mr. Elder has impugned the integrity of the staff and administration of the WCBE. Although he magnanimously offers a history lesson, it is he who clearly needs to be taken to school.
First, Mr. Elder asserts that the bus contractors have a legal right to operate a bus for 15 years. The law actually provides that the useful life of a school bus may be extended from 12 to 15 years. The operative word here is … may. The school board may vote to extend the bus’s serviceable years from 12-15 years.
It is true that the WCBE did not request this legislation. However, since its enactment, the WCBE has never voted to reject a contractor’s request to extend the service when that school bus was originally placed into service in Worcester County as a new bus. To infer that we are taking punitive action is egregiously disingenuous.
Recently the WCBE turned down requests by a few contractors who want to place used buses in service that have "aged" out in areas of the state that only allow for 12 years of use. Our reasoning is simple, the WCBE does not want to have a fleet of aging buses driving our students over 1.5 million miles a year on our roadways. If we are going to extend a bus’s useful life, it should be with those buses that we have full knowledge of it repair history, not the cast offs from other counties.
As if this misrepresentation of these facts is not enough, Mr. Elder purports his underlying concern to be with the taxpayers of Worcester County. If that were indeed the case, why would he have advocated a budget increase next year in the per vehicle allotment and the mileage reimbursement paid to Worcester County bus contractors. The WCBE rejected his request.
Our school bus drivers are well paid and some of the finest and dedicated individuals you will ever meet. They deserve to be paid well, because after all, we entrust them with the lives of our children.
Unfortunately the leadership of their association seems to be misguided as to what really is important — the safety of our students. Under a veil of saving taxpayer money, clearly Mr. Elder is advocating for the opportunity to purchase inexpensive used buses in order to receive a higher rate of return on his investment. However, that business model does not work when you consider that it is our investment, our children, that he is being paid to transport.
Robert A. Rothermel, Jr.
(The writer is the WCBE’s vice president.)
Most Vulnerable Will Be Hurt By Cuts
Editor: Over the past few weeks, we have been watching the debates rage in Congress over our budget. Most of the nation is waiting to see what is going to be cut because we will all be affected.
I am personally concerned about the upcoming vote because it seems likely that they cuts are going to affected poverty-reduction programs, both at home and abroad, that will place the burden on the most vulnerable people in our country and community.
I believe that our budget is essentially a moral document because it reveals our country’s priorities. The budget cut will tell us, as a nation, who and what is important, and who and what are not.
Congress should oppose increases in military spending, where the US spends 56 percent of the world’s military budget, more than the military budgets of the next 20 countries in the world combined.
Instead, Congress should support programs that support healthcare, family nutrition, education and international aid that truly saves lives. If Congress wants to reduce our deficit, then it should cut military spending and corporate subsides to big business and end corporate tax loopholes. I will be an advocate for the poor and vulnerable and I pray the rest of my community and nation will be advocates as well.
Whitney Palmer Bishopville
Elected Officials Do Care
My wife Josephine and I own the Atlantic House Bed & Breakfast at 501 North Baltimore Ave. in Ocean City and recently had an issue with construction on our street.
The problem looked like it would take a familiar course until I contacted Margaret Pillas and Brent Ashley. They in turn called Jim Hall. Together they were able to halt what would have happened and found a solution that the city and we could live with.
I hope you print this letter as a testament to all who have dismissed our government as unresponsive. Brent and Margaret dropped by the house on Saturday 24 hours after I contacted them and Jim followed on Presidents Day.
The public needs to be receptive to solutions that are presented by elected officials who care. Working together people can get things accomplished.
Sheriff Updates Citizens
(The following letter was addressed to Worcester County residents and a request to publish sent to this paper.)
I have been in office as your Sheriff for three months. As your Sheriff, I ride our county roads everyday and sometimes at night. One day a week when possible I leave the office and patrol the county the entire day, always looking at ways to better serve and make you safe.
In December 2010 I was sworn in as your sheriff. I immediately appointed my Chief Deputy J. Dale Smack and Operations Officer Colonel Doug Dods, two outstanding individuals and leaders.
I then met with my command staff about promotions in our agency. Promotions can be very difficult when you have so many good deputies and very few openings. I am blessed to have outstanding employees sworn and civilian.
In January, two Sergeants were promoted to Lieutenant, Lt. Andy McGee and Lt. Eddy Schreier. With these promotions, I am able to have someone in command until 3 a.m. in the morning and sometimes later. Previously, when command staff went off duty at 5 p.m., to speak with command you had to wait until the next morning. With the opening of slots at Ocean Downs, a commander is to maintain the impact it has on our county and see if we need to address any issues.
Detective Sergeant Nate Passwaters was promoted. He is in charge of the Criminal Enforcement Team (narcotics, tobacco, high profile criminals). Team members are; the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, ATF, Feds, Virginia State Police, Accomack County Sheriff’s Office, and just recently the Ocean City Police Department and the Maryland State Police have also joined with us. Having these agencies all working together to cross state lines and throughout our county targeting drug dealers is outstanding. Many arrests have been made and more will come.
Promoted to Sergeant, Matt Crisafulli our DARE Deputy assigned to our schools to teach the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and bullying of other students. More programs are being looked at by our School Resource Deputies, as we are reaching out to our students to be more productive in school and be model students.
Three deputies were promoted to Corporal. Corporal Katie Edgar who now is in charge of our K-9 program, Corporal Bethany Ramey who is a member of our CET and Corporal Lisa Maurer who is part of our Civil Division, as well as our agency Quarter Master. All of these promotions will better serve the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and our County. Later this year more promotions are expected.
With retirements this past year, I have hired four new trainee/Deputy Sheriff’s, two from Pocomoke, one from Snow Hill, and one from Somerset County and they will graduate in June from the Police Academy. I want to give our young people the opportunity to begin their career with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and hopefully they will end their career with us. With retirements and the new positions, this is a savings in our budget. A new policy that I have enacted is- anyone I hire fulltime residing outside of Worcester County has one year to relocate here, in order to have a take home vehicle.
I have hired a retired Worcester County Sheriff Captain part time to manage our evidence room. This position was being held by a full time Lieutenant. This is another huge savings in our budget and frees up time for the full-time Lieutenant to handle other duties. I have hired a retired Detective/Maryland State Trooper to work in the child advocacy center on crimes that are committed on our children. This detective worked many years in this field and we are very fortunate to have him on board. This position is funded by a grant and will cover costs of salary, vehicle, and equipment.
I have assigned two part-time deputies to our sex offender program. We have reached a high of eighty four and that figure is going to increase with new laws coming in effect. We constantly monitor these individuals where they live and their work place.
More bars and stores will be checked throughout our county to make sure they are not selling alcohol or tobacco to minors. I expect businesses to train their employees to look for false Id’s.
At one time we provided court security for only two courts, today we provide coverage for seven courts, plus our Government Center. The part timers handling these duties do an outstanding job.
We recently met with the county on our budget for 2011-2012. We have been told not to ask for any additional money in the new budget. We will honor that request and our budget committee has shuffled money around in accounts to cover other accounts. Using our part time deputies in different roles and reassignments of full time deputies makes our agency better. I will continue to look at ways to make our county a safer place.
Meetings are being set up throughout the county for residents to come and voice their concerns.
Please be a voice for your community. If you see any suspicious activity, give us a call. Be involved for a safer county.
This past week our agency honored retired Sheriff Charles T. Martin at the Grand Hotel in Ocean City. Many of his relatives, friends and law enforcement attended this event to honor Sheriff Martin for 16 years of outstanding service to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and our residents. We will certainly miss him.
Reggie T. Mason
(The writer is the Sheriff of Worcester County.)