Fenwick Okays Charter Change To Increase Borrowing Limit

FENWICK ISLAND – Officials in Fenwick Island last week approved on second reading a charter change that would allow the town to increase its short-term borrowing limit.

In a meeting last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council agreed to increase the town’s borrowing limit from $500,000 to 5 percent of the total assessed value of all non-tax-exempt real property located in the municipality.

Fenwick officials said increasing the borrowing limit would benefit the town in emergency situations and improve antiquated borrowing limits.

Bill Weistling, chair of the town’s charter and ordinance committee, said the $500,000 borrowing limit had been in Fenwick Island’s charter since the town was incorporated in the 1950s. Increasing the borrowing limit to 5 percent of the total assessed value of town property equates to nearly $1.7 million.

While the council agreed the proposed charter change would make more money readily available in emergency situations, such as a natural disaster, for example, some disagreed with how the charter change was written.

Councilwoman Julie Lee argued the charter change failed to limit borrowing to emergency situations and made a motion to amend the charter change to require a supermajority vote.

“I know in the past when money has been borrowed the council has been in agreement on this and that is good …,” she said. “However, we don’t know what the make-up of the council will be in the future and it would be, in my opinion, prudent to make sure the supermajority … is in agreement with this type of borrowing, which is why I am proposing we change the wording.”

Councilman Richard Mais spoke against Lee’s motion.

“I think that a majority is sufficient if we need to do some short-term borrowing,” he said. “If it was an emergency situation, it might be possible that some of our out-of-town council members cannot be present for a vote.”

Councilmen Bernie Merritt and Gardner Bunting agreed.

“We’ve been doing this since 1955 … and we didn’t need a supermajority,” Merritt said. “So I think it should stay the same.”

Councilman Roy Williams, however, sided with Lee.

“Anything over $500,000 I would like to see a supermajority,” he said.

After further discussion, the council voted 5-2 and the motion failed.

The decision was immediately followed by a 6-1 vote to approve the charter change.

Williams remained against the charter change while Lee agreed to support the second reading.

“I vote yes, but with reservation,” Lee said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.