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St. Mary's Commissioners acknowledge Health Week and address tax raise concerns

Leonardtown, MD – The St. Mary’s County Board of County Commissioners (SMC BOCC) gathered for their weekly meeting Tuesday, April 2, recognizing National Public Health Week and three other holidays for the month of April.

The commissioners invited members from the county’s health department, including Health Officer Dr. Meenakshi G. Brewster, for the Health Week proclamation.

“National Public Health Week (NPHW) isn’t only a time to reflect and honor the contributions of our team members, the health department, and public health in general. It’s really a time for us, at the health department, to recognize and honor our partners in public health,” Dr. Brewster explained.

The week consists of “daily themes” encompassing a variety of topics from Rural Health to Climate Change. The purpose of the week and its varying topics is to help local communities identify ways they can make a difference on each one, according to the NPHW website. The site adds that the "daily themes" are "critical to our future success in creating the healthiest nation," adding that "everyone can do their part to help."

One of these partners is the Southern Maryland Mission of Mercy (SoMD MOM) who has served the area since 2012. The organization was recognized by the SMC Health Department as the recipient of the “Public Health Champion Award.”

“It’s an extraordinary event that we are lucky to have here, serving our communities,” said Dr. Brewster as she was presenting the award. MOM began at the turn of the century in Virginia, spreading to Maryland in 2010 and Southern Maryland in 2012. Their most recent SoMD event was held last July (2018) at North Point High School, amassing 900 volunteers over a weekend to serve the community.

The other holidays that had proclamations were Fair Housing Month (month of April) – raises awareness of fair housing rights – and Equal Pay Day (Apr. 2) – A day for citizens of the county to recognize the value of women and people of color for their contributions to the workforce.

In addition to the proclamations, the commissioners allowed a motion to die that would have increased premiums for county employees’ health insurance, despite an estimated savings of $95,000. Commissioners Eric Colvin [R-District 1], Todd Morgan [R-District 4] and John O’Connor [R-District 3] each noted that the change would end up hurting county employees. Morgan stated that commissioners “strive to take care of [their] employees as best [they] can.” The commissioners unanimously decided to allow the motion to die.

The commissioners ended their meeting by discussing responses they’ve gotten to proposed tax increases. Commissioner Michael Hewitt [R-District 2] asked that delegates Matt Morgan [R-District 29A] and Jerry Clark [R-District 29C] attend the public forums/hearing on either April 9 or April 23 to “explain what to expect from the legislature this year.” The commissioner went on to say that the decision to increase taxes is a “tough” one but also “is not final.” He elaborated that the commission has “two more budget work sessions on May 7 and May 14” and ended by stating that he will not talk about the matter on social media but will be happy to speak over the phone. The contact information for all the county commissioners can be found on the county’s web site.

The commissioners will meet next Tuesday, April 9.

Contact Jerold Massie at staffwriter@thebaynet.com.

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