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Commissioners honor EMS professionals and foreshadow budget talks during meeting

Leonardtown, MD – The St. Mary’s County Commissioners met for their weekly meeting Tuesday, May 7, giving proclamations, drafting agendas for the next two weeks, and passing all four county administration items.

The meeting began with a proclamation declaring May Small Business Month, welcoming The Good Earth Company and Jordan Research and Development to be recognized as small businesses in the county. The two were presented with commendations from the commissioners, in addition to citations from the governor presented by Gretchen Hardman from the SoMD Intergovernmental Representative Governor’s Office.

The commissioners then had a proclamation declaring the week of May 19-25, 2019 EMS Week. Presented by District 3 commissioner John O’Connor [R], the proclamation seeks to honor the efforts of “these brave and competent men and women in saving human lives.” After reading off the proclamation, O’Connor stated that he wanted to amend a part that draws a distinction between “(EMS) professionals and volunteers.” The commissioner stated that “our volunteers are professionals and they do an outstanding job, so that ‘and’ in-between, we’re going to strike that.” Accepting the proclamation were Stephen Walker, director of Emergency Services; Chris Thompson, chief of Communications; and Gerald Gardiner, Emergency Management manager, among others. Walker closed by stating the county’s EMS does “a phenomenal job and that “every one of us depends on them.”

The last proclamation of the meeting was for National Older Americans Month, with Commissioner President Randy Guy [R] presenting. The May 2019 theme for Older Americans Month is “Connect, Create, Contribute.” Guy jested, stating “just respect your elders okay,” before reading the proclamation.

Before heading into County Administrator time, the Department of Land Use and Growth Management presented two Historic Preservation Service Awards. The Awards have been presented for the past 20 years during Historic Preservation Month (May). This year’s recipients are John P. Cook and Silas Hurry. Historical Preservation Planner Margaret Oliver presented the awards to the two for their very different achievements. Cook spent the past two years constructing a “Twenty-foot Sailing Log Canoe built in the Tilghman racing boat style.” The boat, named “Eve” is one of very few like it in the world according to Cook who also happens to be neighbors with commissioner Mike Hewitt [R-District 2]. Hurry’s award comes for working with the Historic St. Mary’s City Foundation in publishing a 52-page illustrated book entitled “Our towne we call St. Maries: Fifty Years of Research and Archaeology at Maryland’s First Capital.”

Aside from drafting agendas for the May 14 and 21 meetings, the commissioners had four items on the docket for county administrator time. These included a 20-year lease agreement on an overflow parking lot recently acquired by Quade Properties, a waterway improvement modification, a reconciliation for Harris Radio Maintenance, and a transportation grant application.

After the first two items unanimously passed with little to no hiccups, Commissioner O’Connor had questions for Steve Walker, director of the Department of Emergency Services in the county. The proposed amendment would “utilize” $86, 074 from the Commissioners’ Emergency Reserve to make up for costs contracted to the Harris Corporation for “radio Maintenance services.” O’Connor stated that in looking over the EMS budget he found “everything was appropriately funded for” and that had that money “moved forward, we wouldn’t be here right now.” Walker responded by stating that there was an issue with the billing cycle but reassured that the department is “going to be set in the future.” Walker added that “this [amendment] will take us where we need to be.” After questioning from Commissioner Colvin, Walker stated that “there were a lot of different pieces” to the problem. O’ Connor responded by requesting an “audit by finance of the last four years of where the money for this project went and how it went.”

The commissioners ended County Administrator time having passed all agenda items unanimously (4-0).

The commissioners foreshadowed what was to come during their budget meeting later Tuesday evening, with Commissioner Hewitt kicking off the pre-budget talk. “What I said last week is that I can’t support tax increases… this week I took a lot of time and went through our county expenditures.” Hewitt stated that he was able to “identify approximately $4.6 million in reductions” with the help of county CFO Jeannett Cudmore and finance. He stated that he planned on proposing a new budget during the work session.

Commissioner Colvin responded Hewitt stating, “The budget we’re working with now is a budget that every member of this board sitting up here helped to put together. I was a little surprised when Commissioner Hewitt decided to send a letter to the newspapers and do a 180 reverse course.” Colvin pulled a quote from the end of his letter that read, ‘only by everyone working together can we solve our common challenges and continue to make St. Mary’s County better for all its citizens.’

Commissioner Morgan used part of his time to point out that the commissioners’ “revenue ordinance says we have to have a finalized budget by the end of May,” giving the commissioners just a few weeks should they start over from scratch.

Hewitt ended his Commissioners’ Time by announcing that his family will be growing by one more grandchild in five months, adding to the four he has currently.

Contact Jerold at staffwriter@thebaynet.com.

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