Cecil County Commissioners Get Earful from Perryville Mayor, Dog Parents; Kilby Asks Farm $ Aid
It was a day for citizensâ€”and a mayor– to vent at the Cecil County Commissioners, even before the annual ritual of two budget hearings Tuesday afternoon and evening. And as the county faces daunting fiscal challenges, a local land preservation group sought a $600,000 loan from the county.
Commissioners steeled themselves for a long day and evening of citizen complaints on the budget, especially parents and educators upset about a $1.2 million cut in public schools funds and residents facing large increases in wastewater fees.
The day began with a worksession, at which the county and the town of Perryville continued their long-running feud over distribution of local impact aid from the stateâ€™s revenues from the new Hollywood Casino. The county had asked the town to sign an agreement providing for an accounting of how the townâ€™s share of aid funds is spent and specifying the term or duration of the accord.
But Perryville Mayor James Eberhardt fired back a letter a few days ago, refusing to sign the agreement and asserting that the town, not the county, could be viewed as the rightful recipient of the impact aid from casino revenues. (The county and the town signed an agreement before the casino opened providing that the county would get 65 percent of the aid and the town would get 35 percent.)
â€śThe County and the Town have a fundamental disagreement regarding the relationship between our two jurisdictions with respect to the entitlement and controlâ€ť of the local impact aid, the mayor wrote. He argued that state law is â€śsilentâ€ť on the definition of the â€ślocal jurisdictionsâ€ť entitled to impact aid from slots parlors and the town might be considered as the rightful recipient and administrator of the money from the state.
Eberhardt has been vocal for months on the impact aid distribution. The town has not yet received its share, despite what the mayor says are pressing needsâ€”including the hiring of two town police officersâ€”to respond to calls from the casino.
In his letter, the mayor fumed that the county â€śtreats the town as a government that is subservient to the county.â€ť Much of his letter cited legalisms asserting the rights of the town as an independent entity not subject to rules imposed by the county.
County Commissioners decided they would not accept the townâ€™s version of an agreement and pointed out that the county had fiduciary responsibility, verified by a state legal opinion, to account for how money from the state is spent. They decided to try again to meet with the town and its lawyer to smooth out the ruffled feathers.
â€śWe need to say no,â€ť said Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4), and let citizens know that the reason the town has not yet received its share of funds is the town governmentâ€™s refusal to sign a memo of understanding with the county.
But Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) said he thought that, despite the posturing, the town and county were â€śnot that far apart.â€ť He said ongoing talks could resolve the problems and â€śI donâ€™t think taking a take it or leave it attitudeâ€ť would settle the dispute.
Meanwhile, Bill Kilby, who heads the Cecil Land Trust, asked the commissioners to come up with $600,000 to pay for a farmland preservation easement on the â€śCarson propertyâ€ť that is a high priority for preservation in the Route 274 area. He said state and federal money would eventually reimburse â€śmostâ€ť of the costs but that the money would not be available for up to a year. He wanted the county to pay out the money so the easement purchase could go forward now.
But Hodge questioned the transaction, saying there was too little firm, written information on the proposal and precisely when the county would be reimbursed and for how much. Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) agreed, saying it might be a good project but more information was needed.
But Commissioner Board President James Mullin (R-1), who spoke in support of the project along with Commissioner Broomell, declared, â€śYouâ€™ve got three nods to proceedâ€ť although no formal vote was taken. Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3) had not said a word for or against the proposal. Mullin, Broomell and Dunn have become a three-vote bloc on many issues before the commissioners.
In other business, Hodge reported that the remaining members of an â€śanimal control task forceâ€ť that has worked for over two years to draft a revised animal control ordinance had recently come up with a new proposal. But the consensus plan presented last fall and heard at a public hearing in January was so drastically revised recently that it must be reviewed further and could not be put out for a new public hearing in its current form.
â€śI think weâ€™re going to get hammered at a public hearingâ€ť if the new proposal were to be presented to the public, he said.
Indeed, a handful of dog owners attended the session and one of them even tried to interrupt the commissioners until she was informed that her comments were out of order. After the formal worksession, Hodge informally met with members of the group.
Commissioner and other sources told Cecil Times that the county has received a large volume of calls and emails protesting the latest wholesale revisions that were initiated by Mindy Carletti, a Perryville veterinarian, and one other member of the task force.
Most of the former members of the task force have resigned, including its former chairman, and were not involved in the latest revisions. The remaining vice-chairman of the panel, Marian Hubbard, has appeared previously before the commissioners this year to say that Carletti had held meetings and made changes without informing other remaining members of the group of her actions.
Hodge said that the Carletti changes would mandate air-conditioning of kennels, force a host of mandatory vaccinations beyond the state-required rabies shot, and mandate all dogs have a microchip identification inserted by a vet into a dogâ€™s body, at the pet ownerâ€™s expense.
Dog advocates told Cecil Times after the meeting they were also concerned about the Carletti re-write that would mandate a â€śhobby kennelâ€ť license, with zoning review, for anyone with two dogs that they â€śshow.â€ť They said that rule could force a child marching in the annual Chesapeake City dog parade with two dogs in costumes to have such a license because the parade could be considered a dog â€śshow.â€ť
They also challenged language that would mandate spay/neuter of all dogs before they were sold or adopted and other language that would in effect ban any dog breeding in the county, even among family pets.
[Disclosure: The editor of Cecil Times has adopted two neutered dogs from the Cecil County SPCA and in the past served as an unpaid volunteer board member.]