Cecil County DPW Hailed as “Heroes” for Irene Response; Commissioner Broomell Disses DPW on Road Code, Again

August 30, 2011

Scott Flanigan and his staff at the Cecil County Department of Public Works were declared “heroes” on Tuesday for their “relentless” work to deal with flooded roads and downed trees in the aftermath of tropical storm Irene. But even ‘hero’ status did not deter Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) from renewing an attack on the department and its handling of road code variances.

Richard Brooks, the county’s emergency services director, told Cecil County Commissioners Tuesday that the “heroes of the event are the road crews of DPW” and he recounted the department’s “relentless” pursuit of fallen trees blocking roads, closing off flooded roads to prevent motorists from getting swamped by floodwaters, and assisting emergency responders to get through to areas suffering storm damage. Brooks praised “the kick-butt crews” of DPW for their work.

Flanigan accepted the praise modestly, saying his tired crews—who stayed out on the roads even at the height of the storm—would appreciate the recognition. DPW crews also staffed the county’s water and sewage treatment plants, some of which lost power, and had to use tanker trucks to remove sewage and prevent overflows that could have posed a health problem.

But the commendations were short lived, as Broomell re-opened an effort to turn over decisions on variances from the county’s road code for new developments or construction to the County Commissioners, instead of the professional engineers at the DPW. There are no engineers on the elected board of commissioners.

Broomell launched her campaign at the August 2 commissioners’ worksession, at which she claimed that variances had been issued improperly or without proper review. Flanigan and Tim Whittie, chief of development services for the DPW, detailed the few variances that have been issued in recent years.

When Flanigan, a certified professional engineer and former U.S. Army engineer and management executive, took over the county job in 2006, there had already been a number of road variances approved and the total for the year was 16. But the numbers went down steadily, to 9 in 2007, 2 in 2008, none in 2009, 2 in 20010 and none so far this year.

Those figures showed that it was an erroneous “perception” by some people, whom Flanigan did not name, that the DPW was “giving out road code variances like Halloween candy.” He and Whittie gave detailed information on the standards and problems that can come up in reviewing road materials and construction.

At one point during the August 2 session, Flanigan grew visibly angry at suggestions by Broomell that less than professional standards were used to review variances. He pointed out that as a certified professional engineer his first and foremost “ethical” concern is public safety and “people’s lives” and that to do anything else could subject him to disciplinary action by professional licensing agencies.

“I hope you’re not taking this as a personal assault,” Broomell said at the time.

But Broomell renewed her campaign on Tuesday, saying that in the past the county commissioners made the final decision on road code variances but a past board shifted the decision to DPW. She said citizens should be able to make their case to the commissioners if they object to a development and its roads.

Some anti-growth groups have used road design issues and citizens’ refusal to grant easements as tools to try to block residential developments.

Flanigan took exception to what he said was her characterization that the DPW professionals were “sacrificing or putting at risk the safety” of citizens in favor of developers. “I find that highly offensive,” Flanigan said.

County Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) said “county commissioners have no clue” on such technical matters and, if left to their own devices, would probably make “political” decisions on individual cases. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” he said of the current system of DPW decisions, which are subject to appeal to the Circuit Court.

After two worksession meetings to discuss the issue, the commissioners again deferred any action after Commissioner James Mullin (R-1) said he wanted to “read the road code.”

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6 Responses to Cecil County DPW Hailed as “Heroes” for Irene Response; Commissioner Broomell Disses DPW on Road Code, Again

  1. Ed Burke on August 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Commissioner Broomell has become a “Good Ole Boy.’ A prior board took the appeal process away from commissioners and out of the political arena. Now she wants it to be decided by the “3 Amigos.” How convenient for them to be able to punish the SMIPKIN enemies and stifle economic development. Disgusting abuse of power.

  2. Scott Aro on August 31, 2011 at 2:07 am

    With the numbers of variances stated by Flanigan (I trust they are accurate), what is Broomell’s issue? What does she (or her cronies) have to gain by having these technical decisions made by politicians instead of the professionals trained in these matters? I applaud Flanigan for standing his ground and showing restraint – but suggest it may be time to take the gloves off with these political hacks who govern with personal agendas instead of working for their constituents.

    Broomell a conservative??? She should campaign as a Dem next time because the word is out on this wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  3. SchoolMarm on August 31, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Please: do not thrust Broomell onto the Democratic party. She is a Republican, ran as such and was elected as a Republican. In fact, do not portray any of the antics of this totally Republican board on the Democrats. Perhaps part of the blame lies with the voters who may not have done “due diligence” on the candidates in the last election.

    • Real GOP on August 31, 2011 at 9:42 am

      Kind SchoolMarm, Broomell is not a Republican but a SMIPKIN. She, along with Mullin and Dunn, have become the “3 Amigos,” aligned in carrying out the Smigiel /Pipkin vendettas. Unfortunately, they are damaged goods and continue to stain the Republican brand. Real Republicans need to unite in voting Mullin out of office in the next election. Any primary election candidates out there?

      • SchoolMarm on August 31, 2011 at 2:35 pm

        Regardless of her alignment within the Cecil County Republican Party, Broomell is a Republican–she ran as one and was elected as one. So are Smigiel and Pipkin. Sorry, but we all have crazed relatives and those are yours. Republicans all. And some find them, indeed, to be true Republicans.

  4. Joe C on September 3, 2011 at 6:16 am

    Yes,the DPW and Emergency Services personnel did a great job during the recent storm. I saw them patrolling my neighborhood several times during the storm looking for downed trees and flooded roads. We should be thankful that we have these high quality public servants.

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