Cecil County Commish: Broomell Wears Many Hats but DPW, Artesian Say She Throws Hats in Rings Where They Do Not Belong
Cecil County Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) has acquired quite a wardrobe of hats during her year as an elected officialâ€”ethics law expert, drug addiction treatment program reviewer, zoning arbitrator, road code variance decider, and quipper in chief when other commissioners challenge her expertise. On Tuesday, she donned two new chapeaux: road deed inspector and mediator/expediter of private business negotiations.
What began as a routine county acceptance of a deed for transfer of a road from a developer to county ownership turned into a lengthy personal, philosophical and legal discussion. Several roads in the Chesapeake Club development were scheduled for transfer but Broomell questioned why the proposal was being offered as an item for â€śapprovalâ€ť by the commissioners without first being offered as an â€śintroductoryâ€ť item on the agenda to be followed up on as an â€śactionâ€ť agenda item two weeks later.
Broomell said â€śway back whenâ€ť she and other citizens would go out and inspect such roads and report any concerns to the county Department of Public Works and she wanted to retain such an option as a matter of â€śchecks and balancesâ€ť on the work of DPW.
DPW Director Scott Flanigan, who is a certified professional engineer, responded in detail on the multiple inspections his department conducts, from reviewing plans, to inspecting during construction, to final inspections and engineering reviews before recommending that the county accept a road for inclusion into the county road system.
As Broomell persisted in her demands, Flanigan countered, â€śwhat it sounds like is you donâ€™t have confidenceâ€ť in the work of DPW â€śand you intend to have a citizen corps go out and inspectâ€ť roads.
Broomell shot back, â€śIt sounds like you donâ€™t like the question.â€ť
Flanigan stood his ground, saying it was â€śimportant for you to knowâ€ť that Broomellâ€™s repeated challenges of DPW decisions and operating procedures have an â€śeffectâ€ť on â€śthe morale of the staff of the Department of Public Works.â€ť
For months, Broomell has been waging a battle against current county procedures for road code variances and trying to make all variances subject to review and revision by the County Commissioners. Current law provides for review by the professional engineers of DPW, with the Circuit Court as an appeal option for persons unhappy with DPW decisions on the very few road code variances that have been issued since Flanigan took over DPW about six years ago.
But Flanigan said Tuesday he didnâ€™t care if it was a two step process for the road deed transfers, although property owners could be upset at delays in transfer of road deeds since if there was a snowstorm, the developer would be responsible for plowing the roads while county takeover was delayed.
Broomell backpedaled a bit on the rhetoric, saying, â€śI understand that you run a tight ship.â€ť
County Attorney Norman Wilson stepped in, saying that most other items on the commissionersâ€™ agenda are done in a two-step processâ€”introduced at one meeting and voted upon at another subsequent meetingâ€”so perhaps deed acceptance for roads or other infrastructure should be a two-step process, too. So the commissioners decided that in the future such road deed transfers would be handled in a two-step approval process.
Meanwhile, Broomell stepped up to the mirror and donned yet another hat, tilting it
to the left by placing on the commissionersâ€™ agenda a private dispute between the Clark Turner development company, which is building the major Charlestown Crossing housing development in the countyâ€™s growth corridor, and the private Artesian Resources which is providing the water infrastructure to the project.
The lack of public infrastructure in the growth corridor has been an obstacle to economic development in the area and the Charlestown Crossing planned unit development complex could not have gone forward without Artesian water services.
Dan Whitehurst, an executive with Clark Turner, lamented that his project had to pay hefty â€śupfrontâ€ť costs per unit on hookups for water services but added that Artesian was now negotiating with his company on the issue. Broomell said she had placed the issue on the commissionersâ€™ agenda a week ago and as a result Artesian was recently willing to discuss the matter with the developer.
(Broomell was the leading opponent of the contract to sell four county sewage plants to Artesian and her activism led to the collapse of the contract several months ago. As a result, the county and taxpayers will now face major costs of updating aging sewage plants to meet state and federal environmental mandates, with no provision for expansion of sewage service into the growth corridor which would have been handled by the private Artesian.)
Shaking her head, Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) said, â€śThe county is not the parentâ€ť and should not be put in the middle of â€śnegotiating between two private companies.â€ť
Dian Taylor, CEO of Artesian, said she was shocked and surprised that the commissioners had gotten involved in private business negotiations. â€śThis is the first time we have encounteredâ€ť such â€śnegotiations before an elected body like this.â€ť And she said it was â€śnot correctâ€ť and â€śunfairâ€ť to â€śinsinuate he had to come hereâ€ť to the commissioners to get Artesianâ€™s ear on the private contract issue since â€ślogsâ€ť and other records showed there were ongoing discussions between Clark Turner and Artesian on the matter.
Taylor pointed out that the Maryland Department of the Environment required Artesian to provide proof of double capacity for water service before permits are issued: if 100 units are to be built, Artesian must build the infrastructure to provide water capable of serving 200 units. Such regulatory demands increase the costs to Artesian to provide service to the development, she said, adding that in Delaware the regulatory burdens are half of what they are in Maryland.
Commissioner James Mullin (R-1) said that all parties could work together to resolve issues and that perhaps the county could help in urging the MDE to reduce its regulatory burdens.
At the end of the day, Broomell seemed to put her cap back in its hatbox, perhaps to be dusted off and donned another day.