The Bridges of Cecil County: Deja vu Do-Overs

August 15, 2012

News Analysis

If you were going to write a Cecil County version of the saccharine popular romantic novel, “The Bridges of Madison County,” it would be more like a rather tedious historical novel, full of the same places and the same characters, doing and saying the same things over and over but at least one character thinking the ending might somehow change.

Just when you thought you had finally heard the last of the decades-old saga of the long defunct Mill Lane bridge in Earleville, Cecil County Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) declared Tuesday that she wants to consider its resurrection from the collapsed concrete. (No matter that previous commissioners and state and federal officials nixed a costly bridge rebuild years ago and Broomell herself voted a few weeks ago to proceed with steps to remove the last bridge debris and remove Mill Lane from the county’s bridge list forever.)

And just when you thought the commissioners, including Broomell, had finally made a decision a few weeks ago to replace the fallen Old Elk Neck bridge but not do anything for now about safety issues on approach roads, suddenly Broomell wants to re-visit the issue. That’s despite the fact that it was her instigation of attacks on “the bridge to nowhere” that had halted roadwork in the first place.

And just when you thought that Broomell had stopped free-lancing in public without advance support from fellow commissioners—after her free-lancing at the state Public Service Commission against the Artisian water plants sale that ended up costing taxpayers a tidy sum in legal fees—enter Broomell at a North East town council meeting, cutting a potential deal with Mayor Robert McKnight. She said the county could kick in some bucks to fix a small local bridge that serves the family business of a town council member and political ally of the mayor.

(OH, by the way, that political ally is married to the man who lost the GOP primary in April to incumbent Commissioner Robert Hodge, R-5, Broomell’s perpetual target of political attack.)

Only in Cecil County. (In the fictional Madison County, the focus was really love, not bridges—or politics.)

Near the end of Tuesday’s commissioners’ worksession, Broomell declared that she wanted to re-open consideration of action on the three bridges “just to research our options.”

That drew a quick, sharp response from Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2), who said she was “surprised” to learn that Broomell had “appeared to unilaterally make an offer” to North East officials to kick in county money to the repair costs of the local bridge. “What gives you the authority to act on behalf of the commissioners and make an offer,” Moore inquired. “I believe you put the cart before the horse in this matter,” Moore said.

“I was elected by the citizens,” Broomell responded. “If this is a concern of mine, I need to pursue it.”

Moore countered that the county’s capital improvement plan is formulated in a deliberative process–with engineering, traffic studies and cost input from the Department of Public Works and prioritization based on available funds and transportation needs. That process is “done in a very non-political manner,” Moore said, adding that Broomell’s approach to bridge issues has been “done in a very political manner.”

Broomell then put her own political spin on the bridges of Cecil County: “It seems it is being driven by commissioners who are living in the area,” she declared.

Moore interjected that Broomell’s repeated veiled but unsubstantiated allegations against fellow commissioners were “completely unacceptable” and dared her to file a complaint with the county Ethics Commission if she thinks anyone has behaved improperly.

Commissioners’ board president James Mullin (R-1) perked up at that, hitting his gavel and raising one hand toward the combatants, saying, “I’m going to ask you to stop…. Time out.” (Perhaps the commissioners’ meeting room in Elkton should be equipped with a kiddies time out chair, in the corner and away from the grownups?)

Eventually, and as usual, Mullin caved to Broomell’s demands and said he would schedule a meeting of commissioners to discuss the bridge priorities. Moore and Hodge said they had no objection to spending still more hours re-hashing the bridge issues that have consumed many hours of talk and deliberation all year. (And also as usual, Commissioner Michael Dunn, R-3, was silent.)

Broomell has had an evolving position on the Old Elk Neck bridge project, which has been on the county’s priority list for years and engineering study expenditures were included in the capital improvement budget approved by commissioners last year.

This year—coincidentally while she was running as a candidate for County Executive in the April Republican primary—she attacked the bridge project itself and ancilliary costs for access road and intersection improvements. She and her supporters attacked it as “a bridge to nowhere,” a moniker that upset the many residents of Elk Neck who thought they were someone and lived somewhere.

(Cue up the legendary Moody Blues song, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” for the soundtrack to the movie version of The Bridges of Cecil County.)

On her campaign website/blog, Broomell declared that she hoped the Elk Neck bridge would be “remove (d) … altogether” from the capital budget. (Broomell lost the April primary to Moore.)

The project was put on hold in the capital budget for the current budget year. Broomell subsequently said she had been misunderstood and that she didn’t oppose reinstating the bridge itself but it was the access road and intersection work and costs that concerned her.

(Cue up the ‘60’s group, the Animals, song—“I’m just a soul who’s in search of the good; Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood”– for the soundtrack.)

Then, on 7/31/12, the commissioners voted 3-1 to proceed with a scaled-back version of the bridge replacement alone, turning a deaf ear to public works officials concerns that the project should include some safety improvement to access roads to the bridge. Broomell voted no, saying while she now supported replacement of the bridge she thought it should be a narrower, cheaper bridge. (Hodge abstained from the vote since he lives nearby.)

At that session, the commissioners refused to support improvements to access roads, with Broomell leading the charge against the $1.7 million project. But on Tuesday she said she now wanted to consider possible access road alternatives.

Then there is the infamous Mill Lane bridge in Earleville. Frankly, Cecil Times has written so much about this true ‘bridge to nowhere’ that we are just so tired of beating a dead horse once again that we will refer you to a special report on the issue we researched and published over a year ago, here:

Readers will note that the commissioners, including Broomell, let a proposal by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) die in the neck-high weeds of the Mill Lane stream because it would have required the county to assume ownership of adjoining land and responsibility for a parking lot and boat ramp that the group wanted to install there. Even that failed proposal did not include replacement of the actual bridge, which was wiped out in 1999 by Hurricane Floyd.

We thought this dead horse had finally been granted a decent burial a few weeks ago, when the county commissioners—including Broomell—agreed in mid-July to put out a request for bids to finally remove the remaining bridge debris from the stream and stabilize the embankments that are sliding into the stream and depositing sediment that is polluting Scotchman’s Creek that feeds into the Bay.

In doing so, no one sought to resurrect the long abandoned concept of replacing the old bridge and public works director Scott Flanigan advised commissioners that the stream project—expected to cost $250,000 or less—would finally remove the defunct bridge forever from the county’s official bridge list.

[SEE detailed Cecil Times report here: ]

But suddenly, Broomell resurrected the concept of a Mill Lane bridge on Tuesday for re-consideration. She included it with the other bridges as being advocated by fire and public safety officials.

That may come as a surprise to the two local fire companies serving the area. Hack’s Point VFD is located on one side of the small stream and Cecilton’s firehouse is a short distance away on the Route 213 side of the stream. And local access around the stream is readily available via New Cut Road, off Mill Lane.

Broomell claimed that the ESLC told her they might have some grant money available for a Mill Lane project. She did not elaborate, and appeared to be unaware that an ESLC proposal had been made, and dropped by the commissioners, more than a year ago.

She also included Mill Lane indirectly in her attacks on other commissioners. Former Commissioner William Manlove lives adjacent to the stream and has said he opposed replacing the bridge due to the exorbitant costs, not because of its proximity to his home.

State and federal officials reviewing the project over the years have also opposed bridge replacement as too costly for too little traffic served, and declined to provide money for bridge construction.

So now the county commissioners will spend more time revisiting decisions they made just a few weeks ago.

So let’s re-wind the videotape. Soon to be playing on a creaky, hissing old VCR tape in Elkton: The Bridges of Cecil County. Don’t expect any romance—or Clint Eastwood—in this version.

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13 Responses to The Bridges of Cecil County: Deja vu Do-Overs

  1. Ron Lobos on August 16, 2012 at 8:35 am

    In reference to decisions on bridge maintenance, it was embarassing to hear Commissioner Broomell say, “It seems to be driven by commissioners who are living in the area.” I feel it is Commissioner Mullin’s job to put an end to this type of hate mongering rhetoric that continues to come from the mouth of Ms. Broomell.

    The agenda that Broomell continues to pursue appears to be her own. She continues to follow her own drummer as she breaks away from the other commissioners in pursuit of her own special interests. Broomell said she was elected by the citizens and feels that if it is a concern of hers, she needs to pursue it. Ms. Broomell needs to realize that she has lost touch with the people of Cecil County.

    How quickly she forgets that when she ran for County Executive, 83% of the people eligible to vote for her decided to vote for someone else. Wake up, Commissioner Broomell: the writing is on the wall.

  2. RuKidding on August 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    I’m so happy you are back from vacation! Cecil County News just isn’t the same without you. :)

  3. Al Reasin on August 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    For those interested in seeing the work session. Mr Sammons has videoed it and placed it here:

    Besides the mentioned actions by Commissioner Broomell concerning unilateral actions, she had a lawyer review the Artesian contract without the lawyer’s actions being approved by the other commissioners. The fee of $1200 (some have said it was more) was paid for by Cecil County taxpayers, since board President Mullin approved the bill. The lawyer was eventually hired, but not at the time Commissioner Broomell had him review the contract.

    The point is that the proper process was not followed, making the lawyer’s fee prior to his hiring by the board, Commissioner Broomell’s personal responsibilty.

  4. Natalie Scheeler Ricci on August 18, 2012 at 8:08 am

    I think the voters and the two commissioners actually working on behalf of the citizens of this County need to file ethics violations against Ms. Broomell. Either that or order up a psyche evaluation. Either way, she obviously has problems that go way beyond her sheer lack of comprehension of anything remotely related to governing with a conscience and/or with a brain!!!!

  5. Broomless 2014 on August 19, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Broomell’s yarns are getting tiresome. She now claims that she attended the North East town meeting as a private citizen. Then why offer a deal to accept money from the town toward a county bridge replacement project?

    She constantly attacks “special interests” –yet she ignores the fact that North East town Commissioner Crothers-Moore’s family business has the most to gain from the bridge replacement. (Crothers-Moore’s husband ran against, and lost to, Commissioner Hodge in the primary election for County Council.)

    Developers are Broomell’s primary targets, yet she now courts Mayor McKnight, who received most of his campaign contributions when he ran, and lost, for County Executive, from out of county developers and companies who would benefit from favorable treatment by the town.

    She presents herself as the Ethics Queen, yet is constantly caught fabricating “facts” and misrepresenting the views and positions of others. Her theme song should be ‘My Way.’

  6. Larry on August 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Thanks, Cecil Times, for this very informational material. I can’t believe Commissioner Broomell would re-open actions, like the Mill Lane bridge that everyone agrees is a dumb idea that would cost millions for no benefit to the public. Or maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at her crass political actions. What an incredible waste of taxpayer money this would be, and even the environmental agencies say it would be a bad idea!

  7. Erin on August 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    I can appreciate good writing however, bias and emotional writing should not be set as factual writing. The rendition of the Rolling Mill Lane bridge is incomplete. Commission Broomell did attend a town meeting for North East, however thanked Mayor McKnight for the offer of the bridge but made no other comment. Also the article left out that the public works of the area and the emergency services asked for replacement of the bridge. More than one business resides on Rolling Mill including access to Amtrax tracks and the North East Water Plant. Also, a petition was presented with at least 2oo, and counting, names of people asking for the replacement of the bridge. The replacement of the bridge started before Commissioner Crothers-Moore was elected, as a side note.

  8. Rachel on August 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I would like to say that the article does not state that this is a COUNTY bridge. The town of North East should not even have to offer money towards the bridge to try and get it replaced. I was at the town meeting that Broomell had attended. At no point did she agree or accept any deals regarding the replacement of the Rolling Mill Brige. She gathered information that the town had about the bridge which included many pages of a petition signed by county residents who want the bridge back. Also, the family business of Commissioner Crothers-Moore is not the only business on Rolling Mill. There are four other commercial properties on that road, one of which is the town water plant. A few years ago there was a leak at the water plant and hazmat and emergency vehicles were called in for containment and clean-up. The emergency vehicles blocked the road from the North Main St Ext. side of Rolling Mill lane, effectively blocking any travel in or out of the street for businesses and residents of Rolling Mill. At the meeting, it was stated that the missing bridge effects emmergency response. The police department stated that the missing bridge effects their response times to their calls. The fire company was also in favor of the bridge replacement (which was stated in previous talks about the bridge). There is obvious need and want for this bridge from more than one buisness and the residents of Rolling Mill. I do not see why Commissioner Broomell should be under verbal attack for attending the North East town meeting and suggesting that the bridge be under consideration.

  9. Cecil Times on August 22, 2012 at 10:42 am

    (Editor’s note: We welcome comments from people on all sides of an issue. For our other readers’ information, the commenters Erin and Rachel, posted their comments from the same IP address. So they are the same person or share a computer.)

    • Ron Lobos on August 23, 2012 at 2:47 am

      The comments by both Erin and Rachel seem to be a well orchestrated effort, possibly by Broomell herself, to establish damage control for just one more bad decision to bypass the already made decisions by other commissioners. Add one more do-over to the list.

      • Erin on August 25, 2012 at 9:11 am

        Wow. Really? No, I am not Broomell. And yes, we do work in the same office. There are people out there with a different opinion.

    • Amy on August 26, 2012 at 9:43 pm

      Wow. Great detective work. Guess you’ve never had to wait in line for a library computer. I’m sure hundreds of people use that IP in a week.

  10. meg on August 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    …. Broomell needs to get a clue. I cannot wait to vote her and her cronies out on their behinds. I have had enough of the self-serving and immature antics. I am sure there are plenty of other voters out there who feel the same way. Days are numbered for the Three Amigos and their friends.

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