Broomell Disses State Transit Visitors at Cecil County Council; Another Black Eye for County’s Image, Decorum
A team of state transit officials trekked to Elkton Tuesday to meet, yet again, with Cecil County officials about a proposed MARC train maintenance yard that would bring 90 jobs to the county and tie in to future plans to extend the commuter train line to Elkton—but before the visitors barely opened their mouths, County Councilor Diana Broomell (R-4) was hurling insults.
Diane Ratcliff, director of the planning office of the Maryland Transit Administration, brought along a detailed PowerPoint presentation to illustrate her remarks, and Broomell complained she should have been given a copy of it in advance. Ratcliff then announced that a planned “open house” community meeting to discuss the project had been postponed from June until the fall, due to delays in federal transit officials’ reviews of the plan—setting off Broomell to claim the delay was intentional.
“This is all playing into your hands,” Broomell declared. “You’re having back door meetings…back room dealing and pushing through a project.”
“She is our guest here,” said Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1) “Listen to her.”
“Let’s listen to what they have to say,” added Council President Robert Hodge (R-5). “We haven’t heard anything yet.”
“This is outrageous,” Broomell retorted.
When the rhetoric cleared, Ratcliff explained that the MTA could not release all the details of the draft plan until it had been approved by federal officials, who could require changes since the project will receive federal funds. The open meeting was delayed so that citizens could have all the details of an authorized proposal, not preliminary data that might be changed later, she said.
The MARC train yard, which would be used primarily for storage, washing and basic maintenance of rail cars, would be located on land adjacent to the North East Corridor Amtrak rail line, and immediately across the tracks from the huge IKEA commercial warehouse complex. The property is also bordered by Route 7 and Principio Furnace road.
Ratcliff outlined the detailed site selection process that led to the Perryville area site, noting it had the fewest environmental issues or impacts on local communities of the many sites that were reviewed. And state transportation officials wanted the rail car storage facility to be located east of the Susquehanna River in anticipation of the much delayed extension of the MARC commuter rail line from Perryville to Elkton.
That prompted Broomell, yet again, to attack fellow Council members, saying she had not been included in meetings of transit officials with the County Executive in the past. And while one would “hope” that a “majority of the Council” would act “in the best interests of the citizens,” she intoned, “their pattern of behavior so far would suggest otherwise.”
In fact, Ratcliff and other MTA officials met with the full Council several months ago to brief them on the project. Ratcliff also outlined a series of meetings with individual homeowners in the area who had concerns about the project.
Ratcliff outlined design features such as land berms to mute noise and landscaping that would make the facility all but invisible along Route 7. Construction of the facility in two phases would focus on the site’s proximity to the existing rail tracks at the back of the site. The tentative schedule for the project calls for construction in 2017, with operations beginning in 2019.
Broomell then demanded that the MTA “commit on paper” to reserving 75 percent of the jobs for Cecil County residents—to which Ratcliff said the agency could not make such a guarantee. And Broomell ended up her outbursts where she began, protesting the delay of the open house meeting with the community for several months.
“Why, Why…that’s not an adequate answer,” she wailed.
“You’re out of order,” Hodge told her, hitting his gavel for order.
As the state officials left the meeting, the shell-shocked looks on their faces told the tale that, increasingly, is being told in Annapolis and in the corridors of state agencies: expect a hostile and rude reception from one Cecil County Council member whenever they venture to the county to discuss an issue or propose bringing jobs and investment to the county, etc.