The St. Mary’s Board of County Commissioners has been busy in recent weeks, working through the 2012 budget. With talk of fiscal woes at the state level and recent confirmation that St. Mary’s experienced the highest population growth rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the commissioners have focused on finding efficiencies while keeping up with project to accommodate the additional residents.
In its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 15, the board followed up on actions previously taken in recent weeks to move ahead with the Loffler Center Rebuild Project. County Chief Financial Officer Elaine Kramer explained the county has been working closely with FEMA and its insurance provider LGIT to make sure the building has several structural improvements implemented, to avoid future damages similar to those cause by the heavy snow storm in Feb. of last year.
The board also approved a budget realignment to cover recent increases in costs for unemployment compensation. Commissioner Todd Morgan suggested the expense may be related to the 52-week unemployment benefits extension, while Commissioner Jarboe reminded that the private sector was experiencing these extra costs as well.
Finance Deputy Director Jeanett Cudmore explained the county exceeded their budgeted amount for unemployment expenses last year by $19,000 and expected slight increases in the near future.
The board also opted to abolish the Development Review Forum, finding, according to the motion, “a more efficient manner by outreach efforts of St. Mary’s County government.” The forum model consisted of more government than private sector participation, Land Use and Growth Management Director Derick Berlage said, adding, “good communication with the development community [is a key] customer service component.”
The review forum is intended to be replaced by less-frequent, more public meetings with more, diversified participation. Berlage commented that DECD’s business roundtable series is an example of effectively reaching out to the business community and the larger meetings would be beneficial in planning, land use and community issues.
Commissioner Cindy Jones reiterated the call for public input, encouraging citizens to come out for public forums. “Help us make an affective feedback loop,” she urged.
Many such opportunities to do just that are coming up, as the board has scheduled public hearings the first Tuesday of each month, beginning March 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the Chesapeake Building.
A public hearing by the Planning Commission, concerning amendments to the Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan, and particularly the expansion of the Leonardtown wastewater treatment facility’s capacity through the land application of treated wastewater by spray or drip irrigation systems, is set for Monday, Feb. 28.
One area selected for this type of wastewater recycling is the Hayden Property, where many public facilities may be built, including the planned new elementary school. LUGM reports that all requirements should be met without obstacles and that an economic feasibility study on the treatment facility’s expansion is underway, funded jointly by the County and the town of Leonardtown.
To learn more about the use of spray or drip irrigation with treated effluent, and its potential environmental benefits, click here for an in-depth look at recycling wastewater.