Solomons, MD – So what is the state of Calvert County? If one were to compile the opinions expressed by three of the five county commissioners who attended the annual State of the County event organized by the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce, it’s a place braced for disaster, ready to shore up its town centers, whose biggest issue isn’t crime but the perception it has too many signs. Furthermore, its elected officials are underpaid.
The event was held Wednesday morning, Sept. 27 at the Holiday Inn Solomons Conference Center. The State of the County Breakfast was presented by Calvert Commercial Real Estate.
Commissioners Tom Hejl, Mike Hart and Pat Nutter, along with Sheriff Mike Evans, answered a list of questions prepared by the local chamber’s Government Affairs Committee.
Two of the questions involved the anticipated development of Armory Square in Prince Frederick. The parcel, which is located off northbound Route 2/4, is considered to have potential as a development that will blend commercial, residential and institutional components. “It’s important that it makes people come to Prince Frederick,” said Hart, who added, “this is the most valuable piece of commercial property we have left in Calvert County.” Because Prince Frederick appears to lack the potential to draw retail customers from the north and south ends of the county, Hart told attendees it has been extremely hard for developers and county officials to get desired retail stores and restaurants interested in the project. “No one is knocking at the door, they’re not even asking,” said Hart.
Hejl stated that county government’s current plan to build office space for some local government departments in the Armory Square area could make the development come alive with activity. “It would make it a vitality area,” the board president stated. He added an additional developer is interested in participating in the Armory Square project and affirmed the well-received plan and vision presented several years ago by a consultant still exists.
Nutter added that “the dream” for Armory Square is still to create a public gathering place. In answer to a question about expanding any or all of Calvert’s seven town centers, Nutter indicated Prince Frederick—with its water and sewer, and road infrastructure—might be the only town center suitable for boundary expansion. There is a proposal currently to expand the Prince Frederick Town Center’s western boundary.
In answer to a question about the commissioners’ recent votes to recommend legislation to increase the salaries of the commissioners, county treasurer and sheriff effective December 2018 after the election winners take office, Hejl stated, “we’re not a ‘Tuesday only’ profession.” He added, “I don’t care what my salary is.” Hart indicated he had no regrets about recommending a raise for the sheriff that went above the recommendation of the local compensation review panel. “I feel completely safe in Calvert County,” said Hart. “I felt it [raise] was long-overdue.”
Nutter stated when he was working for the sheriff’s office, he and many of the other deputies made more money than the sheriff. He noted that now the county sheriff is responsible for over 200 employees.
An attendee wanted to know where the commissioners attending stood on the looming county sign ordinance revision. Hart stated the commissioners were unlikely to make any major changes. “Signs still sell products,” said Hart. “Somebody’s not going to like what comes out. I think we need to take our hand off the panic button.” Hejl disputed a recently expressed opinion that the latest sign regulation draft proposal hasn’t been vetted by an advisory committee. “Signs are a necessary evil for businesses,” said Hejl. “We don’t want to change the rural character of our county. We love it, too.”
When asked about his office’s participation in the television show Live PD, Evans replied, “Live PD was an experiment. I think it showed our officers in a good light.” When further questioned about how much money Calvert’s participation in the show generated, the sheriff stated, “we didn’t make any money on it.” Regarding some other concerns expressed by chamber members, Evans reported “serious, violent crime” was down 20 percent in Calvert. The sheriff conceded that opioid abusers who drive under the influence of drugs are a rising concern, especially during daytime hours. He added the sheriff’s office has 10 deputies who are “drug recognition experts.”
Noting concerns about Calvert’s readiness in the event of natural disasters such as those occurring recently in Texas and Florida, Hejl declared “we have so much in place with Public Safety.” the commissioners’ president stated that Calvert’s Chief of Emergency Management, Al Jeffries, is recognized throughout Maryland for his emergency preparedness expertise. The emergency plan includes coordinating efforts with the local hospital and health departments, mobilizing law enforcement and coordinating with neighboring counties.
The Calvert County Chamber of Commerce’s next big event occurs Oct. 19 at Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa when it holds its 2017 Business Expo, Annual Meeting and Excellence Awards Dinner. For more information visit www.calvertchamber.org.
Contact Marty Madden at email@example.com