Calvert Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt

Prince Frederick, MD – Two new Calvert County Commissioners have sworn in since an early December meeting with Calvert County’s delegation to the Maryland General Assembly. During their Tuesday, Feb. 10 meeting, the county commissioners opted to review its list of requested legislation for the 2015 session.

The review resulted in the withdrawal of a few controversial proposals.

The nixed measures included a widely panned water tax to be levied on property owners not connected to a county-run system. Two commissioners—President Steve Weems [R-At large] and Pat Nutter [R-District 2]—who originally supported the legislation, withdrew their support. “This is not a good time [for this],” said Nutter.

Commissioner Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R-District 3], who had previously opposed the measure, sustained that posture. Commissioners Mike Hart [R-District 1] and Tom Hejl [R-At large], who were not members of the previous panel, also voted opposed to the tax levy.

The intent of the proposal was to ensure private well users ponied up their share for fire suppression systems utilized by local firefighters. “There are other ways to close this gap,” said Weems.

Weems and Nutter also reversed their previous support of a bill to give the county “quick take” authority when private property was needed to complete safety projects on existing county roads.

“It’s tough to support because it uses the power of government,” said Slaughenhoupt, who added that he does not believe any homes would be in jeopardy of being seized and razed. The commissioner further stated that the county would use discretion when applying the quick take, which would “only be used if the project came to a halt.”

“The intentions are good, however I know what my intentions are. I don’t know about the next board,” said Nutter.

“My big fear is this is a little overreaching,” Hart stated. “I believe a man owns his property.”

Hejl opined that other mechanisms for dealing with ambivalent property owners are available.

Both measures were requested by the county’s Department of Public Works and drew sharp criticism from lawmakers. Regarding the water tax, Delegate Anthony J. “Tony” O’Donnell [R-District 29C] declared the subtext of the 2014 General Election was “no new taxes.”

Regarding the “quick take” proposal, Delegate Mark N. Fisher [R-District 27C] stated he would not support it. “I don’t trust government, I trust property owners,” said Fisher during a joint public meeting.

Additionally, the commissioners voted 4-to-1 to not support a bill requested by the Cliff Stabilization Committee mandating that property owners living in the county’s Critical Area provide a brochure about the state’s Critical Areas law to potential buyers. Slaughenhoupt contended that the onus should be on state officials, not property owners, to provide such information. Nutter opted to retain his support of the proposal.
After a lengthy discussion, the commissioners voted unanimously to tweak a county government staff-requested measure to raise the threshold for competitive bidding on contracts. The original proposal was to raise the ceiling from $15,000 to $100,000; meaning that any proposed contract under $100,000 could be bid informally and would not require a board decision.

“We need a real hands-on approach,” said Hart. “I don’t want to lose nothing.” Hart declared that $100,000 is “way too much, in my opinion.”

Slaughenhoupt revised his original motion to set the ceiling at $75,000. However, that proposal was defeated on a 2-to-3 vote. He then made a new motion to set the threshold at $50,000 and that motion passed unanimously.

“This is a testimony to the board’s integrity,” said Slaughenhoupt of the open session discourse.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com