orders to approve, personnel changes to review and budget
adjustments to consider are being received as county departments
comply with provisions of legislation enacted on an emergency
basis. There will be, for instance, at least 92 purchases orders
to be approved by resolution at Council's next session. Normally
the resolutions refer to two or three and at some of the
bi-weekly sessions there is no such resolution on the agenda.
such resolutions usually are dealt with in undebated 'consent
calendar' fashion, Sherry Freebery, the county's chief
administrative officer, said there will be a concerted effort
made to have Council take action on two significant long-pending
and controversial sewer-related issues during the remaining
three sessions before the vacation recess is scheduled to begin.
trying very hard to tie up loose ends," she said, adding that
the issues are not likely to be dealt with between the time
Council returns in September and the November election. Six
additional representatives will take seats immediately after
they are elected. They, of course, will not be up to speed on
the fairly complex issues and their ramifications at that point.
a meeting of area civic organization officers on June 15 that
the county administration may "ask them not to take their
recess" this year.
Coincidentally, Council president Christopher Coons earlier in
the day at a meeting of Council's executive committee, requested
that his colleagues keep Council's staff informed of their
whereabouts during August and, to the extent possible, "make
[themselves] available if we need four votes." A majority of the
seven-member Council is required as a quorum in order to conduct
official business; that also is the number of votes required to
approve an ordinance or resolution.
complicating the situation is the fact that Council and its
staff have arranged for August to be the time when most of the
extensive work necessary to remodel their facilities in the
Redding Building to accommodate the enlarged Council is
provides that Council "may" take a month off each year, but does
not actually require it to do so. However, no one currently
involved in its activities can recall when the vacation recess
matters which Freebery and County Executive Tom Gordon have
designed as high priority for pre-recess decisions are a pending
ordinance to revise -- and, they and the Department of Special
Services maintain, rationalize -- the process of providing
sanitary-sewer hook-ups in communities now using septic systems;
and a yet-to-be-introduced ordinance that would replace impact
fees imposed on developers to pay for bringing sewer service
into new areas south of the Chesapeake & Delaware with 'capital
recovery' fees, which would have the effect of having them bear
the full cost, as is now the practice north of the canal.
are new issues, she said, but "we have not been able to get
Council to act on them."
To do so
now, she acknowledged, is likely to be even more difficult than
it might have been at another time. "The only thing Council is
focused on now is Tom and me. All they want to do is to clip my
wings and to clip Tom's wings," she said.
a reference to response to corruption indictments involving
herself and Gordon handed up by a federal grand jury. What's
more, she and Coons are locked into a primary-election battle to
secure the Democratic nomination to succeed Gordon as county
who has been publicly outspoken, especially on the hustings,
about the charges contained in the indictments, which she
denies, made a few peripheral comments about them at the civic
meeting with civic leaders. Gordon, who has not personally
commented on the indictments in public, did not attend the June
15 meeting. He had not missed any recent meetings, which are
held monthly. Freebery explained that Gordon had work to attend
to in his office and had asked her to preside.
the septic-elimination proposal is relatively clear-cut. Present
law, which goes back to 1990, sets $6,500 as the maximum the
county can charge a homeowner. By 2002, according to the
preamble of the pending ordinance, the average has increased to
$22,242. The septic-elimination program has been suspended since
pending ordinance, which is sponsored by Councilman William
Tansey and was introduced in April, would require homeowners to
pay 70% of the actual cost, with collection of that money
enforced by a lien against the property which would have to be
satisfied before it could be sold. Contrary to some popular
belief, county government would not force a community to
convert; that would be done only if initiated by the community
and owners of at least 70% of the affected properties agreed,
she said. If those conditions were met, however, every property
would have to connect and pay for the connection.
said it was only fair that homeowners pay most of the cost. If
their heating and air-conditioning system failed, they would
have to pay the full cost for replacing it. In this case, the
county would be subsidizing some of the cost through annual
sewer charges which all property owners pay.
'capital recovery' proposal, which is now in draft form and
awaiting a sponsor, is even more equitable, she maintained.
Since that is what happens in new developments north of the
canal "it is only fair [that] that the cost is borne by
developers and passed on to the home buyer" south of the canal,
she said. The alternative is requiring taxpayers countywide to
pay for extending sewer service to the area of the county
experiencing the most exponential development.
request to the executive committee was general in nature and
apparently intended to refer to potential eventualities, not
certainties. Members of Council's staff, however, said the need
for some kind of Council action during August is more likely
than not to occur.
additional reporting and approving provisions -- for example,
reducing from $50,000 to $10,000 the minimum amount covered by a
purchase order that now requires approval -- was expected to
increase the workload, auditor Robert Hicks said. "We foresaw it
was going to happen" when the emergency legislation was being
drafted. In his case, he said, it has so far involved "an extra
two or three hours a week of work."
ordinances were intended to give Council greater control over
county spending and personnel changes in reaction to the
indictments. As Delaforum previously reported, Coons has said he
intends to move at Council's next session to have their provisions
extended through the rest of 2004. They would otherwise expire
at the end of July.
provide the month off, Council normally simply recesses its
final session in July to reconvene in September. Carol Dulin,
Council's attorney, said that could be modified this year to
recess to 'the call of the chair'. If Coons, or Councilman
Penrose Hollins in the capacity of president-pro tem in Coons's
absence, did issue such a call, she said, the session would
still require seven-days' advance public notice or a plausible
explanation of why such notice could not be given.
will continue to function during the recess, but it is still
uncertain where it will be able to do so this year with the
renovation work going on. That, Dulin said, may require going to
temporary quarters either in the Redding building or elsewhere.