Commissioners release list of imminent priority projectsLewis Road sanitary service on top, plus street lights in West OC and broadband
(April 14, 2017) While the Worcester County Commissioners may have been working on these projects for months already, they formally released their priority projects to the public for the first time last Tuesday, with sewer service to the Lewis Road area topping the list, followed by countywide broadband, helping local fire companies to save money while examining their funding formulas and new street lighting in West Ocean City.
Each commissioner was provided a list of potential projects and was asked to score five of them in order of priority. The scores were then tabulated, which revealed the projects the board was most interested in.
Two tie scores were produced: establishing broadband internet and helping fire companies save money tied for second, while fire funding and street lighting tied for fourth. Broadband scored the greatest number of votes at five, while street lighting had the fewest, at three.
But four commissioners scored Lewis Road sanitary service highly enough for it to win the top spot. In plans last amended in 2006, the developer of the property was required to provide public water, and to reserve treatment capacity for the future provision of sewer services. It’s unclear what happened to the reserved sewer capacity, but the commissioners want to examine the feasibility of providing sewer service to the area.
According to the memo provided by Kelly Shannahan, assistant county administrator, outlining the projects and adopted by an unanimous vote of the board, the county will begin examining the project and “apply for federal and state grant and loan funding with which to finance the project to serve this historically disadvantaged community … to replace the current septic systems on these properties.”
According to the memo, the area suffers from poorly drained soils and inadequate replacement septic areas that are not ideal for such systems.
Five commissioners listed encouraging local vendors to provide countywide broadband as a priority, calling it a “critical piece of infrastructure for businesses in choosing where to locate, on par with electric, gas, water and wastewater services.”
While, according to the memo, Maryland Broadband Cooperative is installing fiber along the major highways of Worcester, there remains the issue of the “last mile” provider, where no vendor has stepped forward to connect businesses and homes to the fiber optic backbones. The commissioners have tasked the Economic Development Department to find such vendors.
Fire companies got two nods from the board, in helping them to save money and to examine their funding formulas.
In saving money, local fire companies asked to have their paid employees participate in the county health plan, or workman’s compensation plan as a separate group, hoping to save on premiums as compared to the individual plans each company has now. Also, the companies are looking to extend the working lives of its apparatus.
“Specifically, the fire companies have suggested fire engines beyond 20 years of service are still substantially functional and should be permitted as a second engine … provided it passes periodic inspections and pump tests,” the memo reads.
The fire companies also suggested bulk supply purchases through the county to try to reduce costs.
As for saving the companies money, the commissioners agreed to examine how annual grants are calculated. As property values fell during the financial collapse of 2008, the county instituted a minimum threshold for funding, since the grants are based on property values. The fire companies want the threshold raised. Ambulance companies are provided a grant based on the prior year’s credit runs, according to the document. The commissioners also agreed to review that formula. Also, they agreed to examine the 17 year-old length of service awards program to see if improvements could be made.
Finally, because of the increased population in West Ocean City as well as its popularity with seasonal workers who rely on public transport or the shoe leather express, the commissioners agreed to examine adding more LED streetlights to the area to increase visibility and safety.