Eastern Shore’s Most Famous Sign?

As some of you may know, my family is from Tilghman Island.  In the last few weeks if it comes up in conversation that my family is from Tilghman, or the person already knows, I’m asked, “Have you seen ‘The Sign’?”.

What sign?
Erected in front of a home about 3/4 mile north of Knapps Narrows Bridge, the owner obviously has no love for either our president or our governor.  Given the fact that Talbot County residents were subjected to BOTH property tax and income tax hikes thanks to Martin O’Malley and his Democrat minions, it’s little wonder there’s no love for the governor.  Higher federal tax rates and a crippling national debt may explain less that charitable feelings towards the president.
Perhaps the owners should have added a cute little graphic and copyrighted it?  Oh wait!  Both Obama and O’Malley would have wanted the newly earned cash.  Another “Lesson in Socialism“.
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Closings / Delays – August 27, 2012

The following schools and businesses will be closed or delayed today due to weather.  This will be updated throughout the morning.

Talbot County Schools – 90 minute delay

 

 

Closing / Delay list courtesy of WBOC-TV

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Can the Post Office Be Fixed?

WILMINGTON, DE – If Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) is to be believed, he knows how to save the U.S. Postal Service about $500 million each year.  $500 million is nothing to sneeze at, but according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe states that $22.5 BILLION must be cut from the postal budget each year by 2016.  The USPS has already defaulted on a $5.2 billion payment to the federal government (for retiree health care benefits) and is expected to default on another payment later this year.

Can the post office be fixed?  Of course … in theory.  Unfortunately, we live in the real world.  Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican (but primarily Democrat) will simply not allow that to happen.  No legislator wants to see a post office, much less something like a processing facility, close in their district or state.  Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) are prime examples.  If you buy-in to their rhetoric, closing the Easton processing facility is akin to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Truth be told, Mikulski and Cardin would prefer a nuclear Iran over seeing a postal processing facility close in their own state.  To them, and many of their Congressional colleagues, the USPS is one more way to use YOUR tax dollars to buy other people’s votes.

USPS revenue remains a huge problem.  There is no doubt that the internet has put a huge dent into the USPS’s revenue stream.  Almost every bill you receive in the mail includes some encouragement or incentive to pay your bill online and sign up for “paperless billing”.  Why buy and mail a birthday card when you can send an “e-card” in less than two minutes, and often for free?  Businesses, and individuals, don’t bat an eye at paying a sizable premium to FedEx or UPS to send parcels or time sensitive documents because they know that they will be delivered on time.  The USPS can’t seem to deliver an overnight document on time.

Allowing the USPS to exit onerous union contracts, become more efficient, and pay wages and benefits comparable to their competitors will help; so will shutting down facilities.  Unfortunately, the men and women we send to Washington simply won’t allow this to happen.

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Talbot Elections Board to Open Polls

EASTON, MD – The Talbot County Board of Elections has reversed its previous decision to close polling places in Tilghman, Bozman, and Royal Oak.  Voters in the affected areas were sent new voter registration cards on July 28th.

The Board of Elections is looking for election judges at the three polling places.  Applicants must be Maryland registered voters, able to speak, read and write English, able to sit and stand for extended periods, and work at least a 15-hour day.  Provisional ballot, check-in and unit judges receive $250 per election, with an additional $25 for training. Chief election judges receive $300 per election, with the $25 training stipend.  To apply, call the Election Board Office, 142 N. Harrison St., across from the Farmer’s Market, at 410-770-8099

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Talbot Farmers Receive Relief from Feds

From the Star Democrat

CORDOVA, MD — After a 15-month struggle, a group of local farmers recently got relief from owing almost $1 million to a federal agency that wanted payback for conservation contracts.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., applauded the decision from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Appeal Division that granted equitable relief and reinstated the Conservation Security Program (CSP) contract for the farmers. Referred to in case documents as the Hutchison brothers, the group also includes Sonny Eaton and Mike Elben.

The latest ruling ends the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) efforts to make the farmers pay back about $350,000 each for three farms that received federal conservation funding over six years.

“The NAD’s decision in the Hutchison Brothers’ case is a just decision granting a well deserved reprieve to a group of Maryland farmers who just want to do the right thing to preserve the resources on their farms and protect the Bay,” Cardin said.

Cardin wrote to the appeals division early this year, and urged it to provide the relief. The decision ends a struggle that started in 2006 when the Hutchison brothers and several other farmers entered into CSP contracts with the NRCS.

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Government, Not Internet, Is Cause of Postal Service Default

Today the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will default on a $5.5 billion payment to the federal government to cover retiree health benefits.  In September they will default on another payment of $5.65 billion.  The federal government would like you to believe that the cause of the postal service’s decline is due to the internet.  I wish that were the case.

The USPS, once a department of the federal government and now a quasi-governmental agency, can only blame its “benefactors” in Washington for its demise.  Sure, the internet and cultural changes have impacted demand for the the USPS’s bread and butter first class mail service.  Myriad other “businesses” have faced similar challenges over the last 25 years.  Some have risen to the challenge and thrived.  Others have gone the way of the buggy whip.

[Read more…]

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Campaign for Liberty Meeting Tonight

EASTON, MD – The Mid-Shore chapter of the Campaign for Liberty, a group founded by presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), will hold its first meeting tonight at 7 PM at the Washington Street Pub.

The Campaign for Liberty was founded in 2008 by Congressman Paul. For more information, call 410-690-4894 or follow “Mid Shore Campaign for Liberty” on Facebook.

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Ron Paul Group Meeting in Easton

EASTON, MD – The Mid-Shore chapter of the Campaign for Liberty, a group founded by presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, July 11th.  The meeting will begin at 7 PM at the Washington Street Pub.

The Campaign for Liberty was founded in 2008 by Congressman Paul. For more information, call 410-690-4894 or follow “Mid Shore Campaign for Liberty” on Facebook.

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Talbot County Finds Replacement for Hospital Property

EASTON, MD – The Talbot County Council has decided to acquire 86 acres outside of Oxford as a replacement for land adjacent to the Hog Neck Community Center which the county is donating for the new hospital proposed by Shore Health Systems.  The property is being acquired from the Conservation Fund and all future development on the property will be prohibited.

Talbot County is donating 78 acres adjacent to the Hog Neck Community Center to Shore Health Systems for the construction of their new hospital.  Because that property was initially acquired using Program Open Space funds, the property must be replaced.

READ MORE …

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Easton Council Passes Budget

EASTON, MD – The Easton Town Council passed a $17 million budget for FY 2013 Tuesday without any change in tax rates.

In a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Pete Lesher absent, the council passed the about $17 million budget that is about 8 percent less than last fiscal year’s budget. That decrease is mostly from a change in the method of accounting depreciation, Easton Mayor Robert C. Willey explained at a public hearing last month on the proposal.

That $17 million includes about a $2.6 million capital fund with at least two carryover projects at about $1.7 million transferring from the general fund. The town still faces sizable expenses in the next few years, such as $1.5 million for a new fire truck, about $500,000 for radio upgrades and about $1.2 million for road repairs at two places in town.

For the last fiscal year, however, the town finished several capital projects, including the Tanyard Branch stormwater project and handicap projects at several intersections. The upcoming fiscal year budget includes money for sidewalk extensions along Dutchmans Lane, with crosswalks planned at U.S. Route 50.

READ MORE …

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Talbot County Jeweler Gives Pearls to Every Female Talbot County Graduate

EASTON, MD – They are called “Pearls of Promise”.  This year every young lady graduating from a Talbot County high school received a pearl necklace from Silver Linings, a jeweler with stores in Easton and St. Michaels.

READ MORE …

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Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival

EASTON, MD – The 2012 Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival begins today in Easton.  The Festival continues until June 17th.  For more information, check out the festival’s website.

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Talbot County Approves Budget

EASTON, MD – The Talbot County Council has approved the county’s FY 2013 budget.  By a vote of 3- 2, the council approved a $69.7 million operating budget which includes increases to the county’s real property and income tax rates.

The county’s property tax rate will rise to $0.491, up from the current $0.448 per $100.  This increase includes a $0.026 “educational supplement” to cover state-mandated “maintenance of effort” (MOE) to the county’s schools.  This increase is in excess of the county’s revenue cap, but is permitted under newly passed state legislation.  The county’s income tax rate will increase from 2.25% to 2.4%.

Council members Laura Price and Tom Duncan voted against the budget.  Both members had submitted amendments to the budget.  Price’s amendment would have increased revenue without raising the income tax rate.  Duncan’s amendment would have increased revenues without raising property tax rates beyond what was permitted under the cap.

Prior to adopting the budget, amendments were passed which restored funding to county fire companies, animal control, tourism, and economic development.  Cuts to the county’s volunteer fire companies had been loudly decried by the public at the council’s public hearings on the budget.

photo courtesy of the Star Democrat

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State Police Seek Hit-and-Run Driver

TILGHMAN, MD – At about 3 PM Thursday a vehicle travelling east on Rt. 33 at Camper Circle an unknown driver hit Samuel Douglas Lynn, 51.  Lynn was walking along the shoulder of the road.

The Maryland State Police are asking anyone with information to call 410-822-3101.

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Oxford Says No to Pool

OXFORD, MD – By a vote of 206 – 161 residents of Oxford have rejected a proposal to lease two acres of land at the end of Pier Street to the YMCA for a pool and satellite facility.  In February the Town Commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with plan. 

READ MORE …

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Talbot Council Restores Funding to Fire Companies, Animal Control and Tourism

EASTON, MD – The Talbot County Council sharpened its pencils this week and found pulled back spending cuts for volunteer fire companies, animal control and the county’s Department of Tourism and Economic Development.  In addition, the council decided not to fund the Board of Education’s “One-to-One laptop program”.

In the original budget the county’s fire companies were slated for a $75,880 in cuts, including an incentive program that provides a stipend of $175 per month to firefighters with 25 years of service and who are over 62 years of age.  The council also restored a $9,000 cut to animal control.  This was due to an error in budget originally submitted.

READ MORE …

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Will the “Doomsday Session” Bail Out Rick Pollitt and Wicomico County?

In seven days the Maryland General Assembly will meet for a special session – some are calling it the “Doomsday Session”.  The primary purpose of this session is to raise taxes.  It seems that Maryland Democrats and special interest groups such as AFSCME and teachers union think that spending $700 million more than last year just isn’t enough.  If lots of teachers and other public employees aren’t paid enough to pay their union dues then the little children, the poor, and the infirm will all suffer mightily.

But … there’s another reason for this session; at least if you live in Wicomico County.  After the legislature adopted SB 848 and left Wicomico with a huge increase in its maintenance of effort (MOE), County Executive Rick Pollitt has based his entire budget on the premise that his pals in the legislature will hold Wicomico County harmless and set the county’s MOE at the level spent in FY 2012.  This includes the expected teacher pension shift.  Pollitt claims that this burden will be placed on the schools’ budget and not on the county.  Will the General Assembly do that?

For the sake of Wicomico taxpayers I hope so.  However, I have concerns about such a move.  It would be inherently unfair and it’s doubtful that the state legislature will ride to Wicomico County’s defense after complaining for years about the county’s revenue cap and its unwillingness to appropriate what the state considers adequate funding for county schools.

Other Eastern Shore counties such as Talbot and Kent counties are tying themselves in knots trying to meet their MOE obligations.  To add insult to injury, these counties pay a much higher percentage of their schools’ total costs than do Wicomico.  Talbot taxpayers pay approximately 58% of their schools’ operating budget.  Kent County pays over 58%.  Worcester pays over 73%.  Wicomico?  This year Wicomico paid only 21.5% of the cost of its schools’ operating budget.

Talbot County has a real property tax cap almost identical to Wicomico County’s.  This year they are planning to break that cap because of the required additional spending placed on them by Annapolis.  In addition, the Talbot County Council is forward thinking enough to appropriate for school pensions in anticipation of that being enacted in special session.

Kent County is seeking a waiver of its MOE obligation, which is being opposed by its board of education.  Wicomico is also seeking a waiver but both its BOE and teachers’ union have rejected the application.  Translation – NO WAIVER.

Again, should Wicomico County be bailed out while other Shore counties are left to their own devices?

Assuming Pollitt’s predictions come true, there is another question that must be asked – What back room promises has Pollitt made to legislators to get his bail out?

EXTORTION

[Read more…]

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Talbot Citizens Oppose Property Tax Increase

EASTON, MD – Talbot County taxpayers jammed into the Bradley meeting room of the Talbot County Courthouse and overflowed into halls Tuesday afternoon to express their opposition to breaking the county’s revenue cap.  Approximately 100 people also turned out for the second public hearing, which was held at Easton High School.

According to the Star Democrat’s Chris Knauss, most citizens supported councilman Tom Duncan’s plan, which increases the income tax rate to 2.6% and takes additional money from the county’s reserves rather than increase property tax rates.  Citizens also spoke out against the county’s proposal to cut funding to fire companies by $75,000.

An increase in tax revenues is required due to recently enacted state legislation which requires the county to fund maintenance of effort (MOE) for the county’s schools or risk having their income tax revenue confiscated.

photo courtesy of the Star Democrat

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First Talbot Budget Hearing at 2pm

EASTON, MD – The Talbot County Council will hold its first of two budget hearings this afternoon at 2PM in the Bradley meeting Room of the Talbot County Courthouse.  The second hearing will be at 7PM at Easton High School.

BUSTING THE CAP

The FY 2013 budget proposes to raise property taxes in excess of what is allowed under the county’s revenue cap.  Under the proposed budget, the county’s real property tax rate would increase 9.6% from $0.448 / $100 to $0.491 / $100.  The county’s income tax rate would also increase from 2.25% to 2.4%, and increase of 6.67%.  The proposed budget also calls for taking $1.487 million from county reserves.

Talbot Councilwoman Laura PriceCouncilwoman Laura Price has proposed an amendment to the proposed FY 2013 budget to eliminate the increase in the county’s income tax rate.  Under Price’s amendment $2.12 million would be taken from county reserves.

Talbot Councilman Tom DuncanCouncilman Tom Duncan has proposed an amendment which would not increase real property tax rates but instead increase increase the county’s income tax rate to 2.6%.  Under Duncan’s amendment $2.533 would also be taken from county reserves.

The increases are due to a state mandated $1.928 million increase in funding to the Talbot County Board of Education.

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Talbot County Council to Hold Public Hearing on FY 2013 Budget

EASTON, MD – The Talbot County Council will hold public hearings on the county’s proposed FY 2013 budget on Tuesday, May 1st.  The council will hold two hearings:

2 PM – Bradley Room, Talbot County Courthouse

7 PM – Easton High School

Comments will be limited to 3 minutes.  Written comments may be submitted until Friday, May 4th.  Persons wishing to comment in writing may use a comment form the county has set-up on its website.

Additional information on the budget can be found on the county’s website.

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Talbot Council to Introduce Budget

EASTON, MD – At this afternoon’s session the Talbot County Council will receive the proposed budget for FY 2013.  The budget is expected to continue the austerity of the last few years.

Referring to the FY2013 budget, Talbot County Councilman Tom Duncan said: "I don’t think anyone will be pleased with this budget. We’re not pleased either. But you elected us to do a job, and we’re trying to do it to the best of our ability, and it’s quite tough. I’ve been a long time doing these budgets and this is probably one of the most trying budgets that I’ve been involved with as far as revenue declines."

READ MORE …

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Maryland’s Eastern Shore Continues to Suffer High Unemployment

WASHINGTON – Maryland’s Eastern Shore continues to suffer from high unemployment rates with three (3) counties having an unemployment rate of over 10% for the month of February (the last available month).

To see a table of the unemployment rates for each county, GO HERE.

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Fundraiser to Benefit Tilghman Island Watermen’s Museum

TILGHMAN, MD – The Tilghman Island Waterman’s Museum will hold its annual “Splendor in the Grass” fundraiser this Saturday from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM at the Tilghman Island Volunteer Fire Company.  The museum has just been granted a permit to renovate the Lee House, the future home of the museum.

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Fundraiser to Benefit Tilghman Island Watermen’s Museum

TILGHMAN, MD – The Tilghman Island Waterman’s Museum will hold its annual “Splendor in the Grass” fundraiser this Saturday from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM at the Tilghman Island Volunteer Fire Company.  The museum has just been granted a permit to renovate the Lee House, the future home of the museum.

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State BOE Overturns Suspensions of Two Easton HS Lacrosse Players

EASTON, MD – Last spring two Easton High School lacrosse players, Graham Dennis and Casey Edsall, were suspended from school because a pen knife and a cigarette lighter were found in their lacrosse bags.  Tuesday, the Maryland State Board of Education overturned the ruling of the Talbot County BOE and ordered the local board to expunge the records of the two young men.

The knives and lighter were used to maintain and repair the players’ lacrosse equipment.  Despite this reason, Dennis was suspended from school for 10 days and Edsall was suspended for one day.  In addition, Dennis was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.  The Talbot County State’s Attorney later dropped the charges.

photo courtesy of 24/7 Lax

READ MORE …

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Red Flag Warning for Talbot County

EASTON, MD – The Talbot County Department of Emergency Services has issued a red flag warning for Talbot County and asks that all residents refrain from any outdoor burning until 8:00 PM tonight.

DES Division Chief Tim McNeal who heads the County’s 9-1-1 Center (Talbot Center) said, in the release: "In addition to asking there be no outdoor burning at this time, we also want to remind the public to contact Talbot Center (410-822-0095) in the future to report any controlled burning. This will prevent us from dispatching fire units to a controlled burning.”

A Red Flag Warning means high fire danger with increased probability of a fire quickly spreading.

Source – Star Democrat

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Off-Duty Police Officer Commits Suicide After Chase on Route 50

EASTON, MD – An off-duty Montgomery County police officer ended his own life after a traffic stop and police chase which ended near the Easton airport.  The Star Democrat reports that Jed R. Bylsma, 30, of Gettysburg, PA was stopped by a Maryland state trooper near Skipton Creek early Monday morning.  The trooper suspected that Bylsma was driving under the influence.  When he returned to his car to call for back-up, Bylsma fled the scene, heading east on US 50.

Maryland State Police deployed stop sticks near the Easton Airport.  Bylsma’s car came to a stop in a ditch.  The police found Bylsma in his car, dead from an apparent gunshot wound to the head.

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Carper Bests MD Colleagues Over Postal Facility Closure

The US Postal Service (USPS) listened to complaints from Maryland politicians and now those same politicians are upset because the USPS evidently bought into their argument.  Rather than keep the Easton processing plant open, it appears that mail for Maryland’s Eastern Shore will be going to the Hares Corner facility in New Castle, DE.

Let’s face it.  Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) didn’t want the Easton facility to close – at any cost.  However, they (and a host of other Maryland politicians) couldn’t be so brazen as to say – “Don’t close Easton, we want that piece of pork to stay”.  Instead, they argued that Eastern Shore businesses and consumers would suffer because heavy Bay Bridge traffic (or an occasional shut down) would delay mail if the work of the Easton plant was moved to Baltimore.

At the same time, the Hares Corner plant was also on the chopping block.  Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) didn’t want that plant closed any more than Cardin and Mikulski wanted Easton shuttered.  The USPS is now looking at closing Easton and moving Eastern Shore mail sorting to Hares Corner.  No potential Bay Bridge problems there.

Now Mikulski and Cardin are screaming murder again; claiming that certain rules weren’t followed.  Here’s the bottom line – no Maryland politician wants to see those juicy, high paying, union jobs moving to Delaware.  Who can blame them.

Does anyone on the Maryland Shore want to see those jobs leave?  Of course not.  Unfortunately, the USPS simply can’t raise rates at will.  They have too much competition in the digital age.  They are saddled with union contracts that make them a high cost producer.  Whether deserved or not, the Postal Service’s reputation for poor customer service is legend.  They have to cut costs somewhere.

Perhaps pols like Cardin and Mikulski need to be careful what they wish for.

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HB 1412 Proposes to Steal County Revenue and Give It to BOE

ANNAPOLIS, MD – An “Emergency” bill, co-sponsored by Del. Norm Conway (D-38B) proposes to circumvent tax caps passed by counties such as Talbot and Wicomico counties and steal income tax revenue from counties to directly handover to local Boards of Education.  HB 1412, which has the backing of House Speaker Michael Busch could be one of the final nails in the coffins of Maryland counties.  If passed, local governments will be almost totally subservient to the whims of Annapolis.

Under the proposed bill a voter-adopted tax cap (such as in Talbot or Wicomico counties) could be overridden by a simple majority of the county council IF the additional monies were earmarked for the local board of education (BOE).  In addition, if a county failed to fund “maintenance of effort”, the state Comptroller would be required to withhold a county’s income tax revenue and deliver those funds directly to the BOE.

This bill was filed on Monday and a hearing is scheduled today at 1:00 PM.

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Expect Delays at Dover Bridge

Dover Bridge

TANYARD, MD – Expect delays on the Dover Bridge today.  Crews will be inspecting the bridge today and will alternate traffic between 10 AM and 2 PM.  Over the weekend an over-height-limit truck struck the bridge.

Source – WMDT

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Easton Mandates Recycling

EASTON, MD – The Easton Town Council had voted to mandate recycling for all residents.  The vote was 4 – 0 and excludes commercial properties.

Councilman Leonard Wendowski abstained from the vote, citing concerns about costs.  The town estimates that the program would cost approximately $6 per household per month.

The recycling program will probably begin on July 1st.  Council will have to set fees prior to the program’s start.

READ MORE …

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Talbot Council Votes No on Tilghman Wind Generator, Solar Array

EASTON, MD – The Talbot County Council, citing space and the concerns of residents, have scrapped plans for a 152 foot high wind generator and a solar array at the Tilghman waste water treatment facility.  The project would have cost approximately $800,000 of which the state would have paid $600,000.

The alternative energy project would have saved the county approximately $14,000 per year in electric costs.  Councilwoman Laura E. Price stated that the savings really didn’t make the project worthwhile given the long payback period and concerns of the residents.

Councilman Dick Bartlett argued that the solar array would take almost every piece of available space left on the site and there would be not room for future expansion of the waste water treatment facility.

photo courtesy of the Star Democrat

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Talbot Council Votes No on Tilghman Wind Generator, Solar Array

EASTON, MD – The Talbot County Council, citing space and the concerns of residents, have scrapped plans for a 152 foot high wind generator and a solar array at the Tilghman waste water treatment facility.  The project would have cost approximately $800,000 of which the state would have paid $600,000.

The alternative energy project would have saved the county approximately $14,000 per year in electric costs.  Councilwoman Laura E. Price stated that the savings really didn’t make the project worthwhile given the long payback period and concerns of the residents.

Councilman Dick Bartlett argued that the solar array would take almost every piece of available space left on the site and there would be not room for future expansion of the waste water treatment facility.

photo courtesy of the Star Democrat

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Talbot Councilwoman Expresses Concerns About FY 2013 Budget

EASTON, MD – Talbot County councilwoman Laura Everngam Price explained her concerns abut the county’s upcoming budget while speaking to the Mid-Shore League of Republican Women Wednesday night.  Price stated that last year the county was forced to dip into its reserve in order to balance the budget.  With declining revenues from property taxes, continuing to dip into the county’s reserve was simply not an ongoing option.  Price said that all departments, including the Talbot County Board of Education could not be held harmless in cutting costs in the FY 2013 budget.

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BREAKING NEWS – Accident Closes Dover Bridge

PRESTON, MD – The Star Democrat reports:

A three-car accident has caused Dover bridge to be closed. There are no apparent injures involved but the accident has blocked access to the bridge.

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Trappe Ends Speed Camera Contract

TRAPPE, MD – The town of Trappe has ended its experiment with speed cameras.  At Wednesday night’s meeting the town council decided to cancel its contract with RedSpeed USA.

Several reasons were cited for discontinuing the program.  Chief among theses was the state’s refusal to allow the town to place speed cameras in school zones near White Marsh Elementary school and St. Paul’s pre-school.  Both school zones are near state roads and require approval by the State Highway Administration (SHA).  Despite a traffic survey which showed cars travelling through the area at speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour, the SHA has refused to allow the cameras in those areas.

READ MORE …

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O’Malley Proposal Would Curb Interest, Property Tax Deductions

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Buried within Maryland governor Martin O’Malley’s budget is a change in Maryland’s personal income tax structure.  Any individual with an adjusted gross income of $100,000 or more would lose a portion of their home mortgage interest, their state property tax, and their local property tax deductions.

Real estate agents throughout Maryland are voicing opposition to the measure, as are members of the Eastern Shore delegation:

Perhaps the most troubling thing about the proposal, though, is its timing, as many homeowners continue to struggle to pay mortgages that now exceed the value of the property and the housing market remains in a slump, said Del. Adelaide Eckardt (R-37B).

"I don’t think we’ll be able to see an improved economy until we get the housing issue addressed," she said. "If we’re talking about stimulating jobs and the economy, this is not the way to do it."

Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R-37B) is concerned about the precedent O’Malley’s proposal sets:

One of the most troubling things about the proposal is it’s based on gross income instead of net income, said Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-37B-Talbot.

"So for a person who maybe has an LLC, if you have an LLC, you pay through your personal income tax the state is looking at your income before any business deductions. That person’s net income could be significantly less than their gross income."

The other thing that’s bothersome, Haddaway-Riccio said, is the proposal is a policy decision that has been placed in the governor’s budget.

"A lot of people don’t even know it’s being proposed because it’s in the budget and not a separate piece of legislation," she said. "The budget subcommittee will meet and have a hearing, but it’s not the same as having it in a policy committee and having a policy hearing."

Maryland Senator Richard Colburn (R-37) notes that O’Malley’s proposal targets those that are job creators:

"This would take money away from those most able to generate jobs," he said. "It would have a trickle down negative effect on job creation. It just takes us in the opposite direction of where we need to be going."

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Teacher Pension Shift Could Impact Eastern Shore Counties

SALISBURY, MD – Maryland governor Martin O’Malley’s plan to shift 50% of the cost of teacher pensions to the counties could have a sizable impact on the budgets of Eastern Shore counties.  Among those that could be hit the hardest are Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, and Worcester counties.

The Daily Times’ Brian Shane reports that Worcester County could be saddled with a $1 million addition to its FY 2013 budget and no help from the state to offset the costs.  While Wicomico’s burden would actually be larger, a state “disparity grant” would drop the actual FY 2013 to less than $800,000.  Somerset, Dorchester, and Caroline counties also qualify for “disparity grants”.

Because the final determination of the pension shift bill may not be known until April, it is unknown whether county governments are taking this into account when preparing their budgets for next year.  Proposed budgets are typically submitted to county councils or commissioners during the month of April.

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Talbot Board of Elections to Close Polling Places

EASTON, MD – Residents of Tilghman, Broad Creek Neck, and Royal Oak will now have to travel farther to cast their ballots.  The Talbot County Board of Elections has announced that they will be closing the polling places in Tilghman, Bozman, and Royal Oak in order to save money.

Talbot Election Director Patricia Mitchell says that cost was not the only factor in their decisions:

"With Bozman, the space was inadequate; it was very cramped having all of the judges and voting equipment in there," she said. "And parking at the (St. Michaels) high school was always crowded … and in using the (high school) auditorium stage, people often got too close to edge and there are no railings. We don’t want any injuries; we want to make it safe."

Tilghman voters will now have to drive to Wittman.  Bozman and Royal Oak voters will have to go to the library in St. Michaels to vote.

Members of the Talbot County Council were not pleased by the Board’s decision:

However, at Tuesday’s Talbot County Council meeting, County Manager John Craig said he unsuccessfully tried contacting the Board of Elections to discuss the planned closures. The lack of a reply concerns Councilman Laura Price.

"What troubles me is the unresponsiveness," Price said.

The council previously had offered to review the Board of Elections’ budget and consider allocating the necessary money to keep the polling places open. All five council members said Tuesday they were disappointed to hear the Board of Elections moved forward with closing the three locations.

"I am not happy to hear this myself, that these three polling places are going to be closed by the election board," said Council President Corey Pack.

Councilman Thomas Duncan agreed with Pack, but said the council has no control over where the Board of Elections has polling places. Duncan said the council did make its desire to keep the locations open known to the election board.

The polling place closures could be re-visited for the 2014 election.

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Snow on DelMarVa

There are reports of snow falling throughout the mid-Shore and Lower Delaware:

Bridgeville
Seaford
Tilghman
East New Market Federalsburg

source – WBOC

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Easton Cable Rates Up At End of Month

EASTON, MD – Rates for Easton Utilities cable subscribers will see their rates rise $2.22 – $4.90 at the end of the month.  Easton Utilities states that the cost increase is solely due to increased fees paid to cable networks and broadcast affiliates.

"This increase is driven entirely by what the media corporations who provide our programming content are charging," said Geoff Oxnam, vice president of operations for Easton Cable. "None of the revenue from the increased rates will stay in Easton."

The new rates are:

$15.90 Basic
$30.20 Tier I
$51.60 Tier II
$60.80 Tier III

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Plane Makes Emergency Landing Northwest of Easton

EASTON, MD – The Star Democrat reports:

A plane in distress reportedly made an emergency landing in the area of Bruffs Island and Copperville roads, northwest of Easton. Three occupants were out of the plane with no injuries reported, according to scanner reports. The plane reportedly ran out of fuel and landed safely.

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Former Audubon Sanctuary Preserved for Future Generations

BOZMAN, MD – Talbot County businessman Bob Pascal has donated a public access easement and relinquished all future development rights to the 975 acre former Audubon sanctuary on Broad Creek Neck.  The Maryland Board of Public Works approved the state’s first donated public access easement on Wednesday.

"Obviously Talbot County is terribly excited about this historic donation," Talbot County Manager John Craig said. "Mr. Pascal has provided an enduring opportunity for the public to have access to one of the most amazing parcels of land anywhere. In a time when it seems each day we hear more negative news than the day before, it is truly astonishing to realize the possibilities of what this donation holds. We could not be more pleased about what the future holds for this piece of Talbot County."

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will hold and administer the easement:

"This is a historic donation and I want to thank Bob Pascal for this legacy to future generations," Gov. Martin O’Malley said. "This land will create new opportunities for Maryland families and visitors to get outside and enjoy the bountiful natural wonders of our Eastern Shore."

photo courtesy of the Star Democrat

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Talbot BOE Restores Maintenance of Effort in FY2013 Budget

EASTON, MD – The Talbot County Board of Education has restored maintenance of effort funding in its draft FY2013 budget.  Whether or not the Talbot County Council will fund the BOE to this level remains to be seen.

The school board voted to eliminate pay raises in FY13 for all Talbot educators after receiving word the Talbot County Council will not fund annual 3.5 percent raises, about $1.3 million, and step increases. The $1.3 million reduction would decrease the $34.4 million FY13 draft budget. The last time TCPS employees received a raise was FY10 when teachers received a 1 percent salary increase.

The draft FY13 budget does not include staff and building improvement requests made by principals at Wednesday’s budget work session. If all recommendations were accepted, about $1.5 million would be added to the school system’s FY13 budget.

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Postal Service Gives Easton Reprieve

EASTON, MD – The Easton mail processing facility will not close … for now.  According to the US Postal Service (USPS), closing the Easton facility is still under review, but a decision is on hold:

"The Eastern Shore Processing and Distribution Facility is still under review for possible closure," Freda Sauter, USPS spokeswoman, said Wednesday. "The postal service continually reviews its mail processing network for excess capacity and will continue to study facilities across the country for closures, we just can’t execute the consolidations until May."

One reason floated for the delay is that the Baltimore processing facility, where mail from the 88 post offices currently served by Easton would go, is swamped due to the closure of the Frederick Processing and Distribution Facility which was closed on November 19th.

Closing the Easton plant would save the USPS approximately $6 million per year.  While Democrat politicians such as Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and Sen. Barbara Mikulski are calling for more subsidies to keep the facility open, Maryland Sen. Richard Colburn (R-37) suggests closing post offices on Saturday and ending Saturday delivery.

"Certainly Saturday closures would save a tremendous amount of money, and wouldn’t really have a tremendous impact," Colburn said. "If you close post offices and mail processing facilities that’s going to slow mail delivery, and in effect lay the groundwork for the destruction of the postal service as we know it."

Closing on Saturday would save the USPS approximately $3 billion annually.

photo courtesy of WMDT

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Maryland Receives Federal Crop Disaster Designation for 15 Counties

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Martin O’Malley received approval from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack for Maryland’s request for a disaster designation for widespread crop losses due to extreme weather conditions this year, which included excessive heat, drought, and damage resulting from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

“Because farmers throughout most of Maryland experienced significant crop losses, we requested a disaster designation and thank Secretary Vilsack for granting it,” said Governor O’Malley.  “It is our hope that the designation will provide relief to the farmers who need it and help them prepare for the next growing season.”

“From April through October, Maryland farmers experienced widespread crop losses due to a variety of extreme weather conditions ranging from excessive heat, drought and flooding,” said Buddy Hance, secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture.  “Farmers in the disaster designation areas experienced market value losses exceeding 30 percent.”

This designation makes farm operators in the 15 primary counties – Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico and Worcester – as well as the counties of Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Harford, Prince George’s, and the independent city of Baltimore – eligible to be considered for assistance from the USDA Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.  Farmers must have purchased crop insurance on eligible crops to quality for USDA disaster assistance programs.

This assistance includes USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance. FSA will consider each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses, security available, and repayment ability. SURE Program applications for 2011 crop losses will be accepted in 2012, when the 2011 farm revenue data required by statute becomes available.

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Easton Man Charged in Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties

CENTREVILLE, MD – An Easton man has been charged with multiple offenses in two counties following a manhunt on Kent Island yesterday.  Jason Andrew Grimes, 32, is charged in Queen Anne’s County with failure to obey a lawful order, resisting and interfering with arrest, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and theft of less than $100.  He was also served a bench warrant from Talbot County for failure to appear on a June assault charge as well as an April arrest warrant for telephone misuse, harassment, and electronic mail harassment.

In addition to those charges, Deputy Dale Patrick of the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s office said that Grimes was a "person of interest" in a series of vehicle breakings and enterings and thefts from vehicles on Kent Island.”  He is being held on $20,000 bond at the Queen Anne’s County Detention Center.

photo courtesy of the Star-Democrat

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Wind Power May Come to Tilghman

TILGHMAN, MD – Tilghman residents attended a hearing last week at the Tilghman fire hall to hear a presentation about a proposed wind turbine at the Tilghman wastewater treatment plant.  Talbot County Engineer Ray Clarke presented details of the proposed installation.

The proposed turbine would be 152’ tall with 63’ diameter blades.  The 50 kw turbine would produce about 150,000 kwh of electricity per year.  Clarke said that the turbine would reduce the wastewater treatment plant’s $22,500 electric bill by about $13,000.

The Talbot County Council is expected to take up the matter in January.

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BREAKING NEWS – HazMat Team at Easton’s Shore Memorial Hospital

EASTON, MD – WBOC-TV is reporting that there is a hazardous materials incident at Shore Memorial Hospital in Easton.  While originally reporting that the hospital was being evacuated, Talbot county officials state that the hospital is open, but that the emergency room is closed due to a “suspicious smell”.

UPDATE:  WBOC reports that the situation was caused by a computer battery exploding at around 4:30 AM.  Talbot County Emergency Service officials are telling residents that if the have a medical emergency they should go to Dorchester General Hospital in Cambridge or Kent & Queen Anne’s Hospital in Chestertown.

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SHA Completes Crosswalk at Site of Fatal Accident

EASTON, MD – Three months after 13 year old Avery Monique Bechtel was struck by a car and killed, a crosswalk at Easton Parkway and Marlboro Road is complete.  Bechtel, of St. Michaels, was struck by a car at the intersection around 9 PM on August 12th.

State Highway Administration (SHA) crews completed work on the crosswalk this week.  Work continues on a network of sidewalks along Marlboro Road.  Remco Properties, LLC, the developers of the Waterside Village shopping complex has also agreed to extend their sidewalk network.

photo courtesy of the Star Democrat

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