BY ERIKA BUTLER, Record staff
September 20, 2012
The city of Aberdeen is still a couple weeks away from submitting to the state its revised ethics ordinance, which the state rejected earlier this year after it was approved by the city council.
The state has a disclosure form and earlier this year required the city of Aberdeen to submit one, which City Manager Doug Miller said he made "easy to follow and administer and met the spirit of the law," but the state said it's wasn't good enough.
A new disclosure form is being written and should be available to submit to the state in the next two weeks, he said. Rather than have them approve it first, Miller told members of the Aberdeen City Council at their work session Monday, he'll wait and see if it's OK with the state.
Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young questioned what Miller meant when he said that Aberdeen's version, which the council adopted and is currently the form of record until a new one is approved, is "user friendly."
He said the state is "pretty stringent" in what must be disclosed, from salary, income, assets, mortgages, personal conflicts and other personal financial information, and in the city's form he tried to make it a little simpler, more like a questionnaire. It included a question that required a "yes" or "no" answer; if the answer was "no," that was it, if it was "yes," it required further explanation, Miller said.
That wasn't good enough for the state, which wants details on personal financial and business information, which didn't sit too well with the council members on a number of fronts.
Council members were concerned that people won't want to volunteer if they have to provide such information.
Miller, who as city manager has to fill out the same form as the mayor, council members and other city department heads, said he realizes he has to provide certain information.
"I have no problem with it personally, but what I worry about is a board or commission member, would it discourage good people from volunteering?" he asked.
"Or discourage someone from running for public office?" Mayor Mike Bennett added.
Young asked if the information provided stays confidential. Miller replied it's a matter of public record.
Councilman Bruce Garner's said as a businessman, his issue is the potential conflicts he could have, like if he sells something to a contractor who has a contract with the city, but he's unaware of it.
"Where does that put me?" Garner asked.
Bennett said that question and others have been asked by the Maryland Municipal League to the Maryland Ethics Commission, which is empowered by state law to approve all local government disclosure ordinances for their consistency with state law.
"It prohibits me from having contracts with certain people and that's my livelihood," Garner said, adding it could limit business people like him from getting into political fray if they know what type of information they have to provide. "And those are the people you need to be part of the boards," he said.
Miller said the council members will be asked to approve a new version once it's approved by the state.
International Building Code
The city agreed it will adopt the latest version of the International Building Code revisions, but will have a clause in its own code that Aberdeen will still charge $25 for a zoning permit.
The latest IBC says small items, 200 square feet or less such as sheds, fences, etc., do not need a building permit, Miller said. And while Aberdeen doesn't require a building permit for such structures, it does require a zoning permit and will continue to require it and charge for it.
Such structures, the council members agreed, will still need to have a zoning permit to ensure they are within the required setbacks and are permitted in a certain area.
New leaf vac
The city will move forward with piggybacking on a contract with a municipality in North Carolina to spend $140,000 on a new leaf vacuum.
The city's existing leaf vac is 15 years old and its motor burned up, which costs $20,000 to fix. It is also a trailer vacuum and requires three people to work. The city could, for $140,000, buy a new, self-contained model that will only need one person to operate (if the leaves are dry) and subsequently save the city money in the long run, Miller said.
The money is in the city's capital purchases budget, which is $200,000. But if the city buys it, won't be able to buy some of the other items it needs this capital budget year, including a new large dump truck, a four-wheel drive truck and a couple small dump trucks, Miller said.
Aberdeen could have the new leaf vacuum by Nov. 1, but has to move on it quickly. The commissioners agreed to have Miller pursue it and they'll vote on it at Monday's regular meeting.
"We know what we're going to get if we don't get the leave up," Councilwoman Ruth Elliott said.
In an effort to reach out to its local community, Aberdeen Proving Ground is hosting its first Oktoberfest on post at the end of the month.
Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell "has a strong desire, priority to reach back to the post communities," Miller told the council members, and as part of that, the post will be hosting a four-day carnival-type event during which Cecil County and each municipality in Harford will be featured on its own day. Aberdeen's day is the first day of the festival, Sept. 27; it runs through Sept. 30.
Aberdeen government is working with the police department, chamber of commerce and Ripken Baseball "to showcase the city a little bit," Miller said.
Aberdeen will help kick off the four-day event with a formal ceremony Sept. 27, with the mayor helping the county executive with the ceremonial tapping of the first keg.
Extra steps will be made to make APG more accessible during the event, Miller said.
• Miller told the mayor and city council members how proud he is of Aberdeen Police Department, which suffered a tragic loss Sept. 8 when Officer First Class Charles Armetta died in a fall from an I-95 overpass in Baltimore City. He was buried Friday.
"The actions of the police department through the crisis and the conduct they displayed for Charlie's funeral was truly outstanding," he said. "I couldn't help but be proud of how the entire department conducted themselves. It made me very proud."
• The council voted 5-0 to go into a closed session to discuss the pending 830 Gilbert Road and ATC annexations.