Aberdeen council postpones vote on ethics amendment

Because Aberdeen city manager Doug Miller wants to give the city's elected officials more room to be involved in community activities than what state-mandated ethics regulations allow, the city council postponed a vote on a bill to amend its ethics ordinance Monday night.

Miller explained the bill was supposed to pertain more to state officials and did not anticipate that local officials are far more involved in community activities.

"We want to identify some of those activities that you all undertake and see if we can define what is acceptable and what is not," Miller told the council.

For example, Mayor Mike Bennett was very active in the recent Relay for Life, but he would not be able to participate under the new regulations.

"You are members of the Lions Club, you are members of the Rotary Clubs, you are members of your churches," Miller said, explaining it does not seem fair to limit elected officials from being involved in those groups.

More funding

Bennett said the city is expecting an uptick in its highway user revenues, which have been dramatically cut by the state over the past few years.

The Maryland Municipal League has been heavily lobbying Gov. Martin O'Malley to restore the revenues, he said.

The city used to receive more than $800,000 in the highway revenues but it was cut back to $194,000 the year before last and $124,000 last year, he said.

This year, the city is projected to get $425,000, which Bennett called "pretty phenomenal."

"We are pretty excited about that. We think they are finally hearing the message," he said, adding the city was "very grateful for that."

Also on the financial front, the council approved a budget amendment to increase the General Fund budget by $35,000 for various expenses funded mostly by grant money, the bulk of which is going toward a security camera system and park maintenance.

The Capital Projects fund was also increased by $457,342 for projects that primarily include BRAC zone improvement projects for stormwater management and a community block grant project that carries over 2012 funds for North Deen Park.

Utilities revisiting

Miller also asked to postpone a vote on a bill related to obstructing or tampering with utilities because he wants to see if the fine could better recoup the cost of damaging utilities.

For example, he said the fine for tampering with a fire hydrant is $500 but the cost to the city to replace it is $5,000.

"We realized some of these fines may not be deterrent enough for some of these activities," he said, but noted: "We don't know if we want to recoup our costs or not."

Also at the meeting, the council:

-Approved a contract of $45,300 with Lindsay Ford of Wheaton for a Ford F350 pick-up truck. The company was the only bidder on that project, public works director Matt Lapinsky said.

-Approved Bennett's nomination of Amy Snyder and Charles "Chuck" Glassman for the planning commission.

-Heard more about Lapinsky's new contest to create a recycling sticker design. Lapinsky said rules for entry will be made available at all local schools, at city hall and potentially the city website.

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