Aberdeen officials support bill that could reduce Route 22 speed limit

Aberdeen city officials are supporting a handful of bills moving through the General Assembly, in line with the Maryland Municipal League, where Mayor Mike Bennett, a former MML president, chairs the organization's legislative committee.

On such bill to require set speed limits on divided roadways with crosswalks would help Aberdeen out, City Manager Doug Miller said during a city council work session Monday afternoon.

He noted the bill is in response to a fatal accident in Berlin, Worcester County, but said it would also let Aberdeen potentially reduce the speed limit at one of its own major intersections.

"This is a good bill for us because we have a tragedy waiting to happen at Mount Royal [Avenue] and [Route] 22, and we have tried to have that speed limit reduced to no success," Miller said. The intersection is close to Aberdeen High School, and many students cross Route 22 there.

The city hopes to reduce the speed limit from 50 miles per hour to 40 or 45 approaching the intersection, Miller said.

HB 873 states in part that speed limits can be reduced approaching crosswalks controlled by traffic signals "in a community with significant pedestrian activity."

The bill is awaiting committee action in the House of Delegates.

More money

"This has been a relatively active session, even though they told us, 'Don't worry, nothing is going to happen because this is an election year," Miller noted.

Highway user revenue, which the council has long complained about losing or being cut, is expected to be higher in fiscal year 2014 than in previous years, Miller said.

He said the city expects to get $40,000 to $44,000.

Another bill that would let municipalities charge a fee to register local vehicles was "supported with amendments" by the MML, but Bennett said it would probably be political suicide for any legislators who vote for it.

"It's a good way to get shot in your hometown," Bennett quipped, adding: "It was done for the right reason. They were trying to help us out."

Other bills supported by MML would require the creation of a recycling and landfill diversion task fore; posting required notices on the municipality's website; advanced agendas of council meetings; and allowing exemption of certain confidential information in elected officials' financial disclosures.

The organization is opposing bills to weaken abilities of police departments in prosecuting officers; to alter notification requirements for local government tort claims; exempt certain manufacturing equipment from personal property tax; require filing of municipal financial disclosure of elected officials to state board of elections; and applying lobbying regulations to MML and the Maryland Association of Counties.

Candidates and mileage

Council members debated possible mileage requirements for political candidates, part of the city's ongoing campaign finance ordinance amendments.

Miller said one amendment deals with whether mileage should be reimbursed and at what rate.

If mileage is reimbursed, the local election board said candidates would have to fill out forms approved by the board and the board would have to approve their expenditures, Miller said.

In previous conversations, city officials have said mileage is generally expected to be generated by the candidate and it should not be reimbursed.

Some council members said they did not see the need for mileage to be pulled out separately from general campaign expenditures.

Residential cars in municipal lots

The council also plans to issue permits allowing residents to park in municipal lots near their homes.

Bennett said city officials noted people were leaving their cars overnight in municipal lots.

The city looked into banning parking on the lots from 2 a.m. to 5 p.m., which "makes enforcement very clean," but then found out many of the cars were from nearby residents who needed a place to park.

Bennett said the city hopes to bring out a residential parking permit at a "nominal cost" for those residents.

The council took several other actions at Monday's work session:

• A bid contract for $412,000 was awarded to Daisy Concrete to repave the parking lot at Ripken Stadium. The paving is set to be done March 24 to April 4.

• Council members recognized public works employees Josh Quesenbery and Paul Visser, who received awards for Water System of the Year and Collection Operations Specialist for 2013 from the Maryland Rural Water Association.

• A resolution was approved supporting a micro loan of $12,0000 to Mason Dixon Home Care, LLC, at 310 West Bel Air Avenue.

• Council members noted that Aberdeen's hotel district was prominently featured in the latest Destination Harford guide.

• The council will hold a retreat this Friday and Saturday at Abingdon Elks lodge #2354.

• The Maryland Municipal League's Cecil/Harford dinner is set for April 17 at Elkton Municipal Center.

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