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News Maryland Harford County Aberdeen Havre De Grace

Aberdeen Proving Ground to get new water tank, with Aberdeen's help

The Army is moving forward with converting an old building on the Aberdeen Proving Ground into a water source to provide 3 million gallons of water daily, Aberdeen city manager Doug Miller said.

The post has one, 500,000-gallon water tank, which has never been an issue because the post has long had available water stored at the city's Chapel Hill plant, Miller told the city council during a work session Monday.

The Chapel Hill plant can hold more than 1 million gallons of water as a reserve, but "indications are that Chapel Hill will be mothballed in the next decade," Miller said. "We have to have another water tower out on APG."

That project is happening already and will hopefully be done in two months, he said.

Meanwhile, the Army is taking a historic building, labeled Building 250, which would become a new water source.

After Chapel Hill is decommissioned, the Army will ask Aberdeen to operate the refurbished Building 250, Miller explained after the meeting.

He said the city is designing the building.

"It's part of a contract modification with them [APG]," he said.

Home rule

Aberdeen is responding to Harford County's recent passage of the stormwater tax, also called the "rain tax," by trying to clarify that the county has limited control over the city.

Miller proposed a charter amendment resolution that clarifies the concept of "home rule" for Aberdeen.

"The concern is that back in 1954, the Maryland Municipal League, after about six years of lobbying, got what we now call affectionately home rule, and that's a concept that we hold very dear in municipal government," Miller told the council.

"If a municipality has certain regulations, the county cannot enforce like regulations within the municipality. For example, [city planning and community development director] Ms. [Phyllis] Grover has domain over sign regulations. The county cannot come in and impose their sign regulations within [town] limits," Miller said.

While the Harford County Council discussed the so-called "rain tax," they started talking about collecting fees from the municipalities, Miller said.

"We instantly said, 'Well, that's a violation of home rule,'" he said. "The city attorney said, 'You're right, it is, but you don't have that spelled out in your charter.' We are just basically invoking home rule, which we have, but [the resolution] just strengthens our position."

He said a resolution is typically introduced and approved in the same evening, after which residents have 40 days to petition to bring it to referendum. If there are no petitions, it becomes an amendment after 50 days.

The resolution would be introduced next week.

Project presentation

On Wednesday, the city, along with the Maryland Department of Transportation, Maryland Transit Administration and the Maryland Department of Planning, will host a presentation from 5 to 7 p.m. on the planned form-based code for transit-oriented development.

That concept focuses on the area immediately around the Amtrak train station and includes much of Aberdeen's downtown.

The form-based code will focus more on the design and appearance of buildings, facades, streets and other elements in the development area, such as requiring a certain number of windows in a building.

"I hope we have a good attendance. It's a public open house," city planning and community development director Phyllis Grover said.

Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young also said: "I think we'll be able to look back with pride on what we had planned."

Miller added the plan is "one of the most exciting projects we've had in the city for a long time."

Contracts approved

The city council also approved a request by Miller to preemptively award a contract for a new roof at the city's wastewater treatment plant and buy a box trailer to house pipe-bursting equipment.

The bid for the wastewater roof is conditional on approval of the 2014 budget, Miller said.

The new roof cost $350,000; the old one "has disintegrated to the point that it has to be replaced," he said.

The low bidder was Ruff Roofers at $334,996.

Public works director Matt Lapinsky said the bidder has done roofs on schools systems around the area and believes they did work on the fire station in downtown Aberdeen.

Maryland Industrial Trucks submitted a bid of $27,855 for the box trailer.

Lapinsky said it will hold everything needed for the city's new pipe-bursting technology in one place.

Comcast

The council will be re-considering its agreement with Comcast, Mayor Mike Bennett said, explaining he got a letter from County Councilman Dick Slutzky expressing concern about Comcast's plans to increase service fees.

Slutzky said in the letter Comcast has not provided any rationale for the fee increase and said the increase should be on the city's radar.

Miller said Verizon is the only other company that could have a similar agreement with the city.

City councilwoman Ruth Elliott said, however: "Comcast does a lot for different communities, in Aberdeen especially, the nonprofits and whatnot. They are community-minded."

Mowing medians

Councilman Bruce Garner said he wants the city to be allowed to mow grass on state-owned medians even if they are not in city limits.

He said several people have mentioned the median strips near Aldi's and Royal Farms on Route 40 need to be mowed, and he was told Havre de Grace mows the medians from the Bridge Diner to Burger King.

He contacted State Highway Administration last year to see if the city could cut the grass but has not heard back.

Garner said it does not make the city look good, at a time when BRAC is ongoing and people are "moving from New Jersey."

"It's disgusting," Garner said. "It's not our total city limits, but within our business district, it gives a terrible, terrible appearance."

Elliott said she agreed with him "110 percent," and added Aberdeen seems to be on "the tail end" of getting state attention for road maintenance.

No anonymous letters

Bennett said he recently got an anonymous letter and is inclined not to answer it, although he thinks he knows who the person is.

He said writers should "have the courage" to put their name on letters.

"Just buck up and put your name on it and we'll get a hold of you," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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