Aberdeen mayor looks toward bright future in State of the City address

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City of Aberdeen leaders learned about the potential for a bright future ahead during the mayor's annual State of the City address delivered at Monday's night's city council meeting.

They also celebrated their cooperation with a community organization and announced they are one step farther to promoting downtown development along major transportation arteries.

They also heard about their police chief's efforts to improve how his agency serves the community.

State of the city

Mayor Mike Bennett's State of the City address highlighted the work of city employees during harsh winter weather and increased efforts by city officials to reach residents electronically. He also eulogized a veteran city department supervisor who recently died.

Bennett said officials realized prior methods of communicating with citizens were "very simply, not effective or comprehensive, so we have taken very deliberate steps to address that."

The mayor said the city's website has been redesigned to make it easier to use, the city also has a presence on Facebook and officials are seeking input from citizens online through SurveyMonkey.

The city is still publishing its newsletter twice a month and it is available in print and on the city's website, he said.

Bennett thanked city public works staffers and police officers for their efforts during winter storms in February and March.

"Many nights, while we were sleeping, they were plowing, salting and patrolling the city," he said.

Bennett said $3 million has been appropriated during the current fiscal year for street resurfacing, and urged residents to be patient during ongoing resurfacing projects taking place through the spring and summer.

The mayor also touched on his time as chairman of the Maryland Municipal League's legislative committee, the successful efforts by city officials to get a significant portion of Aberdeen's state-shared Highway User Revenues restored and the possible implementation of a hotel tax in Harford County.

Bennett thanked former state Del. Rose Mary Hatem Bonsack for her efforts to win support in Annapolis for a hotel tax authorization from the legislature.

"Without her, we would be saying, 'Maybe next year,'" he said.

The mayor remembered Paul Visser, the water and wastewater superintendent and a 40-year city employee, who died in April.

"Paul was a great boss, a wonderful friend and one of the best water and wastewater minds in the state," Bennett said.

He said that the city's water and wastewater operations achieved 100 percent compliance with federal and state regulations under Mr. Visser's leadership.

"Paul will be sorely missed," Bennett said.

The mayor also noted he, top city staffers and council members met for two days in March for a planning retreat.

He said they developed a "vision statement" for the city, and that officials will "roll" it out in July.

Bennett reminded those present that "a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step."

"Let us take a step together," he said.

Lions Club gift

The city received a $500 contribution from the Aberdeen Lions Club during the council meeting.

Mark Schlottman, a member of the Lions Club who presented the check to Bennett, said the money was raised from hot dog sales during Harford County's celebration of Earth Day in Aberdeen Festival Park in late April.

The funds will be earmarked for future Earth Day celebrations, as Schlottman noted the Lions Club has contributed about $6,000 to the city for Earth Day since 2007.

Transit ordinance approved

The mayor and council members unanimously approved an ordinance to adopt a "sectional map amendment" in order to rezone the properties that are part of the city's approved Transit Oriented Development District around the Amtrak/MARC station.

The previous zoning classifications of the properties will be changed to TOD Neighborhood, or T4, TOD Corridor, or T5, TOD Downtown, or T6, and Special District, or SD, depending on where they fall within the boundaries of the district, according to the ordinance.

The city's TOD Regulating Plan includes a color-coded map depicting the various areas of the district, such as neighborhoods along West Bel Air Avenue, corridor areas along South Philadelphia Boulevard, a downtown area between North Parke Street and the railroad and a special district along the railroad corridor.

The council adopted an ordinance to establish the district on March 17, according to a public hearing notice.

Police accreditation

Police Chief Henry Trabert discussed his department's efforts to obtain national accreditation by December.

Trabert said a "mock assessment" will be conducted by police officials from outside the Aberdeen department in June, followed by another trial run during the fall.

The chief expects the mock assessments will help the department get prepared for the main assessment in December.

"I'm confident that this December we will be nationally accredited," he said.

The accreditation would come through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., or CALEA, police spokesman Lt. Fred Budnick said Wednesday.

Police departments learn, through the accreditation process, methods of improving crime control, departmental management, "fair and nondiscriminatory personnel practices," methods of "service delivery," better cooperation with sister agencies and "increase community and staff confidence in the agency," according to the CALEA website.

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