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Aberdeen council approves Firestone plan, talks about election laws

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Preliminary plans for a Firestone Total Auto Care Center on Beards Hill Road were approved Monday afternoon by the Aberdeen City Council, according to Mayor Michael Bennett.

The Firestone center will be across the street from Wendy's near the Klein's Shopping Center, between a plumbing supply house and Walgreens pharmacy.

"The general concept and layout's OK," City Manager Douglas Miller said Wednesday. "They [Firestone] have to work out details and such."

Also at the work session, the council discussed creating the ability to have mini-storage or self-storage facilities in the city and also a potential annexation on Route 40.

Council raises

Miller also said the council has begun looking again at the election provisions of the city code.

The mayor's and the four city council members' salaries are established in the city charter, but Miller said that's more of an administrative function and that the council hopes to repeal that provision and allow salaries to be set by ordinance. None of this would affect the salaries of the mayor and council elected in 2015.

But under the proposal discussed Monday, in 2017, the sitting council and mayor will appoint a salary advisory commission that will give nonbinding recommendations to that mayor and council, who then will vote on the salaries of the next mayor and council to be elected in 2019, Miller explained.

"Because you're working on four year cycles, you have to set these policies pretty far out," Miller said. "No council or mayor can give themselves a raise or salary. They are doing it for their successors."

The city elected officials also discussed what to do with campaign treasury funds after elections. Miller said the preference is for those funds to be donated to an Aberdeen church or charity, but they are still working on that.

Surveillance cameras

The mayor and council members also discussed repealing the city requirement to put in surveillance cameras in new developments, with Miller noting, "We never set up a central facility at the police station to view those monitors."

Street cameras were an initiative of the previous mayor, Fred Simmons, who served from November 2005 to 2007. Simmons planned to implement a street surveillance system modeled on one in wide use in Baltimore City, both in high crime neighborhoods and areas where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic.

Simmons went so far to meet with then-Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley to learn more about Baltimore's camera system, and a camera and working video monitor were installed to provide surveillance of the underground passage at the Amtrak station. But the plan for more widespread use of street cameras waned after Bennett defeated Simmons in 2007.

The Harford County Sheriff's Office has a few cameras deployed in high crime areas in Edgewood but neither of the other two local municipalities, Bel Air and Havre de Grace, have street surveillance systems.

Other business

The mayor and council announced three park related issues: A dog park on North Rogers Street; teaming up with the county to have two athletic fields on Rock Glen Boulevard and using a grant to put in a splash pad/water feature at Festival Park.

They also discussed the upcoming budget and expressed concerns about the long term status of highway user revenue, according to Miller, who said the outlook for the FY2014 budget looks stable.

He also said, however, that the city will probably have to borrow $335,000 to replace the roof at the wastewater treatment plant.

Other things the council discussed, according to Miller, included creating the ability to have more mini-storage or self storage facilities permitted in town, a potential annexation on Route 40 and possible action to take on the old B & O train station, which continues to deteriorate.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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