BY BRYNA ZUMER, firstname.lastname@example.org
1:28 PM EST, March 6, 2013
Havre de Grace's election season in May is ramping up already, and it hasn't even formally started yet.
Just before the day to start filing applications, Mayor Wayne Dougherty announced he would be running for mayor once again, while a former councilman said he hopes to regain his seat.
Dougherty made his announcement after the city council meeting Monday, saying he deliberately did not want to say anything during the meeting.
Candidates could start filing Tuesday for the May 7 election, according to the city website.
Dougherty, who filed Tuesday, explained his work for the city remains unfinished.
"It's the number of projects that I still have going. I like to see them through," he said, adding that cutting taxes and other measures have kept the city successful through rough economic times. "This administration is on the right course."
"I give that credit to the staff," he said. "I think about the taxpayers, I think about what they have to suffer through."
Dougherty said he wants to continue providing public safety and supporting infrastructure in the city.
"It's been a great six years and I would like to see a couple of projects finished," he said, listing the city's plan to buy Steve Gamatoria's property on the water, work on Lilly Run and the planned renovation of the opera house among them.
Also after the meeting, former councilman Fred Cullum said he would be filing Tuesday as well.
Cullum, who submitted his application the next day, lost last year after serving on the council for many years.
"I spent 16 years [there] and I think I still have a lot to offer," he said about his decision. "I think the city is in good shape financially."
Although work still needs to be done on the water and sewer side, he said, "we just have to maintain and do the right things."
Meanwhile, Jim Miller, another former councilman who lost to newcomers last year, said he was considering running again.
"I have had a couple of people ask me about it," he said, noting he did not know if he would actually file.
Miller noted he might be too "outspoken" to win in Havre de Grace.
The Havre de Grace council introduced a "lean" budget for the 2014 fiscal year, Dougherty said during an official submission of the proposed budget to the city council on Monday.
The budget would have the city spending $15,942,700 for 2014, slightly more than the $15,180,200 projected for fiscal year 2013.
"We have done our best to keep it lean," Dougherty said about the budget.
The real property tax rate would be reduced to 56 cents per $100 of assessed value and continue the personal property tax credit of $500 to encourage local businesses.
"I think what you're going to find is a lean budget but a balanced budget, and a budget that takes into account all the efforts that our employees have put into obtaining the few grants that are out there," Dougherty said.
Public work sessions will be held March 25 and April 8, the first reading on the tax rate ordinance will be April 15 and the budget is set to be adopted June 17.
"I think that's a great outline for us to begin our work," Council President Randy Craig said.
The council also introduced an ordinance at the meeting to establish new rates for the utility tax that were set to freeze in 2013.
An ordinance refinancing bonds from 2002, 2003 and 2004 was also introduced.
"We're going to keep pushing for every dollar and this is another way of doing that," Craig said about the proposed bill.
Joe Conaway, Will Berry and Jack Stuprich made a presentation on GIS at Joppatowne High School, part of the school's homeland security and emergency preparedness program.
GIS instructor Eve Bour and several students also appeared for the presentation.
The students analyzed old Havre de Grace and most of new Havre de Grace, the presenters explained.
The students, who are from North Harford and Joppatowne high schools, analyzed the city by walking through most of it in the summer heat to map aspects of the sewer system, including marking items like hydrants on every block in the downtown area, as well as west of Route 40.
"They were real troopers," Bour said, explaining: "When the next snow comes and they have to plow, [city officials] will know where everything is."
Dougherty thanked the students for saving the city money and said he has heard plenty of compliments about their work.
"They were dedicated about what they were doing and they took it very seriously," Dougherty said.
Craig added: "This will really help the city of Havre de Grace as we consider infrastructure problems."
"This information is invaluable," he said. "There's always something that needs to get done here."
Craig pointed out such a program is not available at Havre de Grace High School but the city is "always open" to such initiatives.
Water and sewer, marina suggestions
Members of the commissions on water and sewer and the marina made suggestions to the council.
Garett Lyttle recommended extending the program of capital-cost recovery fees for one year because even though the desired revenue has not been realized because of a drop in home construction, the commission believes it is still a useful program.
He also said the council should keep evaluating charges based on the current consumer price index and "the potential impact on the city's planning authority and zoning control should be carefully considered."
He recommended all capital projects that have been deferred or postponed be reviewed again for "necessity and feasibility," which can be done as a joint project with the public works department and other agencies.
The commission is also strongly recommending establishing a capital reserve fund.
"After six years of working on the water and sewer issues in this city, I am cautiously optimistic that we are heading in the right direction," Lyttle said. "The hard work of the mayor, his administration, this council and the last council have shown we are moving in the right direction."
Craig thanked him for submitting a "very cogent report."
He also pointed out the problem lies in two areas, debt service and capital projects in an older system.
"On the operational side, things are going very well," he said.
Lyttle agreed, adding: "Most of the problems we have as far as debt service, these are things that are mandated. They are not things we came up with."
Dougherty said he is also "positively optimistic" and believes "things are looking favorable" in housing trends as well.
Steven Lay, of the marina commission, said his group believes rate stability is the main component in keeping the marina the most affordable option for people and believes it must be a self-supporting enterprise, but warned about the increasing need for dredging.
The city's waterway experienced "unusual silting" from storms last year, he said, which required dredging the main channel to the marina, as well as other areas.
The commission is concerned that the rapid silting is an indication that dredging will become an "even more common problem along the waterfront," he said, adding it poses a threat to the long-term stability of the marina.
"Historically, there hasn't been a lot of dredging," Lay said. "What was once a self-sustaining channel now requires ever-increasing dredging to maintain its depths."
Conowingo Dam will also be undergoing a process to remove silt, he noted, and recommended the marina establish connections with federal, state and other organizations working on the problem.
"Without any corrective action, the marina commission believes dredging costs will become an increasing operational cost," he said.
Lay also noted parking needs at the marina regularly exceed the capacity of the existing lot, especially on weekends and holidays.
In addition, the marina commission recommends a bi-annual rate increase program to generate revenue for city operations, with reserves to be set initially at $25,000.
"The contract slip rates should be increased from $55 to $57 per linear foot," he added, explaining the commission would re-evaluate the rates every other year.
Dougherty said he agreed with the recommendations and recently had a meeting regarding the recent dredging.
Also at the meeting
-Dougherty presented Martin with a British cannonball recovered at the Havre de Grace lighthouse, reported to be one of the cannonballs fired at John O'Neill, who defended the city during the War of 1812. Dougherty said it was for the Visitor Center and the upcoming commemoration of the War of 1812.
-June Gangel was re-appointed to the RAD loan committee.
-Matt Pramschufer was appointed to the economic development advisory board.
-The city council recognized the news team at Havre de Grace Elementary School, which include Jordan Breeden, Nikolas Mucha, Gabriella Vega, Connor Davis, Micah Jacobs, Hannah Goad, Savannah Adams and TaShawn Watters.
The council also recognized Rishi Patel at Meadowvale Elementary School, Christina Wilson at Havre de Grace Middle School and Allison Grabowski at Havre de Grace High School as Students of the Month.