Bel Air commissioners pass new budget, honor poster contest winners

The Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners voted Monday to adopt a $15,075,295 budget for the 2014 fiscal year and also agreed to borrow more than $750,000 for parking garage improvements and studies of the town's sewer system.

Monday night's town meeting was also the presentation of winners of the Historic Preservation Commission's annual school poster contest, the 22nd year students at elementary schools within the Bel Air town limits have had an opportunity to learn about and draw the town's historic buildings.

Nine fourth-grade students from Harford Day School and Homestead Wakefield Elementary were recognized for their drawings entered in this year's contest.

This year's winners are: first place, Luc Van Hoang, Homestead-Wakefield; second place, Aiden Brehm, Harford Day; third place, Iroda Rustamova, Homestead Wakefield; and honorable mention: Kemper Robinson, Skiatheni Trintis and Kylie White from Harford Day and Sarah Entner, Jonah Lever and Maddie Markoff from Homestead-Wakefield.

The winning posters will be on display this month at Rockfield Manor and Shamrock Coffee and will also be made into placemats for use in local restaurants. The first-, second- and third-place winners received savings bonds from Peoples Bank, and the honorable mention honorees received gift certificates from the town.

Lower spending, same tax rates

The new budget, which takes effect July 1, is $706,000 lower than the current year's budget. Despite the reduced spending, the town employees will receive a 3 percent cost of living raise and the sworn police officers will have a new classification system that will pay them more money. The cost of both comes out to $215,000.

Meanwhile, the property tax rate of 50 cents per $100 of assessed property value and the personal property tax rate of $1.16 will not change.

On the revenue side, the town is picking up $221,000 in state highway user revenue, thanks in large part to efforts of Commissioner David Carey and other representatives of the Maryland Municipal League who have lobbied hard in Annapolis in recent years to have the local gas tax money restored. The new budget is also picking up about $17,000 in additional local income tax revenue.

The new budget is smaller mainly because of operational spending reductions and less money going toward improvements to the parking garage, a multi-year project that is managed by the town but funded 66 percent by the county government and 33 percent by the town.

Final amendments passed Monday include an expenditure of $200,000 for a traffic study of the Route 1 and 24 intersection and $20,000 for a salary study.

Loans approved

The commissioners voted to borrow $270,000 from Harford Bank at 1.85 percent for 10 years to fund the town's share of the parking garage repair and renovation project.

They also voted to borrow $551,700 from PNC Bank at 1.7 percent for 12 years to pay for two sewer projects.

One project involves sewer line rehabilitation in the Shamrock and Homestead Village neighborhoods, as well as analysis of stormwater inflow and infiltration problems in the Homestead and Bradford Village sewer lines. Contractors are TRB Specialty Rehabilitation, which will be paid $247,345 for the former, and Insituform Technologies LLC, which will be paid $52,651 for the latter.

The second project involves mapping the town's entire sewer collection system and creating a geographic information system database.

Maryland Environmental Service, or MES, the quasi-public state agency run by former Harford County Executive Jim Harkins, will be doing the system mapping and computer modeling under a $251,700 contract.

Public Works Director Randy Robertson said the information will enable the town to plan better in the future for any new development, because the modeling will provide more up-to-date information on line and pumping station capacity.

If, for example, a major commercial project is proposed, Robertson explained, the town DPW will know if it can be accommodated or if the developer will have to provide the additional capacity. Robertson said he selected MES for the work after also soliciting a proposal from a private engineering firm and determining the MES proposal was "85 percent cheaper."

Also approved Monday was an $87,500 contract with Kay Construction of Baltimore to repair 16 handicapped access sidewalk ramps around town and to install a new sidewalk and curbs and gutter along Ellendale Street.

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