Harford County and its municipalities had either broken the bank or were close to breaking it on their snow removal budgets even before a winter storm dumped 1 to 2 feet of snow around the county in mid-February.
Municipal officials did not have firm dollar figures when contacted by The Aegis two weeks ago, but Bel Air leaders learned Tuesday evening that the town has exceeded its snow removal budget by $7,000 for the winter of 2013-2014.
The town had $23,000 budgeted for snow removal and has spent $30,000 so far, Town Administrator James Fielder Jr. told the Bel Air commissioners and town department heads who gathered for a work session Tuesday.
Fielder said the extra $7,000 "is manageable with our reserves, and hopefully we're through with it at this point."
Town officials present cautioned Fielder; a light snow fell in Bel Air Tuesday afternoon, and a 100 percent chance of snow was predicted for Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service website.
Revamped town website
Bel Air officials are putting the finishing touches on a new version of the town's website, and they expect it will go "live" in the coming weeks.
Director of Administration Michael Krantz and Technology Manager Joshua Forth showed the multiple interactive features of the website to the commissioners.
"I think the best way to describe the new website is, 'functionality,' " Krantz explained.
He said he and Forth worked with the directors of town departments such as police, public works, finance and economic development to determine the features of the site.
"What you see is the end result of all the department heads putting their heads together and [their] thoughts of what we'd like to see in a website," Krantz explained.
The commissioners unanimously approved a $20,079 contract with CivicPlus in October 2013 to develop and host the new version of the town website. They also committed to paying $4,039 a year, on a year-to-year basis, for each additional year CivicPlus hosts the site.
CivicPlus is headquartered in Kansas. Town officials switched to CivicPlus last October after Bel Air-based THUD Interactive hosted the town site for almost five years.
Krantz and Forth described CivicPlus services as "extremely robust" Tuesday. They said the company has built enough "redundancy" in its systems, even splitting its web-hosting systems between two physical locations to ensure continued service in the event of a power failure.
CivicPlus also provides a free mobile version of the town website, which Krantz described as "very basic" compared to the graphics-heavy computer version.
The new town website has a variety of features: users may continue to make online payments of their taxes, utility bills and red light and parking tickets, and they can also navigate the website with "mega-menus" on the home page.
Users will be able to get answers to questions about how to volunteer for various town activities and how to pay their bills.
They can see online photo galleries as well, plus sign up to receive notifications via e-mail or text message about services offered by different departments, closings or power outages.
Users can access the town's calendar of events and "filter" it to show either all events or events based on which department is in charge of them.
The site also has a "community voice" function to allow residents to interact with town officials.
Town leaders can also use the site to archive data and post information about obtaining permits, submitting bids or list real estate that is for sale.
A visitor to http://www.belairmd.org will see the site in its current format, and Krantz stressed all content must be adjusted before the new version of the site goes live.
He said a "soft rollout" could begin next week.
Armory project grant
Fielder announced the town received a $150,000 grant for its ongoing "Armory Marketplace" project.
The grant came from the state's Community Legacy Program, which is under the umbrella of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Town officials are working to revitalize the five cinder block garage units at the rear of the Bel Air Reckord Armory on Main Street in order to turn them into small business incubators.
The town already received state grant funds, including a $175,000 payment in 2012, to conduct a feasibility study and revitalize the infrastructure of the garages.
Fielder, along with Economic Development Director Trish Heidenreich, laid out the components of the latest phase, which include seeking bids from contractors and the installation of utilities in the garages such as electricity and plumbing.
Water pipe repair
Public Works Director Randy Robertson explained the recent spate of roadwork at Gordon Street and North Hickory Avenue.
He said workers with Maryland American Water, the private provider of water service to Bel Air residents, were repairing a leaking water main.
Robertson said the 4-inch main was closed off, and that Maryland American officials determined service had been transferred to other lines when they did not hear any complaints from customers.
Robertson said two town sanitation workers will be recognized at the March 3 town meeting after they stopped while on their route to help an elderly man who had fallen in his driveway and could not get up.
"The guys pulled the truck over and got him up and brushed him off and got him back in the house," Robertson reported.
He said the man is fine and later called him and "was wanting to make sure that his appreciation was translated to the guys."
Budget public hearing
Finance Director Lisa Moody said a public hearing will be held on the town's mid-year budget amendment during the March 3 meeting.
The amendment was introduced by the commissioners during their Feb. 18 meeting.
The March 3 meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Bel Air Town Hall at 39 N. Hickory Ave.