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Bel Air moves forward with next phase of regional water authority

The Town of Bel Air is moving forward with the second phase of establishing a regional water authority in Harford County.

Commissioners voted Tuesday night to take part in the study, becoming the last municipality in the area to sign onto the next phase, which establishes a memorandum of understanding to study the financial aspects of creating a regional water authority. The Town of Havre de Grace, City of Aberdeen and Harford County have already signed into the agreement.

The town will pay about $25,000 for the second phase, Town Administrator James Fielder said during the town hall meeting.

"The study will look at the financial performance and look at the assets of the water and treatment facilities," Fielder said.

The town of Bel Air has been looking for a short-term and long-term solution to deal with a pending water supply issue if a drought impacts the area. According to Bill Walsh, of Maryland American Water, which supplies water to Bel Air, the town's main water supply, Winter's Run, has become less reliable in recent years.

The study phase of the water authority project will cost up to $830,000, said Michael Krantz, director of administration for the town. Bel Air is responsible for paying 3.1 percent of the cost of the study, Aberdeen will pay for 9.8 percent, Havre de Grace will pay for 10 percent and Harford County will pay 77.1 percent.

Town Mayor Robert Reier said the town is not fully committed to the regional water.

"We're moving forward, but not fully," Reier said. "We're supporting the study at this point of time."

Mid-year budget amendments

The town commissioners introduced legislation to approve mid-year budget amendments for FY2014

Bel Air Director of Finance Lisa Moody said the finance department performs a mid-year budget review annually and makes a number adjustments as deemed necessary.

The budget includes a $265,730 amendment to the town's general fund to reflect revenue and expense changes during the fiscal year, and a $134,450 amendment for special revenue for renovations to Shamrock Park.

Other adjustments included funding needed for police enforcement, including traffic and distracted driver initiatives, and cell block training for Bel Air officers.

Moody said the town will hold a public hearing to discuss the amendments on March 3.

Sustainable incentives

Commissioners introduced a resolution to provide sustainable incentives to residents within the town limits.

To promote environmental goals of sustainability in Bel Hair, Harford County and the Chesapeake bay, the town is offering a rebate for recycling and promoting yard waste recycling through waste bins, Planning Director Kevin Small said.

Residents may buy pre-selected bins from businesses within town limits of Bel Air, Small said. Then, residents present their receipt and proof of residency and receive a rebate for a portion for the price for promoting green sustainability.

Buyers will be refunded between 20 to 30 percent of their purchase, Small said, pointing out that items vary in price, such as composting bins, which can cost up to $250.

"This program is already being done in Bowie and it had moderate success and grew over the years," Small said. "But, this is sort of a beta test for us."

According to Small, residents will also be allowed to buy the pre-selected items online to be eligible for a rebate.

Small said the town will partner with the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, Harford County and state of Maryland. He said $3,000 was allotted in FY14 designated for sustainable incentives.

The rebates will be available starting March 15 and will continue until the funds are depleted, Small said. To be eligible for a rebate, Small said, residents must live within the corporate limits of the town, not just have a Bel Air mailing address.

Upcoming contracts

The commissioners approved a $22,950 contract to replace the town's failing fuel pump system.

Public Works Director Randy Robertson said the diesel pump has a minor drip and the system recently stopped working. He said the pump fuels the Department of Public Works fleet vehicles and other equipment, which is "crucial" to the town's operations.

Robertson said the broken parts cannot be replaced because they are no longer made.

He said funds to replace the fuel pump system were included in FY2015 budget, but "immediate purchase is needed with the failure."

Robertson said the new Gasboy pumps will be integrated with the department's computerized management system.

The commissioners also approved a $90,340 contract to update the vehicle computers for Bel Air Police Department.

Police Chief Leo Matrangola said the computers are a "necessary public safety purchase" and police agencies across the state are replacing outdated mobile laptops with the latest technology.

The contracts includes the purchase of 20 Panasonic CF-31 computers and docking stations for the patrol cars, along with 16 E-Tix systems, including printers and scanners.

The Bel Air Police Department's data system will be going down March 15, requiring the department to purchase updated equipment, Matrangola said.

Matrangola said funds from FY 2013 and FY 2014 had been appropriated to complete this purchase.

"The electronic format will help with swift criminal and record checks by the bar code on the license and registration," Matrangola said. "It will also decrease the amount of time an officer spends outside of the vehicle."

Matrangola said Bel Air officers had been training with the new E-Tix system using three loaner systems given to them by the Maryland State Police.

According to Matrangola, the new electronic ticketing system is needed because starting in January 2015, the Maryland State Police will be requiring local police departments to file accident reports through the same system.

Academic achievements

Benjamin Barsam, a student at Bel Air High School, was recognized for his student achievement during the town hall meeting by Vice Chair Susan Burdette.

In middle school, Barsam received similar recognition from the town.

As student member of the Harford County Board of Education and student government representative, Barsam is headed to the U.S. Naval Academy for college.

St. Margaret School was also recognized by the town for being named a National Blue Ribbon School.


Joseph Higinbothom was appointed to a five-year term on the town planning commission.

Rowen Glidden was re-appointed to a three-year term to the tree committee and Paul Thompson was re-appointed to another term on the economic and community development commission.

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