County employees packed the Harford County Council chambers Tuesday night as several union representatives urged the council to support a 4 percent raise for all of them.

Those employees loudly applauded every word of support that came their way.

During his presentation to the council on Harford County Executive David Craig's proposed 4 percent merit increase, human resources director Scott Gibson said the county reopened negotiations with both of its unions. He noted outside agencies, like the sheriff's office and the public library system, may award them differently, such as a cost-of-living increase, because they have many employees who are contractual or part-time.

The increase would be retroactive to July 1.

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The council held a public hearing on the measure, but did not vote on it.

Bel Air resident John Mallamo praised the idea and said if the raise did not happen, employees might pick up and go elsewhere. He got a loud round of applause from the audience.

He also asked for the employees to get the money prior to the Christmas holiday and asked for them to get the maximum amount possible, and "that they don't see an increase in taxes, pensions, health care, parking fees, water bottles or whatever else."

Ryan Burbey, the new head of the Harford County Education Association teachers' union, also congratulated the workers for negotiating a raise and said he hopes to have a "transparent" budget process moving forward.

Mike Hiob, speaking on behalf of the MCEA (Maryland Classified Employees Association), said he also supports the bill, as did Kevin Thomas of the Harford County Deputy Sheriff's Union.

Property tax credits

The council also approved property tax credits for several Havre de Grace and Aberdeen properties in "enterprise zones."

The sites include 301 S. Juniata St. in Havre de Grace, owned by Toy Thym Properties LLC, 1300 Revolution St. in Havre de Grace, owned by Cytec Engineered Materials Inc., and 1013 Beards Hill Road, owned by WCT & Sons LLC.

Economic development director Jim Richardson said the projects are "excellent" because existing sites will be redeveloped, and Councilman Dick Slutzky commended the possibility of rebuilding on the Aberdeen site especially.

"This is a beautiful addition. This kind of project can't do anything but uplift the community, bring jobs to the area and bring the kind of jobs we want in Harford County," Slutzky said.

Public safety committee

Council President Billy Boniface said he received Craig's executive order to create the new public safety committee.

Boniface said he wants a briefing on the executive order and he wants it to be made publicly on Dec. 4.

"Mind you, the council has due diligence to look at these executive orders," he said. "If we do not take action to deny it within 60 days, then it becomes codified in law."

"Since this is a change of directions, not a confrontational one, let's make sure everyone is aware" of what the executive order entails, Boniface said, adding he would allow for some public comment that night.

Craig issued the order after the council voted down his proposal of the public safety committee.