Harford County Executive David Craig has a lot he wants to accomplish, or at least get started on, in the two years before he leaves office.
A new county executive will be taking office Dec. 1, 2014, and rather than what's going to happen after that, Craig said he's more concerned with "what's going to happen in the next 24 months."
With that, he said during a press conference Tuesday morning in the Harford County Council chambers, he wants to lay a "foundation" for the person who takes his seat and "make sure we get things accomplished."
The county executive addressed multiple topics, including school construction, the water and sewer authority, public safety and county employees
Dels. Wayne Norman and Glen Glass, Sheriff Jesse Bane, Have de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty, Harford Community College President Dennis Golladay, Councilmen Dion Guthrie and Richard Slutzky, along with representatives from various county agencies, attended the conference.
Craig came right out and said the county needs to get rid of the multiple-building schools, such as Youth's Benefit and William Paca/Old Post Road elementary schools and Havre de Grace High School.
The four biggest capital projects are to renovate, modernize or replace those schools, plus Joppatowne High School, which has "structural problems," Craig said.
In addition, Craig will seek support in building the west campus expansion at HCC, as well as a nursing and allied health services building on the campus.
School construction will be funded through bonding, Craig said, as has been done with all previous school construction.
Despite the decision at Monday's Board of Education meeting to postpone a vote on the scope study done on Havre de Grace High School, Craig is confident the board is still with him and his plans for new construction.
"They [the board] realize they are necessary," he said.
Craig noted the issues in Baltimore County and City where there are several old facilities and schools way under capacity that are planned to be shut down in the next decade instead of replacing the buildings.
"We need to be preemptive on that," he said, and not get to that point. "It's an important issue for us."
During his time in office, Craig said, seven new schools have been built and building four more would be a "good thing."
In addition, the county executive plans for improvements for athletic fields at Aberdeen, Joppatowne, Fallston and Patterson Mill high schools.
"We need to work on a water and sewer authority," Craig said, "that will cover all of Harford County."
While creating that authority may not come to fruition by the end of his term, the county executive wants to have a "good foundation" as it can potentially save money for those who use the county's water and sewer services.
In addition, the county executive hopes to present the county council with a plan on what to do with the county's solid waste management by January or February.
The proposed plan to build a solid waste transfer station in Joppa has been widely opposed by the community and Guthrie, who represents the area.
Craig said he is looking for the "most cost effective way to handle this very expensive thing," adding that a two-year extension on the contract with APG to use their waste-to-energy facility has been requested.
The county executive is also reaffirming to the state the county's need for BRAC-related improvements on Route 22 at intersections with Paradise Road, Beards Hill Road and Old Post Road.
Craig said he will be creating a "reformed" executive order that will create a public safety department for the county to present to the county council Dec. 11. (Please see related story, this page.)
It's his plan to create the department then appoint a director by the end of the fiscal year and, eventually, an advisory commission.
When asked if there is a plan to make Harford's all-volunteer fire service at least a partially paid service sometime down the line, Craig said it's not the intent of the department to "create a paid agency," but would like to "lay a foundation" for the next county executive, whomever that may be, to make that decision.
The only additional funding required to create the department would be for the director's salary and benefits package, which, Craig said, will be around $150,000 annually.
All other positions under the department will be, for now, current county employees who will move from one department to another.
Craig plans to first appoint an acting director for two months before officially hiring that person for the position.
As with any position Craig appoints a person to, he said "I always have someone in mind."
After several years of salary freezes, county employees were recently given 4 percent raises for this fiscal year, retroactive to July 1. But Craig noted that more needs to be done going forward.
Though not discussed during the conference, Craig has proposed a comprehensive pay study for all county employees and employees of the Harford County Sheriff's Office to be done in fiscal year 2014.
A comparable study will done for the school system in fiscal year 2015.
"The pay study is deemed essential for Harford County government to maintain its commitment in keeping its compensation packages competitive," a press release from the county stated.
Although the sheriff's office ultimately decides how to allocate any salary raises — cost of living, percentage, a merit or step increase — Craig said he gives the sheriff's office a certain dollar amount to go toward wages.
"The county must develop a plan to comply with new state mandates," the press release read.
As a result of the "septic bill," the county will need to amend certain subdivision regulations to include the definition of a "major subdivision" to comply with the new state law.
"The department of planning and zoning will establish the next two-year milestones for 2013 to 2015 pertaining to the Watershed Implementation Program," the release continued. "The department of planning and zoning will also address development regulations and update zoning and design standards to help ensure quality of life issues are properly addressed."
The county must also begin collecting a stormwater utility fee in the next 18 months, as required by state legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly this year.
The county plans to assist building and finding additional sites for various agencies, such as SARC, the Humane Society of Harford County and Harford Center.
Craig said the plan is to create a Southern Resource Center, to be built next to the Harford County Sheriff's Office Southern Precinct on Route 40, and find a second location for SARC.
Also, the Harford Center, which serves adults with disabilities, is soon to reach capacity and an additional site is needed.
The county already pledged funds for a new humane society and Craig plans to follow through with that commitment.
Craig called the department and its achievements "important for efficiency in government."
"For county government operations, the elimination of the outdated mainframe and the adoption of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system will greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government," the county's press release stated.
The final enhancement of IT in the county will be the completion of the HMAN (Harford County Metro Area Network) broadband project, which will put the county's schools, libraries and other county-funded agencies on the county's network.