County council appoints charter review board and council administrator, approves bond bills

The Harford County Council appointed a charter review board and a new council administrator, as well as passed more than $47 million worth of bond bills for water and sewer and capital projects, at Tuesday night's meeting.

The council unanimously approved a 15-member board led by Harford Circuit Court Judge Maurice Baldwin to review and make recommendations on the county charter, and submit a report by February 2012.

The other members are Franklin Hajek, Frank Hertsch, Michael Daney, Rosemary Hatem Bonsack, James Thornton, Kimberly Wagner, Cynthia Mumby, Jansen Robinson, Susan Hazlett, Dale Stonesifer, Tim Braue, Richard Norling, K. Brian Young and Stephanie Hallock.

Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti said the board is a "highly educated, serious" group of people and she is pleased to have them on board in light of a lawsuit by the county's Democratic Central Committee questioning how the charter was interpreted for the council redistricting process.

"I think certain recent events before the council have highlighted the need for a charter review board," Lisanti said.

The council also appointed Pamela Meister to begin serving as the new council administrator starting Aug. 1, after Barbara O'Connor stepped down earlier this year. Meister has been the associate executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Lisanti said there were almost 90 applicants for the position, many of whom, like Meister, had master's degrees and were highly qualified.

The council authorized the issuance of about $19 million in bonds for a variety of water and sewer projects, and $28.7 million in bonds for various capital projects. Also passed were amendments to capital projects funding that totals more than $192 million, aimed at various road construction projects, school projects and other facilities that were set forth in the budget.

The council approved appropriations for the $1.8 million replacement of Ruffs Mill Road bridge over Thomas Run, and $200,000 in appropriations for the county's bridge inspection program.

Also approved was a $100,000 loan from the Economic Development Opportunity Fund to allow Chesapeake Defense Services Inc., at 4603 Compass Point Road in Belcamp, to expand the building.

Also during the meeting, the council approved a resolution denouncing the Maryland Transportation Authority's planned toll increases over the Route 40 and I-95 bridges.

The resolution said the tolls would "produce regional disparity and create a significant local burden," would "disproportionately harm the residents and businesses in both Harford and Cecil counties" and will create dangerous traffic conditions when trucks and commuters try to use the Conowingo Dam bridge and local roads to avoid tolls.

Several council members spoke again about the unprecedented outcry against the proposed hikes and hoped MdTA will reconsider its plans.

Councilman Dick Slutzky introduced a bill that would prohibit people from parking within 10 feet of a mailbox anywhere in the county between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, without the owner's consent.

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