Havre de Grace council passes 'green' resolution

The Havre de Grace City Council contentiously approved a "green" resolution Monday night to join the Sustainable Maryland Certified Program.

Sustainable Maryland Certified is a program supported by the Maryland Municipal League that helps jurisdictions choose a direction for their "greening" efforts and provides resources for finding cost-effective ways to protect natural assets and revitalize communities.

Jurisdictions can get certified by completing actions in various environmental categories, including at least two "mandatory actions" and two of six "priority actions."

The resolution, introduced originally by Councilwoman Barbara Wagner, was not on the council agenda and was passed with several amendments. The city council had tabled the resolution when it was first considered last month.

Shyla Glassman, administrative assistant to the council, said Tuesday afternoon that the amended resolution was still being assembled by a lawyer and she did not have a copy available.

Council President Bill Martin was the only council member to vote against the amended resolution.

Wagner had moved to table the resolution on Oct. 17, when she explained that she was concerned about the lack of resident input in the sustainability process.

She said she was disappointed the city's proposed "green team" had been changed substantially to include six city officials and only three citizens.

"This composition doesn't suggest to me a citizen-driven initiative but more a government-centered one," Wagner said. "A government-centric initiative was really not the intention."

Wagner said participating in the program would give the city an opportunity to create stronger partnerships and get more funding.

"Participation in Sustainable Maryland Certified will improve our access to grants," she said. "We need to be as competitive as possible."

Christmas bonus

The council also approved a Christmas bonus of $100 for each full-time city employee and $40 for each part-time employee, totaling $13,000.

Councilman Jim Miller voted against the bonus, suggesting some type of retroactive bonus for taxpayers instead.

Mayor Wayne Dougherty said he would seriously consider that suggestion, explaining he plans to introduce a personal property tax reduction at a Dec. 6 meeting.

Occupy movement

The Rev. Norman Obenshain, of Havre de Grace United Methodist Church, said members of the Occupy movement who made their way through Harford County down Route 40 last Friday had nothing but praise for the City of Havre de Grace.

Obenshain thanked and commended the police department and local businesses for the "wonderful" way they responded to the Occupy walkers.

"I had the opportunity to see food delivered and water brought, and a very low-key and protective presence offered to them," he said.

Obenshain said he had the opportunity to meet with them, and that several were older military veterans, but most were younger people who were "inexperienced and idealistic."

They stayed at St. John's Episcopal Church across Union Avenue from Obenshain's church, he said.

"What they said to me was this was the most welcoming place they've been so far on their walk from Wall Street to Washington, and I think that speaks volumes to this city," he said.

Council President Bill Martin agreed, saying he was happy with the reaction to the Occupy marchers.

"This is probably the greatest news I heard all weekend," Martin said. "Regardless of what their cause is, whether you believe it or not, I hope this town would always strive to be welcoming to anyone [passing through] who is peaceful."

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