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Carroll commissioners hear plan to reopen senior centers, increase county 911 fee

The Carroll County’s Board of Commissioners met Thursday to discuss plans to reopen the county’s senior centers, increase the county’s 911 fee and approve the contract for a retrofit of a stormwater management facility.

After being closed for 14 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced April 1 that senior centers across the state were allowed to reopen with COVID-19 guidelines in place by the end of April.

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Celine Steckel, director of the Department of Citizen Services, presented commissioners with the department’s reopening plan for senior centers.

“The senior centers were the first [of the county buildings] to close, which is appropriate, but they are going to be one of the first places to reopen,” Steckel said.

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The county Bureau of Aging & Disabilities is hosting a reopening event at Westminster Senior and Community Center on April 30, Steckel said. Beginning May 3, all county senior and community centers will reopen on a modified schedule.

“We’re hoping that, throughout our recovery from COVID, that we can move to a more pre-COVID utilization of the centers, but that will take quite some time, as you’re all aware,” Steckel said.

Rich Ottone, the bureau’s community services supervisor, also spoke at the meeting and said services at the senior centers would be open by appointment only for safety reasons. The bureau also has installed Plexiglas in front of the front desks at the senior centers and reconfigured the air systems as part of the reopening process.

“It’s going to be a little difference. We just ask for patience,” Ottone said.

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During the morning meeting, the commissioners also heard a proposal to raise the county’s 911 fee.

Scott Campbell, director of the Department of Public Safety, recommended the commissioners raise the fee from 75 cents to $1.50 to make up for a deficit in the previous year’s revenue from the 911 fee.

According to Campbell, the Maryland Public Safety Article gives counties the authority to establish and maintain a county 911 fee in combination with the state fee, which is 25 cents.

Counties have the ability to increase that fee to a maximum of $1.50 per month, Campbell said.

A county can raise the fee if it demonstrates that the prior year’s revenue is insufficient to operate the 911 system, and “that is the situation Carroll County finds itself into the amount of $1,625,521,” he said.

All five commissioners voted in favor of having a public hearing on May 6 to discuss the county’s 911 fee.

“We do feel it is justified to adjust Carroll County’s local 911 fee to $1.50,” Campbell said.

Also at the Thursday meeting, commissioners awarded a $1.108 million contract to CJ Miller construction company for the Trevanion Terrace facility retrofit. This will increase the drainage area of the stormwater management facility in Taneytown by more than 100 acres.

The retrofit is happening on a city-owned parcel just east of Taneytown Elementary School.

“The project, when it’s completed, will treat approximately 190 acres of land from the city, included in that is 54 acres of impervious [surface],” said Christopher Heyn, acting director of the Department of Land & Resource Management.

The county received a $632,010 state Bay Restoration Fund grant to help fund the project, while the rest will be paid for by the county.

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