Glenn, Gamatoria, Hitchings begin new Havre de Grace Council terms, bond issues move forward

Havre de Grace incumbents sworn in for another two-year term, Gamatoria remains president

Havre de Grace's three returning council members – Steve Gamatoria, Michael Hitchings and Dave Glenn – were sworn in for new two-year terms Monday night.

The six-member council also agreed to have Gamatoria continue serving as president for another year.

Just 16 percent of the city's registered voters, or 1,557 people, came out to vote in the May 3 election, "which is not good, but it's been getting better the last couple of years," George Deibel, chairman of the city's Board of Elections, noted Monday.

The final vote counts left Glenn with 846 votes, Gamatoria with 781 and Hitchings with 730, Deibel told the council.

Mayor Bill Martin said of the election: "I think this is the best exercise I have ever seen of a citizen-elected legislative body... I look forward to what this next year has to bring."

The council also voted to move forward with the $2.4 million loan to upgrade the treatment plant and the $2.1 million loan toward the Opera House renovation that voters resoundingly approved in the referendum during the election, and approved the tax rate for fiscal year 2017 and increased water and sewer rates.

Water and sewer tax rates would go up by 10 percent and the real property tax rate would be set at the constant yield, of $0.5697 per $100 of assessable real property, a 97-hundreths of a cent higher than the current rate of $0.56.

Starting July 1, water rates would be $5.85 per 1,000 gallons and sewer rates would be $8.75 per 1,000 gallons.

Gamatoria said the council has "a very good dialogue" with residents during a recent public hearing on the proposed rates.

Martin also said he has seen tax cuts since he has been on the city council and he agreed with Gamatoria that "we had a very, very good dialogue on the need" for the increase this year.

Martin hinted the rates could come down in the future.

"We do have a way out. We do have a plan," he said about his hopes that the city can start selling water to other buyers from the upgrades to the water treatment plant.

Councilman Randy Craig thanked Gamatoria for helping move forward the Opera House and water plant items so they could be voted on Monday.

"When you are entering any market, especially the bond market, timing is everything," Craig said about why Gamatoria thought it prudent to take action at Monday's meeting.

City Director of Administration Patrick Sypolt thanked voters for their "faith in the vision" of Havre de Grace by supporting the Opera House and water plant bills.

"Directors, we have our work cut out for us," Sypolt said.

Martin called the referendum "a vote of confidence for arts and entertainment and cultural arts in our city."

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