The topic was a stormwater retrofit fee requirement.
Discussions took place recently between Frederick County and state officials over clear water and the Chesapeake Bay. Commissioners Vice President Paul Smith, and his colleague, David Gray, met with Maryland Secretary of the Environment Robert Summers, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, John Griffin, Secretary of Planning, Richard Hall, and Secretary of Agriculture, Earl "Buddy" Hance, to talk about how a required fee could impact local landowners.
The Commissioners brought up their concerns about the stormwater retrofit fee, which Smith says could cost the county $1.88-billion. "If you think about how much money that is over a period of time, we have calculated about $530, either per person or per property, for about 12 years to do that," he says. "Increasing the cost to the taxpayers that's going to be very high."
Smith also said there's a certain amount of unfairness in how each county assesses the fees. "We've got figures in from Anne Arundel County and Montgomery County that the show the cost per resident in Frederick County is four times as much as the cost per resident in Anne Arundel and Montgomery County. I said that's not fair," Smith says.
"You're only requiring ten of the counties to levy the tax. That's not fair," he continued.
The two Commissioners suggested a uniform, statewide assessment enacted by the General Assembly similar to the "flush tax" which they say is a fairer way to pay for extensive stormwater retrofitting. But they say this is not an official position taken by the County Commissioners.
"The result of our meeting was that the state seemed to acknowledge the legitimacy of our complaint, and has said they would like to work with us constructively to try to fix it," he says.
Commissioner Smith says the meeting began with a letter sent from the Governor in January to Commissioners' President Blaine Young. In the missive, Maryland's chief executive noted that a lot of localities were delaying the implementation of stormwater retrofits because of concerns about the Conowingo Dam in northeastern part of the state, which has kept a lot of sediment from the Susquehanna River from entering the Chesapeake Bay. But now the sediment behind it has become so high, and its ability to keep this out of the Bay is diminished.
The Governor suggested the localities meet with his cabinet, and Commissioners Smith says Frederick County took him up on that offer to discuss their concerns about stormwater retrofit fees.
"Everyone was very respectful, and pledged to work with us. To what extent, we'll see," he says.