Note: This is a SUMMARY of the Commissioners Meeting for the purposes of a Press Release. These are not the official minutes of the meeting.
Review of Actions Taken in the Washington County
Board of County Commissioners Meeting
December 18th, 2007
FIRE AND RESCUE INSURANCE RENEWAL
Becky Maginnis, Risk Management Administrator, and Tom Hoblitzell, Vice President of Hilb, Rogal & Hobbs consultants brought this request for approval of the Fire & Rescue Companies Insurance Renewal, before the Board. Package insurance placement for policy year January 2008 to January 2009 for all fire and rescue companies in the Washington County Fire & Rescue Association awarded to Selective Insurance Company for an annual premium of $373,813 for property and casualty and $188,132 for volunteer Workers Compensation coverage. Maginnis told the Board that Five insurance carriers specializing in fire and rescue insurance programs responded to bid specifications. Three were disqualified since they were unable to provide all coverages requested. The lowest quote was received from Selective Insurance Company, and includes coverages for general liability, property, auto liability and auto property damage, inland marine, directors and officer’s liability, employer’s liability, and workers compensation. With acceptance pf the quote, there would be a savings of approximately $220,000 under budgeted FY 2008 premiums. The measure was approved by unanimous vote.
COMMISSIONERS' REPORTS AND COMMENTS
Commissioner Terry Baker commented on the recent article regarding Revenue Sharing with the City of Hagerstown, asking that facts and figures be presented to the Commissioners on that issue. The Commissioner also called for work sessions to be held in early mornings or evenings to provide adequate preparation time for Tuesday Commissioners' meetings. A date will be set soon for Baker's proposed Weaverton-Roxbury rail-trail walk. The County has acquired some right of way agreements along that route, Baker said.
Commissioner Jim Kercheval reported on the recent meeting of the Black Rock Golf Course Board of Directors and reminded the Commissioners that one opening will occur on that Board in January. The Chamber of Commerce Pre-Legislative Forum last week was productive, Kercheval said. Discussions with the Director of Girls' Inc. indicated that Girls' Inc's facility is idle from 8 a.m - 3 p.m. daily, a period in which most senior centers are active. The Commissioner set up a meeting and tour with members of the Commission on Aging to investigate the opportunity that joint use of the Girl's Inc. facility would have in providing a Senior Center site downtown. This opportunity will be explored in the weeks ahead and be included in options for the Senior Center Steering Committee to evaluate. Commissioner Kercheval wished Washington County Employees and County citizens Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a safe New Year.
Commissioner Bill Wivell also wished a happy and safe holiday season to County employees and Citizens alike.
Commissioner Kristin Aleshire responded to a letter from the Board of Education to the Legislative Delegation citing a shortfall in revenue if the County minimum excise tax of $3.00 per square foot moves ahead. Aleshire reminded the Board that a number of Fire and Rescue companies are holding holiday events and said he would circulate a list of companies and event dates. Aleshire also expressed support for work sessions for the Commissioners. On the Revenue Sharing issue, Aleshire commented that the article inferred that the Commissioners have not participated in the proposed Library renovation funding. That issue has been addressed in the County Capital Improvement Program budget in coming years, the Commissioner said. Aleshire commented that revenue sharing issues with the City mist be resolved. County Administrator Greg Murray commented that the work session proposal will be discussed in the new year.
Commissioners' President John Barr presented his wishes for a happy holiday season to employees and all citizens.
Each week the Board of County Commissioners sets aside time to hear from citizens of Washington County on matters of importance to the community.
No one appeared to make comment on this date.
County Attorney Issues: County Attorney John Martirano reported to the Board that the current draft of enabling legislation for changes to the excise tax is being prepared, and asked for an agreement by the Board on a cap for the amount that could be charged. The Board previously set a minimum per square foot tax of $3.00 for residential construction. In the recent Legislative Delegation meeting with the Board, a "range" was requested, but no cap had been set. For enabling legislation purposes, consensus was reached to set the cap at no more than $6.00 per square foot for that type construction. Martirano commented that the cap was for purposes of drafting the enabling legislation only.
Appointments to Boards and Commissions: County Clerk Joni Bittner brought requests from several advisory Boards and Commissions before the Board.
The Water Quality Advisory Commission requested appointment of Bill Breichner. The measure was approved by unanimous vote.
The Airport Advisory Commission requested appointment of Mitesh Kothari to its membership. The measure was approved by unanimous vote.
The Commission on Aging requested appointments of Rose Walters and Linn Hendershot. The measures were approved by unanimous vote.
The Historic District Commission requested reappointments of Robert Bowman, Sandra Iser and Merry Stinson and appointment of Chris Horst. The measures were approved by unanimous vote.
Comments from County Staff: Division of Fire and Emergency Services Director John Latimer requested approval of two grants from the Maryland Numbers Board to improve fire and rescue services for Washington County. $160,040.00 was allocated for purchase of a 600KW emergency generator for the new 9-1-1 dispatch location on Elliott Parkway. A grant for Five 9-1-1 dispatch console chairs for a total of $5,580 consisting of $4,500 from the Numbers Board and $1,080 in County match was also up for approval. The measures were approved by unanimous vote.
Washington County Community Partnership Program Director Stephanie Stone requested recognition in the official meeting minutes of the Bridge Program grant approved on November 27th that would fund 13 transitional housing units. The Board reaffirmed its support of that grant.
Public Works Director Joe Kroboth reported that Highways Department crews worked around the clock during the recent ice and wind event last weekend, clearing felled trees from roadways. Hardest hit area was the Edgemont/Cascade region of the County, Kroboth said.
SALARY REVIEW COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
Special Projects Director Gary Rohrer and members of the Salary Review Committee brought recommendations before the Board and requested their adoption. The recommendations included approving 10 reclassifications and extending the Overtime Policy to Grade 13-and-below employees for emergency call-outs only; adopting proposed changes to the performance appraisal system to be effective January 1, 2008; adopting the proposed Grade and Step Wage Classification Scale effective July 1, 2008; and adopting the proposed Grade and Step Transition effective July 1, 2008. As part of the Commissioners' 2007 goals, the Salary Review Committee, consisting of volunteer members approved by the County Administrator, including members of the employee union convened with a primary charge to review requests from the FY 2008 budget for a variety of reclassifications or upgrades and one-time pay increase requests. In addition, the Committee reviewed the current Wage and Salary Classification Scale and the current employee performance evaluation process. Recommendations included approval of the 10 reclassifications discussed as part of the FY '08 budget process. The Committee said it could not support a request for a one-time pay increase for the Assistant Collections/Distribution Superintendents (DWQ), and recommended that the Board approve the same overtime policy adopted several years ago for Highway Section Supervisors and their Assistants. Upon further discussion with the County Administrator, it was recommended that the practice be extended to all employees Grade 13 and below for emergency call-outs, only. The Committee examined performance appraisal systems, forms and related materials used by several local government employers in the area. Given the number of classifications within County government, the Committee felt that four basic appraisal forms were necessary and developed a hybrid between the existing County form and several from the Washington County Public School system. The new process would focus on job performance: job specific, job knowledge, and job application. In addition to being more efficient, it would hold employees more accountable at all levels by incorporating a disincentive for failing to perform satisfactorily. The Committee reviewed and discussed the current wage and salary scale and cited the difficulties with the system after studying salary and classification information from seven Counties in the region, three cities including Hagerstown, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, and the Washington County Public School System (WCPS). The Committee narrowed its focus on the City and WCPS pay scales and how they are used to compensate the employees of the two entities. The Committee recommended that the County convert to a scale with grade and steps similar to that of the Sheriffs Department. Such a system would be more equitable in that it would address recruiting and retention incentives as well as longevity and market factors. The Committee said that adopting a properly structured classification and pay scale would not resolve all of the challenges with recruitment and retention but believed it would go a long way toward restoring internal equity, reduce subjectivity with pay for performance, be consistent with surrounding jurisdictions and provide for more predictable budget projections. The Committee cited a need for a market based analysis of current, up-to-date job descriptions. Rohrer told the Board that the cost to implement the recommendations would actually be less than projected changes based on current methods, $1.17 million as opposed to $1.18 million. After considerable further discussion on the performance appraisal system and the step/grade proposals, Commissioner Baker made a motion to approve the Salary Review Committee recommendations as presented, with future development and addition of an employee incentive program. The measure was approved on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Kercheval voting "no".
THE BOARD VISITED THE WASHINGTON COUNTY FARM BUREAU FOR THE ANNUAL LUNCHEON MEETING
ADOPTION OF BUILDING CODES
Department of Permits and Inspections Director Dan Divito and Deputy Director Angela Smith brought these requests for adoption of various building codes before the Board. A public hearing was held on November 13th, 2007 for the purpose of considering the repeal, enactment or adoption of a number of codes and guidelines. In order to protect the health, welfare, property and safety of the citizens of Washington County, it was recommended that current versions of those codes be adopted. The Maryland Building Rehabilitation Code became effective throughout the State on June 1st, 2001, to encourage and facilitate the rehabilitation of existing buildings by reducing the cost of and constraints on rehabilitation that result from existing procedures and standards. The MBRC encourages uniformity throughout the State by providing funding for certain programs to those local jurisdictions that adopt and administer the MBRC without making local amendments. Pursuant to the Code of the Public Local Laws of Washington County, Maryland, the County may impose civil penalties for violations of the building codes in the event a violation is not corrected in a reasonable period of time. The goal of imposing civil penalties is not to generate revenue, but to encourage those in violation to bring their properties into compliance with the building codes. The Codes provide that a fine for a civil offense shall be established by resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of Washington County, Maryland. The request was to adopt 9 items, to be effective March 1, 2008. The actions would repeal pertinent existing codes and: Enact the 2006 International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings, First Printing, with Local Amendments for Washington County; Enact the 2006 International Building Code, First Printing, with Local Amendments for Washington County; Enact the 2006 International Plumbing Code, Second Printing, with Local Amendments for Washington County; Enact the 2006 International Mechanical Code, First Printing, with Local Amendments for Washington County; Adopt the 2006 International Fuel Gas Code, Second Printing, with Local Amendments for Washington County, Adopt the 2006 ICC Electrical Code - Administrative Provisions, First Printing, with Local Amendments for Washington County; Adopt the Maryland Building Rehabilitation Code including the Maryland Building Rehabilitation Code Regulations; Adopt the proposed Civil Citations Guidelines; and Adopt a resolution Establishing a Fee Schedule for Civil Citations. The measures were approved on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Wivell voting "no". The Commissioner was opposed to the Civil Citation resolution.
EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES MASTER PLAN
John Latimer, Director of the Division of Fire and Emergency Services and Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association President Glen Fuscsick presented a follow-up discussion on the EMS strategic plan presented to the Board of County Commissioners on February 6, 2007. and requested adoption of the plan. In April 2002, the Board of County Commissioners established the Emergency Services Advisory Council (ESAC) to provide recommendations regarding the provision of emergency services in Washington County. The ESAC created a taskforce on March 29, 2004 to study the current emergency medical services program and create a strategic plan to address both current and future challenges at a system-level. The “Emergency Medical Services Plan for the Future” creates a strategic plan, phased for implementation in such a way that the volunteer component of the emergency medical services system will be preserved and a customarily high level of emergency medical services will be enhanced for the citizens in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible. All recommendations were based on national trends and standards, state and federal regulations and best practices in pre-hospital emergency medical care. The subcommittee membership included representation from County staff, Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (VFRA), ESAC, Hagerstown Fire Department, the County EMS Medical Director and two County EMS companies. The taskforce reviewed the plan with the ESAC and County EMS Company Chiefs to receive their support and held a public forum at HCC’s Kepler Theater to explain the plan and answer questions from fire and rescue personnel and citizens of the community. Last February the VFRA held a formal vote on the matter at its membership meeting. The plan received 22 Yes votes, 2 No votes, one abstention, and one company was not present. Latimer told the Board that the plan summary states that the mission of the Task Force is to effect a cultural change within the fire and emergency services community. The plan recognizes that change is necessary and proposes to educate elected officials and the public on the needs of an enhanced and improved system. Having a clear and concise vision for the future is essential to guide the system. All recommendations are based on national trends and standards, state and federal regulations and best practices in pre-hospital emergency medical care, the plan said. The taskforce report designs the transition from the volunteer corporation-based service with supplemental career staff to a centralized countywide combination system, which would have the depth to weather the growth and demographic changes facing Washington County. The plan calls for the transition to occur in two phases and includes cost estimates and the creation of a revenue stream to fund the program. Phase I would include: Comprehensive review of policies, procedures and the education program; Revision of current service areas to insure the closest unit is responding to the emergency; Acquisition of scheduling software to track the utilization of personnel (career and volunteer) and resources; Transport unit maintenance and fuel reimbursements for volunteer corporations; Due diligence and planning for centralized billing occurring in phase two; Establishment of four geographic battalions in the County with advance life support personnel and equipment assigned to each area as a redundancy in the current system; Creation of an Assistant Chief of EMS Operations for personnel management, field support to comply with FLSA requirements and coordination the transition. Cost for Phase I was estimated at $1.4 million. Phase II of the plan would see: Consolidation of staffing to address system depth, quality assurance and equity within the system as determined by the monitoring of an established set of benchmarks or at the request of an individual corporation for assistance; Implementation of a centralized billing program as the corporations require individual staffing assistance; Supplemental funding for volunteer corporations to help cover physical plant cost based on the level of operational activity; Creation of a volunteer corporation reimbursement program as a financial incentive for volunteer recruitment and retention. Phase II would cost an estimated $4.6 million. The task force concluded that many reports and studies have been produced since the inception of EMS in Washington County containing recommendations for how to improve the system but acknowledged that few of the recommendations made were implemented. "The time has come to address the long-acknowledged but unmet need to strengthen this vital service," the Task Force said in its report. Fuscsick cited cooperation between EMS companies and the ESAC. Latimer told the Board that the plan was written by volunteers and that portions of Phase I were included in the FY '08 budget. Commissioner Kercheval made a motion to approve both phases of the plan, with budget issues to be worked through as part pf the coming FY '09 budget cycle. Commissioner Wivell stated a need for time to review each company's fiscal records, and Commissioner Baker stated he was not ready to vote on the issue, citing the agenda description of the presentation as "a discussion". The motion by Kercheval was approved on a vote of 3 "yes" and two "abstain" votes, from Commissioners Wivell and Baker.
VOLUNTEER LENGTH OF SERVICE AWARD PROGRAM (LOSAP)
Assistant County Attorney Andrew Wilkinson and Fire and Emergency Services Director John Latimer brought this request, for acceptance of several amendments to the LOSAP Program Plan before the Board. The LOSAP Program provides retirement and death benefits to active volunteers of one or more Washington County fire, rescue, or emergency medical services, or support organizations approved by the Board of County Commissioners. The Plan is intended to comply with the length of service award plan requirements under the Internal Revenue Code and with the length of service award program requirements under the Maryland State Income Tax Subtraction Modification Program. The LOSAP Plan Committee previously suggested changes to the LOSAP Program Plan and those changes were incorporated into the Program Plan and are ready for implementation. The changes to include adding members of the Photo Team as Eligible Volunteers; requiring a volunteer to be 16 years or older before being considered an Eligible Volunteer, unless the volunteer earned any LOSAP points before turning 16; adding the Director of Emergency Services and County Attorney to the Plan Committee; clarifying the progression of payments to beneficiaries in the event of the death of an Eligible Volunteer; clarifying the burial benefits for a deceased Eligible Volunteer; clarifying when non-service connected benefits cease; a and adding reporting requirements from volunteer companies. Commissioner Wivell commented he had requested additional language in the amendments that would remove anyone caught falsifying information from the LOSAP program. Wilkinson commented on researching legalities of such a measure. Pending a legal ruling by outside counsel, such a measure would be added as the 8th in the list of changes. The measure was approved by unanimous vote.