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Washington County delegation members meet with local officials, voters

12-hour day includes eight meetings with 10 groups of people

December 11, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Del. Neil C. Parrott gestures while speaking with Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

One change Washington County wants to pursue in the next state legislative session is how police officers may respond to calls for help.

Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore has proposed that police from various agencies in Washington County be allowed to answer calls outside their jurisdictions if it’s an emergency or if the geographic borders were unclear.

That was one of seven items that county officials presented Tuesday to the Washington County delegation for the 2013 Maryland General Assembly session, which starts on Jan. 9.

The delegation packed several days’ worth of public meetings into one, starting with a morning prelegislative forum with the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

The delegation later made the rounds with the Washington County Board of Education, the Washington County Board of Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council.

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The roughly 12-hour day concluded with a public meeting for local residents to speak out.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, the delegation chairman, said last week that the agenda — eight meetings with 10 groups of people — was lengthy, but it was logistically easier to get as many delegation members as possible together in one day.

On Tuesday, Sen. George C. Edwards, who lives in Garrett County, said his day started at 5 a.m.

The day before, the Allegany County delegation — including Edwards and Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., who also are in the Washington County delegation — held a public meeting that didn’t end until late at night, Edwards said.

Yet, Edwards and others in the Washington County delegation said they’d rather get all of the meetings out of the way at once.

With the Washington County commissioners, the delegation talked about a state grant formula, bond authorization and amusement devices, among other topics.

The request on police jurisdiction sparked one of the longer discussions, as Mullendore explained that, currently, having a police officer respond to a call just outside his or her territory could negate the resulting charges in court.

He said this geographic issue can be problematic in neighborhoods near municipal borders, where different parts of a street can be in different police coverage zones.

Mullendore said he thinks Washington County would be the first locality to request such reciprocal authorization.

County officials also are asking the delegation to continue pressing for changes to a wealth-based state grant program.

If a cap on the program were removed, Washington County could receive millions of dollars. During the 2012 legislative session, attempts to make Washington County eligible again failed.

Serafini, Myers and Del. John P. Donoghue pledged to keep trying.

Washington County also is asking for state authorization to borrow $60 million for its Capital Improvement Plan through 2018.

The county periodically asks for permission to borrow again as its pool of bond money dwindles.

Debra S. Murray, the county’s budget and finance director, said the county has lowered its debt ceiling from $16 million a year to $14 million a year.

Through state legislation, the county also is requesting a new payment in lieu of taxes system for technology-related businesses, a clarification to the definition of amusement devices and continued support for local management boards, which monitor child and family services, according to the Maryland Manual.

Another request was for technical changes to the mandated process of reviewing county salaries every four years.

Serafini said the delegation would prefer that county officials, rather than the state, set salaries for local positions.

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