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Washington County delegation discusses requests from commissioners

Policing, tax privileges for tech start-ups and Capital Improvement Plan were among items considered

January 23, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — Washington County legislators met for their first delegation meeting during this session of the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday to discuss legislative requests from the Washington County Board of County Commissioners.

County Administrator Greg Murray, County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham and John Latimer, who represents the Washington County Community Coalition and the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, were among local officials at the meeting.

At the meeting, the delegation voted to go ahead with a bill to appoint police officers from municipalities as special sheriff deputies. This would enable police officers to respond across municipal lines.

“It actually maximizes the police presence in all the areas of Washington County,” Murray said at the meeting.

Another item given the go ahead by the delegation was a bill that would ask for bond authorization worth $60 million to fund the county’s Capital Improvement Plan through 2018.

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“Just because we ask for $60 million, doesn’t mean there will be $60 million worth of expenditure. This just allows us to fund the capital improvement program,” said Kirk Downey, deputy county attorney.

The delegation is also working on a bill that would grant special tax privileges to technology start-ups before discussing the issue in detail.

According to previous discussions, the county wants to have the flexibility to attract technology companies by charging them an agreed upon amount over a period of time instead of a hefty personal property tax bill upfront.

“That gives an opportunity to grow and become entrenched in the community, and, of course, it is all about jobs,”  Callaham said.

Another bill that the delegation discussed and agreed to file would expand the definition of “amusement devices” so that game or arcade machines that are activated by credit or debit cards instead of coins would qualify as these devices. A similar bill did not make it out of committee in the last session.

The delegation also voted to approve a recommendation from the county commissioners and a salary study commission to increase the salary of the sheriff to $100,000 from $88,000. That increase, if approved by the legislature, would take place after the next election cycle.

But Del. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, said that the delegation would file a bill that would let county commissioners decide on salary increases for locally elected officials.

“It is the county’s money,” Serafini said, explaining his reasoning.

At a pre-legislative meeting in December, the delegation members asked the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce to be more proactive with its legislative efforts.

That is already happening, Serafini said Wednesday.

“We are ready, we stand ready to respond and to support your efforts and the efforts of the business community in Washington County,” Latimer said.

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