January 23, 2006
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Present were
Mayor Calvo, CMs Dennison, Gourley, Laughlin and McNulty. Also present were
Town Administrator Murphy, Clerk Harper and citizens.
Agenda changes: 58th Avenue walkway
and acting director compensation were added to the Public Works agenda. The
Prince George's County Municipal Association (PGCMA) legislative agenda would
be taken up under the Mayor's agenda.
Announcements: With municipal election
scheduled for May 2, petitions for candidacy are now available at the Town
office and can be filed until March 7. The Berwyn Heights Elementary School
(BHES) will hold its Artist-in-Residence program on February 17.
Calendar: The Council reviewed the calendar.
Berwyn Heights Day was added on May 6.
Minutes: CM McNulty moved to adopt the January
9 worksession minutes. CM Laughlin seconded. The minutes were adopted 5 to 0
Department reports: CM Laughlin was informed
that alternative notification of violations using regular mail in addition to certified mail
has been implemented for all types of violations. Outreach to the Hispanic
community, including translation of key documents, remains on the Code
Department's agenda. CM Dennison is gathering ideas for celebrating municipal
government works month in April and requested a copy of the Maryland Municipal
League (MML) booklet published for that occasion. Re-landscaping the Town
center and celebrating the return of Purple Martins are possible projects. She
is also assisting the Recreation Council in planning Berwyn Heights Day.
CM McNulty reported that the Police Department's application
for a COPS grant was turned down. He reminded residents that they should call
the Police Department at 301-474-6554 or the County dispatcher at 301-333-4000
for non-emergencies. To report suspicious activities citizens can call
1-800-TIPS. The Department has decided against forwarding calls to officers on
patrol. CM Dennison related 2 incidents in which she had problems calling on
the Berwyn Heights police for help with respect to suspicious vehicles she
witnessed on the school parking lot and on the Sports Park field. In both
cases, she took license plate numbers and called for help. However, suspects
were not apprehended because the response was not fast enough. She believes
this to be an indication that the police does not patrol the Town as it should
be patrolled. CM McNulty commended CM Dennison for her vigilance but warned not
to put herself at risk.
CM Gourley reported that Director Coleman has been out due
to a family issue and that two workers had sustained injuries and one is now
back at work. Mayor Calvo said that Administration is in the last stages of
interviewing candidates for a new administrative assistant and hopes to make a
Citizen comments: Mike Attick of 62nd
Avenue asked if the code official can ask residents to sign the notice when
putting out door hangers to cut down on the sending of certified letters. CM
Laughlin said she cannot because the door hanger is just a warning. Mayor Calvo
said that the door hanger is just a courtesy not an official action. Mr Attick
suggested that the Council install a bell at the Police Department offices so
that residents might get in touch with the officer on duty after hours and that
the officers again make themselves available on pagers. CM McNulty said he
would look into a door bell. Mr. Attick also commented on a police station
proposed for the Metropark development and guarantees for the $1 million
compensation to Berwyn Heights if the development goes bankrupt. Mayor Calvo
replied that, while Greenbelt is the recipient of a police department and
substantial tax revenues, it will also pay for an $8 million bridge. If the
development goes bankrupt the new owner is bound to fulfill the terms of the
agreement with Berwyn Heights.
Peter Wendling of Vernon Terrace reported that his neighbors
still have D.C. license plates after having lived in the house for 1 year. He
suspects that the house is a rental and has verified that no rental license is
on file for the address. Mayor Calvo asked that Mr. Wendling forward the
information to the Code and Police Departments.
CM Laughlin received a follow-up question regarding a
suggestion to post contact information for Town organizations on the Bulletin
back page. Another comment related to a boat parked on a steep driveway, for
which the Town recently issued a parking permit and which looks unsightly and
unstable. CM McNulty said he has received a number of complaints from citizens
about Berwyn Heights police not patrolling as often as they used to. Chief
Murphy has pointed out that the number of citations issued by the department
has greatly increased over the last few years and reflects increased patrolling
activity. CM Dennison also received a number of calls regarding insufficient
patrolling and a follow-up call regarding a low-hanging branch obscuring a stop
sign. Mayor Calvo received an inquiry as to whether any homes would be
demolished due to the building of an overpass in connection with the Metropark
development. He stated that no homes in Berwyn Heights will be affected. Mr.
Wendling asked how the 1 million in Metroland compensation will be spent. Mayor
Calvo said no final decision has been made but $400,00 are marked for traffic
mitigation, $400,000 for public safety and $200,000 for Public Works.
MML convention hotels: The Council agreed to
reserve rooms at the Ramada Inn next to the Ocean City convention center.
MML municipal government month: Mayor Calvo
asked for ideas on how to celebrate MML's Municipal government works month. CM
Laughlin said that, in the past, the Town marked the occasion with open houses
at the Town's departments or a grill party at the Town Office. One possibility
is holding an open house at the Police Department and show off the new offices. CM Dennison said that the
MML mails out a booklet with ideas for this occasion and requested a copy. The
matter was postponed to February until Councilmembers have had a chance to look
over the idea book.
State legislative bills: Mayor Calvo,
referring to lists of proposed state legislation, asked if the Council would
like to take positions on any of them. He would support a bill by Councilmember
Al Carr of Kensington that would require Potomac Electric Power Corporation
(PEPCO) to sell its street lights to municipalities which would then be free to
shop around for their electric supplier. However, he does not expect the bill
to be passed this legislative session.
CM Dennison said she would like to take a position on PG/MC
111-06 which deals with building an underground liquefied gas facility in
Chillum. She opposes the project as does the PGCMA and would like to support a
pilot project by Baltimore Gas and Electric Company instead.
CM Laughlin said she would like to have more information on
bills PG/MC 112-06, Subdivision Appeals, PG/MC 113-06 Zoning Appeals, PG 401-06
Election of PG School Board Members, PG 407-06 Telecommunications Tax
Distribution of Revenue, and PG 413-06
Unattended Vehicles Penalty. CM Dennison added PG 409 Homestead Property Tax
Credit Emergency Police Hiring Fund and PG 414-06 Shopping Centers Security.
CM Dennison continued reporting on the last PGCMA meeting at
which the following items were discussed: partnerships with Hurricane Katrina
devastated cities, landlord-tenant legislation, PGCMA scholarship packages
mailed to cities, livable communities signs in Prince George's municipalities
and making it a misdemeanor to bring alcoholic beverages into an establishment.
At 8:25 p.m., the Council took a 10 minute break.
Election judges: Mayor Calvo said all election
judges from the previous board have agreed to serve again. In addition, two
other citizens have expressed interest, one of whom, however, is not a resident
of the Town and cannot serve. CM Dennison moved to approve all previous
election judges, plus one alternate. CM Gourley seconded. CM McNulty asked if
there are provisions to ensure that both Democrats and Republicans are equally
represented on the board of elections. Mayor Calvo said municipal elections are
non-partisan. The Council voted 5 to 0 to approve the list of judges.
Voting machines: TA Murphy explained that the
Town used an electronic voting machine from a private vendor during the 2004
election and was satisfied with the services. He recommends using the same
vendor for this election. CM Dennison asked whether this voting machine can
produce a paper trail. Clerk Harper said that the machine tally is printed out
on paper and certified by the election judges. CM Dennison expressed concern
about the lack of a paper trail for individual votes and the possibility for
outside manipulation and fraud. She also asked if there is provisional voting.
Mayor Calvo said he is comfortable with the electronic machines. He invited CM Dennison to make a motion to use a
different voting system.
CM Laughlin expressed concern about misvotes, as occurred in
the last elections, where voters selected candidates but did not push the cast
ballot button. She asked if that can be avoided. Clerk Harper said that a
practice voting machine could obtained at additional cost. Alternatively, a
paper ballot can be posted for public inspection before the election so that
citizens can familiarize themselves with it. CM Gourley suggested and Council
agreed to publish the ballot in the April and May Bulletins. Clerk Harper
further confirmed that citizens would be able to cast a provisional vote on a
paper ballot if their names do not appear on the rolls. Their names and address
would be taken and registration status confirmed with the County Board of
Elections later. Paper ballots can also be used by voters uncomfortable with
Mr. Attick commented that the Town Charter mandates paper
ballots. TA Murphy checked the Town Charter and verified that there is no
specification of paper ballots. It was further suggested that the Election
Ordinance may need updating if it specifies paper ballots. The Council
postponed a decision until these issues have been clarified.
Wildlife habitat agreement: Mayor Calvo
explained that in August 2005 the Town made an oral agreement with the Ricketts
family on 58th Avenue permitting the establishment of a wildlife
habitat in his backyard. The drafting of the 1-year agreement has been delayed
but is now ready for Council approval. TA Murphy elaborated that resident Ann
Harris-Davidson has expressed concerns that the agreement follow guidelines
established by the National Wildlife Federation and restrict feeding and watering
of wild animals as well as guard against non-native and invasive plant species.
These restrictions have been incorporated into the agreement. Additionally, the
agreement requires that the habitat be returned to a manicured lawn if
Mayor Calvo agreed with the restrictions and wanted to
ensure that the owner abides by all other Clean Lot provisions. CM Laughlin
said that the agreement should also require that the non-habitat area of the
lot be held to Clean Lot standards. CM Dennison objected to the restrictions as
a Big Brother intrusion into the private affairs of Town residents. Mayor
Calvo replied that the habitat was requested by a resident and does not apply
to other residents. Big Brother would simply mandate what is to be done; not
negotiate the terms of an agreement. CM Laughlin added that the restrictions on
the habitat have health and safety implications for the neighborhood. If food
and drink were allowed, rats and rabid raccoons might be attracted. However,
restrictions on invasive plants might be over regulation. CM Gourley said that,
while he initially voted against the agreement, he would support it if it
produces a decent looking yard. CM McNulty suggested the agreement have a
provision regarding the maintenance of fences. TA Murphy said the Clean Lot
Ordinance does not have fence provisions.
Mayor Calvo proposed to vote on individual provisions of the
agreement: 1) restrictions on animal feed were approved 4 to 1 with CM Dennison
opposed; 2) prohibition of bird baths and other artificial water sources were
approved 4 to 1 with CM Dennison opposed; 3) requirement to revert to a
manicured lawn if the habitat ends or the agreement is violated was approved 4
to 1 with CM Dennison opposed; 4) prohibition of non-native and invasive plants
was approved 4 to 1. Mayor Calvo added that he would like to include a
provision requiring the owner to waive
his right to file law suits if there is a violation of the agreement and
a Clean Lot fine is imposed. TA Murphy was tasked to research the issue.
Resident Mr. Wendling commented that the well being of neighbors of the
property should be taken into account when exempting a property from Clean Lot
requirements, as is the case with a wildlife habitat.
Town Center landscaping: TA Murphy explained
that he invited Mark Emmenl of Greensmith's Landscaping to submit a proposal on
improving the Town Center landscaping. While the proposal exceeds the Town's
landscaping budget, Mr. Emmell has offered to instruct the Public Works
Department on how to do some of the maintenance work itself. TA Murphy
suggested that the Town prioritize what should be done to stay within the
$1,200 landscaping budget. Priority items should include pruning of holly trees
as they might damage the roofs, other trimming of plants around the front of
the building and improving thelines of sight at the parking lot entrance.
CM Gourley said that Public Works employees tried
unsuccessfully to get certified for performing landscaping work on non-Town
properties. Public Works employees should not be asked to perform work that
they are not certified to do. Mayor
Calvo agreed that the more difficult work should be contracted out while some
jobs could be done by Town employees and volunteers. The Council should
establish a budget for landscaping but not micromanage. He would prefer to keep
any landscaping simple. CM Dennison said she would like to get input from Mrs.
Erikson, who maintains the grounds, about the proposed changes as well as
obtain other estimates. CM McNulty said that safety and maintenance hazards
should be priority items.
Acting directors compensation: Mayor Calvo
explained that 2 Public Works employees filled in for Director Coleman while he underwent
surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation. The Town has no policy for compensating
employees who act as directors and take on added responsibilities above their
pay grade. In the interim, he proposed that the employees receive a retroactive
bonus. He proposed $1,000 for Mr. Hochman and $500 for Mr. McConnell. CM
Gourley proposed $1,500 and $1,000 respectively. CM Laughlin noted that
previous Councils have paid bonuses to employees when they had to take on added
responsibilities. CM McNulty proposed that additional compensation be paid on a
month-to-month basis. Mayor Calvo said that since the period of acting
directorship is over, it would be a lump-sum bonus.
CM Gourley moved to pay a bonus of $1,500 and $1,000
respectively. CM Dennison seconded.
CM McNulty said that, when a policy is written, a bonus for
acting directorship should be tied to the time served. Mayor Calvo disagreed
saying that bonuses are dictated by the available funds in the budget and
should be decided on a case by case basis. The motion was approved 5 to 0.
58th Avenue walkway (added item):
TA Murphy said that, last year, the Council approved the construction of a
walkway as an Eagle Scout project along 58th Avenue between Goucher
Drive and Nevada Street. Currently, there is just a water-logged dirt path with
an adjacent ditch that drains into a catch basin. As a lot of dirt and debris
accumulate, Public Works cleans out the ditch and basin with a backhoe on a
yearly basis. The annual cleanup would likely damage or destroy the proposed
The project has been discussed with the Town Engineer and
Director Coleman. Three options have been developed: 1) a concrete swale
replacing the ditch; 2) two storm drains, one to carry the runoff from Goucher
Drive and one perforated pipe to take the runoff from the walkway; 3)
installation of three culverts with drainage pipes installed across the
walkway. The concrete swale is the least expensive option at an estimated cost
of $3,000. Another $700 would be spent on gravel for the walkway. The deadline
for the Eagle Scout project is April 4 so the work should be done as soon as
possible. Mayor Calvo said he would like to proceed with the project as it
makes for a convenient cut-through and solves a long-standing drainage problem.
The Council approved the concrete swale in a 5 to 0 vote.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:10 p.m.
Kerstin Harper, Town Clerk
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