In the latest twist in their tussle with Chesapeake Beach Mayor Gerald Donovan over a county playing field in the tiny town, Calvert County commissioners decided this week to seek bids to install lights on Kellam Field--a move that could kill a controversial land swap proposed by Donovan.
By a 4 to 1 vote, the commissioners decided to seek bids for lighting, which is expected to cost at least $100,000 and would ensure the field remains a ballpark and is not developed for other purposes.
But minutes later, the board opted to give Donovan a last chance for his land swap plan, saying it would halt plans to light Kellam field if the mayor submitted a written detailed proposal for the land swap.
"We're asking the town, not directing or dictating, to put together in writing a proposal," said Commissioner David F. Hale (R--Owings). "We want a letter that states if we agree to this land swap, the town is willing to pay this amount with this timetable."
Hale and other commissioners had made the same request in person to Donovan in June, but he so far has declined to provide a written plan.
Commissioner Patrick M. Buehler (D-St. Leonard), Donovan's only clear ally on the board of commissioners, cast the lone dissenting vote on the proposal to seek bids to light the field.
"I don't think we have the right to dictate," Buehler said, echoing a term Donovan has used to describe Hale's stance on the proposed land swap. "I don't think the majority of that Town Council wants us to move forward with lighting Kellam field."
Donovan wants the county to give the town ownership of Kellam field, a piece of land in the heart of the town's recreational complex off Route 261. The ballfield, used often by a youth football league, sits next to the town's popular $2.3 million water park.
In exchange for Kellam field, the town is offering the county a property of comparable size just west of the field. To sweeten the deal, Donovan says the town will pour $500,000 in improvements into the land it gives the county, including a new ballfield with lights, a scoreboard, a tot lot, a playground, bathrooms and pavilions.
The plan would leave the town in control of about 60,000 square feet of undeveloped space next to the existing water park.
Donovan said the land would be set aside for undetermined "future recreational improvements."
But some of Donovan's critics say he wants to use that land to expand the water park, a move some of them would oppose.
At Tuesday's county commissioners meeting, Commissioner Barbara A. Stinnett (D-At Large) whipped out a January 1999 blueprint prepared by Chesapeake Beach Town Engineer John Hofmann that was labeled "water park expansion" and shows the 60,000-square-foot parcel as "expanded water park."
Stinnett also took issue with a statement released by Donovan late last week in which he accused Stinnett, with whom he has a frosty relationship, of pursuing a personal vendetta against him.
"I never allow my decisions to be prejudiced by feelings toward any one individual," said Stinnett, whose candidacy for county commissioner last year received no support from Donovan, a power broker for county Democrats. "My decisions are based on what the majority wants and what's in the best interest of the citizens."
Commissioners President Linda L. Kelley (R-Owings) also attacked Donovan's statement, which characterized Kelley as uncooperative.
"This whole statement gives me a great deal of heartburn because it is very inaccurate," Kelley said, adding that she has tried to work with Donovan but that the mayor refused requests she made for information and for an appearance before her board.
Reached Tuesday, Donovan said, "I take pleasure in saying I have no comment for you; I will never have a comment for you."