Along with a promise to install a monthly monitoring system to quell environmental concerns, the Calvert County Board of Commissioners unanimously gave the go-ahead Tuesday to expand the Prince Frederick sewage treatment plant.
The expansion--near the pristine Parker Creek watershed--carries a $3.5 million price tag and includes spray irrigation discharge fields on 180 acres off Tobacco Ridge Road in Prince Frederick. The expansion would help the sewage treatment facility meet the growth of the town center and accommodate future development.
Environmentalists are applauding the adoption of the safer spray irrigation discharge method, but they aren't happy with the location of the facility, saying it threatens the slow-moving Parker Creek. A hurricane or similar natural disaster could cause untreated waste to leak into the creek, opponents contend.
Most concerns about the plant's expansion have been raised by the American Chestnut Land Trust, a private nonprofit organization that owns 816 acres in the watershed and manages an additional 1,600 acres on behalf of the state and The Nature Conservancy.
ACLT President Joy A. Bartholomew delivered a letter to the commissioners' office on Friday that included an offer to negotiate with the county on the sale of the plant property to the ACLT. Commissioner David F. Hale (R-Owings) said he read the letter, but wasn't interested in a possible sale of the land for one simple reason: "If not there, where's a better site?" he asked.
Hale said he is confident that the county's extensive research has identified the best possible site for the plant, adding that the Parker Creek property is less costly and less populated than other places the county considered. Hale said he and other commissioners are eager to work with the ACLT to ensure that the plant is "operated and maintained in an environmentally safe manner."
Bartholomew is willing to help monitor activities around the plant, but still has some concerns, especially in the wake of Hurricane Floyd.
"If there are never any problems, then everything is fine," she said. "But if there are ever any problems with the plant--and just about every public utility has problems at one time or another--then there will be problems for Parker Creek if any untreated waste gets into this slow-moving creek."
School Building Plan Approved
The Charles County Board of Education approved a Capital Improvements Program on Tuesday that calls for building a new middle school and another high school by 2005.
The board voted unanimously to present the plan, which outlines all construction and renovation projects between 2001 and 2005, to state education officials by Friday.
Despite the unanimous endorsement of the overall plan, there was some disagreement over the construction schedule for the new schools. Board member Margaret Young proposed an amendment to push up by a year the planning of the new middle school, now slated for 2002.
"I think we miss an opportunity to serve our constituents' desires when we move so slowly to request funds for new schools," Young said.
The amendment failed, with only Young and Collins A. Bailey voting in favor.
In recent years, Charles County typically has moved to redistrict school attendance zones to handle swelling enrollments before building new schools.
If approved, the new schools would be housed on at least 150 acres of land in Waldorf, west of Route 301.
Peace-Keeping Duties Call
David M. Jenkins, the executive director of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, has gotten the call--one that will send him to turbulent southeastern Europe.
Jenkins, 50, is set to deploy in February, 14 months after becoming the top manager of the regional planning body. He will go to Bosnia along with his Maryland Army National Guard unit, the 629th Military Intelligence Battalion.
Jenkins is a command sergeant major, which makes him his unit's senior enlisted person. As such he will be responsible for a range of topics, including training, safety, health, morale and appearance.
Jenkins will be on unpaid leave from the council from his departure until his return in September.
To help out while he is gone, the Tri-County Council has hired Robert L. Swann, 63, of St. Leonard in Calvert County.
Swann, who recently retired from his job as Maryland's deputy comptroller, will work at the council with no formal title.
Swann has yet to sign a contract, but said he expects that detail to be resolved shortly.
Md. to Improve Calvert Roads
Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari spoke to the Calvert County Democratic Club last week, outlining the highlights of upcoming state highway spending in the county.
Calvert is in line to receive nearly $21 million in state transportation funds over the next five years, he said. That money includes $5 million for safety and resurfacing projects on Route 2/4, $3.1 million to extend Route 765 and $3 million for an interchange at Routes 4 and 260.
Porcari also brought word of money for projects that might take some cars off Calvert's increasingly crowded commuter routes. Nearly $250,000 has been earmarked in transportation budgets for the development of commuter parking lots along Routes 2/4 and 231.
Question Your Authorities
Charles County business leaders are gearing up for the annual State of the County Address next month. For the 13th year, the Charles County Chamber of Commerce will sponsor the forum. It will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 10 at Middleton Hall on Renner Road in Waldorf.
Each of the five county commissioners speaks on issues and concerns confronting the county. Audience members can submit written, anonymous questions to the elected officials.
"The anonymous questions allow for a more frank and informal discussion than the traditional speeches that used to be given," said Sally Jameson, the chamber's executive director.
Staff writer Todd Shields contributed to this report.