State Del. Van. T. Mitchell (D-Charles County) wants a decision on how the county is going to regulate surface mines, and he wants it sooner rather than later.

That's the gist of a letter from Mitchell to Murray D. Levy (D-At Large), president of the Charles County Board of Commissioners.

In his Nov. 29 letter, Mitchell said he reviewed recommendations from a 1990 task force that examined gravel mining.

"I wondered if some of those recommendations had been put in place if we would have ended up with all the constituents as excited as they are this year," Mitchell wrote.

In gravel mining, companies strip the soil off large tracts of land in order to remove the gravel that lies beneath. Critics say the process generates noise and dangerous truck traffic and is environmentally harmful. Industry supporters say the process is environmentally benign, in part because the soil is restored after mining, and that property owners have a right to mine their gravel.

The 1990 task force failed to reach a consensus. Commissioners appointed another task force that this year called for recognition of a right to mine, for loosened requirements for mine owners to study the truck traffic their facility would generate, and for mines to maintain planted buffer strips to deter harmful soil erosion.

Commissioners began addressing the recommendations during a November meeting, but put off any decisions until next year.

Kelley Reelected to Calvert Board Presidency

Linda L. Kelley was reelected Tuesday to a second one-year term as president of the Calvert County Board of Commissioners.

Kelley (R-Owings) was elected on a 3 to 2 vote, with Democratic Commissioners Patrick M. Buehler (St. Leonard) and Barbara A. Stinnett (At Large) casting votes instead for fellow Commissioner David F. Hale (R-Owings).

With Republicans occupying three of the five commissioner seats--John Douglas Parran (At Large) recently returned to the GOP fold after seven months as a political independent--it was a foregone conclusion that a member of the majority would be president. And the Democrats' concerns over how Kelley runs things apparently prompted their support for Hale.

"The board has had a lot of friction, and I think we need a change," Stinnett said.

Hale himself could have cast the deciding vote in favor of himself, but instead opted to vote in favor of Kelley serving another term as president.

Stinnett won unanimous election to her first one-year term as vice president of the commissioners.

St. Mary's to Reorganize Planning and Zoning

The St. Mary's County commissioners announced last week that they have directed a reorganization of the Department of Planning and Zoning to place more emphasis on customer service.

The reorganization, which commissioners want implemented by the beginning of the next fiscal year on July 1, will create a new Department of Building Permit Services. Issuance of building permits, review of construction plans and inspections for code compliance will be transferred from the planning department to the new agency, the commissioners said in a statement announcing the move.

By separating the two functions, commissioners said they are hoping to get better long-range planning from the planning department and improved inspection and code enforcement from the new permits department.

Local GOP Leaders for Bush Campaign Announced

Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush may be feeling the heat from rivals as the first tests of the 2000 primary campaign approach, but the Texas governor is still pretty cool as far as Southern Maryland GOP officeholders are concerned.

Bush, whose huge fund-raising advantage hasn't prevented Arizona Sen. John McCain from gaining ground in recent polls, last week announced regional and county leaders for his campaign in Maryland.

"Many Republican leaders in Maryland are solidly committed to electing George W. Bush as our next president, and we have already signed up 1,000 volunteers," said Bush's state chair, Ellen Sauerbrey, the GOP nominee for governor in 1994 and 1998.

In Calvert County, state Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell will chair the Bush effort. The three co-chairmen are County Commissioner David F. Hale (Owings), State's Attorney Robert B. Riddle and Sheriff Vonzell R. Ward.

The county campaign director is Tom Rosetti, a senior engineer at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. Rosetti, of Port Republic, was a Republican candidate for county commissioner last year. Also on the county team is Robert L. Gray, a Prince Frederick lawyer who is a member of the Calvert County Board of Education.

State Del. Thomas E. Hutchins was named chairman of the Charles County Bush campaign. The co-chairmen are County Commissioners W. Daniel Mayer (La Plata) and Marland Deen (Waldorf), Sheriff Fred Davis and County Treasurer Joe Norris. Julie Carroll, an agent with Baldus Real Estate, is also part of the Bush effort in Charles.

In St. Mary's County, Sheriff Richard J. Voorhaar was named chairman by the Bush campaign. The co-chairman is State's Attorney Richard Fritz, and Tim Wood, a real estate professional and retired Navy captain, was named director.

Charles Honors Washington With Flags at Half-Staff

Charles County's government flew flags at half-staff on Tuesday to mark the 200th anniversary of George Washington's death.

The first president was a neighbor to Revolutionary-era residents of Charles County. He was treated on his deathbed by Dr. James Craik, a La Plata resident.

The flags were lowered following a vote Monday by Charles County commissioners, who acted upon a request from the Sons of the American Revolution, said county spokeswoman Nina Voehl.