March of Dimes Grateful

Americans have been helping the March of Dimes improve the health of children for 66 years -- ever since dimes were collected to help fund polio research. This year is no exception.

On May 16 at the Solomons Island Gazebo more than 250 of Calvert County's residents participated in March of Dimes WalkAmerica, raising more than $31,000 for research into finding the causes of premature birth, a health problem that affects one in every eight babies born in America.

Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death. Many babies who survive suffer from lifelong consequences, including chronic health conditions or developmental disabilities.

On behalf of the March of Dimes, I'd like to express deepest appreciation for Calvert County's enthusiastic support of WalkAmerica. Your efforts help the March of Dimes support research to find the answers to why premature birth happens and how it can be stopped. Thank you.

Kathy Smith

clerk of Circuit Court,

Calvert County

March of Dimes WalkAmerica Honorary chair

Prince Frederick

No Need for a Police Force

Recently there has been much discussion from the St. Mary's County Board of Commissioners about the creation of a county police force. Although I was not in the county when this was first discussed at the May 3 budget workshop, I did have an opportunity to be heard on some of the issues during a local radio talk show May 10.

There are many issues surrounding the creation of a county police force in addition to maintaining a sheriff's office.

The first and foremost issue should be: Is it unnecessary?

The Sheriff's Office is doing an excellent job providing law enforcement services to St. Mary's County, and there is truly no good reason to create a county police department.

Second, the citizens should be outraged that some of the commissioners would even suggest taking away their right to elect the chief law enforcement officer of the county. If a sheriff is doing a good job, he/she should be reelected; if not, the voters can speak by not reelecting him/her.

A police chief would serve at the pleasure of the Board of County Commissioners who would make the selection without the voice of the citizens.

It has been suggested a police chief would be less political, and I say he/she would be five times as political. There are six police departments in Maryland. All are in counties with charter government, and the chief answers to a county executive. There are no police forces in counties with a commissioner form of government. I would hate to be a police chief who answered to five bosses.

Is this cost effective? There is absolutely no way that a police force could be created for less cost or even equal cost to what the citizens are paying for law enforcement now.

There would be a substantial increase in cost by the time you factor in a location to house a police department in addition to a sheriff's office, new decaling of vehicles, switching of uniforms, costs of hiring (to include background investigations) and increased liability to the county. If there is money to create a police force, why not put it toward increasing manpower at the sheriff's office, or creating upward mobility, or replacing the aging vehicle fleet?

In 2001, when Calvert County considered a similar action, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General issued an opinion, part of which stated: "The creation of a county police force does not abridge the common law and statutory duties of the Sheriff. Thus the county would experience the cost of two law enforcement agencies. While local officials are vested with a reasonable degree of discretion in funding state constitutional officers, county officials may not enact a budget which impedes the constitutional officer from discharging the duties of the office."

St. Mary's County is no different in so much as the sheriff's office would still need to be funded.

Salaries of the command level positions have been openly criticized by some commissioners, yet these salaries were a product of a salary study done by the Singer Group several years ago, by the last Board of Commissioners. The salaries of the command positions as well as most others, excluding the lower ranks, are competitive with the Maryland State Police as well as surrounding jurisdictions.

The sheriff's office budget has increased over the years, but over 80 percent of the increases are driven by such things as merit increases, increased health care costs and increased retirement costs, which are not controlled by any sheriff.

Even with the increase in retirement contributions, the sheriff's office Pension System is inferior to those in surrounding jurisdictions and continues to be a retention issue.

In fiscal 1999 the sheriff's office's "actual" budget was $11,547,425. The "actual" budget in fiscal 2003 was $15,211,913, an increase of 32 percent over five years, which is an average 6 percent per year. This will be the seventh budget year that the sheriff's office has not seen an increase in the number of sworn deputies or correctional officers, yet population and demand for services continue to increase. I do not want to decrease the level of service provided by your sheriff's office, as I believe every task we perform is important to the safety and quality of life we all enjoy in St. Mary's County.

If the Board of County Commissioners wants a "police services study," I say stop talking about it and let's do it. I've contacted the International Chiefs of Police, which offers such a service, and I have passed that information on to Commissioners President Thomas F. McKay. I am confident the services of the sheriff's office provide the best bang for the buck to the citizens, and I look forward to a study.

Public safety is the responsibility of everyone, not just the Board of County Commissioners. If there is a problem in law enforcement the buck stops with me, your sheriff.

I would ask every citizen to join me in saying no to a county police force. If you would like to discuss this issue, or any issue, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone at 301-475-4200, Ext. 1910, or by e-mail on our Web site at www.firstsheriff.com.

David D. Zylak

sheriff, St. Mary's County

Leonardtown

Autumn Hills Connector

My family and I live in Constitution Hills in Waldorf. We have lived in this quiet neighborhood for five years. The proposal to build a connector from Autumn Hills through Constitution Hills is ludicrous, irresponsible and totally insane.

The traffic pattern is bad enough as it is now with speeders, stop sign runners, parking on the street, etc.

Constitution Drive simply is not wide enough to support the traffic it has now.

Adding 775 commuters, visitors and new families will be nothing short of a death sentence for the young children in our neighborhood. I can guarantee that there will be serious traffic accidents and children will be injured or killed by the addition of this increased traffic flow if this Autumn Hills connector goes through.

Every one of the officials who have a responsibility for approving this Autumn Hills connector will be held accountable for any and all traffic-related injuries/deaths if this connector is approved.

This is a totally irresponsible and dangerous proposal to add any more traffic to Constitution Drive.

I and many other homeowners in Constitution Hills are adamantly opposed to this connector and are horrified at the behind-the-doors and hush-hush handling of this project by members of the Planning Commission.

A traffic light at Stavors Road and Route 228 needs to be your primary concern. Then vote down the Autumn Hills connector.

The developer will have to find another route, period.

James C. Greer and Family

Waldorf

Visit to Memorial

On May 8, 35 World War II veterans from the Charles County area were invited by the Military Officers Association of America to tour the WWII Memorial.

They were nice enough to furnish three stretch limousines and some wheelchairs for some of us.

We met at the Jaycees Community Center parking lot in Waldorf and headed for Washington feeling highly elated and proud to be together.

It was quite a sight seeing some of us touring the memorial grounds, walking with our canes and some of the fellows pushing the wheelchairs. It was a beautiful day, and as we walked along many people walked over to us and asked to shake our hands.

As you know, some of us are in our late 70s, and most of us are in our 80s

But we were walking tall with our ribbons, and some had medals.

Many people said thank you over and over again for what we had done in the war. One lady walked over to me with tears in her eyes and said thanks for, as she said, "being an Afro-American in the war. I am aware of the many negatives you had to overcome."

But there is no bitterness. I was, and am still, proud to have served.

I am also proud that my son served in the Navy in the Vietnam War and that my 24-year-old grandson is now serving in the Navy Seals and that my great-grandson will graduate from high school in May and has already been inducted into the Navy Seals.

I am proud that four generations of my family have served America.

It is nice to see that people are still thankful.

Folks, take some time off and go see that memorial. You will enjoy it.

Unfortunately, some of my fellow veterans will not be able to see the memorial for they are dying at the rate of 1,100 per day. So you see it for them and say a prayer.

A beautiful day, thanks to the Military Officers Association of America.

Lemon H. Moses Jr.

Waldorf