St. Mary's County Sheriff David D. Zylak is having another tough week with the Board of County Commissioners.
First, Zylak (D) and his entire command staff showed up on time for a 2:15 p.m. budget work session with the commissioners Monday, expecting to hammer out the details of the department's $18.3 million spending request.
But the commissioners worked over the numbers for nearly three hours without calling on Zylak. Once he tried to speak but was interrupted by commissioners President Thomas F. McKay (R-At Large).
"Can we bring this meeting to order," McKay said, banging on the table with his fist.
By the time Zylak was asked to step to the podium, just after 5 p.m., he had already told his subordinates to leave. "This is not the work session I was expecting," Zylak said.
By this time, the commissioners had opted to downsize one of Zylak's key proposals -- the creation of a rank structure designed to retain deputies and corrections officers who are being wooed by other agencies.
Zylak wanted at least 10 deputies and four officers at the County Detention Center to be reclassified in the ranks of senior deputy 1st class and senior corrections officer 1st class. Each officer would receive a pay raise, costing the county about $35,000.
The two Democratic commissioners, Thomas A. Mattingly Sr. and Daniel H. Raley, supported him. But Republicans McKay, Larry Jarboe and Kenneth R. Dement overruled them and sliced the number of reclassifications to five deputies and two corrections officers. The plan will cost about $17,500.
Zylak bristled at the podium.
"I don't think the rank and file are going to feel real supported at the end of the day," Zylak said.
McKay and Jarboe said they could not back full funding for all of the sheriff's requests in tight budget times.
"The sheriff's department budget is growing faster than our revenues are growing," McKay said, noting figures that showed a nearly 59 percent increase in the department's budget since 1999. During the same period, public schools received budget increases totaling about 39 percent.
"We can't keep funding the sheriff at the current rate," McKay said.
Zylak's troubles come after McKay suggested law enforcement needs might be better served by a county police department. Though McKay later backed away from that idea, the sheriff's budget is being increased by about 6 percent this year, well below the double-digit percentage raise he was looking for.
Last year, the commissioners gave Zylak a 13.5 percent increase in funds.
"I was hoping we could do things the way we did then," Zylak said.
Later Summer Hours at Landfill
Nothing like a summer evening for a trip to the dump.
After much deliberation, and a survey of St. Mary's County's residents' habits and desires about trash collection sites, county commissioners voted Tuesday to keep them open later in the summer so people can come after work.
They also voted to increase residential fees at the St. Andrew's Landfill from $5 a pickup load to $10 and from $35 a ton to $52.
Commissioners President McKay said the fees are not being raised just because Calvert County recently raised its fees. Rather, he said, the increase is needed because St. Mary's trucks its landfill trash to Calvert. St. Mary's will still eat the transportation costs, but the higher dumping charges will help the county pay Calvert's steeper fees.
"It's to collect what we're obligated to pay -- not just to keep up with another county here," McKay said.
The six residential convenience centers will still be open 551/2 hours every week, but enough people said they wished they could get there after work that George Erichsen, director of public works and transportation, recommended opening later in the morning and closing later in the evening.
"Toward the end of the day there's a surge of folks almost every day trying to get to the convenience centers," Erichsen said. Staying open until 6 p.m. wouldn't be quite enough time for people to get home from work, grab the trash and get there, he said. And his employees were reluctant to stay open until 7 p.m.
So he suggested opening at 11 a.m. on weekdays in the summer, instead of 9:30 a.m., and closing at 6:30 p.m. instead of 5. The centers will still be open weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The seasonal changes will begin July 1 (and next year, they'll start May 1). After Oct. 31, people will have to find something else to do in the evening.
Rainfall Reducing Water Quality
Hurricane Isabel and above average rainfall throughout the year combined to produce overall poor water quality in Solomons Harbor last year, according to a University of Maryland study.
"High local rainfalls through spring and summer caused record high algal blooms," according to a report presented Tuesday to the Calvert County Board of Commissioners.
The report issued by the Solomons-based Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, part of the university's Center for Environmental Science, said those conditions "drove oxygen concentrations to the lowest levels recorded in the Harbor System. Then Hurricane Isabel roared through in September, with additional impacts associated with such storms."
A product of rainfall can be runoff high in nitrogen from agricultural fertilizers and waste from septic systems and boats, experts said. Nitrogen helps cause algae to bloom in the water, which blocks sunlight, making it difficult for aquatic vegetation to grow, experts said.
"Low oxygen levels and high algal concentrations and number of algal blooms are indicators of poor water quality," David Brownlee, a county environmental planner, wrote in a memo to the commissioners. "The high precipitation levels resulted in increased runoff of nutrients and sediments." Hurricane Isabel pushed that runoff to new levels, considering that much of Solomons Islands was submerged when the storm hit.
The county first hired the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in 1987 to study the water of Solomons Harbor, a move that was tied to increasing concerns about growth.
In this year's study, the experts encouraged the county to make moves such as expanding sewage service and upgrading individual septic systems. They also recommended increasing natural buffers, such as trees, as well as more effective management of runoff from construction sites.
Solomons Harbor is at the county's southernmost tip, where the Back, Mill and St. John creeks feed into the Patuxent River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
Facchina Honored for Tornado Aid
Paul V. Facchina Jr., head of the La Plata-based Facchina Construction Co., received a Small Business Administration Phoenix Award last week in recognition of the company's work to create the "Temporary Town Center" after the tornado in April 2002.
The award was announced Friday in Orlando at the agency's three-day conference celebrating national Small Business Week.
"During times of crisis," SBA Administrator Hector V. Barreto said in a statement, Facchina and others honored at the conference "displayed selflessness and courage and made remarkable contributions to the recovery of their communities."
La Plata's business district was devastated when the April 28, 2002, tornado struck. Many small businesses were left with no place to operate.
Facchina approached town officials with a proposal to construct the Temporary Town Center, essentially a business park made up of 21 modular trailers put up along Centennial Street. In less than two weeks after the tornado, two dozen local businesses were back in operation.
At the time, Facchina said he built the temporary business quarters to help the town retain businesses. If the displaced businesses had moved out of town and signed long-term leases, Facchina said in 2002, La Plata risked becoming a "ghost town."
Facchina Construction has been involved in other high-profile projects since it was founded in 1987. The firm was one of the principal contractors on the reconstruction of the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Other projects include the new parking facility at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the expansion of the Georgetown University Law Center campus.
Potomac Swim Set for June 5
The annual Potomac River Swim for the Environment is scheduled June 5. The 7.5-mile crossing from Hull Neck, Va., to Point Lookout in St. Mary's County on the Maryland shore has become one of the region's major distance swimming events.
The event is a fundraiser for environmental groups, with participants collecting pledges used to support river restoration projects.
Several groups will be hosting a picnic at Point Lookout State Park to cheer in the swimmers, who leave the Virginia shore at 9 a.m. and begin arriving at Point Lookout around noon. Each swimmer is accompanied on the crossing by a volunteer kayaker from the Chesapeake Paddlers Association or the Association of North American Kayakers.
Members of the Chesapeake Bay Boston Whalers Club volunteer their boats and time as lead, escort and tail boats for the race, along with public safety vessels and staff provided by the Coast Guard, Maryland Natural Resources Police, Charles County Dive and Rescue, Ridge Volunteer Fire Company and the Ridge Rescue Squad.
Staff writer Raymond McCaffrey contributed to this report.