When bills arrive in the mailboxes of Charles County homeowners next summer, increases in property taxes will continue to be capped at 10 percent a year, the commissioners decided Tuesday.

The commissioners had asked finance officials to crunch the numbers for lowering that limit because of unprecedented increases in property values in recent assessments. The limit on annual increases in property taxes varies across Maryland. Many counties, such as Calvert, Montgomery and Frederick, cap increases at 10 percent. St. Mary's County does not allow increases to exceed 5 percent. In Prince George's, the limit is 2 percent.

Richard Winkler, fiscal services director, told the commissioners that in the Charles tax assessment district that includes La Plata, property values are expected to have increased between 50 and 70 percent over a three-year period. The most recent assessments in the western part of the county increased values by an average of 47.8 percent.

The commissioners decided to keep the cap at the current level because, as Commissioner Candice Quinn Kelly (R-La Plata) put it, "people have to pay taxes in order for us to provide services." But Kelly and the others agreed to "focus on people who need relief."

In May, the commissioners expanded a tax credit to hundreds of moderate-income residents with incomes of up to $50,000 and property valued at no more than $300,000.

On Tuesday, they discussed increasing the income limit to as much as $70,000 and changing the restrictions on personal wealth, which includes savings such as stocks but excludes a person's home. Winkler suggested raising that limit from $200,000 to $300,000.

WWI Veteran Honored

Lloyd Brown, a 103-year-old World War I veteran from Charlotte Hall, was honored last week by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Brown, the subject of a Washington Post article in May about his longevity, received a medal from Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson.

The medal was created to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in 1918, but Brown missed that ceremony -- by 12 years.

Better late than never.

Campus Safety Leader

Priscilla Stevens, director of public safety at the College of Southern Maryland, is the new president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA).

She is the first community college employee to lead the association, which advances public safety on college campuses.

Stevens directs the College of Southern Maryland's department of public safety for campuses in La Plata, Leonardtown and Prince Frederick.

With more than 24 years of experience in public safety, Stevens served previously as director of public safety at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and chief of public safety at Wheaton College in Illinois. She assisted in developing curriculum for campus law enforcement with certification from the Police Training Institute and the IACLEA.

Stevens has a bachelor's degree from John Brown University in Arkansas. She has trained with the College of DuPage in Illinois, the Chicago Police Department, the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois and the Crisis Prevention Institute.

Schedule for Proposals

The Charles County commissioners have established a tentative schedule for the preparation of their 2006 General Assembly legislative package.

Any resident, group or organization interested in submitting a legislative proposal or suggestion for revision or amendment to a state law should send it in writing by Oct. 21 to: Legislative Request, Office of the County Attorney, PO Box 2150, La Plata, Md. 20646.

Each proposal requiring enactment by the Maryland General Assembly will be included in a preliminary package that will be available for public distribution Oct. 28. Proposals will be presented to the commissioners at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Nov. 7. Anyone who submits a proposal will be asked to attend the hearing to provide a synopsis of the initiative and to answer questions.

Work sessions will be held after the hearing to review the proposals and determine which ones will be included in the commissioners' legislative package and forwarded to the Charles County delegation for consideration.

Initiatives that can be enacted locally by the county commissioners under Code Home Rule will be deferred for a public hearing to be scheduled in April.

For more information, call the Office of the County Attorney at 301-645-0555.

Artist Wins Award

North Beach artist Gary Pendleton was honored with an Award of Merit from the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association for his painting "Water, Color, Light."

Pendleton was a participant in the fourth annual Paint Annapolis Competition, which took place Sept. 15-18 in Annapolis. His prize was an oil painting set.

Twenty-five artists were chosen to participate in this year's event. They were required to complete and frame two paintings in three days. The finished works competed for more than $5,000 in prizes.

Pendleton is a member of the musical group Rockfish, a North Beach Town Council member and an insurance agent.

All works from the event are on exhibit at the Chaney Gallery in the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St., Annapolis.

Council Members Sought

The Charles County commissioners are seeking county residents to fill two vacancies on the Area Council on Aging.

The 16-member council advises the commissioners on the needs, problems and concerns of the county's senior citizens and assists in the development and review of the Area Aging Plan. Members serve four-year terms.

Meetings are scheduled at 9:30 a.m. on the second Thursday of each month in La Plata. One vacancy is a full-term position, and the other is for an unexpired term that ends in 2008.

Anyone interested in serving on the Area Council on Aging should contact Linda Rollins, clerk to the county commissioners, at 301-645-0554 or 301-870-3000 or by e-mail at rollinsl@charlescounty.org to obtain an application form. Applicants also may download a form from the Charles County Government Web site, www.charlescounty.org/boards/application.pdf. Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. Oct. 14.

SMECO Certifications

Five members of the board of directors of the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) recently completed training conducted by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

W. Rayner Blair III of Lexington Park, John H. Bloom, Jr. of Indian Head and Fern G. Brown of White Plains earned Credentialed Cooperative Director (CCD) certificates.

James A. Richards of Brandywine and Joseph V. Stone Jr. of Leonardtown earned Board Leadership certificates.

To earn the CCD certification, Blair, Bloom and Brown completed five courses designed to provide the knowledge and skills required of an electric cooperative director. Subjects covered included director duties, board roles and relationships, strategic planning and financial decision-making.

Richards and Stone earned their Board Leadership certificates for completing a total of 10 credit hours in courses related to electric cooperatives and the energy industry.

The certificates were presented at the association's regional meeting Sept. 9 in Norfolk, Va.

SMECO, a customer-owned cooperative, provides electricity to more than 135,000 homes, farms and businesses in Southern Maryland. Customer-members elect 15 directors for three-year terms. Calvert County is represented by three directors, Charles County by five, Prince George's County by two and St. Mary's County by five directors.

Public Archaeology Grant

A $6,500 grant from the Eugene Chaney Foundation to the Friends of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum helped make it possible for the museum's public archaeology program to keep digging this summer.

The program, which had been discontinued in 2004 because of lack of funding, allows volunteers to help archaeologists excavate a site or work with artifacts in the Maryland Archaeological and Conservation Laboratory, a state-of-the-art facility at the park for studying, preserving and storing artifacts from Maryland and other U.S. locations.

The Chaney Foundation has been a supporter of the Friends of JPPM in the past, contributing $3,500 to the organization for its 2004 Annual Appeal Campaign, according to an announcement from the foundation.

The Eugene Chaney Foundation was founded in 1987 to serve the needs of the surrounding community through charitable donations. Its mission is to provide for a better quality of life for all residents in the communities where Chaney Enterprises does business.

Cleaning With Clams

The Lake Lariat Clam Project LLC unveiled its newly developed shellfish-based pollution control system Tuesday in the Chesapeake Ranch Estates community in Calvert County.

After a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, guests including Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert); state Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's); Richard Pelz, system inventor and president of Circle C Oyster Ranch; and Ed Harvey, president, Chesapeake Ranch Estates will speak.

The clam project, organized by Don Statter and Sandi Sullivan of Chesapeake Ranch Estates, is attempting to attract funding for research and education activities related to floating shellfish reef technologies. Initial plans call for the construction of three floating artificial reefs containing thousands of freshwater clams at the base of the dam in Lake Lariat, a 90-acre lake that has experienced nutrient control problems in the past several years. It is expected that the clams will consume and digest algae and microscopic pathogens and rid the water of nutrients and infectious agents at a significantly lower cost than any other method.

Rules on the Web

St. Mary's County public schools officials are turning to the Internet to help parents and students keep up with school rules.

New and revised policies presented by the administration to the Board of Education during board meetings are now posted on the school system's Web site, www.smcps.k12.md.us/super/policies/index.htm, for review and comment.

Before the school board acts on a policy change, the public will have an opportunity to comment on it in writing or at a public hearing during the next regularly scheduled board meeting after the presentation of the policy.

Volunteers clean items found at an excavation site on the grounds of the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, which received a $6,500 grant to continue its public archaeology program.