Ocean View Public Works Director Charles McMullen told the town council on Tuesday that Phase I of the Country Village drainage project is all but complete, save for roadway repairs. He said those repairs would take place in about two to three weeks, allowing the road some time to settle.
Country Village resident Warren Eastburn has been vocal with the Town regarding his concerns related to the project and said on June 14 that he believes that using pipe instead of swales would better address drainage issues in the community. Eastburn has sent the council a number of letters, called the Town, spoken at council meetings and presented the council with a petition from his neighbors requesting the swales be replaced with pipes.
Mayor Walter Curran noted he had been able to attend a homeowner’s association meeting to hear residents’ concerns, with fellow councilman Frank Twardzik and Police Chief Ken McLaughlin, after conferring with Town staff and engineer Alan Kercher. In his opinion, said Curran, the project is doing what it was intended to do.
“I think the project as it is now is adequate. I personally don’t think it warrants the Town spending any more money.”
Twardzik noted that things in Country Village look better since the completion of Phase I.
“I, like you, am hesitant to spend tax dollars,” he said. “Was there any consideration given to homeowners covering partial cost?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” responded McMullen.
He added that he believes the Town has done its best due diligence regarding the project.
“I don’t think we’re going to please everyone all the time. I think we do what we can try to do to move the water. I can’t tell you how many complaints I get on a regular basis about drainage… They’ve tried to design something here that will try to carry the water away. Will some water sit sometimes? Absolutely. But it’s designed to move the water. I don’t see it being significantly problematic.”
Councilwoman Carol Bodine said the council could be “opening a can of worms” if it agrees to put in pipes there before other communities.
Curran also brought up the idea of the Town maintaining the swales, which he said is an unreasonable expectation from the homeowners.
“That is not the Town’s obligation,” he said.
Eastman, who was in attendance, told the council the project created an unsafe walking environment in the neighborhood and will prevent the installation of sidewalks in the future, and that he believes it has devalued the neighborhood.
It also created a 3:1 slope with the installation of the swale on his property, which prevents his riding mower from cutting the grass. Due to medical reasons, said Eastman, he is not allowed to use a push mower.
“I’m looking for the Town to mow and maintain that,” he said. “It’s something created by the Town… and I shouldn’t be expected to do that or pay for that.”
Curran said the Town will not take responsibility for mowing Eastman’s lawn.
“As an entity, we won’t take on those types of personal jobs. I think it sets a terrible precedent,” he responded. “It’s not like the Town did it to disadvantage you or give you a hard time or give you grief. It just turned out that way. I — personally — I don’t accept that the Town created the situation. The Town got the swales and the drainage ditches to where they needed to be so the entire drainage project worked.”
The council did not take a vote to amend the drainage project, as they were in agreement to stay with the planned design of Phase I.
In other Town news:
• Town Manager Dianne Vogel reported that the Town’s Homecoming Festival in May was successful, with beautiful weather and substantial attendance. However, she recommended that the council consider eliminating the event from its 2017 calendar.
“This event requires several months of planning,” said Vogel, adding that she and Town Clerk Donna Schwartz start working on the event in January.
“This year, the Town lost two sponsors, two food vendors, the help of the St. George Men’s group who in the past have provided the tents, tables and chairs, and the Boy Scouts did not participate.
“My recommendation for next year is to eliminate this event from our community events and perhaps consider using the allocated funds to host more Concerts in the Park, put it toward Cops & Goblins, add other events the Town wishes to host. That way, other people in the community can enjoy a summer of events, rather than one afternoon in the park.”
Vogel said approximately $12,000 goes into the Homecoming event, with $2,300 covering labor for staff working overtime hours.
“It really puts a burden on the Town’s staff,” agreed Curran. “This thing started with the historical society, and then they kind of stepped back and the Town took it over. But it is truly a historical-society type of event. I completely concur with Dianne on this. I think we’re better off to get more bang for our buck and I think we’ll involve more townspeople by doing more concert events.”
Curran said the Town could still host a smaller artisans or crafts fair, just not on the scale of Homecoming.
“To me, it’s simply not worth the money or the effort,” he said. “I’m absolutely convinced we’re better off having three or four Concerts in the Park.”
Twardzik said he agreed with Vogel and Curran’s statements.
Vogel said a decision did not have to be made by council that night and it would be discussed by the end of the year.
• Ocean View Police Capt. Heath Hall gave the monthly police update and noted that the department has been busy with community policing initiatives. In May, the department participated in the Homecoming Festival, Special Olympics events, Mariner’s church festival, Lord Baltimore’s Artisan’s Fair and Lord Baltimore’s Spring Fling.
Twardzik, a retired Pennsylvania state trooper, commended the department, noting that, for the month of May, it only logged one burglary and one case of criminal mischief.
“To me, this is a direct result of proactive patrols. There are a number of studies out there that determine that when that patrol car goes down a neighborhood street, that actually decreases the number of crimes… [Criminals] stay away from this town. I’ve heard that a number of times.”
He also called attention to May’s other numbers: 11 medical assists, 22 resident checks and 30 welfare checks.
“I, for one, with my 27 years’ experience, want to say, ‘Thank you’ to Capt. Hall and Chief McLaughlin. You’re doing an outstanding job.”