Soil district and inspections director clash over right to charge service fees

April 29, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel Soil Conservation District clashed with the county's director of inspections and permits last night during a County Council hearing on a bill to establish fees that would be collected by the district for reviewing grading and sediment control plans.

The Soil Conservation District is an independent entity that reviews plans to limit sediment and soil erosion when earth is moved during construction. It argued that it needed to collect the fees to maintain its independence from the county.

The agency is funded with a grant from the county. Last year, it received $374,100. Agency officials said they hoped to collect more than $200,000 in fees during the next fiscal year, making the agency less dependent on county funds.

Lina Vlavianos, a member of the Soil Conservation District board, argued that the agency's independence was being compromised because of a sharp reduction last year in the county grants and what she described as an attempt by the county Department of Inspections and Permits to control the agency's reviewers.

The county has proposed reducing the agency's funding request again this year.

Ms. Vlavianos said inspections and permits officials told the district they would restore funds that had been cut if two of the district's sediment control reviewers would be placed under the inspection deparment's supervision.

"We understand that the county is in a financial squeeze," she said. "However, we do not understand and will not accept 'horse trading,' that is, 'Give us . . . your reviewers and we will restore the funds we have cut from your budget.' "

County residents "would not be served well if the fox starts guarding the chicken coop," she said.

Robert Dvorak, director of inspections and permits who introduced himself to the council as the man who is "also known as the fox," categorically denied Ms. Vlavianos' charges.

"Let's make no mistake about it. This bill has nothing to do with the environment," Mr. Dvorak said. "This bill is strictly a power play on the part of the soil conservation district. Nothing else," he said.

He said that the district submitted to his department a budget request of $539,000, which is 44 percent higher than last year's funding. He said he asked the district to submit a more reasonable request because his department's budget will be cut 3 percent.

On the issue of attempting to control the district's reviewers, Mr. Dvorak said he merely suggested that they put two people in the county Permit Application Center, a one-stop shop for developers seeking building permits. That way, "instead of shuttling back and forth between offices, they can resolve [issues] immediately," he said.

A vote on the bill is scheduled for Monday's council meeting.

In other business, the council conducted a hearing on a proposal to raise the garbage collection fee for county residents from $90 to $130 for the next fiscal year. The fee is collected along with homeowners' property taxes. Tipping fees for commercial haulers also would be increased by $5 to $55 a ton.

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