Annapolis residents address concerns on proposed budget

Water rates, festival, harbor master among topics

May 04, 1999|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

The Annapolis harbor master's duties, the city's annual Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival, a sidewalk scrubber and the mayor's proposed increase of water and sewer rates.

These topics and others were raised by about a dozen residents and community leaders at last night's public hearing on Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson's proposed budget for fiscal year 2000, which begins July 1.

Ted Ruegg, president of the Anne Arundel Marine Trades Association, questioned one of Johnson's proposals to reorganize Annapolis governmental.

Ruegg protested an ordinance that Johnson introduced in tandem with his budget proposal two weeks ago to transfer the harbor master and the duties connected to the position to the Department of Central Services.

Under Johnson's proposed legislation, the harbor master would "no longer be responsible for the regulation of all the waterways."

The director of central services would assume that responsibility.

"We feel this change would be detrimental to the administration of the harbor and City Dock," Ruegg said, proposing that the harbor master report directly to the mayor instead.

"The Annapolis harbor master must be an ambassador, a policeman, a bill collector, a walking talking information booth, a community liaison with the city, county, state, Coast Guard ," Ruegg said. "The position of harbor master is very unique and in order for the duties to be executed effectively and efficiently, some autonomy must be afforded."

Another contentious topic at the meeting was Johnson's plan to purchase a sidewalk scrubber.

Annapolitan Kathleen Knower argued against her tax money going toward scrubbing the sidewalks of downtown restaurants that have dirtier walkways because of their outdoor cafes.

"Those who cause the problems should pay for it," Knower said.

Alderman Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat, supported Knower's stand.

However, Alderman Joseph Sachs seemed to demur.

"I wonder if we should put a gate at the top of the hill and charge people who are walking down to Main Street," said Sachs, a Ward 4 Republican.

Some community leaders thanked Johnson for including them in his budget.

Thomas E. Arthur, chairman of Kunta Kinte Celebrations, emphasized how the annual festival he organizes adds to the diversity of Annapolis by highlighting African-American and other minority cultures.

"Your financial support has been crucial and valuable in us achieving this mission," Arthur said.

In another show of support on an issue, Annapolis resident Tony Evans addressed the mayor's resolution to raise water and sewer rates for the first time in 11 years.

The resolution is designed to gradually raise water and sewer rates by 62.5 percent over four years.

The average city homeowner is charged $1.20 per 1,000 gallons of water and $1.68 per 1,000 gallons for sewer service.

The increase is intended in part to fund renovations of the city's aging water and sewer systems.

"I believe it's long overdue," Evans said. "It's time that all of us who use it started paying to bring ourselves up to a modern system so that we don't pass this mess on."

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