Storm tour is `eye-opener' for officials

Md. lawmakers visit sites in Balto. County, meet with residents hit hard by Isabel

October 03, 2003|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Even with the piles of soggy furniture, the smashed boats and crumbling houses, eastern Baltimore County was looking the best it has since Tropical Storm Isabel roared through more than two weeks ago -- giving Maryland lawmakers who toured the waterfront neighborhoods yesterday only a glimpse of the devastation.

But it was still bad enough for County Executive James T. Smith Jr. to make his point: These neighborhoods need help.

"Your being here gives Baltimore County the confidence that we're not alone," Smith told members of the Senate Budget and Finance Committee, who arrived by chartered bus from Annapolis to view the damage.

Already, state tax assessors have lowered property tax rates in areas damaged by the floods. That allowed the county yesterday to mail about 130 property tax refund checks to homeowners who have significant damage.

Although it's unclear what -- if any -- monetary aid will be available from the state, the legislators wanted to talk to Rob Poleski, co-owner of Bills Boats on Millers Island, about the damaged piers, yachts and marina buildings.

They wanted to see the mounds of storm debris piled several stories high at Chesterwood Park. And they wanted to hear from residents in Millers Island, Watersedge and Turners Station -- people like Teddi Florence, property manager for Day Village Townhomes, who was on the verge of tears as she told state officials about people left without heat and hot water as they try to clean up flood damage.

The group also got to see how high the water rose at Sollers Point Technical High School, where they were served lunch by culinary students, and at Watersedge community center, where the day after the storm, fish and crabs were swimming around softball equipment, said Todd Smith, vice president of the recreation council.

"It's an eye-opener for all the members of [the] budget and taxation committee," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who represents Chesapeake Beach and North Beach in Calvert County, which also were hit hard by the storm.

"For me, it's a little deja vu," Miller added. "But it's important for public officials to see this damage and also be willing to vote to make government assistance available."

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