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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Full house greets Bertino, Carozza at Pines town hall

(Feb. 26, 2015) In a well-attended event at the Ocean Pines branch of the Worcester Library last Saturday, new County Commissioner A. Chip Bertino was joined by Commissioner President M. Jim Bunting, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza and County Volunteer Service Coordinator Kelly Brinkley to provide information and answer constituents’ questions.
Bertino is the primary representative of Ocean Pines on the board of commissioners, but Bunting’s district includes a portion of the Pines, and Carozza serves the area at the state level.
Brinkley was there at Bertino’s behest to encourage volunteerism, and implored the audience to allow her to find opportunities that fit their abilities.
A cheerful attitude and persistent upbeat bearing was chased from the room, however, when Bertino revealed what the commissioners had learned only days before: the county will run out of cash reserves (known governmentally as the “stabilization fund”) in fiscal 2017.
The commissioners had little information at hand except the nature of the problem, as the budget season doesn’t formally begin until late March. They promised, however, to hold another town hall-style meeting during budget time to address concerns.
Bertino gave brief primers on the excursion train, noting there were no set endpoints on either side of the track, the proposed hockey arena, although “under no circumstances is the county getting into the arena business,” he said. The preferred method, he said, would be to have another entity manage the facility.
He also described the finer points of the recently approved Berlin annexation project near Stephen Decatur High School. Residents and interested parties were mostly concerned with traffic impact. Bertino and Bunting were quick to mention the State of Maryland would handle that aspect of the proposed growth, and that an expansion near the proposed annexation would likely take a back seat to Route 113 dualization and Route 589 enhancements.
Bertino then surrendered the floor to Carozza, who continued her unwavering support for Gov. Larry Hogan.
“There’s been a change in culture in Annapolis,” she said, “we used to be known as the state that taxes rain. Maryland is open for business.”
Hogan has “put our fiscal house in order” because “we can’t leave our children in debt,” she said.
“There’s been a change in the culture of Annapolis, because now instead of increases, agencies are now looking to keep what they already have.”
With that, Bertino opened the floor to questions. The Showell Elementary School replacement project was among the first to be mentioned. Bertino said the number of students being taught in trailers was disappointing and needed an immediate fix. The commissioners revealed the price tag for the replacement school had grown to $52 million.
Bertino and Bunting also said there was a task force working on the problem. School Superintendent Dr. Jerry Wilson, who attended with other school officials, nodded in assent to Bertino’s revelation. The schools and commissioners have not met at a regular meeting since before the new commissioners were sworn in, when a paperwork snafu derailed the design phase funding approval.
No explanation was given for the $1 million rise in the school project’s estimated cost since the issue was last discussed publicly.
The commissioners were able to quickly answer questions about casino funding shares used to retire the Worcester Technical School debt, to have Bertino explain “teachers weren’t the only ones” to have to deal with low or stagnating salaries and a general rallying cry of “too much government.”