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Opera House Project Progresses, Susquehanna Hose Gets Boatlift Funding

The City Council discussed the opera house as well as funding for the swift water rescue team and Havre de Grace schools during its meeting Tuesday.

The following is a live blog from the Feb. 19 City Council meeting, which ran from 7 to 8:32 p.m.

8:32 p.m. The meeting adjourned.

8:11 p.m. Ryan Burbey, president of the Harford County Education Association, apologized for any comments about school closures that he made before the Harford County Council that were problematic for the city of Havre de Grace. He said he encouraged people to lean on officials for support in funding education. "I think it would benefit this community as much as or more than anyone else," Burbey said.

Council President Randy Craig said that Burbey was the only one talking about school closures and he believed that the association was making a political statement and not neccessarily advocating for the good of the community. "You're not a coal miner," Craig said of who Burbey was representing, noting that it was teachers with master's degrees. "I'm just saddened that your advocacy is a detriment to these public servants. When a community like this is used as a pawn in some sort of political game, I think it's disgusting."

Burbey said that enrollment projections were what put Havre de Grace at risk. "Havre de Grace lacks in programming because it lacks in funding," Burbey said.

Mayor Wayne Dougherty said that it was problematic that people thought Burbey was representing the Board of Education, which was not accurate.

"We have to be careful in how we respond to someone who is trying to make a legitimate point," Councilman Joseph Smith said, urging respectful discourse. He said that the issue of school funding was "a serious problem" that needed to be addressed.

Dougherty said: "My comments...were not irrational....In the city of Havre de Grace...we are extremely passionate" about "all our schools." He added: "I know it is a topic that can be debated but debated in a better form. And my comments were strictly that, an observation by the community."

8:10 p.m. Mayor Wayne Dougherty said that he attended the life celebration of Diane Ford. "She worked for Havre de Grace, she never asked for praise, but she was always there when needed," and he said "on Saturday a great tribute was paid to her and her family."

8:03 p.m. Council President Randy Craig said despite the "light meeting agenda" this evening, there was still much work to be done. He noted there was utility pole legislation and some other items the council was working on. He also mentioned, on a lighter note, that he heard people on the radio talking about coming to Havre de Grace for Mardi Gras before the event. He thanked the city employees for their work, calling out Jeff Thompson in particular, saying, "Who knew that we were hiring one of the best DJs?" when the city hired Thompson for its IT work.

8:01 p.m. Councilman Bill Martin said, "How am I supposed to follow that?" and passed to Council President Randy Craig.

7:51 p.m. Councilman David Glenn said 15 years ago to the day, one of his ball players lost a battle with cancer. "The entire community of Havre de Grace stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park" with support for him, raising $18,000 from fundraisers like live auctions and car washes. The boy, named Ben, was 11 years old at the time, Glenn said. He encouraged people to support children who needed help.

7:50 p.m. Councilman John Correri said his cousin was visiting from out of town.

7:49 p.m. Councilman Joseph Smith said that he enjoyed the Mardi Gras parade. "More and more organizations are getting involved in it," Mayor Wayne Dougherty added, noting that 29 organizations participated.

7:44 p.m. Mayor Wayne Dougherty said that Hollee Sifford of Havre de Grace asked the public to pray for her nephew, who attends C. Milton Wright and is awaiting a heart transplant.

7:40 p.m. Chief of Police Teresa Walter said that people should be cautious of posting when they are not at home on social media. "Make sure you check your privacy settings," Walter said. "If you wouldn't put something in the newspaper for everyone to see," then don't put it on your social media site.

7:40 p.m. Director of Public Works Larry Parks said that a minor change would be made to the trash schedule effective Monday, March 4, to "even out the load." Details will be posted on the city's website on Wednesday and phone calls will go out as well.

7:39 p.m. Director of Planning Neal Mills said that at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25, there will be an informational meeting about Plan Maryland and legislation commonly known as the "septic bill" at City Hall. Director of Finance George DeHority provided his report.

7:37 p.m. Deputy Director of Administration Jim Newby said the city of Havre de Grace submitted a request for $62,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency from Hurricane Sandy.

7:30 p.m. Councilman John Correri asked for council to approve an amendment so the Susquehanna Hose Company could have a boat lit for its swift water rescue team at the city marina. It will cost $4,100, which is coming out of the slip user fee. "I think this is a good deal for the city," Correri said.

"This could very well save someone's life for a very reasonable expense," Council President Randy Craig said, as opposed to trailering the boat to the water. "Time is of the essence." Craig said many people "love to enjoy our city on the water" and that this would enhance public safety.

Mayor Wayne Dougherty asked that the amendment be changed to include potential for another site for the boat lift and slip, other than the city marina.

The amended motion passed 5-0.

7:06 p.m. Manager of Economic Development Meghan Simmons reported on the opera house renovation project. She said the plan is to update the opera house and make it accessible for people with disabilities. An architect will have construction documents completed in April 2013, Simmons said, and the project is considered "shovel-ready."

The cost is $2.6 million total, of which $1.2 million was requested from the state, Simmons said.

"This needs to be embraced by the community," Bill Price said. He is on the committee working on the project. "To that end, we are going to be forming a nonprofit foundation to solicit private funds" to that "we will have a lasting legacy for citizens now and future generations of Havre de Grace."

Council liaisons for the project included Randy Craig, Bill Martin and John Correri, who voiced their support. Martin said initially the idea was to include the tourism and chamber of commerce offices but the architects determined that "one great theater and conference center" was the best option, as opposed to what Martin called "a hodgepodge." A conference center, which would be on the third floor, "is what this town really needs," Martin said. "I support the changeover in use."

7: 05 p.m. Pastor Gary Sieglein of Rock Run and Darlington United Methodist provided the opening prayer. He said a special blessing for those who could not be here. Councilwoman Barbara Wagner is not present. All other council members are present.

The Havre de Grace City Council is meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 19 at City Hall. Its regular Monday meeting was pushed back one day since Presidents Day was a federal holiday.

View the meeting agenda here.

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