On Tuesday, Nov. 30, the Board of County Commissioners approved Resolution 2021-21, which lifts the indoor mask mandate in Charles County. Masks are still required in Charles County Government operated buildings and public transportation, including senior centers, recreational centers, correctional centers, indoor facilities at public parks, golf courses, swimming pools (except when swimming), etc.; while on public transportation such as VanGO; or inside of any other building owned and operated by Charles County and open to and allowing entrance of the public. Private entities, including hospitals, places of worship, nonprofits, restaurants, and businesses can continue to enforce mask requirements at their discretion. Charles County Public Schools is following state regulations, which currently require face coverings while inside public school facilities and should be contacted directly for regulation updates.

County Commissioners, sitting as the Charles County Board of Health, plan to hold a virtual public hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m., to consider instituting an indoor mask mandate in Charles County if there is a significant increase in cases, positivity rate, and hospitalizations following the Thanksgiving holiday. The public hearing is being set in advance to meet the legal requirement for public notice should the public hearing be necessary.

Open Session Briefings

  • Deputy County Administrator Deborah Hall and Chief of Information Technology Evelyn Jacobson provided an update on the Rural Broadband Task Force.  The presentation provided a status update of the County’s two existing projects: the Nanjemoy/Cobb Neck (NCN) Broadband Buildout and the Neighborhood Broadband Expansion (NBE-Cat2). In the presentation, staff announced that the first Nanjemoy residents were connected to high-speed internet by ThinkBig Networks, LLC on November 15, 2021.  Earlier this year, the county, partnering with Comcast, was awarded funding from the state to bring service to 151 homes in several Category 2 areas, which include residents who live in isolated pockets and roads that don’t have broadband infrastructure that are located within otherwise-served areas; this project must be completed by December 2022. In addition to these existing projects, staff presented potential projects in multiple geographic areas that could qualify for grant funding in the near future.  Lastly, Charles County Government is piloting a new broadband grant program designed to help Charles County residents and businesses with funding for the construction costs of “service drops” to connect properties at the end of long, private driveways to the existing broadband network on the road.  More information on this program can be found here. Overall, there are opportunities for broadband expansion in each of the three category areas that the county is continuing to work towards in the coming months and years.
  • Charles County Health Officer Dr. Dianna E. Abney and Department of Emergency Services Director Michelle Lilly provided an update on COVID-19 in Charles County. There are a variety of vaccination clinics in the community, which include mobile pop-up clinics, schools, congregate living facilities, churches, and vaccines for the homebound. Residents can make their own vaccination appointments and walk-ins are accepted. For a list of county vaccination clinics, visit the Department of Health’s website. For a list of pharmacies and other vaccination clinics available, visit the State of Maryland’s website. University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center Vice President of Ancillary Services Bill Grimes provided an update on current COVID-19 hospitalizations and trends. Chief of Media Services Jennifer Harris provided an update on the county’s communications efforts, which are focused on informing residents about the importance and availability of COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as misinformation.
  • Department of Public Works and County Attorney’s Office staff provided a presentation on the Gilbert Run Watershed Dams. There are three dams within the watershed: Jameson, Trinity, and Wheatley. County Commissioners approved the proposal for county staff to pursue acquisitions of the two privately-owned dams, Jameson and Trinity; and approved referring the question of funding options to support dam repairs to the Resilience Authority.
  • Department of Emergency Services, Department of Community Services, Economic Development Department, Department of Planning and Growth Management, and Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism provided an update on Goal 5: Quality of Life, of the Commissioners Goals and Objectives. This included the county’s collaborative efforts with fire, emergency medical services, and Charles County Sheriff’s Office; Mobile Integrated Healthcare; opioid prevention, treatment, and enforcement in the county; recreational opportunities; parks and amenities; agritourism; and affordable/ workforce housing.

Approval Items

Commissioners also approved:

  • Rescheduling Bill 2021-11 Rehabilitation Tax Credit virtual public hearing to Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m.
  • The letter of support for the Board of Education to provide community use space in school facilities for the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism to continue organizing and managing an afterschool recreation program and other evening recreational and community-based programs in these facilities.
  • Utilizing funds from the Board of County Commissioners’ Community Support Fund for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast Sponsorship.
  • Closing Charles County Government offices for the holidays on Thursday, Dec. 23; Friday, Dec. 24; Monday, Dec. 27; Thursday, Dec. 30; Friday, Dec. 31; and Monday, Jan. 3.
  • Providing eligible full-time employees with a COLA increase from 1.4 percent to 2 percent and a one-time bonus of $500 to sworn deputies, which will be effective in the January 28, 2022 paycheck.

Discussion

County Commissioners participated in the following discussions:

  • A follow up discussion on the Maryland House Bill 670 Police Accountability Board Membership. Associate County Attorney II Danielle Mitchell provided a presentation on the drafted resolution. County Commissioners requested that County Attorney’s Office staff research and provide additional membership qualifications for County Commissioners to consider. Pursuant to Maryland law passed in 2021, County Commissioners must establish a Police Accountability Board by July 1, 2022.
  • Creating an Equity Emphasis Areas Work Group. The work group would research the causes of the disparities in the county’s equity emphasis areas (EEA) and historical origins of how the EEAs began and then provide a report to the County Commissioners summarizing their findings. Proposed membership of the group would include designated county staff, Charles County residents, a College of Southern Maryland representative, a St. Mary’s College of Maryland representative, a University of Maryland representative, a Charles County Historical Society representative, and a researcher with expertise in this type of analysis. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments passed a resolution in October 2021 that encourages local governments to adopt resolution to prioritize EEAs identified in their jurisdictions. County Commissioners approved moving forward with the concept of the work group.
  • The Commission for Veteran Affairs (CVA), which included a variety of requests from the commission and updates to the commission’s bylaws. County Commissioners agreed to further discuss additional funding for nonprofit veteran service organizations with the Charitable Trust and the CVA. County Commissioners approved for county staff to review a process to support government-wide veteran hiring preference, to allow the commission’s fundraising capability and authority, updates to the commission’s bylaws, and for the commission to look into county-owned properties for the Veteran Memorial Garden/ Veteran Center Complex.
  • The three-step stormwater process for agricultural clearing. This process works to prevent adverse impacts of stormwater runoff, which can damage streams and waterways. County Commissioners directed staff to draft a proposal to alter the Stormwater Ordinance that would streamline stormwater management processes for deforestation prior to establishment of an agricultural use.

Appointments

  • Nominated Ellen Flowers-Fields for reappointment to the Tri-County Council Executive Committee.
  • Appointed Cynthia Vaughan, Kenneth Wayne-Thompson, and Rev. Jane Talbert to the Area Council on Aging.
  • Appointed Tiffani Bell, Richard Gilpin, Sarabjit Suri, and Anthony Wilson to the Interfaith Commission.

Next Commissioners Session: Dec. 7, 2021 (held virtually) 


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