Cumberland Times-News

October 18, 2012

Coalition mulls law firm in bay cleanup

Cost for rural counties near $300K

From Staff Reports
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A law firm already representing Dorchester County has offered its services to members of the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition, including possible legal challenges to the state’s Chesapeake Bay clean-up program.

Funk and Bolton made the presentation at the rural coalition’s Oct. 8 organizational meeting in Annapolis, according to the organization’s minutes. The firm has offices in Annapolis, Baltimore and Chestertown.

The firm will offer research and analysis, complete and finalize watershed implementation plans, work on the relicensing of the Conowingo Dam and challenge the total maximum daily load model for bay cleanup, which is believed to be flawed.

TMDLs are “an estimate of the maximum amount of an impairing substance or stressor (pollutant) that a water body can assimilate without violating water quality standards,” according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Those numbers are being used to calculate the amount each county contributes to the pollutants entering the bay and provide a target number of how much the county must reduce of its pollutant output.

Funk and Bolton estimated the costs of their representation at about $300,000, or $30,000 per county, if 10 counties would participate. The firm also suggested encouraging municipalities to participate in any proposed legal action or services.

While details from the minutes are sketchy, Funk and Bolton are being scheduled for a presentation to Allegany County commissioners during an upcoming work session, said County Administrator David Eberly during Thursday evening’s commission business meeting.

With the recent additions of Caroline and Wicomico counties, the coalition now represents nine counties populated by nearly a million citizens.

Caroline County commissioners and the Wicomico County council both voted unanimously to join the coalition recently. Coalition members also include Allegany, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Somerset and Washington counties. The coalition began with four counties in December.

Also during the rural coalition meeting, coalition chairman and Allegany County Commission President Michael McKay named Allegany County finance director Jason Bennett to serve as treasurer for a one-year term, and Ragen Cherney from the Frederick County Manager’s Office to serve as secretary for a one-year term. McKay named Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild to serve as chairman of the coalition’s land use committee.

The legislative committee will be led by Wicomico County council member Joe Holloway. Bennett said the coalition had a $6,148.13 cash balance.

McKay said there is no formal dues structure and that each county was encouraged to donate the amount they believe to be “necessary and able,” according to the minutes. There is a plan to institute individual membership fees.

Coalition members also voted to retain a representative for the 2013 General Assembly session. No decision was made on who would represent the coalition, but nominations by coalition members can be sent to the chairman or secretary, according to the minutes.

For the 2012 session, the coalition paid $10,000 to Bruce Bereano and $7,500 to Bill Miles for their representation.

Minutes of the meeting were released to the media by McKay.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.