Thursday, April 3, 2008

Funding Schumaker Pond Hydrilla Treatment Is Possible

By Councilwoman Terry Cohen
At the Monday, March 24, council legislative meeting, funding for the triennial treatment of Hydrilla, a troublesome non-native aquatic plant, in the city-owned Schumaker Pond was not made due to the project’s inclusion in an omnibus supplemental appropriation ordinance of $294,890 that Councilwoman Campbell and I could not support as one entire package to be withdrawn from our surplus, despite our support for expenditures such as the Hydrilla treatment.

With new information in hand, I sent a request the morning of April 2 to fellow council members to support a recommendation to the mayor to approve a transfer of unspent zoo salaries due to vacancies to fund the Hydrilla treatment and the Recreation and Culture Division’s share of the Pollution Liability Insurance paid out. The justification is outlined below:

At the March 24 meeting, the Schumaker Homeowners Association representative said the bill for the chemicals used to treat Hydrilla was about $8,700. This homeowners association has partnered with the city and county since about 2001, paying for one-third of the cost of the treatment. The city pays two-thirds, and the county donates skilled labor to properly apply the treatment.

Checking with the county yesterday, I learned the cost is $8,740.80, thus making the city’s portion just $5,827.20, instead of $8,000 as requested in the supplemental appropriation ordinance. On March 26, while discussing whether to cull the geese population in the city park and zoo, Department of Public Works Director shared that if council desired to do that, he could take the necessary $3,000 from unspent zoo salaries due to vacancies this year.

The anticipated amount of savings on zoo salaries for this fiscal year ranges from $55,000 to $66,000, depending on when the remaining vacancies (non-grant/zoo commission funded) are filled. The Hydrilla treatment ($5,827.20) and the Pollution Liability Insurance ($4,600) would be a total transfer of $10,427.20, leaving a substantial $44,500 to $55,500 in unspent zoo salaries intact.

Such a transfer by the mayor does not require the council’s recommendation or approval, but it enables the time-sensitive project to move forward and meet its mid-May timeline and enables the council to put forward a unified effort with the administration to continue a valuable partnership with the citizens and the county for good stewardship of a city-owned environmental asset. It uses unspent funds from another environmentally-conscious entity, the Salisbury Zoo, rather than taking funds from the city’s surplus.

Considering that the Schumaker Pond Hydrilla treatment was requested by the Department of Public Works, but was unable to be funded in the mayor’s proposed budget last year. Despite discussions by council to add it back in, it was not funded in the final FY08 budget. Therefore, it seems fitting that we work together to utilize unspent departmental resources to get this important job done. My request for putting a spirit of cooperation in action is especially timely given the mayor’s remarks about the city’s environmental commitment in her State of the City address on Monday, March 31.

In addition to Schumaker Pond, Councilwoman Campbell and I continue to look for ways to better manage the city’s resources to achieve better environmental policy and good stewardship of our waterways. Special thanks go to those citizens who have already answered Councilwoman Campbell’s call for volunteers to work on filtration retrofits for our storm water release points to the Wicomico River and its tributaries. Others are welcome to contact her to work on this project.