Volume 12, Issue 9 ~ February 26-March 3, 2004

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Dock of the Bay

On-the-Job Training at Maryland Department of the Environment
After a year as acting secretary, Kendl Philbrick wants a promotion

This time last year, Kendl Philbrick was the devil to Lynn Buhl’s deep blue sea. Accept Buhl to head Maryland Department of the Environment, or you’ll get Philbrick, the Ehrlich administration seemed to be saying in the heated days leading up to the Senate Executive Nominations Committee’s historic first refusal to consent to a governor’s cabinet-level appointment.

Thus Philbrick, a retired corporate real estate manager who wanted nothing more than to consult with the new administration, found himself acting secretary of the Department of the Environment. Over the year, he’s shown no cloven hoof nor forked tail. He’s done well enough that the Ehrlich administration has asked the Senate to remove the word acting from his title.

photos by Sandra Martin
Acting Department of the Environment Secretary Kendl Philbrick honors Chesapeake Beach Mayor Gerald Donovan for leading the way in wastewater treatment.
Has on-the-job-training prepared Philbrick to protect our water, land and air from toxics ranging from asbestos to human wastes? Can a corporate executive change his spots and become a regulator, working not for profit but for the public good? Those questions will be decided March 1, when Philbrick gets his own day before the Executive Nominations Committee.

In an interview with Bay Weekly, Philbrick said he was “optimistic” that he would be confirmed. “My understanding is everybody is happy with me now, that I’m managing the department well and reaching out to all the stakeholders.”

Everybody, he said, includes “senators, and not necessarily Republican ones.” In other words, at least some of last year’s opposition seems to have been won over.

Other first-year achievements Philbrick touted include initiatives in clean air and expanded fees to aid wetlands protection.

“We pressed very hard with the EPA to help us in Maryland with our ozone transport problem. We’re not like everyone else and they understand that now,” he said.

In fact, Maryland sued the EPA to delay a rollback in clean-air protections, hoping to protect Maryland from power-plant pollution blowing in from the Midwest.

The 61-year-old acting secretary was out stumping when we spoke, visiting Chesapeake Beach’s wastewater treatment plant to preach the environmental gospel according to Gov. Robert Ehrlich. Enhanced Nutrient Removal is the cornerstone of that gospel, and Chesapeake Beach is one of its early converts. With a $50,000 planning grant that Philbrick promised that day, the plant — which serves three communities in northern Calvert and southern Anne Arundel counties — would be one of the first to upgrade to that new technology.

Legislation Ehrlich has proposed this session would upgrade all Maryland’s 66 major wastewater treatment plants to the new technology.

Those upgrades are going to cost a pretty penny, about one million dollars a year per plant, which Ehrlich hopes to raise from his new flush tax on all Marylanders — citizens and corporations — who use public water.

“Fee for service” Philbrick hastens to call it, staying on message for an administration that promises to impose no new taxes. Fee or tax, it’s right up there with his promotion as Big Items on his spring agenda.

“If we don’t do something now to upgrade these plants and improve water quality of the Bay, come 2010 and we haven’t met our goals, the EPA’s going to step in and do it for us,” said Philbrick. “I hesitate to even think about what that could do financially to us, to the economy of this state. Let’s get it passed and let’s get started.”


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Fire Kindles Questions at Banneker-Douglass
Museum safe; causes suspicious

A fire last week at Banneker-Douglass Museum in downtown Annapolis slowed but didn’t stop expansion at Maryland’s museum of African American heritage. The $5.5 million expansion — which doubles current gallery and office space at the museum but is opposed by some neighbors — was shut down for four days.

“We’re back on track,” said museum spokeswoman Wendi Perry, with the new building scheduled to open in autumn.

Still being sought is the cause of the blaze that is believed to have begun in propane tanks in the basement construction zone.

“There was nothing down there that could have ignited them,” said Perry. “It seems suspicious.”

Both the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Annapolis Fire Marshal continue to investigate.

Undamaged next door was the museum itself, housed in the former Mt. Moriah AME Church, a 130-year-old landmark in African American history. Also safe were the museum’s exhibits, including Heritage by the Sea, documenting the maritime contribution of African Americans, and portraits of famous African Americans of Maryland.

Named for two of Maryland’s most revered African Americans, scientist Benjamin Banneker and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the quiet alcove off Church Circle chronicles African American contributions to Chesapeake Country and Maryland.

— Louis Llovio

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For South Anne Arundel, the Bus Soon Stops Here
With spring comes mass transit

Nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kind of people.
— Mark Twain

Southern Anne Arundel youngsters and seniors who do not drive no longer have to wait for the return of steamboats to head north to Annapolis.

Buses will soon connect the southern parts of the county to Annapolis and beyond.

“The proposed routes will extend out to Shady Side and Deale,” said Pam Jordan, spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County Public Works. Exact routing and stops have not been decided, but the buses will probably follow Route 2 to Mayo Road and Muddy Creek Road. Fares, too, remain to be decided.

With buses now going only through Edgewater, youngsters, the elderly, the disabled and people without cars must hope for a driver to take them to the attractions and services of Annapolis or northern Anne Arundel County. The extension will bring independence and, as Twain said, new society. Urbanites will also be able to visit their country cousins.

For people not able to reach the new routes, pre-arranged side trips are also in the planning. “This is for the elderly or disabled that need to come up for doctor visits and such,” said Jordan.

Forums are planned for late March in Galesville and Edgewater to help determine where and how often the busses should run. They’re expected to be rolling by May.

  • March 15: 6-9pm at Southern District Police Headquarters, Stepney’s Lane, Edgewater.
  • March 31: 6-7:30pm at Galesville Memorial Hall 950 Main Street, Galesville. Public hearing to follow from 7:30-9pm.

Written comment also accepted through April 16 at Office of Planning and Zoning, Transportation Division, MS-6403, 2664 Riva Road, Annapolis, MD 21401.

— Louis Llovio

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Way Downstream …

In Washington, the League of Conservation Voters’ report cards are out, and the grades for Chesapeake Country members of Congress are pretty good — though many leave some room for improvement: Sen. Paul Sarbanes: 84 percent; Sen. Barbara Mikulski: 79 percent; Rep. Ben Cardin: 100 percent; Rep. Steny Hoyer: 85 percent; and Rep. Wayne Gilchrest: 55 percent.

In Crisfield, the Somerset County Commission moved forward recently with its plan to bring a fast ferry to the Chesapeake Bay by hiring a Baltimore firm, PB Consult Inc., to conduct a study on the economic effects to Eastern Shore communities, the Crisfield Times reports …

Our Creature Feature comes from Australia, where a crocodile named Sweetheart hardly lived up to his name. The monster-sized croc — 17 feet long and 1,700 pounds — used to attack motorboats in the northern part of the country because the noise irritated him.

Alas, Sweetheart died and is stuffed. Now, Australians are recalling him as part of a controversial proposal to hold safari hunts for trophy crocodiles over 1,200 pounds. Crocs were declared endangered 30 years ago, but the government says the population has soared to more than 70,000. About a dozen deaths from croc attacks have been reported since the 1980s, among them a 22-year-old man who was dragged away by a huge specimen in December.

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Last updated February 26, 2004 @ 1:12am.