County to re-examine Connelly Mill offer

As discussion continues about the county accepting a donation of 234 acres off Connelly Mill Road, there are concerns about surface mining and environmental liability.

When Assistant County Administrator Weston Young recently met with the County Council, he was instructed to complete a cost benefit analysis if the stormwater ponds on the property were dug out more deeply.

“There is plenty of recreational value to taking over this site. To help balance the fact we are losing some tax revenue we would mine or dig out those stormwater ponds deeper. Right now they are not that wet. In the past, they dug just above ground water. They dug 18 feet deep and the dirt was used to build the bypass,” Young explained.

If approved, county officials want to use the soil at the landfill, to cover trash. Every 8 feet of trash is covered with a foot of dirt and cover material. At the end of each day, another six inches is placed over trash to keep out vermin and dogs.

Young said he is confident the site is not contaminated, after seeing test results. Residents of Shadow Hills, a small subdivision of about three dozen homes next to the property, have spoken in favor of the county accepting the land.

Young expects to again meet with the council early next month.

It was originally discussed in mid-December. At first, the Wicomico County Council rejected the offer based on results of soil and water testing there and after council members heard results from a preliminary, Phase I, environmental study on the land, appraised at $1.6 million.

Adjacent to the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex, the property, zoned R-8, is owned, in part, by Salisbury lawyer Steven Smethurst.

In December, Young told the council firing range backstops were found there from a range located there more than 50 years that was not always contained. Some officers shot at pop-up targets, he said. Aerial photographs identified a cluster of farm houses on the site, but no underground tanks were on file as having been registered.

Two monitoring wells were located, one with an official registration and another apparently used to measure for groundwater levels.

Debris was encountered, from household trash to a burned-out car, burned-out boat and dilapidated recreational trailer. Weather stripping and electrical wire were buried.

Water samples were taken from the east, central and western areas from ponds dug down to groundwater level. They were exposed to the elements, so also included rainwater, Young said.

Tests were completed for elements including volatile compounds, pesticides, herbicides and pollutant metals. Trace amounts of metals were found. Arsenic was discerned, but can occur naturally, Young said.

When the land was offered, donors set a deadline of Dec. 29 for the county to accept the property, so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes. Young said the donors offered to extend the deadline, if the county waived the $18,000 tax bill, drawing laughter from some council members.

Council President John Cannon asked each councilman if he would agree to waive taxes and the majority said they would not.

Councilman Larry Dodd asked County Executive Bob Culver, who was in the audience, if he wanted to continue spending money for studies or to stop the process and reject the land. Culver said his purpose was to determine how council members felt.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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