Interview with Bel Air Town Commissioner Dave Carey:
As part of The Dagger’s coverage of the Town of Bel Air’s municipal election on Nov. 3, the following questions were presented to each candidate for town commissioner.
The five questions (bolded and boxed) were chosen to generate discussion on specific topics. The candidates’ answers have been included verbatim as received by email or reported following an interview.
1.) In short, who are you and why are you running for re-election?
I am an attorney with Brown, Brown and Young on Main Street and have been a Town Commissioner since 1997. I am running for re-election because these are especially difficult times and it is critical that the Town have experienced, proven leadership to guide it.
2.) The town budget has more than doubled this decade. How do you feel this has benefited the town, and how do you handle the budget as commissioner?
The increase in the budget over the last 10 years is generally attributable to three factors. The first is the increase in the cost of goods and services that everyone has seen in the last decade. However, the Town relies on many commodities that have increased in cost at a rate far faster than the rate of inflation. These include: fuel for the Town’s cars, trucks and equipment; the cost of heating, cooling and powering the Town’s buildings; the increase in the cost of health insurance for employees; the increase in the cost of worker’s compensation insurance (which is especially high because 60% of the Town’s employees are either police officers or public works employees who perform manual labor) and the cost of liability insurance.
A second reason is costs that are either passed onto the Town or which the Town is mandated to pay. The Town is a bulk user of the County’s sewer system. That is, we own the pipes and pumping stations in the Town, but when the sewage leaves the Town boundaries it is metered and one bill is sent by the County to the Town for all of its property owners. The Town then pays the bill and get reimbursed by the citizens. The Town makes no money on this but merely serves as a conduit between the citizens and the County pursuant to a Sewer Service Agreement entered into in the 1990’s. Because of regular, significant increases levied by the County, the sewer fees which the Town collects now total more than $2,000,000 a year, which is a significant part of the Town’s budget. Another example of these costs are unfunded mandates from other levels of government, such as the recent federal mandate that the Town set aside funds now for pensions that will be paid when today’s employees retire. Currently this cost is $60,000 per year. Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that we install handicap accessible curb ramps throughout Town, including whenever we resurface a street, which is presently a $48,000 a year cost.
A third reason are capital improvements and other expenses that the Town has voluntarily undertaken. These include: a donation of about $1.3 million to the Board of Education to upgrade the Bel Air High School Auditorium (which I opposed); a contribution of about $600,000 to the Main Street streetscape project, which included upgraded street lighting, additional brick walkways and crosswalks and “street furniture” such as benches and trash receptacles; acquisition of and improvements to the Armory on Main Street, which presently costs about $143,000 a year to operate, but which we have put several hundred thousand dollars into; and the financial assistance we provide to the operations of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company ($153,000 per year), the Bel Air Recreation Committee ($92,000 per year), Rockfield Manor and the Bel Air Downtown Alliance.
The first two factors we cannot do much about other than be as careful as we possibly can when making expenditures, which I feel we do. With regard to the third factor, I feel all of these expenses, with the exception of the BAHS auditorium, were appropriate and have benefitted the Town.
3.) The commissioners recently voted to table plans to renovate the town hall. Did you support the renovations, and how can the town manage costs and facility shortcomings?
The Police Department/Town Hall building is perhaps the Town’s largest asset and we have a duty to maintain it properly. It is also where citizens come with questions about and need for Town services and deserve efficiency. It was built in 1964, and although it was expanded somewhat more than 20 years ago, it is in need of repair and updating and the Police Department in particular is in need of expansion. The situation is not yet critical, but it will be in the next 5 to 10 years if we do not address it. With the recent, drastic cuts in State aid, now is not the time to take on this responsibility. But we will have to do so in the near future.
4.) The town recently completed a renovation of Main Street. Do you feel this has benefited the community, and how should the town handle the logistical problems or improve the town economy in the future?
The Main Street streetscape was a resounding success. I have not heard a single person say it should not have been done. It has provided a boost for our downtown merchants, very few of whom have had to shut their doors despite the economic downturn. We will continue to approach economic development by heavily marketing our downtown and providing assistance to all of our businesses thgough our economic development department, our volunteer Economic and Community Development Commission and the Bel Air Downtown Alliance.
5.) Why do you think you are a better choice for town commissioner than any of the challengers?
The Town has weathered the current fiscal storm, unlike the State and County, without tax increases, layoffs, furloughs or reduced hours. At the same time, the Town has been able to develop Rockfield Park, renovate Main Street, acquire and retrofit the Armory, and continue the same high level of services the citizens have come to expect. I believe the Town has flourished during my 12 years as Commissioner and that it times like these, experience and leadership are critical. This is no time for on-the-job training.
From Carey’s biography on the town website:
David E. Carey was born and raised in Baltimore County and is a graduate of The College of Wooster (Ohio) and the University of Baltimore School of Law. He is a partner in the Bel Air law firm of Brown, Brown and Young, P.A., where he has worked since 1990. His practice is concentrated in the areas of civil and criminal litigation.
Commissioner Carey was first elected to the Town of Bel Air Board of Commissioners in 1997 and was reelected in 2001 and 2005. He has served as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners three different times. Prior to his election, he served on the Town’s Economic and Community Development Commission as well as the Greater Bel Air-Forest Hill Community Planning Council, the Harford County Futures Commission, the Harford County Housing Commission and the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners.
In 2006-07, Commissioner Carey was President of the Maryland Municipal League (MML), the association of Maryland’s 157 cities and towns, and he has served on MML’s Legislative Committee for ten years. He has testified numerous times before both the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates on issues of interest to Maryland’s cities and towns. He also served twice as President of the Cecil-Harford Chapter of MML.
Currently, Commissioner Carey is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Local Government Insurance Trust, a non-profit insurance pool created by the Maryland General Assembly, which provides insurance to local governments. He is also a member of the State’s Task Force on the Future of Growth and Development in Maryland and served on the Planning and Smart Growth Workgroup of Governor O’Malley’s Transition Team.
Commissioner Carey lives in a historic home in Bel Air with his wife, Rachael Rice, and their two Labradors, Max and Augie.
Assigned Liaison Responsibilities:
– Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Commission
– Liaison with MD Municipal League
– Commissioner of Tree Committee