Community Forum Minutes – 11.13.2016

Community Forum with the Postmaster, Sheriff, & Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department
November 13, 2016 ~ 6:30pm

Erin K welcomed & introduced Huntingtown Citizens Association. Then she introduced Sheriff Mike Evans. Sheriff Evans told the group he was born and raised in Calvert County and he has been sheriff here for the past 14 years. He then answered questions.

Q: This is the time of year we hear gun shots. Can you talk about hunting season? About how far away from a residence a gun can be fired? Any firearm restrictions? Just to help with a general understanding.
A: You must be at least 150yds from a residence when firing a gun. If you do have any questions about hunting or concerns when hearing gun fire, you are welcome to call the non-emergency number (410) 535-2800 x0. Obviously, if a gun is being fired at or in your home, call 911.

Q: Can you please brief us on crime stats for 20639?
A: Serious crime was down 30% last year and down 14% this year. 90% of theft from vehicles are because the vehicle was not locked. Make sure to lock your vehicles and keep valuables out of sight.

Q: What are the most common crimes in Huntingtown?
A: The number one crime in the county is heroin. There were 14 overdoses this weekend alone.

Q: What is the number one need of your department?
A: The number one need for the department is additional staffing. The department has fallen behind on starting salary, meaning it is not as competitive as it used to be with surrounding counties.

Q: If we’d like to volunteer with your office, what skills do you need?
A: The department does have several interns. There is training needed to volunteer, but if you are serious about volunteering, you can call Sheriff Evans directly at (443) 532-1199.

Q: Drug traffic has been a problem and I would like to know what is being done to combat the problem.
A: The department has added more K9 unites. They’ve increased arrests 20-30% over the past 3 years.

Q: What is being done about accidents caused by drivers on their cell phones?
A: There is a big problem with distracted driving. It’s difficult to prove an accident was caused by a driver using his/her cell phone. To cut down on accidents, officers will start issuing tickets when they see someone using their cell phone.

Q: What is being done about speeding/aggressive driving on Route 4?
A: Aggressive driving is a problem. Dispatch receives 20-25 calls a day from citizens reporting aggressive or drunk drivers. Officers only make it to about 15% of calls. If you do witness an aggressive driver, call 911. Absolutely do not try to handle the situation yourself.

Speed cameras are helping to cut down on speeding through school zones. They will take a picture if a vehicle is traveling more than 12mph over the speed limit. It is a $40 fine. When the cameras first went up, they were getting about 1000 hits a week. Now they are down to 100 a week.

 

Next, Erin introduced the Huntingtown Postmaster, Sonja Carmichael. Ms. Carmichael gave us a brief background about herself. She has been with the post office for 28yrs. She started as a carrier and worked her way up to Postmaster in 2013. She manages clerks, carriers, everyone associated with the post office. There are two types of carriers, RCA – Rural Carrier Associates, and ARC – Assistant Rural Carriers. RCAs work 6-7 days a week, but ARCs only work Saturdays. Hiring is difficult because most job descriptions say it is only for 1 day a week and most people are not looking for such limited work. In reality, if you want to work more, you will get more than just one day. She also informed the group that carriers do more than just deliver mail. They sort their mail in the morning as well as getting packages ready for delivery, which is about 80-100 packages a day per carrier. This post office alone delivers around 1500 packages a day normally. That goes up to 3000 packages a day in the peak season, which we are about to enter. She asked that we please be patient with carriers.

Q: I’m told carriers are retrained when errors occur. What does that consist of and what is the approach if the issues continue to happen?
A: When issues occur she speaks to carriers and writes them up. If the same issue occurs again, she goes up the chain of discipline procedures.

Q: What is the best way to locate a missing piece of mail that we have mailed or has been mailed to us but never delivered?
A: There is no way to track regular mail. The only thing that is trackable is something with a confirmation number. Regular mail gets lost in a facility or shredded by machines, and sometimes ends up in dead mail.

Q: Is a package supposed to be dropped off at my house or can it be left at the mailbox? Why do packages get put on top of the mailbox with a little arm balancing it up there?
A: Carriers are not supposed to go too far off the road and are not allowed to backup as they can’t see behind their vehicles. It’s a safety first issue. If you don’t want a package left at your mailbox, call Ms. Carmichael at (410) 535-9633 to make other arrangements.

Q: When and why is the post office asked to deliver items for FedEx or UPS?
A: FedEx, UPS, & the post office have a contract together. FedEx & UPS can drop office mail/packages to the post office and mark those packages as “delivered.” But as mail carriers have already sorted their mail and are already out on their routes, those packages will not be delivered until the following mail day.

Q: Where can we, or who can we, contact to indicate Huntingtown post office needs more personnel?
A: They know the post office needs help. Most Calvert post offices need help.

Q: Is it true that the mail goes to Waldorf first and not straight to Huntingtown residents?
A: No. Mail comes from Capital Heights, the main sorting facility for this area. Mail used to be sorted at Huntingtown, but that was changed so that all mail goes through the system.

Q: What happens if my neighbor’s car is parked in front of my mailbox?
A: Carriers are supposed to have 25-30 feet of clearance to get to the box and leave from the box. Their days are already long, if they had to constantly get out of the vehicle to access mailboxes, their day would be even longer. If this is a recurring issue, please talk to your neighbor about parking somewhere else.

Q: Can you give your mailbox numbers?
A: No. Only lawyers and the sheriff can get that information.

Q: Where can people apply to get a job with the post office? Can you request Huntingtown specifically?
A: USPS.com/careers. There will be new positions going up January 8th and they will only be up for one week. You can request, but generally carriers are placed at the post office closest to where they live already.

 

Erin informed the group that the fire chief was unable to make the forum, but a volunteer firefighter, Jim Damico, was available to answer questions. Mr. Damico told the group he had been a firefighter in DC for 20 years and had now been with HVFD for 20 years.

Q: What are the rules on open fire burns? I have a lot of tree limbs, etc to get rid of.
A: After 4pm only; sometimes not at all. The Health Department is actually the one that sets these guidelines. They are also the ones that issue special permits for construction companies to burn. If you want to verify a permit or complain about burning, call the Health Department.

Q: Is a fire pit considered open burn? What’s the significance of 4pm?
A: Anything after 4pm. After 4pm the humidity rises, which reduces risk of a fire spreading.

Q: Do you have a preferred brand of battery operated fire alarm?
A: Strongly suggest a hardwired alarm with battery backup. This is for a smoke detector and a CO detector. Both are usually good for 10years. First Alert is a good brand, but make sure what you buy is UL approved. And as of last year, they are doing away with 9v batteries as the backup battery.

Q: Are there specifications for a fire ring?
A: No. Just be safe. Smaller piles are better. And clear a reasonable area around the pile. It’s a good idea to keep a hose nearby as well.

Q: If we have a downed animal such as a horse and can’t get the horse up, can we call the fire dept for help?  What number do we call?  I had this happen, my horse was upside down entangled in fence, and I called the fire dept but no one answered so I called 911 who sent animal control who was no help, had no equipment, and not timely… took half hour to get to the scene. Any tips?
A: HVFD is 100% volunteer so there is not always someone at the station to answer calls. Jim Fisher, a retired animal control officer helped answer this question. Some animal control officers are trained in heavy animal rescue, but not all, and they have no special equipment because it is expensive, so they rely on the fire departments to help. Animal Control will do what they can and have the numbers to contact other fire departments or vets. Sheriff Evans also pointed out that in this case there may have been some miscommunication. If you make it clear to dispatch that it’s a life threatening issue for the animal, and no one else is available, they can send a deputy out to get things started with rescuing the animal.

Q: What hours is the siren in use and what hours is it prohibited. Please explain why the siren is used to communicate with volunteers and not other methods like pagers or cell phones.
A: The siren is off 9pm-6am. It’s up the HVFD specifically when the siren is used. Not every firefighter has a pager because they are expensive and in most cases the siren works best.

Q: Does the department still host birthday parties?
A: Yes. Carol F, the office admin, sets these up. You can reach her at (410) 535-4439. She handles hall rental as well. And firefighters can even go to a party with a truck if it’s set up ahead of time.

 

Next Erin recognized and thanked Tee for answering a lot of questions in the group about the post office. And Tee gave an update on Linda. Her arm is in bad shape. She should have surgery, but she doesn’t want to. She has been with the post office for 29 years and is a year away from retirement but will probably lose her job because of the seat belt issue in this case. She still needs help with cats if anyone still wants to get food or litter.

Tee also answered another question for the post office about the best way to send back mail delivered to the wrong address. She said the best way is to put it back in your mailbox with the flag up, the carrier will figure it out. But you can circle the address or put a post it note on it if you want. Doing this, instead of delivering the mail yourself, helps the carriers to know when a mistake happened. The sorting slots are only a half an inch wide, so sometimes mail gets put in the wrong slot by mistake.

Erin thanked everyone for coming and said the next meeting would be a planning meeting on January 29th.

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