Kent County Commissioner Race: A Conversation with Bill Short

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Every election year, the Chestertown Spy uses the power of multimedia to introduce candidates for local office in a way that is far less traditional than the typical community forum or debate. Rather than be limited by a set amount of time to state policy views or answer questions, the Spy has used the video interview format to understand more fully a candidate’s points of view as well as their personalities. We continue this practice again this year with six conversations with those running to be one of the three Kent County Commissioners. During these chats, candidates have been asked questions on economic development, public school funding, public transportation as well as understanding their backgrounds and motivation for running for office.

We continue our series with Bill “Billy” Short, a Republican incumbent on the Kent County Commission.  A product of Kent County public education, Billy has been a local entrepreneur for several decades with the creation of three businesses, including Eastern Interiors on High Street in Chestertown. Appointed to replace ailing Commissioner Alex Rasin in 2012, Short consequently has won two elections since that time.

This video is approximately nineteen minutes in length. 

Kent County Commissioner Race: A Conversation with Tom Timberman

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Every election year, the Chestertown Spy uses the power of multimedia to introduce candidates for local office in a way that is far less traditional than the typical community forum or debate. Rather than be limited by a set amount of time to state policy views or answer questions, the Spy has used the video interview format to understand more fully a candidate’s points of view as well as their personalities. We continue this practice again this year with six conversations with those running to be one of the three Kent County Commissioners. During these chats, candidates have been asked questions on economic development, public school funding, public transportation as well as understanding their backgrounds and motivation for running for office.

We start this series, in reverse alphabetical order, with Tom Timberman. A retired foreign affairs expert on military policy who has lived on the Eastern Shore, first in Rock Hall, and now Chestertown, for close to two decades, Tom during his career at the State Department headed a provincial reconstruction team and was embedded within a combat brigade in Iraq. He has also helped implement a new counterterrorism strategy in Southeast Asia.

This video is approximately fifteen minutes in length. For more information on Tom Timberman, please go here

A United Way Reunion: David LaMotte Renews Family Ties by Chairing of Annual Fund Drive

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There is a good reason that LaMotte Chemical President David LaMotte has been experiencing some deja vu has he assumes his role of honorary chair of the United Way of Kent County annual fund campaign. Not only did he play a similar role thirty years ago when he started as a young executive at the scientific testing equipment company, but is forever aware that it was his grandfather, Frank, who helped start the community organization to respond to countywide needs when he moved his business from Baltimore in the 1940s.

Now David is teaming up with United Way President Glenn Wilson to lead this year’s major fundraising program with an ambitious goal of $22r,000. The Spy sat down with both David and Glenn to talk about the campaign and the extraordinary service the United Way provides Kent County.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the United Way of Kent County, or to make a contribution, please go here

A Conversation with Spy Columnist David Montgomery and 1st District Candidate Jesse Colvin

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It is usually the case that the Spy uses editorial discretion in presenting candidates for public office. To serve our readers, and respect their limited time to consume this form of video interviews, we have long used the practice of editing the comments of those running for office down to digestible segments to quickly get to the core of their policy platforms and qualifications. While we still think that this is a useful approach, and will continue to use it, we nevertheless are always eager to explore different formats to objectively as possible present different points of view.

That is indeed the case with our experiment with the Avalon Foundation’s public access television station (MCTV), to present, unedited, a healthy and respectful conversation between conservative Spy columnist (and acclaimed economist) David Montgomery, and Democratic candidate Jesse Colvin for Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, for a one-to-one interview, from beginning to end, on some of the critical issues facing this country in the 2018 midterm election this November.

We plan to interview Rep. Andy Harris using the same format on October 16.

This video is approximately forty minutes in length.

 

Get Ready! Movie Theater Set to Open

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The Chesapeake Movies at Washington Square is almost ready to open, with a planned starting date of Oct. 12

Chesapeake Movies is getting close to opening.

With new seats and larger screens, an expanded snack bar area, refurbished restrooms, and a menu of new first-run movies, the theater at Washington Square shopping center is aiming for an Oct. 12 grand opening. The theater has been closed for some 18 months and is now under new ownership and management.

Mike Klein, one of the principals of Chesapeake Movies, said the interior work on the theater is close to done, with new flooring and carpeting throughout and the new seats currently in the process of being installed. The major remaining hurdles include finishing the setup of concession areas and getting final approvals from the health department and other agencies.  If final installations and inspections go as expected, then next Friday, October 12, will be the grand opening.  Should any issues crop up, the opening will be moved to the next weekend, Oct 19.  Stay tuned to the Spy and the Chesapeake Movies website for any last-minute developments.

The theater’s website lists the first planned features as A Star Is Born (with Lady Gaga), Venom, First Man, Goosebumps 2, Halloween 2018 and Bohemian.

New, state-of-the-art digital projection equipment and JBL surround-sound speakers have now been installed in all five theaters.  The old film projectors are long-gone.  Movies now arrive on a computer hard drive that sits on a cart and takes up very little room and does not require the full-time attention of a projectionist.

The new power recliner in its upright position. Photo by Jane Jewell

The new screens are much larger–two and a half feet higher and five feet wider than the old ones, except in one theater (#5, farthest from the lobby) where ductwork prevented the placement of the bigger screen. New red and black wall coverings have been installed to improve both the appearance and the acoustics of the theaters. Movie-goers who remember the old Chester 5 theater will hardly recognize the place. With the state of the art speakers and larger screens, it will be a whole new movie experience.

Two kinds of seats are being installed in the five theaters. The three rows nearest the entrance will have powered recliner seats, which will cost $2 more than the regular seats – which are also new and completely upgraded. The layout of the theaters has been changed to eliminate the middle aisle, allowing for seating in the center of the room – the prime viewing area.  The new owners noted that many, if not most, theaters have only side-aisles so that these prime seats are not lost. Each of the five theaters will have 22 of the powered recliner seats in the back three rows and 36 rockers with cup holders in the general admission area up front for a total of just under 60 seats in each theater.

New rocker chairs are installed in the front three rows of each theater. Note new draped acoustic wall coverings and JBL speakers. Photo by Jane Jewell

General admission tickets will be $6 with the recliners an additional $2 for a recliner.  Movie-goers will be able to reserve recliners in advance from the website.  You can specify exactly which recliner you want – row and seat number just like a regular concert hall!  That way, you can arrive just before the show starts and be assured of having your favorite seat.  One of the new owners said that another theater that he works with has had their recliner section completely reserved for over two weeks in advance for this upcoming weekend. Only the recliners can be reserved. The three rows of general admission seating will remain first come, first served.

Mike Klein, one of the principals of Chesapeake Movies, tries out one of the new recliners. The chair is in its semi-reclined mode with leg-rest up.      Photo by Jane Jewell

The website, though up with basic information, is still under construction and it’s not ready (as of Friday, Oct 5) to take reservations.  Show times will not be posted until just before the opening date. But these online features will be available soon.

Special Senior (age 62 and up) and Child (age 12 and under) tickets will be available.

The expanded snack bar will feature a wider variety of food offerings, including pizza and chicken fingers. Two dining areas with low and high tables and chairs have been set up in the wide hallway outside the theaters, allowing movie-goers to finish eating in comfort before going into the show. This is also expected to improve the cleanliness of the theaters. And so that nobody misses the start of the film, TV monitors mounted outside each theater’s door will show the titles and starting times of the movies showing.

New concession area in the lobby. A staff member from the Washington College newspaper The Elm toured the new facilities the same day as the Spy was there.

In addition to the upgraded projectors, screens and speakers in the theaters,  the bathrooms have new flooring and all new fixtures.

The theater is now in the process of hiring, Klein said. An employment application is on the website. Charlene Fowler, who managed the theater for 18 years before its closing, has already been rehired as the manager.

Intrepid Spy reporter Peter J. Heck tests new power recliner in it’s fully reclined position. He reports that it passes muster. Photo by Jane Jewell

New chairs – high and low styles – will be in the eating areas in the long hallway just outside the theaters. Photo by Jane Jewell

Working on the expanded concession area. Chesapeake 5 Movies Photo by Jane Jewell

New acoustic wall covering – Chesapeake 5 Movies

Entertainment Services employees, Christopher Lewis and Eylo Lang, worked overtime to get seats and other items installed and ready for the grand opening.

Cabinet maker Ed Copeland

Cabinet maker Ed Copeland

 

Photo Gallery Pictures by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

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Dock Suggested for Wilmer Park

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The approximate area of Wilmer Park where a proposed dock would be located — photo by Peter Heck

What happens when the marina is finished? A possible answer came from Peter Rice, who brought a proposal to install a dock at the edge of Wilmer Park to the Oct. 1 meeting of the Chestertown Council.

Rice said he got the idea while walking his dog in the park, and seeing the progress in refurbishing the marina. He described Chestertown as “an iconic coastal town,” where public access to the water is an important amenity for residents and visitors. As town property, Wilmer Park should be a key access point for waterfront views, “something similar to what’s at the foot of High Street.” However, Rice said, the current condition of the bulkhead on the Chester River side of the park limits its use. He cited the frequent inundation of the bank by high tides or heavy rainfall, and the deterioration of the bank just shoreward of the bulkhead, limiting how close someone can get to the water.

In response, Rice presented two plans for a riverside dock – one starting on the bank then extending out several feet over the water, the other just covering the bank but not extending out over the water. For either plan, an additional pier extending straight out into the river could allow sightseeing and fishing in deeper water. (See diagram below.) The version extending over the water would increase the acreage of the park and could double as a stage for concerts and other events in the park. The version sited only on the bank would be less expensive to install and would not require permits to build a structure into the water, though it would require relocating the current path and waterside benches.

Rice said he favored the idea of a fishing pier partly because it makes him nervous to see people fishing from the Chester River bridge, where they are only a few feet from the traffic lanes. “But all in all, I think it’s a beautiful town, and people like to be by the water. And it’s a good place to go and have your lunch or read a book.”

Councilman Marty Stetson asked Rice what he expected the cost of such a structure to be, and how it might be funded.

Peter Rice

Rice said, “I haven’t gotten that far,” but he thought it would be possible to get donations by an appeal on the Chestertown Life Facebook page, where he said he had gotten a good response where he floated the idea of a dock.

Stetson said public works projects tend to be very expensive. He said the town has typically depended on state and federal grants to do such projects. He said he did not want the taxpayers to have to pay for such a project. “It’s a very nice thing, it would be wonderful to have, but we have to pay for it.”

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the project would probably be eligible for grant funds, with matching funds raised from donations. He said Mayor Chris Cerino had made a similar proposal some time ago. He noted that the area by the park needs to be dredged again; it was last done in 1984. He said the dock would cover subsidence that is occurring by the water’s edge and make it more pleasant to approach the river.

Councilman David Foster asked if Rice envisioned kayak and canoe launching from the pier. Rice said he had only thought of it for walking and fishing, but that it would probably be easy to add a floating dock for kayak and canoe users.

Rice’s drawing of a proposed dock for Wilmer Park – The curved gray area represents the current walking path along the Chester in Wilmer Park.

Cerino said there is a kayak launch in front of the Hynson Pavilion, close to the area where the dock would go. He said the idea of a dock in the park was raised by the Waterfront Task Force several years ago. At present, the refurbishing of the town marina is “an albatross,” taking up most of the town’s energy and grant funding, Cerino said. But the riverside dock would cover the subsidence area and address a safety issue. He estimated that it could be built for $10,000 to $15,000, especially if the land-side version of the project is adopted. “It would be the cost of lumber, and maybe even the town crew could build it out,” he said.

Cerino added, “I think neighbors would be interested in this,” because residents of the area near the park are concerned with noise and loitering issues. “But I think this would be awesome,” he said. He said it would be a logical next step after the marina is finished. He also noted that he’s taken kids there to fish, and even without the pool, they caught “pretty big” catfish off the end of the park.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper said that its presence along the river bank might make the project eligible for a grant from the John Smith Historic Trail.

Ingersoll praised Rice’s diagram of the proposed dock, calling it “a great model for is to use in a grant application.” 

Council Asked to Fund Playgrounds

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Children using playground equipment at Louisa Carpenter Park in Washington Park

At the Sept. 17 Chestertown Council meeting, Nathan Shroyer offered suggestions for improving the town’s parks and playgrounds.

Shroyer introduced himself as a resident of Kent County, a parent interested in the progress of the town, and a small business owner. He is a city and urban planner by vocation, specializing in disaster management and mitigation.

“I live here because of the rural character and the people, and the quality of life is very important to me and my family,” Shroyer said, characterizing himself as a proponent of green space and public spaces who enjoys walking in Wilmer Park.  He said that in a recent conversation with several delegates in Annapolis, he was told that it would be easy to get up to $200,000 to build “a first-rate quality playground” in Chestertown. He said there is a new playground in Rock Hall that has families present every time he visits it, and it inspired him to do some research on the parks in Chestertown.

A view of the Chester River from Wilmer Park 

“First of all, I found out that you’ve been building parks,” Shroyer said. “This was big news to me.” He said the only Chestertown parks that show up on a Google search are Fountain Park, Kirwan Meditation Park on the Washington College campus, and Wilmer Park – “I know there are others,” he said, noting that he had made an effort to visit as many as he could and take photographs as part of his research. He said the pocket park near the rail trail – the former Ajax property – seems to have “a bunch of surplus equipment.” He said that a query on social media about the pocket park returned a lot of negative comments, such as people sleeping in the park, used condoms on the ground, and other problems.

Based on his experience as a planner, Shroyer said that a park functions better as the number of people and the variety of different groups using it increases. He said he had come to the council to explore ways to achieve that with the parks. Wilmer Park gets “consistent use,” while Margo Bailey park is heavily used by dog walkers, he said. But he has never found people using any of the other parks. Also, the playground at Bailey Park is “binocular distance” from the parking lot, making it difficult for small children to use.

And there are no signs to direct visitors to the existing parks. The only signs are those telling visitors the hours the parks cannot be used. Shroyer said the playground at Garnet Elementary School is only open from 4:30 to sunset, limiting the time it is available for small children to use, especially in winter. He  found in his research that people once considered the Garnet playground “a great town park in the middle of town for people to use.”

Mayor Chris Cerino said the current playground at the school replaced one built by community members a number of years ago. “That’s where I used to take my kids.” He said the Board of Education had removed the old equipment because of insurance issues arising from its dilapidated condition. Since it is on school property, the town has no control over it. Shroyer said the town needs a park with facilities for teens, especially with a climate-controlled indoor space for games. Shroyer said such facilities as restrooms, a barbecue area, and tennis courts would also be a plus. “It’s really about participation,” he said.

Nathan Shroyer speaking to the Chestertown Council about parks and playgrounds

Cerino said the county has such a park at the Clarence Hawkins Community Center in Worton. An audience member added that the Kent County Public Library runs a game night at the Chestertown branch, where all ages can play board games.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the town worked with the county and the school district two years ago to upgrade the tennis and basketball courts at the Kent County Middle School. He said the facilities are “empty” most of the time.

Shroyer said the facilities should be easier to find on Google maps and other online sites. “Accessibility and outreach are key,” he added.

Cerino said the town website has a section that lists the parks. Shroyer said he eventually found that website, but that the most useful information he found was in minutes of the town Recreation Commission.

Shroyer said that he came to the meeting to request that the council apply for the grant money delegates told him was available from the state. He said the town should be going for “low-hanging fruit,” such as erecting signage to let people know about the park or to put bike lanes along the road between the middle school and Bailey Park. “You could have a trail going through town with markers to designate these really great spaces,” he said. “Why should families have to drive half an hour every time they want to go recreate?”

Cerino said that the town’s budget is primarily directed toward such services as police protection and public works like road repairs. With a few exceptions, the existing parks – including Gateway Park at the end of High Street, and the Middle School playground — have been built and upgraded with Community Parks and Recreation grants from the state. Such grants are very competitive, and the state expects a municipality to spend grants it has on hand before applying for more. He said the town currently has such a grant for refurbishing Louisa Carpenter Park in the Washington Park suburb, and can’t expect anything more for parks until that is spent. He said the Kent County government might be able to get additional funding on its own, but it generally invests its recreation dollars at the community center in Worton.

Cerino agreed that a top-quality playground would be an important addition to the town’s facilities. He said he had gone to the Rock Hall park –“It’s kind of cool,” Cerino said, adding that it was designed and installed by a playground designer located in Rock Hall, with the Rock Hall Recreation Commission playing a key role. He said that at present, Chestertown’s funding for new projects is largely tied up in the completion of upgrading at the Chestertown Marina, financed with state and federal grants plus some private donations.

Shroyer said he appreciates the town’s commitment to upgrade the marina. He said it is “a question of equity” in how limited resources are used. “You need to distribute resources so people can use them,” he said. “You need to take children as seriously as dogs,” he added, referring to the dog park facilities at Bailey Park.

Councilman Marty Stetson, who has been a strong advocate for the dog park, said the park has been built up largely with private donations, and that it attracts people from all over the Shore.

Greater Chestertown Initiative Questions for County Commissioner Candidates: Diversity

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Editor’s Note: The Greater Chestertown Initiative worked this summer on a series of questions for the candidates running for one of three Kent County Commissioners to be elected in November. Over the next four weeks, the Spy will share the candidates responses to one of those questions every week.

Diversity

In the May 17 edition of the Kent County News, an editorial described how racism endures in our county. What work needs to be done to build the inclusive community Kent County should be, and how would you implement that work? How would you show the African American and Latino communities they are essential to the success of our county?

Ron Fithian

 l just had the gentlemen who is doing some work on the Legacy Days. When he found out I had graduated from high school in ’69 which meant I went through that whole integration when it started, he wanted to interview me. I’m going to tell you what basically I told him. When I grew up here in Rock Hall, it was a commercial seafood town. Blacks and whites all worked together and played together. And i’ll tell you when the blacks and whites starting going to Rock Hall High
School, it really didn’t seem to be a problem. Maybe it’s easy for me to say because they were coming to our school. But we didn’t have the real problems you might see on television. I think we’re very fortunate with that especially in Kent County. We all lived together, and it was just a natural thing. But as far as African Americans and the Latinos and how we can show them they are essential to the success of the county,

I think you need to look around at the Clarence Hawkinses, at the William Pickrums, at the Leon Frisons, leaders of this community, the preachers. Some of our more important department heads are African Americans. For example, Herb Dennis is an African American and he is the Warden of the Kent County Detention Center. One of the best we’ve ever had. And I’ve been around long enough to go through several changes of wardens. We have Myra Butler, who is in charge of Parks and Recreation. She plays a big role in Kent County, and she’s in charge of the Community Center and all of our park land. We try to make sure that African  Americans and Latinos are included not only as department heads and workers, but on our boards as well. And we’ll continue to do that. I Believe everyone has a chance in Kent County.

It’s easy for me to answer because some of my best friends are African Americans and Latinos. if there is racism in Kent County, it certainly isn’t anywhere in my travels. My father died when l was about 4 years old. His best friend was an African American and sung at his funeral. I mean we don’t look at things that way. I tend to treat everyone the same regardless of who they are or what they look like until they prove to me that I shouldn’t. That’s the way I do it. It’s one of the only good things my wife says about me. She says you might not have many, but one of the good qualities you have is—i’ve seen you walk into a meeting and you take the poorest person there and you talk to them like they’re the richest.” That is an impressive trait. I try to do that, and I would suggest everybody else do the same.

Bob Jacobs

The African Americans and Latinos are essential to the county. People are not born racist. They are taught it. I personally think everyone in life should be giving the opportunity to succeed in whatever they do. When I played sports in high school it was just a bunch of us kids just having fun trying to win a game no matter what color you are. Watching my son play sports 35 years later I saw the same thing. Routing for a bunch of kids regardless of color trying to win a game.

When I worked at Dixon Valve we were just a bunch of folks regardless of color or even gender just trying to get a job done. I have always been a goal oriented individual and don’t worry much about race. One of my commitments toward the community and making sure we are all on an even playing field no matter what color or gender you are. Everybody deserves an equal shot no matter who you are. It is all about equality. Our differences are our strengths, we learn from each other and grow together.

Tom Mason

When it comes to racial problems in our community we must practice the golden rule of treating others how we would like to be treated. I would have an all inclusive government where the African American and Latino communities will have equal opportunity to serve on committees and participate in all aspects of county government. All citizens will be treated with respect and equality when it comes to living and participating in our community. All county departments will be expected to provide the same services to all of our community without a racial or ethnic divide.

William Pickrum

I will continue to identify opportunities for inclusive opportunities.  This must be encouraged through all our social networks, i.e., churches, business groups, social and service groups, etc.  These groups must have an inclusive frame of reference.

  • How would you show the African American and Latino communities they are essential to the success of our county?

Showing by example is the best method.  I have appointed the first female African-American Department Head in this county.  As an African-American, I have been a role model for this community and have successfully been elected as County Commissioner multiple terms.  I have aggressively sought African Americans and Latinos for county employment and to serve on county boards and committees.

As a personal story, when I returned home after a career in the Coast Guard, I was not well received at an Economic Advisory Commission meeting.  In fact, I was asked why I was there. After careful thought, I decided to run for elective office. One of my goals from the beginning was to insure inclusiveness in county government.

As a County Commissioner, I’ve supported the Local Management Board.  This Board works tirelessly to make sure this is achieved. Rosemary Ramsey-Granillo, as the Director of the Local Management Board, has worked to achieve this goal and is tasked with some actions;

  1. Create a vision for the role of local government and local child and family serving agencies in achieving results for children and families.
  2. Develop plans to command public and political attention and support for programs that will achieve results for children and families at the local level.

This Board is concerned with inclusiveness and demands it.

I will encourage the development of an African-American, Latino and non-minority business directory, sponsored by the County.  This will provide local governments and residents a resource to utilize these local businesses.

All county employees should get racial and gender sensitivity training periodically.  All other local county governments should do the same.

William Short

Inclusion is imperative to the County’s overall success. All ethnic and racial backgrounds add value to our community. As an elected official I work to move the County and all of its citizens forward without a racial or ethnic divide. As previously stated I am a Commissioner for all people and have a 6 year record of serving all.

Tom Timberman

Recently, the Kent County News did us a public service by pointing out that in 2018 racism and discrimination are still very much present in Kent County. This Editorial also reminds us that Kent County’s historic record in this regard, down to the 1960s and 70’s, is not encouraging. Thus, the admirable steps being taken now, e.g. the Social Action Committee, an active schedule of events at Sumner Hall and Legacy Day, can be assessed against this background.

It’s essential that minorities actually believe that they are listened to, that they are heard and that actions are taken as a result. More African-Americans and Latinos must be invited to become involved in County management. Minorities must be hired to deliver County services. County commissions and boards should also include more minority members to become part of the decision-making process.

An initiative to identify, recruit, hire or appoint minority members should be a Commission priority.

This must start with teachers and administrators in the public school system. African American and Latino children and their parents will begin to believe they are essential to the success of the County if they are seen to occupy essential positions.

The Commission can launch an outreach program by emailing their weekly meeting agenda to African American church pastors and those from Shrewsbury Parish and the Galena Catholic Church. These individuals should be invited to speak at the meetings, to suggest agenda items and to serve on ad hoc issue committees. The Commission can also fund a video archive of their weekly meetings on the County website.

And finally, one Commission meeting per month should be conducted in each of the other four incorporated towns to encourage attendance by residents who do not live in Chestertown and are without personal transportation.

 

 

Healthcare Plans See Reductions of Premiums in Maryland for 2019

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday announced a reduction in next year’s insurance premium rates for individual healthcare plans in the state.

The two health insurance providers in the state’s Maryland Health Benefit Exchange — which operates the marketplace consumers use to purchase healthcare under the Affordable Care Act — Kaiser Permanente and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, will offer an average of about a 13 percent reduction in premiums across the board, the governor said. The new rates will take effect on Jan. 1.

The announcement comes after the federal government in August approved the state’s request for a waiver to establish a reinsurance program to stabilize the insurance market and prevent rate spikes.

“Rather than huge increases in health insurance rates, we are instead delivering significantly and dramatically lower rates for Marylanders,” Hogan said. “For the first time since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, all individual insurance rates in Maryland will go down instead of up.”

Prior to the waiver’s approval, insurance premiums were expected to increase dramatically next year for both HMO and PPO healthcare plans. CareFirst’s PPO rate was expected to increase by more than 90 percent. It will now decrease by 11 percent, the governor said.

CareFirst’s HMO plan, which covers more than half of the nearly 200,000 Marylanders with health insurance plans purchased in the individual market as of June 30, will see a 17 percent decrease.

Kaiser had proposed a rate increase of almost 40 percent. Instead their rates will drop by about 7 percent.

“As a result of these rates, the health insurance market in Maryland will finally have the chance to become more competitive and dynamic,” Hogan said, adding the reinsurance program will make healthcare more affordable and increase competition by coaxing more insurers into the market.

The reinsurance program is a temporary fix, however. The waiver runs through 2020 but could last through 2023, according to the waiver application — and a more permanent solution must be enacted by the federal government to ensure rates do not increase down the line, said Maryland Health Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer.

“Most of the rules regarding the Affordable Care Act are embedded in federal law. Very little authority is given to the states,” Redmer said. “What we really need — and what we’ve been advocating for years — is for Congress to put aside those partisan differences and come up with common sense solutions or give us more authority to make changes here in the states.”

Redmer declined to speculate whether insurance rates would increase after the waiver expires without a long-term solution in place.

“Short term, our health insurance rates are (going to be) much more competitive than they were this year,” Redmer said, adding that the lower rates will add more consumers to the insurance market making it healthier overall.

By Brooks DuBose