2016 Property & Grounds Annual Report:
Presented October, 2016
The Property and Grounds committee has an active membership that has by and large performed its expected duty over the past year. With the assistance of other members of the Meeting who are not members of Property and Grounds Committee and with good fortune, we can say that the property and grounds have remained in good order over the past year.
Last October we were petitioning the Maryland Historic Trust following the Meeting's approval of Meredith Watters and Mark Beck's design for a handicap access ramp into the Old Meeting House. We got that approval and approval from the Talbot County Historical Commission and contracts were arranged for the work—Meredith Watters oversaw this—and, ultimately, we got the handsome ramp currently appended to the rear of the building.
Fall of last year we also began the process of redoing the Common Room bathrooms, to make them more easily accessible. Using design ideas provided by Mark Beck we hired plumbers and tile installers and this work was completed in the Spring. Through those efforts, we have made our facilities more accessible to people with constrained mobility.
Also beginning in the fall of last year, the idea was floated that P&G undertake more active management of what we have come to call the "back four acres". Our intention was to make that space more "naturally amenable" with that phrase being threshed as we proceed. We agreed to involve people trained in the creation and maintenance of natural landscapes and meetings and walk-abouts were convened in early winter with Ginna Tiernan of Adkins Arboretum and Sylvan Kaufmann, an independent forester. We also met with UMD Extension's Regional Watershed Specialist for the northern Shore, Eric Beuhl and we have continued meeting with him through the year.
Although our intentions were originally focused on the area behind the row of hollies north of the graveyard, that focus shifted to the eastern boundary where the vines had already killed the trees and where there was a definite need for more active management. A subcommittee was formed and Priscilla Morris was the convener of that group. In order to do anything along that boundary we first needed to get rid of the vines that infested it. Thus, in March, we engaged a contractor to remove the vines above ground along part of the boundary. Over the spring and early summer, the roots that remained set new growth and in July we hired a licensed herbicide applicator to kill the vines at their root. That process seems to have been somewhat successful, although it is likely that we will continue to fight vines in that area.
In early summer, the boundary plantings sub-committee engaged other outside specialists, and Liza Ghezzi, a Master/Bay gardener provided a planting list and some recommendations. Work continues to create a more amenable mix of plants along this boundary and members and attenders are invited to involve themselves in this process. If funds are available, the Committee hopes to continue efforts to clear the remaining portion of the eastern boundary of vines and to endeavor to improve the mix of plants there as well.
Property and Grounds organized clean-up days in November and again in April. Both of these clean up days were well attended by willing members and attenders. In the spring clean-up, we enjoyed the service of a Friend's frontend loader which allowed us to make use of the leaves that we had been stockpiling for the previous few years. We moved them onto the newly cleared boundary area as a mulch and they were effective that way.
Property and Grounds committee has provided oversight of the Meeting's caretaker and management of property maintained for the caretaker's use. Noteworthy in that respect, the committee recommended a salary increase for the caretaker at the start of the current fiscal year. This salary increase was staged and, in part, contingent on performance, so a subcommittee was formed to manage that. Ed Danser is convener of that sub-committee.
With respect to property maintained for the caretaker's use, one of the heating and air conditioning units in the caretaker's cottage expired last winter and the committee initiated plans for replacing the unit. Before this could happen, however, a private firm contracted by the state government let the Meeting (and, Meeting Trustees) know that public funds were available to help improve the energy efficiency of the cottage.
Background study of that effort took place over the summer. Very recently, the caretaker has been notified that work will begin soon to replace the existing heating and air conditioning system and to improve the energy efficiency of the cottage. This past week two new heat/air conditioning units were installed by Total Home Performance. Removal of the old units is under discussion.
Discussion about plants as a visual screen, tree purchases and installations ensued. P&G will discuss this at the next committee meeting.
Caretaker evaluations have approved the previously agreed upon incremental salary increases.