The following is a link to the agenda for the March 15, 2017 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-march-15-2017/
Before discussing details of the agenda, I want to give kudos to City staff and residents for what appears to have been a good response to our spring snow storm. If folks are aware of any problem areas that need additional attention or have been overlooked by our snow removal crews, please be in touch and I will pass along the concern to Public Works.
On Wednesday the City Council will begin at 6:00 PM with an administrative session about a personnel matter, which is closed to the public. Then we’ll be voting on a contract for a new HVAC system in the Council chamber, plus some appointments to the Board of Elections and the Safe Roadways Committee, which I will support. Finally, we’ll have a discussion on stormwater fee issues.
This is a relatively light agenda, but there are a few other important local matters I wanted to mention. First, as most residents have perhaps already heard, our Takoma Park Police Chief Alan Goldberg announced his resignation last week for personal reasons. There will be nationwide search to identify his successor, and our three senior Captains will be managing the Department until the new Chief is named.
Second, I was pleased to have the opportunity yesterday to testify in the State Senate and House in Annapolis in support of the bond legislation that would provide $150,000 in funding for the City’s Library renovation and expansion project. As a strong supporter of that project, I’d like to express my appreciation to Senator Will Smith and Delegate Sheila Hixson, who sponsored the legislation, and to Library Director Ellen Arnold-Robbins, who joined me and provided valuable technical backup.
Finally, as I mentioned in a separate email to Ward One residents, the first in a series of three public forums on the future of Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, with a specific focus on building and renovation in North Takoma, will take place on March 21 at 7:30 PM in the Community Center. This is an important opportunity for interested residents to get information, ask questions and offer comments on the College’s proposals. It’s my hope that these meetings will help ensure that we both meet MC’s academic needs and preserve the residential character of the neighborhood.
HVAC System. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170315-1.pdf. The necessary funds for the HVAC upgrade are in the current budget, and I will be voting in favor of executing the contract (it’s often way too hot -- at least on stage -- in the Council chamber).
Board of Elections and Safe Roadways Appointments.
Stormwater Fees. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170315-3rev.pdf. Single family homeowners currently pay a $55 annual stormwater fee, money which is used – in coordination with Federal and State guidelines -- to undertake projects aimed at treating and reducing stormwater runoff. While the City has made good progress, we are still somewhat short of our goals. As a result, City staff are proposing an increase in the annual bill to $92. This is an extremely complex area, which you can see if you take a look at the background material above, and I need to learn more before I can make a decision on whether to support any increase, much less one of this size.
Among other factors, there is some indication in the data included in the background material that single family homeowners (as opposed to businesses and apartment buildings) may pay a share of the stormwater funds that’s in excess of their contribution to the runoff problems. To be specific, the percentage of the total impervious surface in the City attributable to such homes is 37 percent, and they contribute 46 percent of the funds. In addition, a flat fee does of course have a regressive impact in that it applies to all homeowners regardless of their income levels, the size of their homes or properties, etc. I’m also interested in exploring whether we can devise a system in which there is a reduction in the fee for homeowners who install systems on their own that help reduce runoff. I look forward to discussing these and other aspects of this set of issues.
I would note that this is a work session, meaning that we won’t be voting on the fee increase that has been put forward by the staff. That will likely come up as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which we’ll be working on in the Council in April and May.
As always, please let me know if you have comments or questions about any of the issues on the agenda or other municipal matters.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One