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Welcome to my blog, which features frequent updates on local Takoma Park issues, including City Council meeting agendas, plus occasional commentary on national news and politics.

April 12, 2017 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

The following is a link to the agenda for the April 12, 2017 City Council Meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-april-12-2017/. We’ll start at 7:30 PM with a public hearing on the City Manager’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 City budget, and we’ll also have an update on the Library Renovation Project. In addition, we’ll be voting on a resolution in support of housing for refugees, and on funding for renovation of the City’s server room, an upgrade of Police Department video facilities, and the purchase of two electric vehicles. We’ll also have a discussion on the feasibility study for renovation of Piney Branch Elementary School.

Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Hearing.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/finance/budgets-and-financial-documents/proposed-budget/FIN-20170405-FY18-Proposed-Budget.pdf. The budget puts in place our local spending priorities for the year-long period starting on July 1. We’ll be working on it for the next month or so, but a vital part of the process is hearing from the community, so I encourage all interested residents to attend the hearing and share your views.

IT Server Room Renovation.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170412-2a.pdf.  We’ll be voting on a contract to undertake a series of improvements to the Community Center server room. This project is aimed at addressing security and other concerns that arose in an IT audit. The work will include installation of a fire suppression system, installation of a new HVAC system, and improvements to lighting. There are funds in the existing budget for about half of the cost of the contract, so before voting I’ll want to get a clarification on where the remainder of the funding will come from.

Police Equipment.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170412-2b.pdf.  This contract is for an upgrade of the Police video recording equipment used to interview accused criminals in order to meet current evidence gathering guidelines. I’ll be voting in favor of the proposal.

Electric Vehicles. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170412-2c.pdf.  We’ll be voting on a resolution to approve the leasing of two electric automobiles for the Neighborhood Services Team. While I like the idea of using electric vehicles, and I think it makes sense to consider leasing vehicles as opposed to buying when appropriate, I did have some skepticism about the establishment of the Neighborhood Services Team. And, at the time it was created last year the plan was to have one vehicle. So, among other questions, I would like to get more information from City staff on the need for two cars before I make a decision on whether to support this proposal.

Refugee Resolution. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170412-3.pdf  I support the goals of this resolution, which urges Takoma Park landlords to house refugees, and I would vote in favor of it in its current form. However, I would like to see if we can change the resolution’s language to include those who have been granted or who are seeking asylum in this country (which requires meeting the same standard of having a well-founded fear of persecution if the individuals were to return to their home country). In addition, I’d like to explore whether we can add language that would connect the resolution to the City’s affordable housing fund so as to provide modest financial incentives to landlords willing to house refugees.

PBES Feasibility Study. The background information on this agenda item was not available when I prepared this message. Given the projected continued increases in the student population at Piney Branch Elementary School, the County School Board has been considering various expansion options for the school, a process which has included a series of public meetings in Takoma Park. I would like to see the needed expansion done in a way that preserves the Piney Branch pool, and appropriately manages local car and bus traffic.

Library Renovation.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170412-5.pdf.  I believe our City Library is one of the key local resources that helps make Takoma Park the wonderful community it is. But the facility is 62 years old and needs to be upgraded and expanded to be a true 21st Century institution. I’m a strong supporter of this renovation project, and I had the honor earlier this year to testify in support of $150,000 in State funding for the project, which was recently approved. While that’s a small amount in the context of the project’s total cost, it’s encouraging to have the State’s imprimatur, and I think it will help get us off to a good start. 

The current plan is to fund the bulk of the project through a long-term 30 year bond, which will spread the payments for the renovation out over time. That seems reasonable to me considering that residents will be using the Library well into the future beyond the next 30 years. That being said, I do think it’s important to do what we can to hold down the cost of the project, and I look forward to exploring ways of doing that during Wednesday’s presentation and discussion.

As always, feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any of the above agenda items.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Councilmember

Ward One




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