Council Votes Down Several Amendments To Bill To Adjust School Mitigation Fees

The panel also took up a plan to build a solar array at the Ballenger–McKiney WWTP.


School Mitgation Fees

Frederick, Md (KM). A majority of the amendments to a bill to periodically adjust school construction fees was voted down on Tuesday by the Frederick County Council. The only amendment which passed said the fees beĀ  based on the State of Maryland School Construction Cost Index, and that would be the statewide per-square-foot school building and site development costsĀ  as established and adjusted annually by the State of Maryland Inter-Agency Committee on School Construction.

The County imposes the fees on residential developers whose projects fail the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance Schools test. They could either hold off construction until schools are adequate, or build the new school or additions needed. But under an ordinance passed by the last Board of County Commissioners, developers are given the option to pay a fee which would allow their projects to continue. The Commissioners adjusted the fee during their term. It has not been adjusted since the Council took office in 2014.

Councilman Tony Chmelik said wanted to know how much money being raised for school construction is enough. “What number is it that you’re going to fine acceptable, ” he said, posing that question to Council Vice President MC Keegan-Ayer. “Forget the percentages. What number and what is the purpose of the money we’re collecting to build the school quicker or not.”

“All I’m asking that we meet the terms of the law as it was established, and then get an additional two-percent per year to make up the cost we have not picked up in the last four years,” Keegan-Ayer responded.

At one time, the two got into a heated exchange. “Please don’t look at me dumbfounded like that. Pay attention to what I’m saying,” said Chmelik. Keagan-Ayer said “excuse me.” Chmelik continued by saying “You do it all the time, MC,”: he said. “You’re trying to make a point here and the point is you want to continue to raise fees without justification other than to get the entire public all riled up about it and say ‘we can’t afford a school.’ It’s not true. It’s about priorities.”

During the discussion, Councilman Kirby Delauter said maybe it’s time to think of a new way to build schools. “The fee is one method, but until we get a handle on how we’re going to build schools more effectively. You’re going to increase fees to a point it’s not going to be effective anyway because nobody’s going to build–maybe that’s what you want, anyway,” he said. “If we’re going to solve the problem, we’re going about kinda the wrong way.” Delauter said the county should explore public–private partnerships to construct schools.

But Councilman Jerry Donald said construction fees can make certain neighborhoods desirable for home buyers. “It would be in the interest of the people building homes there to have the higher fee,” he said. “You might say that’s going to come out of somebody’s pocket. But I think it would make the houses for sale there more attractive to people, honestly.”

The original bill would adjust the fees over a seven-year period starting in January, 2019 without any action by the County Council. It was scheduled for a vote last week, but the sponsor of the legislation, Council President Bud Otis, pulled it to allow the Council to discuss the amendments.

Solar Array

The Council also paved the way for a solar array to be constructed at the Ballenger–McKinney Waster Water Treatment Plant.

Mike Mashner, the County’s Special Administrative Director, said this array would generate 1.3-megawatts to power the facility, and that’s expected to save the county millions of dollars over the next 20 years. “We will own this power production system,” he said. :”If rates are going up, the comparative cost of buying it from the grid are going be greater.”

The project is being paid for by a grant of $2.4-million from the Maryland Department of the Environment. Marshner says the grant is expected to be approved next month by the Maryland Board of Public Works. Construction is expected to begin sometime after that. The project is contained in the County’s fiscal year 2019 Capital Improvements Program.

The solar array will be constructed by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority.


By Kevin McManus