Councilmembers also approved supplemental budget, human trafficking bills.
Frederick, Md (KM). A number of issues came before the Frederick County Council on Tuesday, ranging from education to public safety to human trafficking.
In a unanimous vote, the Council gave some forward momentum to three school projects. One include supplemental funding totaling more than $3-million for the design of an east county elementary school. A second project is $800,000 to pay for design work on an addition to Oakdale Middle School. Both are now in the County’s fiscal year 2019 capital budget.
Board of Education President Brad Young told the Council these projects are needed. “As members of the County Council know, projections for this area of the county show continued and accelerating growth. We continue to enroll students regularly at these schools as the approved developments continue to build out in these areas,” he said.
These projects are expected to relieve overcrowding at Deer Crossing, New Market and Oakdale Elementary Schools, and Oakdale Middle School.
“Taxpayers are not paying for any of these school construction projects. All of this is being funded by mitigation fee and impact fee revenue as was intended so that developers are funding these projects as was intended,” says County Budget Director Rick Harcum.
The Council also approved money to pay for a feasibility study of Brunswick High School. “The Board of Education has already taken an action on the BOE side of this. They amended their budget to move $200,000 from the Frederick High School project, which is in closeout–that money is no longer needed for the Frederick High School project–and moved that to this Brunswick High School project,.” Harcum says.
The study will look at options such as renovating and adding additions to the current high, along with some partial demolition. But demolishing the present building and replacing it will not be considered, according to background materials from the school system.
In other action, the Council approved a supplemental budget totaling $2.4-million which will be used for public safety. :”We’re proposing to hire additional fire fighters, buy additional personal protective equipment, make improvements to the public safety radio network, and take our 911 call center, which answers every single emergency call that comes in, up to what’s called the next generation level of operation,” Harcum says.
In his presentation to the Council, Harcum said these items were either partially funded in the fiscal year 2019 budget adopted earlier this year, or were not funded at all. He says there was uncertainty on the state and local levels about income tax revenues, which is the second largest revenue stream coming into the county. That was due to Congress’ discussion of the tax cut bill.
“Tax reform took hold. The new laws took affect. And what we’ve seen now is a new normal taking place where taxpayers are adjusting to the new rules and the revenue streams are coming back up,” says Harcum.
The new fire fighters are 28 students who will be part of a mid-year recruit class. Other items in the supplemental budget include a fire fighter sick leave time reporting process, and funds to hire a volunteer fire and rescue assistant director.
The Council also adopted three bills dealing with human trafficking. One measure would define “bodyworks” in the county’s zoning laws. Anyone who wants to operate a business providing massage, acupuncture, reflexology or other services to customers would need to obtain a zoning certificate, and provide background information. A second piece of legislation would make it unlawful for landlords or property managers to knowingly allow tenants to use rental units for prostitution or other human trafficking activities. But landlords and property managers who are taking action against these tenants would not be penalized. The third bill would require hotel and motel employees to undergo training to recognize the signs of human trafficking and know what actions they need to take.
By Kevin McManus