Elected officials on Mon. make recommendations on what to place in the spending plan.
Frederick, Md (KM). A lot of ideas were presented Monday night as Frederick City elected officials began the budget process.
Mayor Michael O’Connor says a lot of his recommendations come from the goals established in the strategic plan. One is listed as competitive employment and involves making sure the city’s employees receive salaries and benefits that are line with similar jobs in other communities. “How we create a workforce in the city of Frederick that has the kinds of salaries, benefits and work schedules and other programs that really makes us an employer of choice,” he said. “To look at our policies in terms of the strategic plan that we’re working on for diversity and inclusion, and how we implement those.”
Alderwoman Kelly Russell also called for competitive salaries and benefits for city employees. “We’re regionally competitive. And when people look at what we have to offer, we lag. I’m hoping there’s an opportunity to bring that up to par,” she said.
Russell, whose a retired Frederick Police Officer, also says she wants to see more momentum on a new Frederick Police Department headquarters. “We really have to get this project moving forward. I’m excited to hear that in a couple of week, there will be a decision point for us to ponder. I’m looking forward to doing whatever we need to get to this project to fruition,” she said.
The Aldermen have discussed putting the new headquarters at the former Trinity School near Harry Grove Stadium, but no decision has been made..
Public safety was on the mind of Alderman Roger Wilson, who called for more cameras installed in public places. “As we know, our police officers cannot be in the places all the time. But cameras can help in helping us provide a safer community,” he said.
In addition, Wilson discussed the need to hire and retain more police officers by increasing their salaries. “Retention and recruitment: Still finding areas where we can help with retaining our police force, but also recruiting top talent into our police force,” says Wilson.
The city has plans for developing the Westside Regional Park located off of Butterfly Lane in the western half of Frederick. But Alderman Derek Schackelford recommended selling parts of the property. While acknowledging that the new owners could do what they wanted with the land, he suggested they use it for “senior housing on that. Also, westside community center,” he said. “In that particular area of the city, there are some things that may be missing. I think that a westside community is an opportunity to provide that, along with recreational facilities.”
Alderman Ben MacShane said the city should hire a Latino outreach community specialist. “I’ve experienced some things over the last year or two that have demonstrated to me that we need a department about this, at least an individual to focus on engagement and providing adequate services for the Hispanic and Latino, and especially the Spanish speaking community of our city,” he said.
It’s been a challenge for cities such as Frederick to try to do something about the high cost of housing. Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak suggested smart growth. “Smart growth means you grow where you have infrastructure. Then you have to build less roads;put in less traffic lights; don’t have to build as many bridges; you don’t have to have as many cars out of the streets all the time,” she said. “Everything becomes less expensive.”
She also recommended the city adopt a tax credit for employers in Frederick who hire city residents. “We always talk about work and play in the same area. If we can provide help for businesses to do that for city residents, I think that we should,” Alderwoman Kuzemchak said.
The Mayor is expected to present his proposed fiscal year 2021 budget in late March. The Aldermen must adopt a new spending plan by June 20th. Fiscal year 2021 begins on July 1st, 2020.
By Kevin McManus