County Executive says residents can still provide their input.
Frederick, Md (KM) It’s a work in progress. That’s how Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner describes the drafting of the county’s 2021 Legislative Package. These are bills and position statements that will be sent off to Frederick County’s Legislative Delegation to consider when the General Assembly convenes on January 13th, 2021.
Garner is proposing a bill that calls for transparency and fairness for home buyers. “Last spring, prior to the pandemic, I had a citizen raise a concern about a especial assessment they were required to pay to cover the cost of Frederick County water and sewer infrastructure and maintenance associated with the purchase of their new home. And this was a big of a mystery to me,” she said.
After doing some research, Gardner learned it was not a county fee, and that any water and sewer connection is paid by the home owner as part of the price of the home. She also spoke with some real estate professionals who said they were unaware of this practice taking place in Maryland. Gardner said this practice is legal in the state.
As a result, she’s proposing legislation. “The proposed bill would prohibit builders and developers in Frederick County from passing on the the county’s infrastructure costs as separate charges to homebuyers in the form of liens,” she says. “The goal of this is to increase transparency for homeowners, and to ensure that they know the total final price tag for their new home.”
The County Executive is also proposing legislation to prohibit the disclosure of some personal financial information about Frederick County Government employees. “Several times a year, data mining companies file a public information request to the county to obtain personal data on county employees, including their names and their specific salaries,” she said. “There’s a growling concern that this and other information puts these public servants at a high risk for identity theft.”
The state public information act requires the county to respond to these requests. “It doesn’t’ matter whether the employee is a bus driver or a traffic engineer. or whether they are close to retirement or a new employee working a part time job in the summer,” says Gardner.
“When the public information act was enacted, I don’t think it was possible to envision that there were companies whose business to mine for personal data which they could then sell to others,” says Gardner. “Some people have expressed serious concern that the law has not been updated to reflect this type of new reality.”
She said the proposed update to the law would still allow for transparency, and ensure the public’s right to know how their tax dollars are spent. She says data mining companies could still get salary information on employees, but it would be a salary range rather than the exact pay.
The County Executive is holding a virtual town hall on Thursday, October 8th at 7:00 PM on the proposed legislative package. . “I do encourage interested members of the public to call in and offer ideas on proposals already presented, and to weigh with new ideas and suggestions because we know the best ideas come from you the people in our community,” she says.
You can watch the virtual meeting the Frederick County Government Channel, or on line at FrederickCountyMD.gov/LegislativeTownHall.
By Kevin McManus