Jan
27
2015

North College Park Crime Map – Jan 18-25, 2015

Please see below last week’s crime map and let me know if you have any questions. Thank you.

Theft

Event

Type

From

To

Location

[1/21/15]
#L15021 THEFT 03:33 04:52 9700 Blk 51ST AVE,
[1/23/15]
#L15023 THEFT 12:41 13:24 9800 Blk RHODE ISLAND AVE,

 

Jan
26
2015

Hollywood Farmers Market Seeks Your Input

NL_banner_2014_1

The 2014 season at the Hollywood Farmers Market has recently ended and the market committee is gearing up to make the upcoming 2015 season even better. In order to help improve the market, the committee is seeking your feedback about the 2014 market season. Whether you had a chance to come to last year’s market or not,please take a few moments to fill out this short survey.

http://goo.gl/forms/TXXsfZmWeO

We appreciate your help. Thank you.

Jan
25
2015

College Park May Face Cuts in State’s Open Space Grants

Recently, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Governor stated that reductions are necessary due to reductions in revenue estimates for this current FY 2015. Accordingly, the Board of Public Works made approximately $400 million in cuts to agencies’ general fund budgets for the remaining fiscal year.

At this time, DBM proposes to transfer a total of $11.8 million in what had been unencumbered special fund balances (cash) from Program Open Space (approximately $3 million stateside and $8 million local) to the General Fund.

College ark and other Maryland municipalities use the Program Open Space grants to acquire land and develop them for public uses (such as park etc.)

At this point, POS Local projects may move forward. However, the Department of Natural Resources is requesting that counties not bring forth any cash-funded POS Local projects. At this point POS Stateside must limit cash expenditures to existing bills due payment; and only to bills that must be paid in cash associated with projects well underway where timing warrants payment, and where GO bonds are not a payment option because of timing or eligibility issues for this source of funding.

It is still far from clear what the proposed FY16 budget submissions will contain. However, our City staff contacted the County coordinator for Program Open Space funding to determine what impact the cuts would have on College Park.

The total reduction statewide is $8.1 million, of which Prince George’s County will lose approximately $1.8 million. Since College Park represents approximately 3.52 % of the total County population, the City’s portion of the cut will be $64,127. Not including this anticipated cut (a budget reconciliation bill must be passed in the current session), and the City’s Program Open Space funds that are already encumbered, the City at the end of FY14 had approximately $2 million in total Program Open Space funding (for both acquisition and development).

Jan
24
2015

Riding with Police in College Park

Riding with police

Riding with police

I had an opportunity to ride with our College Park (contract) police last night. I was at the Bowie dispatch center a few years back, but this is the first time I saw how our dispatch “actually” works in a police car.

During my 2 hour long ride, we toured several streets in all four districts of the City. In the beginning of the ride, the police officer had to respond to a high priority dispatch call (with sirens on) involving an emergency incident at MD 193 and Rhode Island Avenue. I met several police officers and our fighters there.

I must say it was quite a experience. I want to thank our police for their service to College Park residents.

Jan
23
2015

City May Spend $1 million More to Join State Pension Plan

At last Tuesday’s work session, the Council discussed and approved the spending of upto $1 million more to join the State pension plan.

If you can remember, back in July 1 last year, the City joined the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System (MSRP) as participants in the Reformed Contributory Pension Plan. Some of my colleagues and I did not support joining the State pension system because of high cost of joining the plan and other risk factors.

When the City joined the plan, the plan’s actuaries estimated that, to purchase 60% prior service for existing city employees, it would cost the city $1.6 million. The City was aware that the amount was subject to change based on a final actuarial valuation that would take place in late 2014. The City’s plan was to borrow against its reserves the amount necessary to purchase into the plan and then pay the funds back into its reserves over time.

Staff has now found that the final cost of 60% prior service is now $2,631,128, approximately $1M more than we anticipated.

The Council discussed whether we should be paying the extra $1 million upfront or in installments. If the City is to pay upfront. The City’s Unfunded Accrued Actuarial Liability (UAAL), or the amount of assets needed to fund the city’s pension plan into the future, actually decreased from about $4.8m to about $4.7m, because. The City was to receive a credit, however, of 6.2% of payroll for the pooled system’s unfunded liability (about $3.1 million), because the City was not part of the plan previously. Because the MSRP overall valuation has improved in the last year, however, the credit for the unfunded liability has been decreased to 5% of payroll, or about $2.1 million. The improved valuation, however, should decrease the cost of the MSRP in future years.

The City’s current unassigned reserve is about $5.56m, or about 36.87% of the FY 15 expenditure budget. The City decided to dedicate $300,000 of that to design of undergrounded utilities on Route 1. With that and the requested $2.6 million for the MSRP, it would bring the city’s reserves down to about 19.1% of the current FY 15 expenditure budget. Our options at this point are to: 1) Pay the entire cost upfront and extend the length of time to repay our reserves from 5-6 years to 8-10 years, or 2) Pay the amount originally proposed from our reserves and finance the remaining $1m. Doing this over 24 years would cost $2.3 million.

The Council voted borrowing the entire amount from our reserves.

Jan
22
2015

City Gears Up for 2016 Budget Process

City Budget

City Budget

The City is gearing up its work on the 2016 fiscal year budget. It has already started with giving out budget worksheets to individual departments last week, encouraging individual departments to maintain the same level of expenditures for another year and cut whenever possible.

The City has received preliminary numbers for tax revenue for FY 2016, and the City will likely receive a 2.64% increase in property tax assessments without taking the homestead tax credit into consideration. There are no other new developments in the pipeline for the coming year. However, we expect to get new revenue stream from a few new developments in near future. These new revenues will be reflected in the FY 2017 budget.

FY2015 will be the second year for The Varsity to receive its revitalization tax credit ($80,000).

State Highway Administration has given us an FY2016 estimate for highway user tax ($114,033 versus $113,583 we budgeted in FY2015). The one-time additional highway user payment we received in FY2015 ($257,038) is not scheduled to recur in FY2016, particularly under a new administration. Staff expects admissions & amusement (“A&A”) tax to be similar to FY2015.

It is too early to predict FY2016 speed enforcement camera revenue.

Council wishlists for budget items are due on February 13, 2015, and the City Manager’s proposed budget will be distributed to Mayor & Council on March 31. The Council will hold its budget worksessions will be on April 11 and 18 (if needed) with the budget ordinance introduced on April 28. The FY 2016 budget will be adopted on July 1st.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for next year’s budget, in terms of things that should be funded or might be cut.

Jan
21
2015

UMD President Dr. Loh Appointed as the new Chair of College Park Academy

Wallace D. Loh

Wallace D. Loh

At a meeting of the CPA board last week, Senator Jim Rosapepe announced his decision to step down as board chair and Dr. Loh was voted the new chair of the
CPA board.

The meeting was attended by Mayor Fellows and Dr. Segun Eubanks, the chair of the PGCPS board.

Senator Rosapepe has been instrumental with his vision, energy, and leadership in conceiving CPA and making it a reality. Together with the existing board, and with the support of the City Council and PGCPS, he has been instrumental in the success of CPA in its first two years. He will continue serving on the board.

The CPA board voted to expand its membership as authorized by its bylaws. The new members include UMD faculty and staff who are deeply committed to public education and to the hybrid learning model of CPA. Several of the new members live in College Park. They are or have worked as principal of an elementary and/or high school, as member of the General Assembly, as a board chair of a school district, and as deans of UMD’s colleges. One is a parent of a CPA student.

Frank Brewer, the interim executive director of CPA, announced his re-retirement.

As a result, Dr. Loh thinks UMD will now be even more actively engaged in the operation of CPA and in its continuing success. Many parents of CPA students have inquired about, and sought, such increased involvement.

You can find more about this news here on the Washington Post.

Jan
20
2015

Council to Discuss City’s Vacant Properties

Vacant / foreclosed house - a source of concerns

Vacant / foreclosed house – a source of concerns

At tonight’s worksession, we will discuss what actions the City could take to address vacant properties. It’s clear to everyone that vacant properties are detrimental to the quality of life in the City in several ways. Vacant properties leave a neighborhood susceptible to crime. Vacant properties do not contribute positively to the streetscape. Vacant properties become a burden and challenge for code enforcement. Vacant properties under-utilize much needed inventory in our real estate market.

At a minimum, the community would like to see these properties better cared for. Ideally these properties would be occupied.

We wish to discuss expansion of our City Code to include a Registry of Vacant Properties, mandatory for all vacant property owners. This initiative would require the Council to:

  • Define “vacant property” (e.g. does “unoccupied”= vacant, or does vacant= wuninhabitable”) and other related terminology
  • Clearly define the goals of a vacant property registry
  • Authorize staff to create an inventory, based on Council definitions, of vacant properties
  • Determine if there is a problem which justifies further financing, legislation, and enforcement
  • Authorize staff to create a reporting process structure and a database to support a registry
  • Adopt legislation including possible fines/fees to support the program

At this point, we have not proposed an annual fee or special tax, but believe it might be appropriate to implement a fine for vacant property owners for not complying with regulations. That said, we have discussed this issue understand that vacant properties legislation will increase staff workload. We believe regulation might be most effective if it were complaint based. Residents could report an alleged vacant property (via College Park Central) and then City staff could confirm the status of those properties.

We think a registry might be beneficial for the property owner because it could enable the City to have regular communications with vacant property owners and it could potentially enable police to address issues on the property in the absence of the owner.
By better understanding the volume of vacant properties in the City, we think we can better identify problems and solutions. Discussion should Include whether initiatives should address vacant properties in general, or case-by-case; and, if an annual fee, or a special tax would incentivize the return of vacant properties to occupancy.

Locally, the City of Mount Rainier here in Prince George’s County has adopted legislation addressing vacant properties, and the City of Takoma Park in Montgomery County has discussed the issue. We’ll look into these legislation at tonight’s worksession.

Jan
19
2015

North College Park Crime Map: January 12-17, 2015


Theft

Event

Type

From

To

Location

#L15012 THEFT 11:53 12:37 9300 Blk CHERRY HILL RD

Theft from Auto

Event

Type

From

To

Location

#L15012 THEFTA 06:18 07:06 4800 Blk BLACKFOOT RD,
#L15012 THEFTA 09:10 09:41 4700 Blk CHERRY HILL RD
#L15012 THEFTA 12:22 13:01 9600 Blk BALTIMORE AVE
#L15012 THEFTA 13:01 13:43 9600 Blk BALTIMORE AVE,
Jan
18
2015

County Seeks Input on Zoning Reforms

After approximately ten months of outreach and research, Clarion Associates’ consultant team released the Evaluation and Recommendations Report for the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations Rewrite.

This document reflects the consultant’s conclusions for how the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations should be restructured.

The County is asking to attebd one of the three countywide listening sessions in January 2015 and share your throughts and ideas on what the Prince George’s County’s 21st Century Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations should emphasize.

Read the Evaluation and Recommendations Report here.

ATTEND A LISTENING SESSION

TUESDAY, JANUARY 27
Parks & Recreation
Administration Building
6600 Kenilworth Avenue,
Riverdale, MD 20737
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

WEDNESDAY
JANUARY 28
Southern Technology & Recreation Complex
7007 Bock Road,
Fort Washington, MD 20744
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 29
Wayne K. Curry Sports & Learning Complex
8001 Sheriff Road,
Landover, MD 20785
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Jan
17
2015

City Activist Amelia Murdoch Passes Away

A long – time College Park activist Amelia Murdoch passed away around 10 am last Friday.

There are no plans for a service at this time. Amelia will be cremated and her ashes interred with family in Philadelphia. There may be a memorial gathering of some kind at her home in the spring.

Amelia is well known for her environmental activism. Here is a video showing Amelia in a College Park stream cleanup in 90′s. (courtesy of CM Wojahn)

Jan
16
2015

Hyattsville Lowers Voting Age to 16. Should College Park Do the Same?

Recently, Hyattsville voted to lower their voting age to 16, in order to “help young people develop habits of civic engagement that can last a lifetime”.

I recently received a request from one of my residents with a request to lower the voting age in College Park as well. Here are his talking points. Please elt em know what you think?

Teenagers are eager to participate in our society.
• 16-year-olds are more embedded in their communities than are most older voters (since teenagers are more likely to still be living in their home town), and when given the chance, they turn out to vote in larger numbers. In Takoma Park’s first election with a voting age of 16, voters younger than 18 enjoyed voter-turnout 4 times the size of voter turnout among those older than 18. (Source: http://www.governing.com/news/headlines/gov-maryland-city-sees-high-turnout-among-teens-after-election-reform.html )

Sixteen-year-olds are intelligent enough to meet America’s standards for voting.
• The 1965 Voting Rights Act replaced literacy tests throughout the United States with a presumption that an adult is sophisticated enough to cast a meaningful vote if he has passed 6th grade. (Source: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2034&context=dlj )
• If an adult who passed 6th grade has enough intelligence to vote, it stands to reason that a 16-year-old who has passed 10th grade does as well.

Contrary to the common fear that teenaged voters will just parrot their parents’ votes, research shows 16-year-old voters think carefully and make independent judgments.
• A recent study by Dr. Jan Eichhorn of 16- and 17-year-old Scottish voters showed that, on the vote to decide independence, only 56% of voters in this age-group voted the same way as their parents. Just like voters of all ages, 16- and 17-year-olds considered the views of their parents, of their friends, and of others they respected, and then reached their own decisions by Election Day. The conclusion of this study: “[Y]oung people are not simply following the views of mum or dad, and … there is no reason to believe that they are unable or unwilling to make up their own minds about which way to vote.” (Source: “Will 16 and 17 Year Olds Make A Difference In The Referendum?” http://www.scotcen.org.uk/media/205540/131129_will-16-and-17-years-olds-make-a-difference.pdf )
• A 2012 study of Austrian voters aged 16 and 17 found that “the quality of these citizens’ choices is similar to that of older voters, so they do cast votes in ways that enable their interests to be represented equally well. These results are encouraging for supporters of a lower voting age.” (Source: “Voting at 16: Turnout and the Quality Of Vote Choice” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261379412000212 )
Young voters take civic responsibilities seriously.
• A study by Rutgers University found that, “Analyses of national survey data demonstrate that by 16 years of age … American adolescents manifest levels of development in each quality of citizenship that are approximately the same as those apparent in young American adults who are allowed to vote. The lack of relevant differences in capacities for citizenship between 16- and 17-year-olds and those legally enfranchised makes current laws arbitrary, denying those younger than age 18 the right to vote.” (Source: “American Sixteen- and Seventeen-Year-Olds Are Ready to Vote” http://ann.sagepub.com/content/633/1/201.abstract )
• In CA, exit polls showed it was voters aged 30-44 who elected movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor. Voters younger than 30 were the age-group most likely to vote instead for qualified, experienced civic leaders. (Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/replacementballotexitpoll.html )

Adults warm quickly to the lower voting age.
• 72% of voters in Takoma Park now support their city’s voting age of 16. (Source: http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/blog/fairvote-survey-shows-support-for-takoma-park-voting-reforms/ )

Jan
15
2015

City Seeks Community Input on 2015-2020 Strategic Plan

The City of College Park is in the process of preparing a new Strategic Plan which will be used to guide the actions of the City Council over the next five years. 
A Strategic Plan is a road map to help the City Council achieve its stated mission and vision, and serves as a tool for management to better meet the needs of the public.
The Mayor and Council would appreciate your input by completing a brief (5 – 10 minutes), anonymous survey specifically to provide information for the Strategic Plan.  The survey can be accessed at:
 
If you prefer a paper survey, call the City at 240-487-3501 to request a copy, or pick up a survey at:
 
·       City Hall, 4500 Knox Rd., Mon-Fri, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. &  Sat. 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
·       Davis Hall, 9217 51st Ave., Mon-Fri, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
 
After completing the survey, please provide it to City staff at either location.  The survey will be open until January 27.
 
If you have any questions, please contact Bill Gardiner, Assistant City Manager, at bgardiner@collegeparkmd.gov, or at (240) 487-3501.
Jan
14
2015

City Manager Announces Retirement

Joe Nagro

At last night’s Council meeting, our City Manager Joe Nagro announced his retirement after 25 years of service in the City. The City will soon start an executive search to find a new City manager.

Mr.Nagro’s last day in office will be June 30, this year. Here is Joe’s bio on our website:

Mr. Nagro is a long term resident of the City of College Park and has been affiliated with the City in various positions prior to his appointment as City Manager in 2005.  Following several years as an appointed member of the Board of Housing Hygiene, Handicap Advisory Committee, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Election Review, he was elected to 4 terms on City Council starting in 1989.  During his tenure as a councilmember, he served as the Council’s project liaison during the year-long renovation of City Hall.

Mr. Nagro resigned from the City Council when he was competitively selected to be the Deputy Director of Public Works in March 1997.  He served in this capacity until June 2002, when the Council selected him to be Acting City Manager due to the resignation of the former City Manager.  In August 2002, he was promoted to Assistant City Manager for Operations, in 2004 he became Interim City Manager, and in May 2005 he was appointed City Manager after a nationally advertised and competitive selection process.

Prior to his full-time service with the City of College Park, Mr. Nagro co-owned and served as vice president of a successful, private construction-contracting firm.

Mr. Nagro holds a bachelors degree in Business Management from the University of Maryland and earned his license as a Certified Compost Facility Operator during his tenure as Deputy Director of Public Works.

Mr. Nagro and wife Pat have a daughter and 2 grandchildren.

Jan
13
2015

Council Poised to Extend Bond Bill for City Hall Construction

At tonight’s Council meeting, the City Council will vote to extend the bond bill for the City Hall construction by at least one year.

Last week, our staff told us that the City cannot meet the deadline to obligate the $400,000 bond money because the City wanted to explore the possibility of a City Hall project that would incorporate the University’s plans and / or property it would acquire on Baltimore Avenue, close to the current City Hall location.  According to our staff, the University’s acquisition of adjoining Baltimore Avenue frontage changed the possibilities for a new City Hall.

I am a little disappointed and surprised that the Council is asked to support an extension now, whereas, back in late November, a similar request for extension did not receive a favorable response. An extension decision in November would have allowed the City to explore other options for City Hall locations in the City, including the Stone Industrial site, which was favored by many north College Park residents.

Three College Park neighborhood Associations and a number of residents also asked the City Council to delay a Council vote on the new City Hall location in order to explore all possible locations fully. Unfortunately, the pending expiration of the bond bill was one of the reasons why staff recommended to make a decision on the new location sooner than later. Some residents and at least one of my colleague also cited the expiration of the bond bill as the first and foremost reason for his disapproval of the Stone Industrial site.

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