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City Publishes FY2017 Draft Budget

Staff has posted the draft FY 2017 budget on the City website. You can take a look at the budget document here:

The budget document is pretty big (450 pages). A brief summary of the budget can be seen on page 8. In the new budget, no change is proposed in the property tax rates.

The Council plans to spend the most part of Saturday, April 9 to go over the entire budget.

Also, keeping the tradition, Councilmembers from District 1 and District 4 will host a budget worksession in late April to get your feedback about the budget. We’ll let you know details about this meeting soon.

The public hearing on the operating and capital budget is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10. The Mayor and Council are scheduled to adopt the FY 2017 budget ordinance on Tuesday, May 24. The effective date of the FY 2017 adopted budget is July 1, 2016.

FBI Relocation May Not Depend on Proximity Nearest Metro Location

According to this Washington Post article, General Services Administration (GSA), which is managing the search, is not considering Metro access a determining factor in deciding on a location. William Dowd, who oversees the FBI project for GSA, told the National Capital Planning Commission last week that his agency would not give greater consideration to a site close to a Metro station when determining where to put the FBI and what companies would build it.

The report also says the Greenbelt site — located on a Metro station parking lot, immediately next to the station — would rate equally as sites in Springfield, which is about a mile from Metro and Landover, which is two miles from a rail line.

The report also says, the GSA has begun planning to build thousands more parking spaces than originally envisioned, stoking concerns about the traffic that could result from the arrival of 11,000 FBI employees. Since beginning the process, the GSA increased the proposed number of spaces at two sites, Greenbelt and Springfield, reflecting new expectations from the agency that more FBI employees would drive to work than originally envisioned.

Pepco Providing 1,350 Trees to Local Customers

Pepco announced last week that it will provide 1,350 free trees to customers in the District of Columbia and Maryland through the Energy-Saving Trees program.

It’s the sixth year of the partnership that helps customers conserve energy and reduce household electric bills through strategic tree planting. Since 2011, Pepco customers will have received more than 13,000 free trees thanks to the partnership between Pepco and the Arbor Day Foundation.

Trees are made available first to customers who were on the waiting list from the program last year. Those customers will receive an email from the Arbor Day Foundation in the next few weeks. The remaining trees will be distributed beginning this week to customers who make the request while tree supplies last.

Pepco customers can request up to two free trees by visiting www.arborday.org/pepco, or by calling 1-855-670-2771. The 18 to 36 inch trees that will be delivered directly to customers include Eastern Redbud, Crepe Myrtle, River Birch, Red Maple, Northern Red Oak, and are in small containers that allow for the growth of a better root system.
“The Energy-Saving Tree program benefits our customers by helping them to conserve energy, save money and improve the environment, said Donna Cooper, Pepco region president. The program also educates customers on the appropriate placement of trees to promote ongoing system reliability, improve aesthetics and energy conservation.

The Arbor Day Foundation calculates that the 1,350 trees will produce nearly $294,720 in energy savings within 20 years.

An online tool can help Pepco customers find the most strategic location for planting and estimate the annual savings that will result from the tree.

The Energy-Saving Trees online tool was created by the Arbor Day Foundation and the Davey Institute, a division of the Davey Tree Expert Co., and uses peer-reviewed scientific research from the USDA Forest Service’s i-Tree Software to calculate estimated benefits.

Customers may call the Arbor Day Foundation for technical help and other questions at 1-855-234-3801.

CPCUP Presents 2015 Report, Looks forward to New Opportunities in 2016

The College Park City University Partnership (CPCUP) Executive Director Eric Olson came before College Park City Council meeting last week and talked about the what the CPCUP has done in the past year and what it plans to do in 2016. You can see the 2015 report here on CPCUP’s website.

The City and the University continue to contribute equally to the Partnership, with each giving $125,000 toward the Partnership’s general operating expenses. The total funding for the organization from these two entities totals $250,000.

Among the accomplishments, Mr. Olson highlighted the following in his report:

  • Governor Hogan moved forward both the Purple Line and funding for rebuilding Baltimore Avenue.
  • College Park Academy students continued to excel in the school’s third year, scoring high marks and competing with the best school systems in the state on measures of academic success.
  • CCUP secured funding for a 2016 pilot program to place “safety ambassadors” in College Park to serve as a community presence.
  • CPCUP’s homeownership program resulted in five sets of University employees becoming new College Park residents in 2015.

In 2016, the CPCUP plans to work on the committees implementing the major programs, revamp its website, produce University District Vision video, Arts and Culture programming public spaces.

CPCUP-HomeOwnership-2015

Home ownership grant program by the City University partnership resulted in 5 UMD staff buying houses in the city

North College Park Crime Map: March 20-26, 2016

Date Time Address Type
3/24/2016 3:20:44 PM 9900 Blk RHODE ISLAND AVE Theft Report
3/21/2016 4:02:27 PM 9800 Blk 47TH PL Theft Report
3/24/2016 9:25:43 AM 5200 Blk PADUCAH RD Theft from Auto
3/20/2016 11:04:54 AM 9100 Blk ST ANDREWS PL Theft from Auto

 

Former PGPD Police Indicted Over Time Card Fraud

According to the report, the officers also worked in College Park.

College Park Bikeshare Program Expected to Start in May

Our staff have been busy in starting the BikeShare program in College Park. The program will have 14 bike stations – 7 within the campus and 7 outside of the campus in the city. As I mentioned earlier, we’re planning to have two stations in north College Park, one at the Lackawanna nad 53rd avenue intersection and another at the Hollywood commercial district.

The north College Park Civic Association (NCPCA) is expected to discuss these locations at the April NCPCA monthly meeting on April 14, 7:30 Pm at Davis Hall. Please try to attend, if you can.

The Diamondback has a piece in itscurrent edition. Please take a look at it here.

Enhancing Our Local Public Schools

There has been some interesting discussion on how to improve our local public school.

I believe this discussion came after the City Council weighed in at the last Council meeting whether to spend an additional $80K to our the schools where our College Park students go. The council did not approve the proposal. If approved, it’d have been an additional grant in addition to $60K we’ve been already spending on our schools.

As a whole, the Council is not against supporting our schools. Most of the Council members are debating whether we should be putting more money into schools, or we should work with the County and our neighboring cities to contribute more to making our schools better.

As you know, our public schools are managed by the County; City does not manage them. These schools are attended by not only College Park students but also students from our neighboring municipalities around us, such as Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Berwyn Heights, etc. For example, all of the middle and high schools are located outside of College Park. However, There are opportunities for most of our neighboring cities to contribute to these schools, even though they are located in their own cities.

Last night, I attended Council member Mary Lehman’s Town Hall meeting at the Hollywood Elementary School, where the County’s FY17 budget was discussed. During the discussion period, we talked about our school system and how the municipalities can collectively help enhance the standards. Mary Lehman was supportive to the idea of forming a coalition among the local municipalities and the County and discuss how the County and the towns can contribute jointly to make our schools better. CM Lehman told us she can spend her time if such a coalition is formed and offered her help from the County side.

In the end, our collective goal should be to get more supplemental grants for the schools where local students go.

Group Asks Council Change Fence Laws in College Park

The College Park Advisory Planning Commission (APC) held a Fence Ordinance Listening Session on December 3, 2015 in order to obtain public comment on the City Fence Ordinance.

At the session, Planning Department staff provided an overview of the City’s ordinance, which was followed by verbal testimony from five individuals. In addition, written comments were submitted by the Committee for a Better Environment (CBE) and two individuals.

Based on this information and follow-up discussions with APC members and staff, the APC has several recommendations for simplifying and streamlining the fence ordinance regulations in response to the comments that were received.

These are listed below for your consideration:
1. The definition of a fence, as written, is too long and confusing. Provide clear and concise definitions for the different types of fences mentioned (hedge, decorative fence and retaining wall).
2. Clearly state what does not constitute a fence and include decorative rocks or boulders in that statement.
3. Define a new fence type called “Garden Fence,” with the intent of enclosing vegetables. and protecting a home garden that grows fruits and/or
4. Allow garden fences in the front yard under certain circumstances. We recommend that these fences be allowed up to a height of 4 feet to enclose the garden but not the entire front yard (up to a certain percentage of the yard should be specified). Raised beds, poles, trellises, cold frames and other appurtenances that are part of the garden could be permitted. Garden fence materials should be limited to open wire mesh such as poultry netting (chicken wire) or rabbit guard. When the garden is no longer in use, it should be required to be dismantled.
5. Review the definitions of “yards” and align them with the definitions used by Prince George’s County to the extent possible.
6. Provide specific requirement for “incorporating openness and visibility” such as: “Spaces between fencing material (planks/pickets) shall be at least as wide as the planks/pickets (50%) opacity.”
7. Revise the section on retaining walls for clarity.
8. To further discourage chain link fences, the City should consider offering financial incentives to promote the use of other fence materials.
9. Reduce the number of criteria required to be met in order to obtain a variance. Zoning ordinance appeals only have three criteria while the fence ordinance has seven.
10. In general, reorganize the provisions of the ordinance for clarity so that the purpose and scope are listed first, regulations next and definitions last.
11. Include illustrative drawings and diagrams as part of the ordinance.

The Council plans to review these recommendations at a future Council meeting. Please let me know if you’ve any comments about these recommendations. Thank you.

Route 1 Undergrounding – Additional Information

I came across a vibrant discussion about tonight’s Council vote on undergrounding utilities on Route 1 (from MD 193 to College Avenue). I, however, saw some important information are missing in the discussion and I thought I should share that with you.

Route 1 is owned by the SHA (State Highway Administration), and not the City. Though the SHA was supportive to the idea of undergrounding in the beginning, they told the City last year (May 18, 2015) that a letter of commitment from the City to fund the undergrounding of utilities was needed by June 8, 2015 in order to maintain the project schedule of the Route 1 reconstruction. The Council expressed our deep disappointment with the SHA decision (in a letter dated June 9, 2015,) that they are asking the City to commit to the funding of Route 1 reconstruction, even though they did not complete the design (SHA only did 33% design). On August 2, 2015, the SHA came before Council meeting and said they are moving with the design that only includes the aerial location of utility lines, and they don’t plan to underground utilities on Route 1. At the same meeting, the SHA told us that the right of way (ROW) acquisition of the properties along Route 1 for the aerial relocation of utility lines would begin in around Spring this year.

Personally, I like the idea of undergrounding and its effect on revitalizing College Park, and I also voted to support the design work in the past. However, with the current status of the project with the SHA, and with the fact that the SHA is not currently on board with College Park on undergrounding, and we don’t have a complete design ready, our planning staff thinks that it will be extremely difficult to win the TIGER grant, not to mention the very competitive nature of the application process.

Yesterday morning, I’ve asked our staff to reach out to our SHA representative and find a few important status about undergrounding and its relation to the TIGER grant application. My questions include (1) Has the property acquisition along Rt 1 already started? If not, when do the SHA plan to start? (2) Will SHA postpone / scrap their current aerial relocation plan if College Park decides to apply for the TIGER grant? And (3) Will SHA support College Park’s request for the TIGER grant application?

I’ve yet to receive responses to these questions.

Council Considering Applying $14 Million in Federal Grants for Route 1 Undergrounding

During the most recent meeting of the College Park City-University Partnership board (The Partnership), there was discussion and interest in moving forward with applying for a TIGER grant for the Baltimore Ave. rebuild, to include undergrounding of utilities.

If awarded, this grant funding could provide approximately $11M to $14M in funds towards undergrounding utilities, which has been a long term goal of the City. The City would likely be the applicant for this grant – SHA, while supportive, typically only does 1 or 2 TIGER grants per grant round, and this is not their highest priority. In order to ensure that the grant application is as competitive as possible and can be done on time, Eric Olson, Executive Director for The Partnership, has consulted with Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering and consulting firm that specializes in applications like this.

In order to obtain turnkey services to put together the TIGER application, Parsons said it would cost $45-50K. The Partnership has offered to fund 50% of this cost if the city pays for the other half. The TIGER grant application is due April.

The City has budgeted for FY 15-16 funding of $300,000 for design and engineering of this project. To date, $217,464 has been spent. In FY 14-15, $140,000 was budgeted for a Feasibility Study. To date, $94,407 has been spent. Monument has agreed to fund $60,000 toward undergrounding utilities and the University has previously agreed to fund $70,000 towards the feasibility study.

At to tomorrow’s meeting, the Council will consider authorizing the expenditure of $25,000 to prepare and submit the application. I’ve a few questions about applying for the grant now, when SHA is scheduled to do the ROW (Right of Way) acquisition of the properties along Route 1, based on their plan for aerial relocation of utility lines.

North College Park Crime Map – March 13-18, 2016

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

Date Time Address Type
3/19/2016 10:24:41 AM 9100 Blk BRIDGEWATER ST Theft from auto
3/19/2016 7:43:03 AM 9000 Blk ST ANDREWS PL Theft from auto
3/18/2016 5:58:36 PM 4700 Blk CHERRY HILL RD Theft
3/18/2016 9:45:51 AM 9300 Blk CHERRY HILL RD Theft
3/17/2016 11:06:17 AM 4700 Blk FOX ST Theft
3/14/2016 9:27:32 AM 4700 Blk CHERRY HILL RD Theft

Rain Check Rebate Program – What You Want to Know

Debra Weller from the county’s Department of the Environment came to this month’s North College Park meeting to talk about the Rain Check Rebate program, which offers up to $4,000 in rebates for implementing storm water management practices at your residence. Please see below the slides she presented at the meeting. If you’re interested in the program or have any questions about the program, please feel free to contact her. Her contacts are at the end of the slides.
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Events Around College Park This Weekend

What: St. Patrick’s Day Concert
When: 3/18/2016, 7:00 PM – 10:30 PM
Where: City Facilities – Old Parish House (View Map)
4711 Knox Road
College Park, MD 20740
Contact Information:
Name: College Park Arts Exchange
Phone: 301-927-3013
Email: info@cpae.org

What: Egg Hunt for all ages at Youth and Family Services.
When: 3/19/2016,: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Location Information:
Where: City Facilities – Youth, Family & Senior Services (View Map)
4912 Nantucket Road
College Park, MD 20740
Phone: 240-487-3550

Brunch with the Bunny at College Park Community Center.
When: 3/19/2016: 11:00 AM – End Time: 1:00 PM
Location Information:
Other Locations – College Park Community Center (View Map)
5051 Pierce Avenue
College Park, MD 20740
Phone: 301-864-5844

College Park Book Festival, 2016

CollegeParkBookFestival2016

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