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Crime Maps on CrimeReports and Spotcrime

Crime Reports.com

Here is a good news. After a long wait, the two leading software tools, CrinmReports and SpotCrime have started to report PGPD’s crime data on their websites.

The reports are however not quite complete. For example, when I compare the data with the ones that we get from PGPD’s community liaison officer Ofc. Black, I see a few incidents not reported on these two sites.

SpotCrime’s owner Colin Drane contacted me a while back and gave me this link for College Park’s crime map.

Budget, AT&T Tower, Gateway Park Design at Tomorrow’s NCPCA Meeting

NCPCA – It’s Your Neighborhood Association

Tomorrow is the second Thursday of the month and, thus it is the day of the monthly regular NCPCA meeting. Here is a quick summary of what will be on tomorrow’s meeting agenda.

The City has just introduced the FY2012 draft budget. Joe Nagro, College Park’s City Manager will be at the meeting presenting the City Manager’s Proposed Capital Improvements Program budget for Fiscal 2012. Please bring your questions about the budget for the meeting.

AT&T attorney Gregory E. Rapisarda, Esq. and other representatives will make a presentation on their proposed 125 ft cell tower project and address questions and concerns about how AT&T seeks to improve its wireless services in the area.  The tower will be built on the City property at the east end of Odessa Road in Sunnyside.

Three competing designs will be on display at the meeting for public comment. NCPCA earlier formed a committee on the proposed park and came up with a design based on preliminary ideas. The City has also sponsored a design competition among UMd landscape architecture students. Please come and see the proposed designs on these meetings and have your comments heard.

See you all tomorrow.

FaceLifting City’s Website – a Waste and a Lost Opportunity

CollegeParkMD.gov

I’ve recently come across a discussion on City’s recent decision to overhaul the its website.

According to the plan, the City will be spending $15,000 to on a contracting company to do the overhaul. It will spend additional dollars to upgrade and maintain the site time to time in future.

I think this is a total waste of City’s taxpayers’ dollars. Jobs like this could easily be accomplished through a UMD student project. UMD student projects, such as Gateway Park design  have produced fantastic results in the past.

True, there are issues like ADA / 504 compliance are part of the new requirement, but Computer science / information tech students are actually taught on these subjects  in the class.

 

AT&T’s Silent Balloon Test Leaves Residents with Unanswered Questions

Early last month AT&T sent a letter to the City of College Park telling them its plan for a balloon test in the east end of Odessa Street in Sunnyside area. The balloon test was part of AT&T’s plan to install a 125 ft cell tower in a parcel owned by the City.

In the letter to the City, AT&T wrote:

As part of its site evaluation, AT&T will conduct a balloon test and visual impact survey in order to assess the visual impact from the proposed monopole, AT&T will fly a large red balloon from the proposed location at a height of 125’   While the balloon is flying, photos will be taken from multiple vantage points and AT&T will use those photos to analyze and evaluate the visual impact from the proposed monopole. Weather permitting, AT&T is hoping to fly the balloon during the week of March 28, 2011.  The test balloon will be raised at approximately 8:30 AM and remain flying for approximately 3 hours.

AT&T’s consultant Douglas Hebard later told the City that balloon test did take place on March 28, but I doubt anybody actually saw the balloons. Partly because the test was performed during the day time when most residents were at work, and most importantly nobody knew on which day the test would happen. AT&T said it also sent the letter to residents living near the proposed site.

AT&T is saying it will conduct another balloon test and announce the date of the second test at the NCPCA meeting on this Thursday.

AT&T’s plan to build proposed tower stirred a whole bunch of questions among local residents. Later, I compiled and sent these questions to AT&T’s representatives overseeing the project. True, AT&T’s representatives will be coming to this Thursday’s meeting, but many residents won’t be able to make the meeting and thus are curious to know more about the planned installation. I sent these questions about two weeks ago, but so far, I haven’t received  any response. Here are the questions I sent to AT&T:

  • Who is responsible for looking into and providing residents with the environmental and residential and business and cost impacts of this proposal?
  • Does it interfere in anyway with the oldest operating airport in the world communications and are they aware of the proposal?
  • Will it interfere with other wireless networks such as cable / other phone providers etc?
  • Are there any costs and/or revenue associated with this?
  • Where in the City park is the cell phone tower planned to be built? Will it be built on the east end of the park that is farthest from residents’ homes, or will it be built on the west end of the park that is closest to residents’ homes? Will it be built on the south end of the park that is closest to the Beltway (I-495), or will it be built on the north end of the park that is closest to residents’ homes?
  • What is the distance from the planned cell phone tower location to the closest residence (on either side of the Beltway)?
  • The property the cell phone tower is planned to be built on is a beautiful wooded park. When the cell phone tower is built, how will AT&T ensure that workers will not cut down trees and foliage unnecessarily?
  • Will AT&T guarantee that no clear-cutting will be done from the park entrance to the site of the cell phone tower? 

Wawa Opens Near North College Park

The Beltsville Wawa store, just north of College Park has finally opened its doors on last Friday.

The stores construction began last summer, when I took some pictures of the construction works.

The new WAWA store is located in Beltsville in between Route 1 and Rhode Island avenue, just north of Sunnyside avenue.  The site is across from Chestnut Hills Shopping Center on Route 1. WAWA has entrances on Route 1 and Rhode Island Avenue.

[mappress mapid=”45″]

Earth Day Neighborhood Cleanup, Rain Garden Fix-ups

Earth Day 2011 College Park

Volunteers will gather at the Duvall Field on this year’s Earth Day, April 23, at 10am to fix up two rain gardens, painting, and cleaning up the local area.

When you arrive, please sign in at the volunteer table at Duvall Field. Lunch will be provided for those volunteers who arrive by 11 am and participate in the project. Students will earn community service hours. 

Students are encouraged to participate in this community service project. Students can earn community service hours, if applicable.

For more information, please visit www.powertoall.wordpress.com

This year’s Earth Day falls on April 22. Communities arround the world will be celebrating Earth Day all week long and into the weekend.

Greenbelt Metro Security Gets More Coverage

In the last few days, the Maryland Newsline TV crews came over to our part of the City (Lackawanna St and 53rd Avenue) to learn more about the public safety isues at the Greenbelt Metro’s west entrance that connects to our part of the neighborhood. The piece talks about the camera petition drive that we were able  to organize and Metro’s botched brush clean-up across the pathway to the Metro entrance. Here is the link to that Newsline article, with the related video below.

City’s Top Earners – Staff who Make 50K and More

As the City has introduced FY2012 budget and it’s struggling with revenues and maintaining services, it’s time to take a look at how much the City officials are making every year.

The data I present below was extraced from a database maintained by the Gazette paper. The link should also allow us to compare staff at similar posts are making in other sorrounding  municipalities.

NameSalaryTitle
Nagro, Joseph$138,340City Manager
Groh, Stephen$112,181Director Of Finance
Higgins, Peggy$104,171Director Of Community Resources
Schum, Terry$104,171Director Of Planning
Ryan, Robert$96,732Director Of Public Services
Halpern, Steven$95,880Civil Engineer III
Stumpff, Robert$89,826Director Of Public Works
Alexander, Brenda$83,883Deputy Director Of Public Works
Thomas Jr., Leo$81,838Deputy Director Of Finance
Clements, Jill$76,774Director Of Human Resources
Price, Sarah$74,468Information Systems Manager
Scalzo, Gonzalo$72,820Programmer Analyst
Miller, James$71,042Parking Enforcement Manager
Miller, Janeen$69,151City Clerk
Gold, Stacie$67,619Clinical Supervisor
Burns, Angela$65,655Seniors Program Manager
Oulahyane, Youssef$63,845Information Systems Tech III
Cofske, Robert$62,528Code Enforcement Officer III
Ferguson, William$62,528Crew Chief
Setser, Cecilia$62,528Billing and Collections Supervisor
Friedman, Dorothy$61,752Planner
Vacant, Vacant$61,427Assistant To The City Manager I
Vitale, Elisa$61,259Senior Planner
Bass, William$61,003Crew Chief
Silver Sr., Arthur$60,443Mechanic II
Allen, Yvette$59,515Assistant City Clerk
Fleming Sr., William$58,307Public Works Supervisor
Linder, Carolanne$58,064Safety Officer
Gallop, Otis$57,565Motor Equipment Operator III
Williams, Theresheia$56,681Administrative Assistant
Osborn, Scott$56,648Parking Enforcement Field Operations Supervisor
Daves, John$55,579Code Enforcement Officer II
Fletcher, Sharon-Ann$53,949Administrative Assistant
Lynn, Willie$53,918Crew Chief
Clayton, Tracey$53,594Fiscal Support Specialist III
Crissinger, Margaret$53,594Fiscal Support Specialist III
Hall, Kim$53,594Fiscal Support Specialist III
Posey, Timothy$52,287Garage Supply Clerk/Assistant Mechanic
Jansorn, Gittipan$50,097Lead Groundskeeper
James, John$50,017Supply Clerk

Latinos are Rising, But Why?

Mundo Latino Market in North College Park

I recently received requests from a few UMD students on my previous blog post on the increasing Latinos / Hispanic population in the city.

According to the 2010 census data, Hispanics / Latinos have added the most to city’s population in the past 10 years. In terms of percentage, that number is a whopping 58.5%. A similar number for Whites is only 4.25%, Blacks (6.6%) and Asians (5.57%).

I was asked if I could explain the reason behind such a drammatic  rise of Hispanic population. I wish I were a social scientist and could explain the trend using volumes of research data, but having lived in the area for more than a 12 years, I think I can give a shot.

I think this is part of trend that we’ve been seeing in our areas. There could be several factors:

  • Job: Studies have shown a significant number of recent Latino immigrants are mostly day laborers, who want to stay close to places where they can easily find jobs, especially short-term day jobs. DC areas would be perfect place to find such jobs.
  • Transportation: They would like to live in places where they can easily commute to their work, through Metro and cars. College Park has two Metro stations, Greenbelt, and College Park.
  • Close to other existing heavily populated Hispanic neighborhood: Folks like to live close to places where they find people from similar background. Remember Langley Park is almost a Latino town, Silver Spring is close.
  • Affordable housing: College Park’s houses are old, smaller in size and still affordable compared to houses in  neighboring Montgomery Co.
  • Latino Stores: There are a bunch of Latino stores in Langley Park and also in College Park (see Mundo Latino in north college Park)

There could be other factors that are driving the rise in Hispanic population, but these are the ones that come to my mind. If you have any other ideas, I’d like to hear.

Op-Ed: Crime in College Park – It’s Out of Control

Crime in College Park - Out of Control?

Janee Banks

Janee Banks is a student at the University of Maryland. She is working with a group of students in the Communication Department on a project to encourage civic communication in the College Park community between students, locals, Prince George’s Police, and the University Police.

As a senior at this university, I love College Park as much as the next student. However, over the last four years I’ve seen on and off-campus safety become an increasingly pressing issue.

It seems there are articles every week in the Diamondback about crimes in College Park. Crime is to be expected as a city grows, and there is no question that over these last few years College Park has been transforming and expanding. Most of that transformation has been beneficial, but this city has also transformed into something I never thought it would be. It has become dangerous, and a city in which it appears, that ensuring the safety of the community has been put on the back burner.

Seriously, in the last year alone there were 13 murders in 13 days, stabbings, muggings, and sexual assaults. It seems like the level of crime in the city is only rising and really getting out of control.

Also, let’s not forget about the riot last year that made national news. I know the student’s haven’t. Since the riot there has definitely been tension between the students and the police. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of students do not trust the police and question whether the police have their best interests in mind.

From a student’s perspective, we see police concentrating on closing bars, breaking up parties, and issuing massive numbers of tickets. What we do not see them doing is protecting us, and the College Park community. They seem to be right there to break up a party, but we question where they are when those same students are walking home and get mugged and assaulted.

I, much like my peers, think it’s time for the City to reassess their priorities, and make College Park safe again. If you are concerned with the safety of College Park, come to the College Park Town Hall forum tomorrow April 6, 2011 in Jimenez Hall from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. Don’t you want to know what’s being done to protect your community? Then come out and voice your opinion about the safety of College Park.

Come and See Gateway Park Designs

Gateway park design competition

The design of Hollywood Gateway Park is coming to the finish line.

Three competing designs will be on display at this month’s NCPCA meeting for public comment. NCPCA meeting will be on Thursday, April 14th, 7:30 pm, Davis Hall (corner of 51st Avenue and Indian Lane).

NCPCA earlier formed a committee on the proposed park and came up with a design based on preliminary ideas.

The City has also sponsored a design competition among UMd landscape architecture students.

There will also be presentations on the designs on Wednesday, April 13th at 7:00 PM at Davis Hall. 

Please come and see the proposed designs on these meetings and have your comments heard.

College Park Aviation Museum Art Contest

College Park Aviation Museum Art Contest

The College Park Aviation Museum, in conjunction with M-NCPPC and Envision Prince George’s is organizing a children arts contest.

The art contest is open to grades K-12. All forms of artwork are accepted. The top entries will be on display at the museum and a prize will be awarded to the winner of each category. The entry deadline is May 2.

The museum will be offering art classes from 2-4pm every Friday in April.

There will also be an Art Day on Saturday April 30th from 11-4pm that is free with museum admission. Art supplies will be available at all of these events. The themes for the contest are listed below along with the entry form.

The contest asks children to create a poster illustrating one of the following:

  • Aviation in Your Life
  • Your Fantasy Airshow
  • Aviation Rescues

If your child is interested to enter, here is the Art Contest Entry Form

City Proposes FY2012 Budget

College Park FY 2012 budget

The City of College Park has just made draft budget for the year 2012 online .  You can download the 374 page budget from here

The Council’s budget worksessions will begin next Saturday, April 9, at 7:30 am and continue the following Saturday, April 16.  The public hearing on the budget will be Tuesday, May 10, before the regular Council meeting, and the budget will be adopted on Tuesday, May 24.

Here are the highlights of the budget, according to the City manager.

The City Manager’s Requested Operating Budget for FY2012 is $13,751,606 (an 8.68% increase from the FY2011 adopted budget), including operating revenues of $13,534,720 plus a $216,886 inter fund transfer from the Parking Debt Service Fund.

The FY2012 City Manager’s Requested Operating Budget includes the following revenue and expenditure highlights and changes:

General Fund Revenues

  • The real property tax rate of $0.322 per $100 of assessed valuation is maintained, with no increase from FY2011.
  • The personal property tax rate $0.805 per $100 of assessed valuation is maintained, with no increase from FY2011.
  •  The FY2012 requested budget projects intergovernmental revenue at 5.1 % less than the FY2011 adopted budget (due to reductions in the FY12 budget for admission & amusement tax and hotel/motel tax).
  • Residential properties currently comprise 67.5 percent of the City’s tax base. The gross residential tax base (prior to application of the homestead tax credit for owner-occupied properties) in FY2011 was $1,461,789,930 and is projected to be $1,458,785,236 for FY2012, a decrease of 0.2%. After applying the homestead tax credit at 104% for FY2012, there is an increase of 7.6%.
  • Commercial and industrial properties comprise the other 32.5 percent of the City’s tax base. The commercial tax base in FY2011 was $649,773,961 and is projected to be $701,158,520 for FY2012, an increase of 7.9%.
  • One cent of the tax rate represents $231,149, including real property tax, personal property tax at 2.5 times the real property tax rate, PILOT-UM CASL property and PILOT-UM Washington Post property.
  • Economic development has had a minimal financial impact on the tax revenues, despite new residential projects under construction on U. S. Route 1. In the future, however, economic development projects should have a much greater impact on revenue and should represent a greater percentage of revenue as the pursuit of economic development projects continue.
  • The FY2012 requested budget does not include any proposed increases in fees, charges or fines.
  • The public parking garage opened in August 2009 and permanent 20-year financing settled on February 25, 2011. The FY12 requested budget includes an inter fund transfer from the Parking Debt Service Fund to the General Fund in order to cover the excess of debt service on the tax-exempt bond over parking garage-related revenues. It is hoped that, over time, revenues from the parking garage will increase to close that gap.

General Fund Expenditures

  • FY2012 is the second year of a 3-year collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME Local 1209C, covering certain Public Works employees. The FY2012 budget includes 2.5% merit increases. Negotiations are underway but not concluded for FY2012. Traditionally, employees not covered by the collective bargaining agreement have received the same benefits as employees covered under the contract.
  • The FY2012 Requested Budget includes a net decrease in full-time equivalents (FTEs) of 0.62 from FY2011, itemized as follows:
  1. A decrease of 0.50 FTE in Fiscal Support Specialist position (in Finance, Accounting & Financial Reporting, program 1022)
  2. An additional 0.25 FTE in Office Specialist position (in Public Services)
  3. An increase of 0.72 FTE in Contract Police Officers (in Public Services, Speed Enforcement, program 2025) to certify speed enforcement camera citations
  4. A net decrease of 1.04 FTE in YFS Grants, program 4015, as that grant funded program is not scheduled to continue in FY12. In FY11, existing part-time Family Therapists increased their hours to cover the grant program activities.
  5. An increase of 0.15 FTE for a Tree Inventory Intern (in Public Works-Tree & Landscape program 5020) as this former contract employee was reclassified in FY11 as a temporary employee.
  6. Additional hours for a Planning intern, funded by a DCPMA grant
  • Health insurance rates did not increase for FY2012. All other insurance costs increased 1.6%.
  • The net result of FTE changes, merit increases and changes in employee insurance costs increased FY2012 personnel costs by 3.0% over FY2011.
  • The parking garage tax-exempt bond was issued on February 25, 2011, replacing bond anticipation notes (BANs) used for interim financing, and debt service on this SunTrust Bank bond is budgeted in the Debt Service program.

Parking Debt Service Fund

  • For FY2012, we will continue to use the Parking Debt Service Fund to accumulate the additional parking meter revenue resulting from the July 2007 increase in meter rates and the $2.50 increase in parking ticket fines for expired meter (violation 01) and overtime parking (violation 30) implemented in FY2011. For FY2012, an inter fund transfer from the Parking Debt Service Fund to the General Fund helps to offset debt service on the parking garage tax-exempt bond.

Capital Improvement Program (C.I.P.)

  • The FY2012 C.I.P. includes 29 active projects with projected 5-year expenditures of $43,401,971. Some of these projects are placeholders with no current funding. FY2012 inter fund transfer from the General Fund totals $1,151,835.

NCP Residents Discuss Impacts of Greenbelt Development

A group of residents and several City officials gathered last night at the Davis Hall to discuss the proposed Greenbelt development and its possible impacts on north College Park.

Mayor Andrew Fellows conducted the meeting. City planner Terry Schum made the main presentation. Several current and past council members were also present at the meeting.

Residents present at the meeting received a brochure highlighting some basic facts about the proposed development. Please see the PDF version of that brochure below.

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