Friday, September 27, 2019

Special Emerson Town Hall with HoCo Executive 9/24/19

Emerson held a Special Town Hall with Howard County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball in the Emerson Clubhouse on Tuesday, September 24, 2019 from 7 PM to 9 PM.

Dr. Ball also brought many of his senior leadership team and Department Heads with him to answer a wide-ranging set of questions (posted below for easy reference).

The video feed was also broadcast live to the external Emerson Facebook Page and to the Emerson Forum:

Some highlights:

  • Dr. Ball asserted that Hammond High School and Talbott Springs Elementary are priorities for him, but that budget constraints mean that the Board of Education must prioritize those projects for them to move forward. According to the Executive, the County can only provide the broad level of funding and under Maryland State Law cannot direct in detail how the money is spent, as the Board of Education is a separately elected body.
  • Chief of Staff Sam Sidh and Director of Planning & Zoning Val Lazdins described changes they were able to negotiate from the Milk Producers project at Leishear Road and Gorman Road. [Separately, it was reported that NVR Homes has purchased the property and plans to build 393 residential units there.]
  • Jim Irvin, Chief of the Department of Public Works said the Stephens Road Bridge Project (J4202) will start in the Spring. [This project raises the bridge out of the floodplain, adds sidewalks, and repaves Stephens Road.]
  • He also said the Pool at North Laurel Community Center (NLCC) on Whiskey Bottom Road has been split into two phases, with the first starting in Spring 2020 and (if funding is available) the second beginning that Fall.
  • The County hopes to add more curbside food scrap collection in two areas (as composting capacity is added to the system) — Southeast Howard County (our area) and Ellicott City. They suggested we should let them know if we want it to come to our area if we want to be next.
  • Emerson intends to work with DPW to get crosswalks and stop sign stripes repainted, and other repairs and maintenance.
These were the questions asked:

Prepared Questions Asked:
1. [HCPSS, Budget] What can you do to ensure that the funding is found for the Hammond High School renovation and expansion, so the project is not delayed another 3 years to 2026? Not only does the renovation address critical needs that have been decades in the making, but the added capacity is important for addressing growth and overcrowding issues. Also, will we lose matching state funds if the project is delayed?
2. [Route 1 Corridor] What do you see as the future of revitalization in the Route 1 Corridor? Specifically, what is the plan for addressing the vacant buildings at the intersection of Whiskey Bottom Rd and Washington Blvd, including the County-owned properties? 
3. [Development, Budget] Is CB42-2019 (school impact fees) sufficient to offset the impact of development on schools? Shouldn't we also account for inflation? How do we compare with our neighbors?
4. [Budget] How will the County address its funding shortfalls, both for the overall budget and for the schools? How can we ensure that development pays for itself? Does the mix of residential (which uses expensive County services, such as schools) and commercial development need to change?
5. [HCPSS, Childcare] Can you please address what the county is doing to address the lack of adequate before and aftercare openings at the county schools? Currently, most schools have a 20+student waitlist. What plans does the county have to remedy this?
6. [Development] What is the current status of the Milk Producers property development? What steps, if any, are being considered to account for increased traffic and infrastructure development around the area for safety (narrow roads)?
7. [North Laurel Community Center] What specific progress has been made on the construction of the NLCC swimming pool this year? Are you committed to fully funding the swimming pool at the North Laurel Community Center?
8. [Recycling] Does the county plan to expand the composting program to all of Howard County? Columbia has had curbside composting pickup for several years now.
9. [Traffic, Safety] Can the County repaint faded worn crosswalks (like at Mystic Dance and Skylark Boulevard)?How can we speed up the process to designate and install crosswalks (like at Palace Hall and Skylark Blvd.)?
10. [Development, Environment] What are your plans for the southeastern region of Howard County; specifically as it relates to preserving farmlands that are being bought/sold to developers? Are there opportunities to preserve these lands to retain the authenticity of Howard County?
11. [Public Works] Is there a plan to repave portions of Stephens Rd and install sidewalks? What is the status of the bridge project (J4202)?
12. [HCPSS, Budget, Redistricting] A lot of money is spent on redistricting feasibility studies and community input, yet that info does not seem to have been taken into proper account by the superintendent and Board of Ed. What is being done to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely by the school system, and that redistricting is done in the least disruptive and most equitable manner?
13. (Accidentally skipped) [Taxes] Property taxes has been getting higher and higher in the last 14 years I have been here. Is there a plan to slow this process down?

Written Questions from the Clubhouse Audience:
1. [Transportation] Are there any public transportation initiatives for Howard County? In Emerson, one must walk to the intersection of Stephens Road and Gorman Road to catch a bus and travel 10 miles outside of the area before stopping at a local designation.
2. [Immigration] Would you and your office be willing to sponsor an immigration "Know Your Rights" information campaign in Howard County? Would you be willing to personally endorse using the E-Back Pack program in the school's to get the information out with objectives of safely interacting with ICE and keeping families together?
3. [Diversity/Inclusion] Under County Executive Ken Ulman, we had a program we were trying to implement known as Ethinic Minority Roundtable. The purpose of the group was to improve community services through translation, culture and other important attributes. Do you see yourself bringing this group back? Your predecessor did away with it.
4. [Development] We want more insight into how and why builders advertise the high school and middle school for that community until the last house is built and the next year we see their schoos being redistricted. We want to know more on how and why this is happening. Is it not false advertising from builders?
5. [Environment, Climate Change] Can you please talk about your administration's current and planned initiatives to mitigate climate change? What more can we do collectively as a county?
6. [Economic Development, Technology] What is the county doing to attract nextgen business and research institute in the area? Has the county received proposals on smart street/city/malls (e.g., smart walkway generating power)?
7. [Public Health] How is the national opioid crisis impacting Howard County? What police training is happening around this issue?

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