From the Desk of
County Commissioner Kirby Delauter
(1/2012) There is an old saying, everyone is entitled to their opinion, however, everyone is not entitled to their own facts. I am writing to rebut a few comments rendered in the December 2011 edition of the Emmitsburg News-Journal by my colleague on the Board of County Commissioners, David Gray.
David makes a few statements that were not exactly on the mark so to speak, and it is my intention to set the record straight.
David's article was titled, "Slow Down-Listen," and the crux of his argument was that the Board of County Commissioner were acting too quickly on matters facing us and the citizens of Frederick County.
The Board was sworn in now more than a year ago on December 1, 2010. One-quarter of this Board's term is now in the history books. I for one, do not believe that taking an entire year to act on and fulfill campaign promises made to the citizens is being reckless or acting too swiftly. Our agenda was clear, in fact so clear, we published it in the Frederick News Post in October
David stated that we need to "slow down and listen." This may have been the way things were done in the past, but this is not the case now. I listened to hundreds and thousands of voters throughout Frederick County throughout 2010. I along with a majority of the Commissioners ran on a public and open platform that was developed from listening to the voters. Not telling them what
they wanted to hear, but listening and then acting on our mandate.
Now onto some of David's more erroneous statements. He made a reference that the County Commissioners defunded Head Start by 50%, fired over 60 instructors and stopped children's classes on two days notice. There is so much wrong in this one sentence alone it is hard to start, but I'll try.
First off, Frederick County was the ONLY county government in Maryland which provided funding for Head Start. There was research and discussions about reducing the County's funding levels and commitment going on for more than a year, and had begun under the previous Board of County Commissioners, or the Gardner Board.
Additionally, the County did not fire 60 instructional assistants, but merely moved the program to a non-governmental vendor, who in turn offered employment to most of the Head Start staff. As of today, Head Start classes are up and running with the only difference being that the County taxpayer in not funding $2.3M in unnecessary spending.
Again, all of this was undertaken and finalized with far more than two days of work.
David stated the School Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance was weakened with the newly adopted School Mitigation Fee. I beg to differ. As opposed to waiting for state action with funding, or deferring projects because previous Boards ( which David was a part of ) have hampered development and job creation, we have placed the onus on the developers who can fund school
construction projects right in our own neighborhoods, while also building and creating jobs in those same communities. It is anticipated the School Mitigation Fee could benefit the County by more than $24 million a year. That's for new schools and improvements in our communities.
Our schools are currently at 88% enrollment capacity, leaving room for more students. Between the impact fee and the mitigation fee, builders ( not taxpayers) would be responsible for 115% of new school construction.
David wrote that new school funding would be shifted to the taxpayers through additional property and income taxes. He is way off the mark on this one! We are finally looking to give the taxpayers a break from taxes. This Board WILL enact a 3 – 4 cent tax cut from your local taxes in the next fiscal year! We promised that in the campaign, and we have delivered on that promise.
In reality, our School Mitigation Fee will shift the burden of new school construction to the development community. Yes, the evil home builders will be paying the bills for our new schools, and for that I am guilty as charged. The building and Development Community, even in these tough economic times, stepped up to the plate with real ideas and solutions to problems, while our
previous Boards ( which David was part of ) sat on their hands and hoped for a "Miracle on Church Street." Miracles may happen in Hollywood, but here in the real world, it’s tough decisions and economic common sense that makes the difference between tax cuts or tax increases.
It was also stated that permitting and application fees were reduced without significant public input. I believe our Community Development Division personnel who participated in numerous public and outreach meetings to identify redundant and excessive fees and regulations were quite surprised to read that comment by David Gray.
A bit of history on this topic includes:
• An initial meeting which was held on Monday November 22, 2010, with the business and development community to discuss what can be done to promote a more business friendly environment in the County. An estimated 60 people participated from the private sector.
• Feedback was also received from staff, by emails and other correspondence and resulted in the original list of 235 items which created the initial Business Friendly Action Item List. It has since been expanded to include additional items.
• Since the first meeting the County has had regularly scheduled bimonthly and quarterly Outreach meetings. The Outreach meetings have been separated into two specific areas, (1) Development related issues and (2) Permitting and Inspections type issues. Anyone interested can attend these meetings. Attendance of these meetings was initially with about 75 people, however recently
they are approximately a dozen people and less.
• The County has, and continues, to hold meetings with the Chamber of Commerce, FCBA, Planning Commission, BOCC and other bodies.
• Specific areas of work (Subdivision rewrite, etc..) have also been organized into focused workgroups including County staff and private sector participants. There are several of these meetings every month along with weekly meetings with assigned staff participating in addressing the issues.
• This is a continuing process as meetings, discussions and new items are on-going. The County continues to meet with businesses, consultants, groups and individuals to continue to understand additional issues or concerns that need to be addressed.
• Staff has provided briefings at various civic organization meetings throughout the year highlighting accomplishments and seeking additional input.
David noted that, "Privatization continues behind the scenes." I along with members of the public am rather surprised then to periodically tune into FCG Cable Channel 19 or see meetings on the County's website of the Privatization Advisory Committee (PAC) meetings.
Additionally, Commissioner President Blaine Young gives a regular administrative update at the beginning of every Thursday morning meeting and has consistently detailed not just the PAC Meetings, but the other two committee's meeting on this topic as well. There has been dozens of meetings on privatization, public-private partnerships, intergovernmental synergies and potential
cost efficiencies and savings, and David has been fully aware of all of these actions.
As a matter of fact, to date there have been 28 Privatization Steering Committee meetings, 6 Partnerships (Privatization) and Efficiencies Committee meetings and 4 PAC meetings.
David states that Developers are now allowed to inspect their own projects. This statement is totally false and misleading. The County has shifted to private third party ( arms length ) inspections. These third party companies are responsible for their inspections and have liability, just like the Developer. This is unlike the old system for example, where the County inspected
the Tuscarora Sewer Interceptor, a major CIP project a few years back. The line was so poorly constructed it basically had to be reconstructed a second time. This was ALL INSPECTED BY COUNTY FORCES! The Contractor was held accountable, but the County inspectors never lost a dime in pay or benefits and the Taxpayer footed the entire bill. All we’ve done is introduce "Authority with
David States the Excise Tax was reduced to zero and that this will make the taxpayer have to pay more in property and income taxes. Again, simply not true. The Excise tax was imposed on businesses and entities like St. Johns Prep School. St. Johns paid $79,000.00 in Excise Taxes for their new building. This BoCC was able to refund this money to the School when we reduced this
tax to $0. Maybe Commissioner Gray would rather have the School pay the tax when they can now use that money to educate students and / or reduce their debt on a new facility.
I could go on and discuss many other issues I have with David's column, but with space limitations I will have to defer those thoughts to another time.
I am very disappointed, however, that David chose to promote so many inaccuracies and mistakes. I welcome any and all open debate and discussion.
We all are free to our opinions, but I cannot set idly by when someone perverts the facts that are available to everyone, especially a County Commissioner who was a part of all of these issues and deliberations.
Read other articles from Frederick County Commissioners