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From the Desk of
County Executive Jan Gardner

(4/2018) Despite a late season snowstorm, spring is finally here!

The newest thing popping up in Glade Valley is the beautiful, spacious Walkersville branch library. The community turned out in force to see this gorgeous facility when we cut the ribbon on March 10th. There were about a thousand people on hand for the ceremony, with two thousand more who streamed in throughout the day! Local residents are truly excited!

If you havenít visited yet, you will be amazed by the huge windows, wide open areas, and expanded collection. The spacious childrenís area highlights the communityís agricultural heritage as part of an early literacy play space. There are many special touches throughout the library that are unique to Walkersville and the surrounding community. There is even a community room for organizations to hold meetings. After touring the building, one wide-eyed young girl exclaimed, "I could LIVE here!"

Libraries play an important role in lifelong learning, and in creating a vibrant, thriving community. I am very proud and excited that my administration has made the dream of the new Walkersville branch library a reality. Despite some delays through the years, the community was absolutely determined to make this project happen. The Town of Walkersville donated the site, and more than 200 individuals contributed to give the library its special touches. For example, thanks to a donation by the Walkersville High School Alumni Association, there is a study room dedicated to the memory of the late Stateís Attorney Tommy Dorsey, a Walkersville High alum.

Other major donors include the Glade Valley Lions Club, the Friends of the Walkersville Library, and the Little Friends of the Walkersville Library at the Childrenís Center were major donors. The United Way of Frederick County also contributed in the form of a grant. The Little Friends group found a creative way to raise the money for their donation. The preschoolers illustrated their own book and then sold copies. They gave thousands of dollars from the book sale toward the childrenís literacy area.

Building the new library branch has truly been a community endeavor and an accomplishment we can all be proud of!

Success in Annapolis

The General Assembly is wrapping up this yearís legislative session in Annapolis. Frederick County has seen several major successes this year. I am especially proud of the bipartisan ethics bill that I worked on with local citizens and across the political aisle to strengthen our ethics laws to hold elected officials accountable. Restoring trust in government has been job #1!

Another big success has been securing a higher share of funds from the gas tax for counties. County and municipal governments use these revenues each year to pay for roadway maintenance and improvements. During the recession, the State drastically cut local governmentsí share of the revenues. Frederick County saw 95% of its funding cut which amounted to over $13 million. While we havenít returned to the funding levels we saw before the recession, we are expecting counties to receive twice as much in the next fiscal year than we received this year.

Frederick County has played an active role in Annapolis this session on issues involving school construction and education funding. I served on the statewide Knott Commission for two years to discuss policy for funding school construction. A bill has been introduced to implement many of the recommendations from the Knott Commission, including streamlining approval processes that will save time and money, and increasing overall dollars available for school maintenance and construction. Frederick County can be proud that we had a seat at the table and made a difference to the future of school construction, always a hot topic in our community.

County Budget

Preparing and presenting the county budget is the most important responsibility I have as County Executive and the most significant task we do together as a community. How and where we spend our communityís money reflects our strategic priorities and our shared values. On April 12th, I will be releasing my proposed budget for fiscal year 2019, which begins July 1, 2018, so stay tuned for that announcement.

Once again, the county budget will have absolutely no increase in taxes. Property tax and income tax rates will remain the same as they have throughout my administration. The last increase to property tax rates occurred in May of 2013 by the prior Board of Commissioners. My priority is to always protect taxpayers and make sure we live within our means while delivering great schools, a safe community, and quality services to maintain our high quality of life. I am proud to have held the line on taxes and to have saved taxpayers millions of dollars with our strong AAA bond rating and by ending privatization that cost taxpayers more.

Thanks to all the citizens who have weighed in on the budget through the public process. We had a full house in Winchester Hall for my public hearing in March, with advocacy for education, senior services, libraries, and parks. For the second year, I conducted an online survey for the public to share their budget priorities. As I write this, we have already received more than 4,000 responses! As usual, education and public safety top the list of priorities.

Livable Frederick

For more than two years, Iíve written about Livable Frederick in this column. Livable Frederick is a new, innovative approach to updating the countyís comprehensive planning. The county first adopted a comprehensive plan in 1959 and has updated it six times since, about once every 10 years. Each time, new trends and demographics, the use of new information and technology, and citizen input informed the plan.

The community vision reflected in Livable Frederick is your vision. Over 2,000 people participated in an online survey, citizens participated in focus groups, and over 15,000 unique individual comments were incorporated to develop a shared community vision. The bottom line is simple. People want a great place to live with good schools, safe communities, housing choices, a healthy environment and local jobs to reduce the need to commute elsewhere. Over and over, we hear from citizens that they want to protect our historic and cultural amenities and our agricultural heritage. This is our shared community vision.

So, how do we get there? Livable Frederick provides a framework to ensure livability. For the first time ever, we were able to utilize computer modeling to look at how our choices today might impact our future. We evaluated transportation impacts more comprehensively than ever before. Through good planning we can improve existing congestion and prevent it in the future.

The plan does not address zoning or change zoning maps. Instead of being a zoning-driven plan like many of the plans of the past, this plan considers all the elements that work together to deliver a high quality of life. As demographics change, both with a growing population of seniors and different preferences of our younger generation for how to live and work, this plan integrates housing choices, transportation, jobs and economy, and community needs. Ensuring a diversity of local jobs and a strong economy is important to livability, reducing traffic congestion, health and a high quality of life.

You can read the Livable Frederick Plan at www.livablefrederick.org. It is a very readable and includes lots of great facts and information about our county. Feedback from the Maryland Department of Planning has been glowing with state officials indicating that some aspects of the plan will serve as a model for other jurisdictions across the state! Again, we can be proud to lead the way!

Bridge update

A number of people have asked why they havenít seen crews working on the Old Frederick Road Bridge over Fishing Creek. When the steel beams that support the bridge were uncovered, engineers discovered that the beams had been damaged and were deteriorated. The steel beams had to be removed and sent out for repair. Crews expect the beams to be ready to put back in place this month so construction activity will resume soon. We expect the bridge to be completed and open to traffic in early June.

If you have questions about this or any other County issue, you can always reach out to me at JGardner@FrederickCountyMD.gov. Enjoy a wonderful spring!

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