Again, we have a full agenda for the Council meeting tonight. There are a number of issues coming up that raise a lot of discussion and some controversy, so please let me know if you have any questions or comments on these. Thanks!
First, we have a couple of public hearings scheduled:
1. HEARING ON A CHARTER RESOLUTION AMENDING ARTICLE VII, “POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL,” SECTION C7-6, “CONDEMNATION,” TO ELIMINATE A REFERENCE TO A STATE CODE PROVISION THAT NO LONGER APPLIES. This is a proposed technical amendment to the City Charter provisions regarding condemnation of property. The Charter currently refers to Article 21 of the State Code to indicate the applicable State laws, but the State law has been amended and the laws regarding condemnation are in Title 12 of the Real Property Article of the Code. Because the Charter does not need to reference the state law for it to apply, this proposed amendment would simply eliminate this reference. (PUBLIC HEARING STARTS AT 7:15)
2. HEARING ON A PETITION REQUEST TO WITHDRAW PERMIT PARKING IN THE 8100 BLOCK OF 54TH AVENUE. The Washington Brazilian Seventh Day Adventist Church, located at 8108 54th Ave. has requested to remove permit parking from this block. The church has a large parking lot and initially thought the permit parking, when it was instituted in September 2007, would be okay. The church now has some special events, and has a larger turnout at its Saturday services than it had originally predicted. The congregation has found that the permit parking prevents the overflow parking that congregation members occasionally need. The church wrote in their petition that there are no households in the permit parking area. I sympathize with the church, but I want to get a better sense of how this would impact the residents who live around the church, so I hope we hear from the residents at the public hearing. (PUBLIC HEARING STARTS AT 7:30)
1. PROCLAMATION IN SUPPORT OF THE 2010 CENSUS. It is important for the City and for each of our neighborhoods that everyone is counted in the upcoming census. You all will be hearing much more about this, including ways to get involved in making sure that College Park, and north College Park in particular, get an accurate count.
2. REQUEST FOR A DRIVEWAY APRON VARIANCE AT 5200 PADUCAH ROAD. This came before the Council last month. If approved, the City would allow the applicant to expand her driveway apron to allow for enough room for two cars to come in and out. The Council had placed it on the consent agenda until a neighbor came to the meeting to discuss some concerns she had about the proposed variance. Because the applicant was not at the meeting where the neighbor expressed her concern, we asked to postpone consideration of the variance to the first meeting in February, to allow the applicant to come to the next meeting and address the concerns. That meeting was changed due to the snow, so now this is up before us again.
3. AWARD OF CONTRACT TO AVRIO GROUP SURVEILLANCE SOLUTIONS, LLC, IN AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED $500,000 FOR THE CLOSED CIRCUIT TV SYSTEM AND LICENSE PLATE READERS. As I noted last week, the City applied for a $2 million grant to fund a city-wide network of closed-circuit security cameras in high-crime areas and license-plate reader cameras to detect stolen vehicles and possible criminals who drive through before or after a crime takes place. Unfortunately, we received only $500,000 from that grant application, so we have to start much smaller than we had hoped. Last week, we reviewed a proposal from Avrio, who currently provides security cameras in Hyattsville, DC, and a number of other places in the area and around the country. Hyattsville had conducted a full search process for a contractor and determined that Avrio was the best. Avrio has an impressive record. I had some concerns last week about whether starting in a concentrated area in downtown College Park would set us up to move up to north College Park in the future, and our discussion last week helped resolve those concerns. Avrio has been talking with the University of Maryland police to find the best locations downtown for these cameras, and we would be able to expand the network northward if we get more funding for additional cameras up north. It may take a number of years and more grants to get us there. Unfortunately, there is no way, with the funding that we have, that we could get a network up to north College Park. I still have some concerns about how much this will cost the City of College Park above and beyond the grant, which is only paying to purchase the cameras and set up the network, and for maintenance for the first year. After the first year, it will cost the City about $25,000 per year to maintain the cameras. I also want to make sure that the contractor incorporates input not just from the U-MD police, but also from the Prince George’s County police, so that it is useful to them when we start installing cameras outside of the area where the U-MD police have jurisdiction.
That said, the grant has provided us a great opportunity, and if we don’t move forward on this, we’ll forfeit the money. So I feel it’s best to move ahead with this now. I will continue to encourage the City staff to work on this in the future to make sure that we get the closed-circuit cameras and license-plate readers up in north College Park, and so that they can be used to fight crime around the whole city, and not just in downtown.
4. CHARTER RESOLUTION AMENDING THE CHARTER PROVISION ON “CONDEMNATION” TO ELIMINATE A REFERENCE TO A STATE CODE PROVISION THAT NO LONGER APPLIES – see above for a description of this item.
5. AWARD OF CONTRACT FOR DESIGN/BUILD SERVICES FOR A SKATEBOARD PARK IN SUNNYSIDE NEIGHBORHOOD PARK TO GRINDLINE SKATEPARKS, INC., IN AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED $250,000. The city has received a grant from Prince George’s County to construct a skateboard park in Sunnyside Neighborhood Park. The City appointed a design committee to do an RFP to find a contractor to design and build a park. Out of the six contractors, the committee selected Grindline Skateparks. After reading Grindline’s proposal, it’s easy to see why – Grindline has significant experience building skateparks around the country, has a record of being able to work around challenging situations, and has an experienced team of designers and project managers. Grindline has had specific experience constructing above-ground skateparks, and due to the number of trees in Sunnyside Park, that is the best option for building a skatepark there. The skatepark will be completed in October, and the local design committee will continue to be involved in throughout the design and construction.
6. AUTHORIZATION FOR THE CITY MANAGER TO PURSUE THE INSTALLATION OF SPEED CAMERAS IN COLLEGE PARK. As I mentioned last week, the City staff has been meeting with Optotraffic, a contractor specializing in installation of speed cameras, to find out whether we can install speed cameras in the City, and where would be best to install them. Optotraffic has selected a number of areas with serious speeding problems – including Rhode Island Ave in north College Park, Greenbelt Road near Rhode Island Avenue, and Paint Branch Parkway near the trolley trail – where it would be willing to install speed cameras. The city would not have to pay anything for these cameras – Optotraffic would receive money only from the revenue obtained through tickets. This resolution would authorize the City Manager to pursue this further. I know that speed cameras can be controversial, and I am interested in hearing what residents have to say about them, but I believe this could be a useful way to help resolve the ongoing speeding problems on Rhode Island Avenue, and improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers. The problem became clear again this summer when, unfortunately, a speeder drove into oncoming traffic to pass another car, swerved to avoid an oncoming car, flipped his car over and died. Although nothing can prevent these incidents altogether, many studies have shown that, at least in some areas, speed cameras are effective in reducing traffic.
7. INTRODUCTION OF ORDINANCE 10-O-01, AMENDING CHAPTER 184, “VEHICLES AND TRAFFIC,” BY ADDING ARTICLE VIII, “SPEED MONITORING SYSTEMS,” SECTION 184-45, “SPEED MONITORING SYSTEM IN SCHOOL ZONES.” In order to use speed cameras in College Park, we would first have to pass an ordinance regulating their use. This ordinance is just up for introduction at this point, and will be set for a public hearing. The proposed ordinance follows the restrictions of state law – the cameras can only be set up within a quarter-mile of a school, and the City must provide notice and have a public hearing before setting up the speed cameras. The revenues from the speed cameras can only be used for the speed camera program itself and for traffic and pedestrian safety projects, and the City can only keep an amount up to 10% of our total budget. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about the speed camera proposal – I will let you know when this ordinance is before the City Council for a public hearing.
8. APPROVAL OF REQUEST BY COLLEGE PARK WOODS SWIMMING CLUB TO WAIVE THE BALANCE OF THE 30-DAY NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENT PRIOR TO ASSUMING AN OBLIGATION PER THE AGREEMENT AND CONDITIONAL GRANT DATED 11/28/05. As I noted in my e-mail last week, the College Park Woods Swimming Club (CPWSC) is is looking to enter into an agreement with Lighthouse Pool Management, in which Lighthouse would manage the swimming pool in an effort to increase the number of members. The City gave a grant in 2005 to the pool to keep it in operation, and as part of the terms of that grant, the pool has to notify the City and give us 30 days to object before CPWSC enters into any loan agreement that would put the pool as collateral. They have to do this, because if they sell the property, the City has a right to get the grant money back. Unfortunately, no representative of CPWSC was present last week to answer the many questions that the Council had. Today, we received a copy of the draft agreement between Lighthouse and CPWSC, which states that CPWSC will pay Lighthouse an annual fee of $72,000 per year. In exchange, Lighthouse will manage and staff the pool, including checking memberships and acting as a lifeguard. If CPWSC does not get enough revenue to pay the $72,000, the outstanding balance will count as a loan, that the CPWSC will have to pay back over time at a 4% interest rate. The City will have to make sure that its rights to the property are protected – that we have first dibs if the property is sold over any other debtor. If that can be assured, I see no problem with agreeing to this.
9. APPROVAL OF A LETTER IN SUPPORT OF SB 598, PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANIES – UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK BUS SERVICE – MOTOR CARRIER PERMIT EXEMPTION – REMOVAL OF SUNSET. For the past two years, College Park residents have been able to get a pass to use the University of Maryland shuttle for free. We are able to do this, because the state legislature passed a bill a couple of years ago that removed the requirement that the Shuttle have a motor carrier permit, which limited the use of the shuttle to students. The bill that was passed had a sunset clause, which meant that the ability of residents to ride the shuttle would end in 2011. Our state legislative delegation introduced a bill this year to remove that sunset clause. The city is considering a letter in support of this bill.
10. APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS.
Please let me know if you have any questions!