Frederick County gets a reputation for mean

Lovely vistas, destination dining and a hard line on undocumented workers
Baltimore Sun
Dan Rodricks
08/14/2013
A smart, progressive event gets under way in Frederick County in about a week — a farm-to-fork promotion in 13 restaurants there. Starting Aug. 23, the participating establishments will offer home-grown food and wine; they'll buy enough products from county farmers and vintners to make their menus 60 percent local. That's an oh-so-trendy concept and at the same time old-fashioned, a throwback to the days when chefs bought their meats and produce out the back door. Farm-to-Fork Frederick gets chefs acquainted with local farmers, and it challenges locavores to put their money where their mouths have been — demanding regionalization of the food supply. So people who want to see more local (and organic) produce, fish and meats on the menus of their favorite restaurants ought to get out to Frederick between Aug. 23 and Labor Day to support the effort. That is, of course, unless you have a problem with Frederick County — or, to be more exact, with the people who run Frederick County, the Board of County Commissioners and the sheriff. The president of the commissioners, Blaine Young, has boasted that Frederick is the Maryland county "most unfriendly to illegal aliens."

Raining on the 'rain tax'

08/01/2013
According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland’s so-called “rain tax” is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay. MPPI’s John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, “Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax.” The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters’ report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it’s all going so far: “It’s really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up.”

Raining on the ‘rain tax’

08/01/2013
According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland’s so-called “rain tax” is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay. MPPI’s John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, “Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax.” The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters’ report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it’s all going so far: “It’s really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up.”

City, county officials back regional transportation plan

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/31/2013
Residents should speak up for easier commutes and road and bridge repairs, according to Frederick city and county leaders. At a joint news conference Tuesday, Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith and city Alderwoman Carol Krimm praised a drafted transportation priorities plan that is under development by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Almost all major transportation projects need the council's blessing, so it's important to make sure the group's long-range plans reflect Frederick's needs, said Smith and Krimm. The Frederick area has significant infrastructure issues, the officials said. "We are actually behind the curve," Smith said.

Local heritage tourism projects get $360K in grants

Frederick News Post
Ike Wilson
07/16/2013
Projects, programs, sites and organizations in portions of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage area in Frederick, Washington and Carroll counties became $360,415 richer last week as the result of grants from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. The grants support heritage tourism projects and activities that expand economic development and tourism-related job creation throughout the state, according to a statement from the Heritage Areas Authority. The agency oversees Maryland’s 12 locally administered, state-certified heritage areas. Among the local grants are $75,000 to Middletown to buy the old Memorial Hall for preservation and $30,415 for revitalization of the Emmitsburg square. Monocacy National Battlefield also gets $15,000 for programming and exhibits for the battlefield’s 150th anniversary in July 2014.

Smith’s simplistic commentary

Frederick News Post
Jack Lynch
07/08/2013
Recent commentary by Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith exposes the simplistic political logic of the current Board of County Commissioners and of the statewide Chesapeake Coalition. At its base, it rejects firm science and portrays the problem as an out-of-state boogeyman to deflect attention from our real-life issues and responsibility for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. The citizens of Frederick County, and of Maryland, deserve better from our local elected leaders. As one dedicated over many years towards the careful practice of environmental stewardship and water quality while respecting history and economics and sustainability, I demand better deliberation, thought and action in these responsibilities from us all.

Smith's simplistic commentary

Frederick News Post
Jack Lynch
07/08/2013
Recent commentary by Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith exposes the simplistic political logic of the current Board of County Commissioners and of the statewide Chesapeake Coalition. At its base, it rejects firm science and portrays the problem as an out-of-state boogeyman to deflect attention from our real-life issues and responsibility for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. The citizens of Frederick County, and of Maryland, deserve better from our local elected leaders. As one dedicated over many years towards the careful practice of environmental stewardship and water quality while respecting history and economics and sustainability, I demand better deliberation, thought and action in these responsibilities from us all.

Frederick County schools rank first in Maryland achievement report

Frederick News Post
Rachel S. Karas
07/02/2013
Frederick County Public Schools scored the highest of any Maryland school district in a state report analyzing educational success. The 2012 Maryland Report Card school progress index released last month gave Frederick County a rating of 1.0558 for its academic achievement, growth, college and career readiness, and reduction of the gap between its highest- and lowest-performing students. A score of 1 or higher means a school district met the index's standards for achievement, according to the index's website. Maryland Report Card data is compiled annually by the state's Department of Education to compare the two most recent calendar years of standardized test results. This is the first year the report has included a school progress index. Stephen Hess, the county's former director of research, development and accountability, said the standing is not something to be taken lightly. Success comes from the hard work of teachers, parents and students and a countywide dedication to progress, he said.

Carroll preparing to pay $3 million penalty fee to avoid building incinerator

Carroll County Times
Christian Alexandersen
06/28/2013
While the Carroll County Board of Commissioners still hopes to avoid building a proposed waste-to-energy incinerator project with Frederick County, it has begun preparing itself to pay a $3 million penalty fee. The board voted 3-1, with Commissioner Doug Howard abstaining, to set aside $3 million to pay the penalty fee that would be needed only if Frederick cannot find a replacement for Carroll’s 40 percent partnership in the incinerator. The $3 million penalty would come from the county’s Fiscal Year 2013 reserve for contingencies fund.

Carroll commissioners to discuss waste-to-energy, stormwater management fee

Carroll County Times
Christian Alexandersen
06/23/2013
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to discuss and possibly make a decision on the waste-to-energy proposal Thursday. In June 2012, the board sent a letter to its Frederick County counterparts suggesting each party go their own way when it comes to plans for a waste-to-energy incinerator. In August, Frederick County sent a letter back stating that Carroll may seek alternatives while it looks for substitute equity partners to replace Carroll in the contract between the two counties. Frederick County has yet to find a partner to replace Carroll.

Wasted food

Frederick News Post
06/21/2013
Recycling has become a cornerstone of our lives here in Frederick County. The blue bins that line the streets once every two weeks in front of our homes have become a familiar sight. We’ve come a long way from the 1991 pilot program for 4,000 households that launched recycling in the county. But an article in The New York Times recently made us wonder if we couldn’t go a little bit beyond the plastic bottles, aluminum foil, paper and cardboard that make up most of what we throw in our recycling carts. The Times article reported that following a highly successful pilot program, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will roll out a plan to allow all city residents to recycle food scraps. Residents will be issued containers into which they dump their food waste, and the program, while initially voluntary, is expected to become mandatory. According to the Times, food waste and organic materials account for about a third of the city’s trash. If diverted from the three landfills to which waste is trucked at the cost of $80 a ton, the city could save $100 million a year. Initially, the program will handle 100,000 tons of food scraps that will be sent to a hired composting plant. The program is expected to be so successful, the administration will seek proposals to build its own processing plant to transform the waste into biogas, which would be burned to generate electricity, according to the Times. If you’re thinking New York is a long way from Frederick County, you’re correct. But a similar program is in place closer to home in Howard County, which is set to expand a food-waste recycling pilot program initiated more than a year ago.

Stream study yields important information

Frederick News Post
06/20/2013
rederick County recently released the findings of an important study on the health and vitality of its many streams. The survey provides detailed information on the water quality, physical condition and biological activity in the county’s smaller waterways. Two hundred specific sites were sampled for the study. While the news is somewhat mixed, there is plenty of cause for concern. More than half of the county’s stream miles had banks that were either moderately or severely eroded. Nearly 20 percent had badly degraded habitats where aquatic creatures should be found in abundance; 11 of 20 watershed areas in the study received a poor rating for insect life, an important indicator of stream health. As could have been predicted, streams in agricultural areas or in proximity to development fared worse than those more removed from human activity. It’s no secret that runoff from farming and development contribute to stream pollution, sediment buildup and bank erosion.

Water study finds many county streams in poor health

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/18/2013
The majority of Frederick County’s watershed areas are suffering from, poor biological health and moderate to severe bank erosion, according, to a sweeping water quality report released Monday. Human activities such as farming and development are largely, responsible for the wide-ranging symptoms of damaged waterways, detailed in the four-year assessment, said Shannon Moore, who manages, the county’s office of sustainability and environmental resources. The, study commissioned by the county is the first of its kind and takes, stock of bug populations, the amount of food and shelter available for, stream life, erosion, and water pollutants. Moore said the county aims to develop these evaluations every four, years and will use the first report as a baseline against which to, compare future data.

Wrong on waste-to-energy details

Frederick News Post
Caroliine Eader
06/16/2013
Harvey Alter continues to make it clear he’s not read any of the contracts pertaining to the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority’s proposed trash incinerator, which is to be located in Frederick (“Halloween Garbage”, May 12). And because of his lack of understanding he continues to write fiction. For example, it is not completely true when he writes the incinerator’s costs are to be covered by the tipping fee charged at the landfill. The tipping fees will be whatever the market can bear, and most likely the majority of the costs will be covered by the System Benefit Charge (SBC), which is a mandatory fee found on each and every property tax bill in the county.

Boom in multifamily housing moving to Frederick

But is there a bust on the way?
Gazette
Sonny Goldreich
06/07/2013
Multifamily vacancy rates in Frederick County stand at about 2.3 percent today, falling by more than half since the 4.9-percent rate in 2010, he noted in a blog posted last week. During the same period, apartment rental rates in the county have increased almost 6 percent since 2010. There are 6,061 units currently in the county pipeline, with 4,069 units in the city of Frederick alone. This is a slow-moving construction boom that could take until 2030 to be completed, but developers see value in building apartments that they don’t see in other sectors of commercial real estate, Mackintosh said

County board approves $516.3M operating budget

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/07/2013
Four Frederick County commissioners voted to pass the operating budget for fiscal 2014, which will begin July 1. The new budget is roughly $45 million larger than last year's, primarily because it includes about $40 million in emergency services costs that previously were in a separate fund.

County needs 'rain tax' Plan B

Frederick News Post
06/07/2013
In any case, this is not the end of the debate. Lawmakers failed at the end of this year’s session to modify the tax and said it’ll be back in 2014. But don’t expect it to be friendlier to taxpayers on the whole — delegates and senators don’t seem as worried about individual constituents as they do about large businesses and nonprofits (e.g., churches). While the state has largely left it up to each jurisdiction to craft the fee structure as they see fit, there’s nothing to prevent state lawmakers from imposing this tax on the county, especially if egged on by the environmental lobby, which has the state’s Democratic majority by the, ahem, ear.The commissioners have set us up for a David vs. Goliath showdown, only it’s less likely we’ll get off that one, lucky shot. Trusting the Maryland General Assembly for a solution is a bad gamble.

County needs ‘rain tax’ Plan B

Frederick News Post
06/07/2013
In any case, this is not the end of the debate. Lawmakers failed at the end of this year’s session to modify the tax and said it’ll be back in 2014. But don’t expect it to be friendlier to taxpayers on the whole — delegates and senators don’t seem as worried about individual constituents as they do about large businesses and nonprofits (e.g., churches). While the state has largely left it up to each jurisdiction to craft the fee structure as they see fit, there’s nothing to prevent state lawmakers from imposing this tax on the county, especially if egged on by the environmental lobby, which has the state’s Democratic majority by the, ahem, ear.The commissioners have set us up for a David vs. Goliath showdown, only it’s less likely we’ll get off that one, lucky shot. Trusting the Maryland General Assembly for a solution is a bad gamble.

Md. reports on county growth law compliance

The Daily Record
Associated Press
02/04/2013
Land development maps adopted by Frederick and Cecil counties have “largely ignored” a state law designed to limit septic system growth to fight pollution, according to a state report. But the law does not allow the state to mandate changes to the plans. The Maryland Department of Planning said in the report, released Friday, that the two counties have failed to designate much land that wouldn’t allow major residential subdivisions that rely on septic systems. “This approach essentially neutralizes the impact of the law,” the report concluded. “This will allow many more major subdivisions on septic and result in significant land consumption and water pollution impacts.” The law passed last year by the General Assembly creates a four-tiered system limiting where residential subdivisions on septic systems can be built. Officials in Frederick and Cecil counties have decried the law as overreaching.

Waste to energy: the story so far

Frederick News Post
01/31/2013
May 2000 — Frederick County hires consultants to evaluate landfill capacity problems. February 2006 — County commissioners begin procurement process for waste-to-energy incinerator. March 2007 — County Commissioner David Gray and Michael Marschner, director of the county's Utilities and Solid Waste Management Division, visit seven European countries to investigate waste-to-energy technology. April 2008 — Carroll and Frederick county commissioners discuss partnership on incinerator to burn 1,500 tons of trash per day to generate electricity. February 2009 — More than 200 people attend public hearings on incinerator, the majority in opposition. April 2009 — A state Senate committee rejects a bill that would prohibit incinerators near battlefields. July 2009 — Frederick and Carroll counties agree to build a regional trash incinerator at the McKinney Industrial site near Buckeystown Pike. October 2009 — Frederick County Planning Commission determines the waste-to-energy plant is not consistent with the county's comprehensive plan. November 2009 — County commissioners appeal planning commission’s decision in Frederick County Circuit Court. Planning commission reverses its earlier decision on the county's plans to build a trash incinerator. December 2009 — Residents challenge the planning commission's reversal on a ruling that could have blocked construction. August 2010 — Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority has first permitting hearing for air emissions. November 2010 — A study states the incinerator will cost Frederick County $140.7 million over the next 30 years, significantly less than an initial estimate of $331 million. October 2011 — An environmental group study reports that waste-to-energy incinerators release lead and mercury at a greater rate than some coal-fired plants. November 2011 — More than 100 residents turn out for the county's final public hearing on the waste-to-energy project. June 2012 — After making it known for months that they are pursuing other options, Carroll County officials give Frederick County the green light to pursue new partners for the incinerator. August 2012 — Only about a third of those who sign up to speak have their voices heard at a two-hour Maryland Department of the Environment public hearing on a water permit for the incinerator. September 2012 — With uncertainty about Carroll County's partnership and no firm commitment from a replacement county, Frederick asks Wheelabrator Technologies to calculate the cost of building a plant to burn only Frederick County's trash. January 2013 — Maryland Department of the Environment schedules a single hearing for the final three permits needed before construction of the incinerator can begin.