ANNAPOLIS — Room 170 of the Lowe House Office Building was bustling with activity Tuesday morning and early afternoon.
Frederick County and city of Frederick officials mingled with members of the Frederick County delegation. House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) stopped in briefly at one point. House Minority Leader Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) strolled in shortly after, as did Kelly Schulz, the state’s secretary of commerce, and numerous others.
They were all attending Frederick Day 2020, a first-time partnership between the city of Frederick and Frederick County to showcase the successes of both the county and city, along with highlighting capital projects that could use state assistance.
One of the attendees was David Brinkley, Maryland’s secretary of budget and management. He said Tuesday’s event is important in establishing personal relationships between county and city officials and those throughout the state.
“It’s more about rubbing elbows, being able to put faces with names,” said Brinkley, a former state senator. “Because we see all that in letters and correspondence and everything else that goes on, but this is something I know the Legislature looks forward to.”
Outside of the relationships and networking, there was business to be done. One of the projects highlighted was the Lake Linganore dredging project, for which officials are asking for up to $6 million so they can remove roughly 56,000 more cubic yards of sediment to improve water quality, as the lake is a primary source of drinking water for the city of Frederick.
Mike Marschner, a deputy chief administrative officer with the county, said mobilization costs of the equipment, the overall cost of dredging and the lengthy permitting process are all reasons to try to prolong the length of the project.
“It’s not clear to me that if we don’t maximize our withdrawal at this point, how much we’ll be able to take out long-term,” Marschner said. “Because it took so long for the project to be developed, to get the funding in place ... this may be the most opportune time to get this material out.”
There are also improvements to the public safety training facility, near the county landfill. Both the county’s Division of Fire and Rescue Services and Emergency Communications Department use parts of the site to train prospective firefighters and 911 call-takers.
Gov. Larry Hogan has included $1.5 million in his capital budget for those improvements, The Frederick News-Post previously reported. Jack Markey, director of the county’s Division of Emergency Management, said the main need is more room, specifically classroom space for training.
He said that more staff is needed as the county continues to grow, especially because of economic development. Still, Frederick County and counties that are not growing as quickly face similar challenges, Markey said.
“Some of the other less fortunate communities, maybe they’re not growing as fast, but they still have the same challenges of providing services to their citizens, modernizing 911 and all not,” Markey said. “They might not have all of the resources, but still have many of the same challenges.”
One project directly tied to the city of Frederick that will likely need state money is a new police headquarters. Frederick Police Chief Ed Hargis said his department operates in 25,000 square feet in space next to the county courthouse. There are logistical issues with moving evidence and communication between staff, among other areas, he said.
Hargis added a space needs assessment showed the department needs 45,000 square feet now, and in 20 to 30 years, 50,000 to 60,000 square feet of space. Finding the right home for the next police headquarters — estimated to cost $18 million to $24 million — is an important task for incoming interim Police Chief Patrick Grossman, he said.
It will be a headquarters that needs to be effective for a long time, Hargis said.
“There’s always things popping up crime-wise, administrative-wise, but this is the biggest long-term project,” he said. “Because it’s such a big investment for the city, we’re doing this for ... 30, 40, 50 years out from now, so we want to get it right the first time.”
Outside of those capital projects, it’s important to showcase the strengths of Frederick County and the city of Frederick, officials said.
Del. Michael Griffith (R-Cecil and Harford) noted a similarity between his district and those in Frederick County: agriculture.
“In this state, a lot of attention goes to the urban and suburban areas,” Griffith said. “And we want to make sure the folks that grow our food, take care of the land, and protect our bay, whether it’s the farmers or the watermen, that we’re not forgetting about them.”
Still, Brinkley believes Frederick County is in a good position compared with other rural parts of the state, in part because of ancillary benefits from a nearby county.
“I joked when I was in the Legislature down here that Frederick [County] had a lot of crumbs drop off the table from Montgomery County, but you know, that’s a good problem to have,” Brinkley said. “We’re in a great position.”
Ultimately, outside of all the catered food and friendly conversation, Tuesday was about getting things done.
County Executive Jan Gardner (D) said it’s important to highlight all the capital projects the city and county have in the pipeline, along with sharing information and building relationships with other local and state officials.
“I think it’s important to introduce people to these projects because when they see them come through the budget process, they are familiar with them,” Gardner said.
Del. Jesse Pippy (R-Frederick and Carroll), chair of the Frederick County delegation, said every meeting in Annapolis has a purpose.
“There’s always business to do in Annapolis,” Pippy said. “When we would go to have a reception, there’s usually an ask, so to speak, at the end of those receptions. So I don’t suppose it’s any different here. There are a lot of projects throughout Frederick County.”