Frederick’s aldermen have questions about some of Mayor Michael O’Connor’s plans for spending the city’s allocation of money from the American Rescue Plan Act for COVID-19 relief.

O’Connor submitted a 13-point proposal for the city’s $10.6 million in relief funds last week for the aldermen to consider, covering areas of public health, negative economic impacts, service to disproportionately impacted communities, and water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.

The aldermen offered feedback at a workshop Wednesday.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak questioned how some of the projects applied to COVID relief, such as a $250,000 proposal for an expansion of the Frederick Police Department’s crisis car program, which provides a vehicle that combines law enforcement, medical, and mental health assistance to respond to situations with people in crisis that may require a clinical rather than law enforcement approach.

The projects don’t have to be specifically related to COVID, and the crisis car provides a focus on public safety and more effective community policing, Chief Administrative Officer Marc DeOcampo said.

The relief funds may let them run the car more often and ramp the project up faster, O’Connor said.

Kuzemchak also questioned plans to fund design of a 24-hour restroom facility along Carroll Creek, and whether the mayor’s office has looked into retrofitting the restrooms in several of the city’s parking garages instead.

That project isn’t funded through the city’s capital improvement plan budget, and the relief funds offer a chance to make some headway on the design, DeOcampo said. The size and structure of the parking garage restrooms make them unlikely to be able to be retrofit, he said.

“What’s giving me heartburn is, I don’t have a clue about what you’re wanting to do with this,” Kuzemchak said.

Alderman Ben MacShane complained that DeOcampo was being unnecessarily vague in his presentation — and leaving a lot of questions for the aldermen and residents.

In some cases, they have specific plans in mind, but in others they need to know if there’s a general desire from the aldermen to pursue something before they move forward, O’Connor said.

A proposal to spend $150,000 on business recovery counseling for small, minority or women-owned businesses also drew criticism from several aldermen.

MacShane said he’d rather see the money put toward direct investment and grants for such businesses rather than simply offering counseling.

That proposal is still in the formative stage, and the city’s economic development department hasn’t created a specific plan, O’Connor said.

Alderman Derek Shackelford called the plan condescending, and said it suggested that Economic Development doesn’t have a grasp of what’s going on with the issue.

He agreed with MacShane that he’d like to see access to capital and other resources available rather than counseling.

Shackelford said that he was happy to see a proposal for stormwater management resiliency projects at several spots around the city included in the proposals.

O’Conn or said that they could have easily justified putting the entire $10.6 million into stormwater and sewer projects, but they wanted to spread the money around to as many areas as possible.

He acknowledged the proposals wouldn’t please everyone, and welcomed the aldermen’s feedback.

“It’s not perfect. This was me working with my staff,” he said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter:

@RMarshallFNP

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(11) comments

Guy T. Ashton

Since the mayor is in an “anything goes” mode, how about just one round of bulk trash collection? I’m sure some creative mind could tie it to COVID.

Dwasserba

“That proposal is still in the formative stage…” exactly. “Balk” is overstating when opening a discussion is intended.

AOC

"The size and structure of the parking garage restrooms make them unlikely to be able to be retrofit, he said."

That is the biggest BS answer of year!

The parking decks are not that old:

2 S COURT ST 1984

42 E PATRICK ST 1992

125 E All Saints 2010

140 W. Patrick St 2005

All parking decks along Carroll Creek have ADA Compliant restrooms and are locked. What don't have are showers!

Stay on em Donna.

After FNP's editorial the other day where they called the Mayor and the Aldermen a bunch of Junior high school teenagers I will forever picture them that way. So no......to everything O'Connor is suggesting.

Me personally I want mature emotionally intelligent adults running the city and spending my tax dollars the two choices for Mayor aren't emotionally intelligent adults....so I am writing in Jennifer Dougherty.

Dwasserba

I still can’t believe they labeled junior high kids as “teenagers” (redundant) let alone, oh, really, it’s sticking? What a relief that the all middle-aged junior high students are not similarly referenced

matthewboh

We need a new mayor. Write in Jennifer Dougherty

Greg F

COVID funds should not be used on bathrooms. That said, bathrooms downtown are needed. The issue is keeping them free from all the homeless that hang constantly all over doorsteps and along the creek up and down the street. There are some that retract and self-clean after every use in some cities that make it impossible to stay in them after use...that should be considered.

MD1756

Although I support efforts to protect the environment, Covid-19 funds shouldn't be used on stormwater and sewer projects either. Those needs are the result of over develoment and water/sewer and stormwater rates not being set high enough to properly maintain existing infrastructure. That is a long term funding issue that needs to be addressed. For its water infrastructure, Frederick should be working with EPA and the Environmental Finance Centers see: https://www.epa.gov/waterfinancecenter/financial-technical-assistance-and-tools-water-infrastructure and see: https://www.epa.gov/waterfinancecenter/efcn and specifically see: https://arch.umd.edu/research-creative-practice/centers/environmental-finance-center

Guy T. Ashton

What if they space urinals 6 feet apart?

niceund

Bravo Aldermen. Time to restrain this mayor from wasting hard earned citizens funds (yes, covid funds come from citizens) on pet projects. I'm wondering if he is going to keep those new bathrooms clean and free of dirt, drugs and crime. Covid money should be used for Covid related hardships not frivolously spent.

jamesnee

Since I visit Frederick City regularly but live some distance away, I certainly believe several restroom facilities are in order. I suggest at least three obvious, decent, clean, usable facilities along the creek project: consider the creek project as Frederick's boardwalk. I also believe similar facilities are in order at both ends of the new County facility planned on Oak Ave. Currently a person such as myself must depend on a grocery store, a certain gas station, or a scant few other random and chance opportunities. In these times one does not just drop in on family or friends to use facilities. Short term parking should also be considered near the suggested facilities. In short, I suggest considering the whole city an event complex.

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