Discussion of a proposed disparity study for the city of Frederick dominated most of Wednesday’s mayor and Board of Aldermen workshop at City Hall.
The purpose of the study will be to determine whether a statistically significant disparity exists between the percentage of available, qualified minority businesses that do business in the city of Frederick and the percentage of dollars spent with such firms by the city.
The study comes after the Disadvantaged Business Enterprises review panel recommended strengthening its policies related to businesses that qualify as such in Frederick. As a result, a disparity study will be necessary for the city to meet legal requirements set forth by the courts.
Speaking at the workshop was Michele Clark Jenkins, who represented Griffin and Strong, a public policy consultant firm based in Atlanta. Among the things she explained to board members in her presentation was the reason why such studies are required, which she said is a creation of the courts.
“The Supreme Court said you can’t just put into place a race or gender program,” she said before listing verdicts from other courts. “Unless there’s a compelling state interest, you cannot have a program based on race or gender consciousness while spending public dollars without a factual predicate.”
As Jenkins’ presentation wrapped up, there was a short discussion of where the county stands relative to the proposed study. Katie Nash, co-chair of the review panel, and speaking on behalf of the group, noted that they had asked county leaders to participate in the study with them, though the county declined.
Katie Barkdoll, the city’s director of budget and purchasing, added that she was also told the mayor tried to revisit the proposal with the county after the initial decision, and the county declined again.
“I don’t think it would be of benefit for the city to wait to do this study,” Barkdoll said. “What the county could do is piggyback on the contract and do the work simultaneously, but at this point, we would prefer to not stop the city process.”
The study would occur over the course of about a year. As for how much it will cost the city, it budgeted $100,000 for it in fiscal 2020 and will request an additional $138,000 in the fiscal 2021 budget for the remainder of the contract amount. Before the study can get underway, the contract must be approved by the Board of Aldermen, which, if all goes according to plan, will most likely see it appear as an agenda item at a public hearing in February.
Catoctin View Homes plan moves toward voteAlso at Wednesday’s workshop, the board discussed the proposed payment in lieu of taxes agreement, otherwise known as the PILOT agreement, between the city, county and Catoctin View Homes, which is heading up a housing development at 800 Motter Ave. The project is aimed at providing housing for seniors whose income is at or below 60 percent of the area median income.
Should the PILOT agreement receive approval from the board at its Feb. 6 meeting, the city will credit $24,187 to the property taxes due for the property. The county, meanwhile, will vote on it Feb. 4, and if it passes, will add $31,200 to the credit for a combined $55,387 toward the Catoctin View project.
“This is a great project, and we are all ready to help you move forward with it,” Alderwoman Kelly Russell said.
“It’s wonderful to have such support for the project,” added Angie Liddiard, director of economic development for the Housing Authority of the city of Frederick. “We need more senior housing like this.”
Finally, the board briefly acknowledged the schedule for public hearings on its fiscal 2021 proposed budget. The hearings, to be held in the City Hall Boardroom, are slated for March 30, April 8, 14, 22 and 27, and May 5, 13 and 19 and 21 if needed. As of Wednesday, all were set to begin at 7 p.m. with the exception of May 13 meeting, which is to start at 3 p.m.