Days before early voting begins for the primary election, Frederick County Council at-large candidates participated in a forum Tuesday evening.
The forum, held at Unity in Frederick, featured all nine candidates vying for two seats to represent the entire county on the council. Candidates received 90 seconds to answer randomly selected, wide-ranging questions. They answered questions in groups of three.
As Frederick County continues to grow, candidates weighed in on how the county can cope with increased infrastructure and housing needs.
Candidate Jason Miller (R) said the key to addressing growth in the county is to prioritize spending to create the infrastructure needed to accommodate new residents. He added that targeting areas in the northern part of the county could take pressure off other areas that have incurred more than they can handle.
Fellow Republican Justin Kiska expressed concern about “forcing” development into other areas of the county, saying instead that it should be the job of the council and the county’s Planning Commission to examine each project as it comes forward.
Susan Reeder Jessee, a Democrat, agreed with Miller, saying growth should be approved only in areas with the infrastructure to handle it. She added that the cost of that growth should be shared between taxpayers and the developers.
Mark Long (D) pointed to the Livable Frederick comprehensive master plan as a way to ensure that growth is done intelligently and develops “sustainable, livable communities.” He added that he felt the plan preserves the county’s farmland and targets other designated areas for growth.
Kai Hagen (D) also touted the Livable Frederick master plan as a key to getting the county’s infrastructure up to speed with the growth of the county.
“If we keep doing things the way we’ve been doing, we’re not only going to fall further behind, we’ll never catch up,” he said. “We have to approach this in a holistic, broad way. With the right plan, [public infrastructure is] easier to maintain, and less expensive to build.”
Galen Clagett (D) also expressed the need for the county to preserve farmland. He added, however, that the county needs to work with farmers to find a way to make farming more viable and economically sustainable.
Phil Dacey (R) highlighted the need to minimize the effects of external factors of growth.
“People don’t mind if there’s a neighborhood in Thurmont so long as the school is not [at] 150 percent capacity,” Dacey said.
The county government should also explore ways to support county residents identified in the United Way’s ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) report as being above the poverty line but still struggling to make ends meet, candidates Danny Farrar (R) and Kavonte Duckett (D) agreed.
Government loosening the restrictions on small businesses and “getting out of the way” is key for helping residents like those identified in the ALICE report achieve a higher standard of living, Farrar said.
Duckett agreed that developing small businesses are key to helping residents make a living wage. He added that members of that community need to “have a seat at the table,” and that government should do a better job including them to find out what help they need to succeed.
Early voting begins Thursday, and the primary election is June 26.
Some of the at-large candidates will reconvene on Wednesday for a forum on smart growth and the environment. The forum is sponsored by local environmental groups and will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Frederick Community College conference center, 7932 Opossumtown Pike in Frederick.