The $5 million in state funding initially planned for a downtown Frederick hotel can still be used by city and county officials, Sen. Ron Young told some city of Frederick aldermen and Mayor Michael O’Connor at a joint meeting Wednesday.
Young (D-Frederick) said after the meeting he wants $500,000 to go toward the veterans center, where a groundbreaking recently took place off Monocacy Boulevard in an extension of Riverside Tech Park in Frederick.
Young added that the money could go toward a variety of other city and county projects, but it needs to be spent this coming session, and officials need to have projects that are “shovel-ready” in order to receive funding.
Because the funding was earmarked for Frederick County, it’s likely the county gets some order of preference, but it needs to be appropriated in next year’s capital budget, said Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll). Hough added that he “had no reason to believe” the money would not come back to Frederick for other projects, but it could be redirected to another county.
However, the list of capital needs in the county is lengthy.
City and state officials discussed the importance of combating the opioid crisis, and the need for more state funding to do so. Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick and Carroll) said it’s an issue he’s constantly heard about from families in his district since the session ended earlier this year.
Infrastructure and schools was also a substantial part of the group’s discussion. Although schools fall under the county’s jurisdiction, several aldermen said they hear about school issues often in the city.
“Schools are a huge issue for our city residents — overcrowded schools especially,” Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak said.
Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick) noted that the school construction bill will be the first one introduced in the House of Delegates this coming session, and urged the mayor and aldermen to stay in touch with the delegation in case they need letters of support or city officials to testify in Annapolis.
Other city issues discussed included the Lake Linganore dredging project, as the city is paying roughly half of the cost, $18 million. O’Connor said Alderman Roger Wilson — who was not present at Wednesday’s meeting — would like to see state funding to keep the dredging project going, because the equipment and personnel required to complete it are expensive.
It would save the city money if more sediment is removed now versus later, O’Connor added.
Other issues city and state officials discussed were the relocation of the Frederick police headquarters, and restoration of highway user revenue, which is used for road restoration projects in municipalities statewide.
O’Connor said the aldermen will probably vote on a new location for the police headquarters in about a month.
Hough said this result is a much better scenario than the funding being released for the downtown Frederick hotel and conference center.
“For someone who has never wanted that project to begin with, because I think it benefits just one private entity, this is a much better scenario,” Hough said.
Hough said he supported money going to projects like the veterans center, and “real public infrastructure projects” that provide a public good, such as drug rehabilitation or helping veterans.
City editor Allen Etzler contributed to this report.