This letter is in response to Nancy Lavin’s excellent report on the Hargett Farm master plan, titled “Sticker shock: Master plan for park at Hargett Farm includes $98.5 million price tag.” This was a great report with lots of specific details as well as responses from Frederick County and city officials. As the headline indicates, the cost of the project is significant, but there are some points to add:

1. The costs of this project should be compared to other similar construction projects that have taken place in neighboring counties. For example, the Hargett Farm project should be compared to the Prince George’s County Recreation Center or the Germantown Aquatic Center and Sports Center. These are state-of-the-art facilities, and Frederick County should have one as well.

2. Ms. Lavin should also compare the number of multi-purpose fields and municipal swimming pools in neighboring counties to the number in Frederick County. Hint: Montgomery County has one private (but rentable) and three municipal 50-meter swimming pools. Frederick County does not have a single 50-meter pool. It also does not have a single, municipal (county- or city-owned) competition pool of any size. That is an unfortunate statistic for a county that is experiencing record prosperity and economic growth. I think everyone agrees that Frederick County has a need for this kind of facility.

3. Finally, the county and city leaders seem to be missing one of the most common, effective and safe forms of capital funding for municipalities … the municipal bond. Municipal bonds are issued by state and local governments to raise money for public works projects such as the construction and maintenance of bridges, hospitals, schools and water treatment facilities ... or recreational facilities. A bond issuer (the municipality) sells the bond to the bond holder (the investor). The bond holder lends the issuer a fixed amount of money (say $98.5 million) for a certain amount of time in exchange for regularly scheduled interest payments. Municipal bonds are one of the safest long-term investments and are usually very popular with all investors, worldwide. In order to establish a bond, and make it more attractive to investors, the issuer usually publishes their bond rating, which is a measure of the quality and safety of the bond, based on the issuer’s financial condition. AAA is the best rating and D is the worst. Frederick County has a AAA bond rating.

It gets better. Municipal bonds are exempt from federal, state and local income taxes if you live in the issuing municipality. Since 1913, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has allowed investors to withhold paying income tax on any earnings from municipal bonds. So when the interest rates for municipal bonds is higher than for Treasury bills, investors earn significantly more especially since they won’t pay taxes on those earnings. This is huge incentive for residents of Frederick County to invest in their own future, at a solid rate of return that is tax free.

Frederick County desperately needs this project to get funded and commence construction. Waiting five years for private investors to come knocking at our door is not going to be effective and demonstrates poor problem-solving. Although hardly creative, the municipal bond is a good way to partially or completely cover the costs for the Hargett Farm Project. It appears to be a win/win for all parties involved.

(16) comments

gary4books

One can judge a community by several different metrics. One is the quality of its parks and other public spaces. Looking at the Carroll Creek project, Frederick is way above average. It is a true monument to the spirit. Reading these "boo birds" one can say that many are also very careful with their money. As they should be. But time will tell how these projects do, how the majority decides, and even what we should do next. I expect Central Park in New York was not fully used when it was new. Now it is one of my favorite places in Manhattan. Parks have to be set aside early, when the land is affordable. I will never use this new park, but I hope those who will benefit are able to make their voices heard.

garden whimsey

The letter says "the county" needs this park, "the county" needs swimming pools. The problem is, this is city land and city money. I DO NOT want my CITY taxes paying for the proposed huge playground. If county residents want it, put it on county land and use county money. Granted, some of the county money comes from us city property holders since we pay both county and city taxes, but it should be the choice of the CITY property holders, not those who reside outside the city limits.

jerseygrl42

so lets see what we've got here, $100 Million in new debt for the taxpayers is good because those that can afford to purchase some of the bonds will get tax free interest.....very strange

bosco

It's easy to spend other people's money. Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that man behind the tree.

gary4books

Nice quote. Wikipedia "Russell Billiu Long (November 3, 1918 – May 9, 2003) was an American Democratic politician and United States Senator from Louisiana from 1948 until 1987, and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for fifteen years from 1966 to 1981."

DickD

Middletown has acres of park, mostly unused. Middletown residents are not likely to use it, but if Frederick City wants it, fine. The problems it creates may be immense though with a potential to attract those dealing in drugs. It will take more policing.

gary4books

Look out for that drug dealer behind the tree.

tonyc51

" I think everyone agrees that Frederick County has a need for this kind of facility." actually I think that a majority of Frederick county does not believe that this needs to be built, or will ever use it.

threecents

"Frederick County desperately needs this project to get funded and commence construction." No, actually it does not.

Thewheelone

Ok, great. Let's just build 500 more houses and mixed dwelling units on the property and not give consideration to something that can improve the quality of life for many folks not only in the immediate area, but throughout the county.

Dwasserba

Looking at the results of today's survey, with so many readers not even watching the Olympics, you have to take comments with a grain of salt. Are we commenters likely to be representative of the people most interested in this amenity, or are we more concerned with just continuing to afford to live here? We don't have what other counties have, yes, but speaking for myself, I'm reeeaaaallly unlikely to use this. But we are the ones most likely to comment. Commenting is "for entertainment purposes only and not scientific in any way. "

threecents

Two, we did not say this is a bad idea, we just don't think we need it. Same reasoning as with the downtown hotel/convention center. That also might be a good idea, but I don't trust people who say WE NEED IT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I AM EXCITED BY IT, AND IT IS MY TURN. Sorry, this is not free. Municipal bonds are not free money. At some point the bonds get redeemed.

sue1955

Tony, my thought exactly when I read this article. She really is presumptuous to think that everybody wants this facility (and the park itself, for that matter). I certainly would not be using it nor anybody that I know; past, present, and future. Another thing, too, is that there are pools everywhere. Whether one lives in an apartment/condo or even people in single family homes, there is either a pool in the complex or there is access to one. I have never known anybody who cares that it is not 50 meters for competition. Such people are not in competition nor care to be.

tonyc51

Bottom line, even after built the boondoggle will generate major operating losses each year which must be covered by taxpayers. The money that would spent on this could much better be used to maintain existing facilities that are much in need of help, that is if the $100,000,000 needed actually exists.

bosco

Yeah, how's that city-owned golf course working out?

bosco

Quite a rosy picture painted by the LTE writer. You'd almost think that municipal bonds were manna from heaven. The fact remains that municipal bonds are repaid - principal plus interest - using taxpayer dollars. There is no free lunch.

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