IMAGE: Takoma Park city council, Jan. 27, 2016. Photo by Bill Brown.
GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
Cabin fever was high at Wednesday’s city council meeting.
After a snow-bound five days – including a weekend – council and staff were saucer-eyed at the Jan. 27 weekly meeting. On top of being cooped up with their now slightly-less loved ones, shoveling snow, losing power and running out of gin – just like the rest of us – they had to work overtime dealing with constituent problems and complaints, overseeing the city’s response, trudging blocks through 20″ of snow to talk to the power-line repair crew, sending out email announcements and Being In Charge.
The worst cabin fever case seemed to be council member Tim Male. He threw a few verbal snowballs during the meeting.
Junction on the wrong track
The biggest one was the accusation that the Takoma Junction development project is “on the wrong track.” He was alarmed by mounting legal fees for negotiations with the developer. Enough has racked up for the city manager to ask for more money.
A budget amendment submitted Wednesday by city manager Suzanne Ludlow asks for $50,000 to cover both Takoma Junction negotiation costs and legal fees associated with the Washington Adventist Hospital relocation.
The council voted unanimously to remove the legal fees from the budget amendment for a longer discussion later.
They also voted 6 – 1 to delay the library renovations a couple of months. This was another snowball tossed by Male. Freshmen council members Rizzy Qureshi and Peter Kovar tossed a few of their own.
The two freshmen were confounded by the plans they were being asked to approve so the architect can move on to the next phase. They and Male questioned whether the process had included enough constituent feedback. They saw options the architect hadn’t taken and wondered why.
Library director Ellen Arnold-Robbins requests the council to approve the library renovation plans. Photo by Bill Brown.
The plan looked unambitious, too small, and not forward-looking to council member Rizzy Queshi. “This is a renovation when it should be an expansion,” he said. He compared it unfavorably with the new Silver Spring county library, not that Takoma Park’s library resemble a “space ship,” he said, but it should be more exciting than it appeared to him on the concept design floor plans provided by the Lukmire Partnership architect firm.
Male wanted to see drawings showing more of the interior and exterior design. He felt the council should have that information before proceeding.
The other council members were rolling their eyes a bit, and the city manager and library director were grinding their teeth a lot. The Friends of the Library members who came to comment in favor of proceeding with the plan were muttering and groaning. Well, maybe none of them were actually doing any of those things, but only because they were too polite.
Veteran council members and staff said all the other options were explored to their dead ends. But, all except Jarrett Smith voted to delay two months – if only as a courtesy to the newbies so they could get up to speed.
Give us your tired …
Following up on the city’s recent resolution welcoming refugees, councilmember Rizzy Queshi announced a coordination meeting next week. He invited the public – those “interested in ensuring that Syrian refugees are welcome in Takoma Park,” to meet Feb. 4 to discussion steps the community can take to prepare for possible placement of refugees.
The Syrian Refugee Placement Coordinating Meeting will be held February 4, 2016, 7 p.m. at the Takoma Park Community Center, said Quershi.
Coincidentally, Thomas Nephew announced during the Citizen Comment period the recent formation of a group, Maryland Welcomes Refugees. He outlined some of the requirements communities must meet to bring in refugees: housing, jobs and volunteer citizens to help them.
The Washington Adventist Hospital president Erik Wangsness, having been given permission to move the hospital out of Takoma Park – despite the city opposing them – showed up to do a victory dance.
Actually, he was polite about it and repeated his non-committal commitment to “evaluate the feasibility” of putting a stand-along emergency department in Takoma Park.
The previous hold up on a committal was that there was a statewide moratorium on standalone emergency facilities. That’s over, he said, but now they have to wait for the state to craft legislation. Once the regulations are in place they will “evaluate” them.
Meanwhile, Wangsness said the hospital is definitely leaving behind an urgent care clinic, and other health care services including physicians offices, medical labs and a primary care clinic. WAH will hold community meetings to ask the community what other medical services they would like.
Washington Adventist Hospital president Erik Wangsness, Photo by Bill Brown.
More, more, more!
The Safe Roadways Committee presented a report. They requested more and better bike lanes. They also asked that the city suspend the law forbidding bicycles on sidewalks. Some roads, said Joe Edgell, such as Ethan Allen Road, are just to dangerous and narrow to fit a bike lane.
They reported that the automated rental bike system Capital Bikeshare has had a whopping 51,000 “segments” – number of rides between stations. Each ride represents one less car or bus rider, said Edgell. The Safe Roads Committee wants more bike-share stations. They also advocated getting local colleges – Washington Adventist University and Montgomery College – to provide free bike-sharing to students.
Good job, Dept of Public Works
The council and staff were rightfully proud of the Department of Public Works. While surrounding jurisdictions were promising to get all the residential streets plowed by mid-week. The city public works folks and city contractors were looking at clear streets, dusting their hands and thinking of getting a good night’s sleep. Currently their task is clearing the streets curb-to-curb.
Sidewalk snow removal law goes into effect
The city manager’s last storm updates warned that city sidewalk clearing law enforcement begins Thursday, Jan. 28 for sidewalks along commercial, institutional and multi-family properties. Enforcement begins on Friday, Jan. 29 for sidewalks along single-family residential property. The city manager says enforcement officers will be lenient with properties that had snow plowed onto sidewalks from street crews.
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