County Council Meets on Monday, March 18 to Discuss Police Staffing

The Montgomery County Council will meet on Monday, March 18th at 12:15pm. Full agenda below courtesy Montgomery County:

The Montgomery County Council will meet on Monday, March 18 at 12:15 p.m. to review bills under consideration by the Maryland General Assembly during its 2024 legislative session. In addition, the Council intends to meet in a proposed closed session at 1:15 p.m., under Maryland Code, General Provisions Article, Section 3-305(b)(1)(i). The topic is the appointment of an employee over whom the Council has jurisdiction.

The Public Safety (PS) Committee will meet on Monday, March 18 at 9:30 a.m. to review the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025-2030 Capital Improvements Programs (CIPs) for the Circuit Court and the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS). Additionally, the committee will review a $397,000 supplemental appropriation for MCFRS to replace the HVAC system at Rockville Fire Station 3. The committee will also receive a briefing from representatives of the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) about staffing.

The members of the PS Committee include Chair Sidney Katz and Councilmembers Dawn Luedtke and Kristin Mink.

The Transportation and Environment (TE) Committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. to discuss Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) regulation; review Executive Regulation 1-24, Incentive Program for Electric Leaf Removal Equipment; and continue to review the FY25-30 CIP for transportation projects.

The members of the TE Committee include Chair Evan Glass, Councilmember Marilyn Balcombe and Vice President Kate Stewart.

The Planning, Housing and Parks (PHP) Committee will meet at 2:30 p.m. to review the FY25-30 CIP for Agricultural Land Preservation Easements and receive an update on the development of local housing targets.

The members of the PHP Committee include Chair and Council President Andrew Friedson and Councilmembers Natali Fani-González and Will Jawando.

More detail on each agenda item is provided below.

Review: The Council will meet to review bills under consideration by the Maryland General Assembly during its 2024 legislative session. The discussion will include an update on major policy issues, including the budget, taxes, housing, the environment, health and human services, public safety and juvenile justice.

Review: The PS Committee will review the FY25-30 CIP for the Circuit Court, which is a new $2 million project for the design and replacement of audio-visual systems in 18 South Tower courtrooms. These systems support remote hearings, assisted listening for individuals with hearing loss, translation technology for non-English speakers and they allow for the electronic capture of the Court record. The system will be integrated within each room to facilitate effective communication, evidence display, and collaboration during court hearings, trials and remote interactions.

Review: The PS Committee will review the more than $125 million FY25-30 CIP for MCFRS, which includes nine projects and represents a $644,000 decrease from the FY23-28 amended CIP. Over the six-year period, the projects include more than $68 million for the Apparatus Replacement Program, more than $1 million for the Breathing Air Compressors Replacement, $801,000 for the Female Facility Upgrade, nearly $660,000 for life safety systems in fire stations, more than $12 million for HVAC and electrical upgrades, more than $2.4 million for roof replacements, more than $36 million for the White Flint Fire Station, less than $2.5 million for resurfacing projects, and $500,000 for renovations at the Rockville fire station.

Review: The PS Committee will review a $397,000 supplemental appropriation to the FY24 Capital Budget replace HVAC equipment at Rockville Fire Station 3. The previous HVAC system has reached the end of its service life, and the station is currently operating on a costly temporary HVAC system. The funds are needed to support the expected cost of replacement.

Review: The PS Committee will receive a briefing from representatives of MCPD on efforts to address staffing needs. In conjunction with similar staffing challenges for police departments nationally, MCPD is experiencing its highest sworn vacancy rate in the past 10 years, with most attrition occurring after 2019. Currently, MCPD has 194 fewer officers than it did that year. Filled positions have dropped from 1,295 to 1,101. The authorized sworn complement has also decreased since then, from 1,307 to 1,280. Today, the current vacancy rate is 14 percent and reflects 179 vacancies.

Review: The TE Committee will hold its third meeting to review Executive Regulation 17-23, BEPS. At this meeting, the committee will meet with representatives from the life sciences and technology industries. The regulation is required by Bill 16-21, which was enacted by the Council on April 19, 2022.

The bill expanded the number of buildings covered by existing benchmarking requirements, created a Building Performance Improvement Board and required energy performance standards to be established by regulation for covered buildings with gross floor area of 25,000 gross square feet or greater. Executive Regulation 17-23 would set numerical site Energy Use Intensity (EUI) performance standards for each building group, define how renewable energy will be incorporated into the performance metric and define the elements required in Building Performance Improvement Plans (BPIPs).

The committee first discussed Executive Regulation 17-23 at a meeting held on Jan. 24 to receive an overview of the regulation from representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). At a meeting held on Feb. 26, the committee heard from representatives involved in affordable housing development.

Review: The TE Committee will review Executive Regulation 1-24, Incentive Program for Electric Leaf Removal Equipment, which would authorize a time-limited program to partially reimburse County residents and businesses that purchase electric leaf removal equipment. The regulation outlines eligibility criteria for rebates, rates and categories for residents and businesses. Executive Regulation 1-24 follows the passage of Bill 18-22, Noise Control – Leaf Removal Equipment – Amendments, which was enacted on Sept. 26, 2023, and will prohibit the sale of gas-powered leaf blowers in Montgomery County as of July 1, 2024, and their use in Montgomery County as of July 1, 2025. On March 5, the Council voted to approve a $295,000 supplemental appropriation to fund an outreach and awareness campaign for retailers, lawncare companies and residents as well as funds to initiate a rebate program by July 1, 2024, as mandated in Bill 18-22. The incentive program is needed to support the transition of tens of thousands of gas leaf blowers to electric power by July 1, 2025.

Executive Regulation 1-24 establishes the time-limited duration of the program as from July 1, 2024, to Dec. 31, 2026. The start date coincides with the date the ban on the purchase of gas-powered leaf blowers and takes effect and one year before the ban on use goes in effect.

Currently, the regulation submitted by the County Executive establishes that a County resident would be eligible to receive one rebate for up to $100 for eligible purchases during the rebate period. Businesses with annual revenue of less than $250,000 or that employ five or fewer employees are eligible to receive rebates of up to $1,500 every 12 months for eligible purchases during the rebate period. In addition, businesses with annual revenue of $250,000 or that employ six or more employees are eligible to receive rebates up to $1,000 every 12 months for eligible purchases during the rebate period.

Review: The TE Committee will hold its fourth meeting to review the FY25-30 CIP for transportation projects, which includes a recommended $1.7 billion over the six-year period. Compared to the FY23-28 CIP, this amount represents a $73 million, or a 4.2 percent, decrease in expenditures. The CIP includes funding for bridges, highway maintenance, mass transit, parking districts, pedestrian facilities and bikeway, road and traffic improvements. At this meeting, the committee will follow up on questions from the first three meetings.

At a meeting held on March 11, the committee reviewed pedestrian facilities, bikeways and roads. At a meeting held on March 4, the committee conducted a project-by-project review of the highway maintenance, traffic improvement, parking and bridge subcategories. The committee’s first meeting held on Feb. 26 included an overview of the CIP and a review of mass transit projects.

Update: The PHP Committee will review the more than $23.8 million FY25-30 CIP for Agricultural Land Preservation Easements, which is an ongoing project that provides funds for the purchase of agricultural and conservation easements under County agricultural land preservation legislation. The easements restrict certain uses on a property to ensure it is preserved for agricultural and rural uses for future generations. This amount represents a $472,000 increase over the FY23 approved CIP. The increase is due to developer payments, contributions, investment income and agriculture transfer tax adjustments.

Update: The PHP Committee will receive an update from representatives of the Planning Department on the development of local housing targets. In March 2023, the PHP Committee directed Montgomery Planning staff to develop local housing targets for various Montgomery County Planning Areas.

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