Thursday, April 08, 2010

Last Night's Chevy Chase Town Council Meeting

Boy Scouts opened the meeting by leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

Supplemental Appropriations for Snow Removal
The Town Council approved unanimously a supplemental appropriation of $88,100 to cover the unusually high cost of snow removal. The Town anticipates receiving reimbursement from FEMA for roughly 75% of the costs unrelated to sidewalk snow removal.

Proposed FY11 Budgets and Tax Rates
The Town Council unanimously agreed to my motion to accept the budgets and tax rate that we plan to present to the Town at the Annual Meeting. They are outlined in my previous post on the budget work session and will be discussed further in the upcoming issue of the Forecast. The budget and budget narrative, outlining each line of the budget, will be posted online on the Town website on Thursday.

Pearl Street Development Project
The Town Council discussed the Town’s response to the Pearl Street development project. The Council had consensus that the project is higher than appropriate in the context of the Bethesda Master Plan. Moreover, the developer should have to provide a sizable public amenity in order to satisfy the conditions to receive greater density under the County’s planning requirements.

Snow Removal Operations and Improvements
Chair Bill Pritchard presented the Public Services Committee’s reaction to a request for comment made by the Council on several resident suggestions. The Committee responded positively to requests for improved communication, stating “the Town phone lines should divert to a call answering system that can handle high call volume, record messages from residents and provide recorded important updates. . . . A staff person should be assigned responsibility for the answering system and providing updates through Town Crier.” The Council directed the Town Manager to develop a plan to implement this idea.

The Committee rejected proposals such as hiring day laborers or Town teens due to coordination and liability issues. The Public Services Committee similarly recommended against clearing the walks or driveways of senior citizens or providing snow equipment, such as snow blowers and shovels, for similar reasons.

The Committee recommended that the Town “maintain adequate replacement parts” for its essential snow equipment. The Town Manager explained that the Town plans to buy a new truck with appropriate equipment in the upcoming fiscal year and that the existing equipment will serve as a backup to that equipment.

B-CC Educational Foundation Donation
Accompanied by Town Resident Georgia Guhin, representatives of the B-CC Educational Foundation, including the Principal of B-CC High School, made a request for a donation to help fund the College Tracks program. All Councilmembers expressed strong support for this program. I stated that the current economic crisis increased the imperative for the Town to contribute to make sure that valuable and needed programs like this continue but that the decline in our own revenues meant that we could not fully meet the request and proposed a substantially smaller donation of $10,000.

The Council concluded by expressing support for a donation in roughly this neighborhood but also wanting more specific information to comply with the Town’s donation policy. We also asked the Foundation Members to encourage neighboring municipalities and civic associations to match our commitment.

Neighborhood Watch
Coordinator Scott Egloff presented his proposal for responsibilities for the Town and Resident Neighborhood Watch Coordinators. The Council approved the idea and thanked Mr. Egloff for his work to make the program happen as well as this proposal which will help assure that it continues into the future even as participants change.

Clean Currents Renewal Program
The Town Manager consulted with the Town Council by phone before the meeting as he had received an unusually good quote on wind power prices, lower than previous amounts or current standard PEPCO rates, and wanted to lock it in before it expired at noon today. He did so for three years with the unanimous approval of the Council.

Single-Stream Recycling Program
The Town Manager proposed that the Council consider single-stream recycling. Essentially, this would allow residents to recycle all recyclables in a single larger, potentially wheel able bin. Councilmembers and the Town Manager discussed potential pluses and minuses—the major pluses being substantially increased recycling with positive results for the Town’s Climate goals and less need to separate recyclable items. Potential concerns include higher costs, longer distance to transport recycling, and the impact on the look of the Town of larger recycling bins. All agreed that it would desirable to investigate further and that consultation of Town residents would be vital before making any change.

Town Survey 2010
The Council expressed a desire for getting more help on putting together an improved survey. With support from the rest of the Council, I asked that any survey include questions requested by the Environment Committee on how residents like to receive communications from the Town. The Council also discussed difficulties involved in asking about various policy issues.

Annual Meeting and Election Plans
The Council went over plans for our lighting consultants to present and answer questions regarding options for improving the Town lighting in addition to the usual presentation on the Town Budget.

With much merriment and councilmembers calling dibs on the remaining brownies to appease our respective spouses and children, the Council adjourned.