Frederick County to continue membership in regional planning board -- Gazette.Net







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Frederick County will spend $118,435 next year to maintain its membership in a nonprofit regional association that brings leaders from Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C., together to address common issues such as transportation, homeland security, affordable housing and growth.

Without taking a formal vote, the five-member Frederick County Board of Commissioners agreed Jan. 31 to continue the county’s membership in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

In fiscal 2012, the county’s cost for membership was $111,354, and in current fiscal 2013, dues are $112,795, according to county documents.

The five commissioners have agreed to pay the dues of $118,435 in fiscal 2014, which starts July 1.

Since the commissioners are in the midst of discussing the county’s budget for fiscal 2014, they said now was the time to discuss the cost of the dues.

“My main goal in this is that we pay over $100,000 in membership, and it’s something we should address every year,” Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said. “(We pay) $118,000 to be a member of something. We should at least be able to communicate the benefits of that membership.”

Since taking office in 2010, the board has cut services, programs and employees, all in an effort to reduce the size of government.

But they decided the county’s membership in the group was worth the money.

Frederick County is a suburb of Washington, D.C., with some 110,200 vehicles traveling down Interstate 270 Monday through Friday, transporting residents to jobs in the region, according to county figures.

David Dunn, who serves as the community liaison for the commissioners, presented the board with a list of services the council of governments has provided to the county.

The services have saved the county $728,065, Dunn said.

For example, he cited a $70,000 grant to plan for a health-related mass fatality incident in the county, access to data-sharing projects that saved $3,000 and an additional $250,000 in grants from the council for emergency-management planning.

The council also provides counties with anti-terrorism programs, training for police, fire and rescue workers and information on recognizing hate crimes and domestic violence.

Membership has also provided the county with free public-safety training and assistance during May’s G8 Summit in Thurmont, Dunn said.

The county also has access to economic development assistance and energy-savings initiatives. The council provides information on climate control, green building, alternative fuels, solid waste and recycling.

Frederick Alderman Karen Young (D), who recently was elected chairwoman of the board of directors for the council, said in an email Monday that, as a member, it is easier to receive federal money for highway, road and bridge projects.

It also provides assistance for special events and obtaining crime- and air-quality data and information, Young said.

Frederick Alderman Carol Krimm (D), a member of the council of government’s National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, said the city’s membership on the council is about $40,000 a year.

But, as a member, the city saves about $80,000 annually in grants and technical assistance, she said. Krimm said it is important for the county to continue its membership on the transportation planning board because it is easier to receive federal money for highway improvements.

“You have a sit at the table,” she said.

Krimm said her proposal to install bus shoulders along Interstate 270, from Frederick city to the Capital Beltway in Montgomery County, would have never gotten off the ground had it not been for work on the transportation planning board.

The board has established a special task force that is currently studying Krimm’s idea of the bus-only shoulders.

“Another part (of the membership) is the networking and partnerships you make,” she said. “That is so important.”

Commissioners C. Paul Smith (R), who is the county liaison to the transportation planning board, and David P. Gray (R), the liaison to the council of governments, both agreed it was important to continue the county’s membership.

“Who you know still matters, even in legislative affairs,” Smith said.