Berwyn District Civic Association

Thursday, September 15, 2005

 

Agenda Item 1.  Roll call for officers

  1. The meeting was called to order by Heather Iliff at 8:00 PM.  Also present were officers and board members Tim Aldridge, Jerry Anzulovic, Andrea Carpentieri, Al Cutino, Chuck Ireton, Jack Perry, Harry Pitt, Mark Seaton, Mark Shute, and Tim Triplett.

Agenda Item 2. Minutes from last meeting

  1. The minutes from the meeting on June 16, 2005 were accepted into the permanent record.

Agenda Item 3. Does College Park need its own police force?

  1. Bob Catlin, College Park City Council:
    1. Mr. Catlin prepared summary information regarding the estimated cost and property tax impact.  His report is based on projections developed by the City of Bowie.  The complete summary follows the minutes.  Highlights of Mr. Catlin’s presentation include:

                                                               i.      The three major considerations for a City police force are: size of force, cost, and tax rate impact.

                                                             ii.      A city police force would require at least 30 officers.

                                                            iii.      Salaries would not be the only cost consideration; there are additional capital expenses than salaries.  Estimated annual operating cost for a police force would be approximately $4.0 million.

                                                            iv.      The estimated increase to the tax rate to support a police force would be 27.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.  This effectively doubles the tax rate, which is currently 28.5 cents per $100.

                                                              v.      If College Park were no longer using County Police services, that tax cost would decrease by approximately 12 cents per $100. 

                                                            vi.      While College Park would experience a dramatic increase in the tax rate, the overall tax rate would be closer to that of other cities in Prince George’s County.  College Park’s current rate is among the lowest in the county.

  1. Steve Brayman, Mayor, City of College Park: 
    1. Citizens have perceived an increase in crime; police statistics support this perception.  However, compared to the rest of the county, the crime rate is lower in College Park.  While police response has improved in the recent past, it is difficult to get a higher level of response from county police when the rest of Prince George’s County has worse crime problems. 
    2. Mayor Brayman estimates that the cost to citizens to have a police force would be approximately one dollar per household per day.  While a city force is expensive, the force would be responsive and accountable to the city.
    3. Funding ideas: property taxes (for approximately 33% of the total); funds from the State of Maryland in an amount to be negotiated; a $25 fee from every University of Maryland student would raise $800,000 - $900,000 per year. 
    4. In the next two years, the mayor and council will work to identify funds that the city would be willing to put toward a police force.
  2. John Giannetti, Maryland State Senator:
    1. General comments: If College Park has a police force, citizens will receive response and accountability.
    2. It is better to overestimate costs, although he thinks $1 per day is worth the cost.
    3. A bill has been passed in Annapolis to create a business tax district, so that only those businesses within the tax district boundary would be taxed at a higher rate.  Such funding could be used for a police force.
    4. Senator Giannetti does not have a solution, but is open to citizen comment and suggestions.
  3. Jack Perry, College Park City Council:
    1. Mr. Perry is opposed to a College Park police force.  He thinks it would be better to prevail upon the Prince George’s County police force and the County Executive’s Office to obtain the police services the City already pays for.  Mr. Perry has not had difficulty with police responsiveness.
    2. Expenses will be high; these include salaries, space for headquarters, vehicles, and liability.  Mr. Perry does not want to see the tax rate doubled.
    3. Would College Park be able to attract quality officers and compensate them adequately?  If not, the force would be a training ground for other agencies, as officers would leave after several years.  
    4. College Park should investigate the Resident Trooper program.  While this is not free, state funds might be available. 
    5. Do citizens really want to spend money for a police force which would focus on preventing the frivolous activities of students?
  4. General Discussion Points
    1. It has not been decided that the issue of a city police force will go to a referendum vote.  Therefore, the BDCA does not have to vote to support such a referendum.
    2. Demographics: 

                                                               i.      Where would quality officers come from?  With changes in the nation’s demographics, the number of retirements exceeds the number of people in the workforce. 

                                                             ii.      In general, the larger and better funded police forces will perform better.  When a force is underfunded and too small, it will be staffed by personnel who will move to a better situation as soon as possible, or by those officers who on one else wants.  If College Park decides to have a police force, it should be done correctly, with good pay, adequate equipment, good supervision, and benefits such as good a retirement plan. 

    1. Voter issues:

                                                               i.      Mayor Brayman commented that he hears a lot of citizens say that they voted against a police force in the past, but now would support it.  More people see a need for attention to public safety issues.

                                                             ii.      Several attendees commented that they were not interested in the past, but would support a police force now.  If we citizens do not have security, we will not have freedom; and quality of life will decline.

                                                            iii.      Can the services provided by the contract police be evaluated?  Although the city has funding for 103 hours per week, in recent weeks the city has received an average of 70 hours of services.  The cost is $30 per hour; approximately $195,000 per year is budgeted.

                                                            iv.      How could the concept of a police force be marketed to voters to make it attractive?

                                                              v.      Is the county holding back on providing services to College Park in the hopes that the city will get fed up, thus forcing the city to provide its own police force?

    1. Responsiveness

                                                               i.      Ten years ago, citizens were able to get a response from county police; this is no longer the case.  We need to get the protection we pay for.  In addition, students are at risk, since they tend to be less aware of their surroundings. 

                                                             ii.      Police statistics show that crimes are not reported here, so the county police do not see the need for increased enforcement.

                                                            iii.      Can the jurisdictions of existing police forces, like the University and State forces, be expanded?  This is a politically-sensitive issue. 

                                                            iv.      Prince George’s County police are primary in the City.  The county force is understaffed; they need 1800-2000 officers, and currently have 1400.  The City will ask for our share of any personnel increase.

    1. Costs:

                                                               i.      Resident Trooper program: the cost is approximately $120,000 per officer; the city would need to have enough Resident Troopers to make a difference.

                                                             ii.      Some citizens mentioned being retired, on a fixed income, and would have difficulty handling any kind of tax increase.

                                                            iii.      Some citizens felt a tax increase to pay for a police force would be worth it, and taxes would be brought in line with other cities in the county.

                                                            iv.      Could the county refund the tax money the city pays for county police coverage if College Park had its own force?  Could the University subsidize a City force?

                                                              v.      If a business tax district is developed, it seems unfair to tax only certain members of the community to benefit everyone.  In addition, the tax base may not be as large as might be hoped.  Residents of the Old Town neighborhood have requested a city force the most.

    1. Quality of life:

                                                               i.      Improvement of overall quality of life makes a difference to communities; therefore, it is not a waste of time to eliminate crimes such as public drinking.

                                                             ii.      A police force should be treated as a business; things to consider include whether there is a real need for police services, and whether the county police could operate within smaller districts. 

  1. Wrap-up comments:
    1. Mr. Perry will obtain a report from the contract police for inclusion in the newsletter. 
    2. Citizens are encouraged to report all criminal and suspicious activity, so that such events get logged in with the county police’s computer system and are tabulated with crime statistics.

Agenda Item 4.  Board and Committee Reports

  1. Treasurer’s report: Mr. Cutino reported that the profit from Berwyn Day was $588; donations from the Washington Post and the City of College Park were helpful financially.  The Civic Association has had $2000 in receipts, including dues, Berwyn Day, and a grant to the Welcoming Committee.  There have been $1894 in disbursements for a balance of $1158.59.  There was a motion to accept the Treasurer’s report; the motion was seconded, and the report was accepted.
  2. Welcoming Committee: Amy Noggle. 
    1. In January, the BDCA received a $1000 community development grant.  The grant allowed for preparation of welcome bags.
    2. The bags have been given out to approximately half of the renter households, and as many new families as possible before Berwyn Day.  Approximately 100 bags have been distributed, but more need to be handed out.
    3. Distribution will be ongoing; businesses wishing to include materials should contact the BDCA.
  3. Neighborhood Preservation Coalition: Harry Pitt
    1. The College Park Area Homes Fair, held July 30, was a success: 35 volunteers contributed time and energy to several committees; approximately 100 families attended the Fair; and the NPC made a small profit.  The NPC will consider holding the Homes Fair as an annual event.
    2. Kevin Young’s letter to the 21st Delegation about legislative priorities was read to the group.  Priorities listed include reducing the number of non-related individuals allowed to reside in a single family home from 5 to 3.
    3. Volunteers are sought to draft letters to real estate agents to discuss NPC’s goal of bringing owner-occupants to area homes, and discourage purchase of homes by landlords. 
    4. The next meeting of the NPC will be held Saturday, September 24, 2005, from 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM at Fealy Hall, Berwyn Road, College Park.
  4. Playground Improvement:
    1. Suggestions for improvements to the Berwyn Neighborhood Playground were sought at Berwyn Day.  Children drew pictures of what they would like to see at the playground.  The pictures and suggestions will be submitted to Maryland National Capitol Park and Planning (MNCPP.) 
    2. The City is writing a letter for the MNCPP budget; the BDCA will send a letter giving details about what citizens want in the playground.  Contact your officials with suggestions.
    3. Citizens are encouraged to attend MNCPP’s budget development meeting on Tuesday, September 20th at 7:00pm at Park and Recreation Administration Building, 6600 Kenilworth Ave, Auditorium, 1st floor. 
  5. Civic Association Updates:
    1. Website: Tim Triplett would like to include subcommittee pages on myberwyn.org.  Send information and ideas to Mr. Triplett.
    2. National Night Out: This event was held on August 2.  Five successful events were held around the City.  The BDCA will send a letter to Arbor Management thanking them for their participation and food donations.
    3. Berwyn Day: While the turnout was smaller than in past years, everyone seemed to have a good time.  Mr. Young will provide an estimate of the number of meals sold. Food receipts were about the same, but expenses were higher this year. 
    4. How to volunteer: Contact Mr. Anzulovic or Mr. Perry to participate in the Defeati Graffiti brigade.  In addition, a form will be included with the Berwyn News with information on how to get involved.

Agenda Item 5: Reports from City Council Representatives

  1. Mr. Catlin:
    1. The entire City Council is running for re-election.  In addition, there is interest from the landlord groups in having their own candidates run.  The deadline for declaring candidacy is September 23.
    2. Under a new grant program, buyers who purchase a home which has been a rental for at least the last two years who plan to turn the home back to owner-occupancy will receive up to $5,000 at settlement.  The amount may be doubled in certain jurisdictions.  A total of $100,000 has been provided for this program. 
  2. Mr. Perry:
    1. The mayor and council have approved a donation of $10,000 to the Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina relief. 
    2. The mayor has established a committee to study the issue of whether College Park should have a police force.
    3. A  total of $95,236 was donated to the College Park Swim Club.
    4. The “No Parking” signs that were removed from Pontiac Street have been replaced.
    5. The city has a new Public Works director, who is well versed in solid waste disposal and recycling.
    6. The Tecumseh Gardens apartments will be converted to condominiums.
    7. To vote in the elections this November, citizens must be registered 30 days in advance of the election.
    8. Last weekend was a loud weekend for parties in the city.  20 noise violations were issued at $500 each.  Residents who experience noise problems should contact the Noise Board officer.  If the officer is not available to respond, any two citizens can file a noise complaint.
    9. The University View apartments have contributed to a very large traffic problem.  Call Senator Giannetti’s office to express support for the Route 1 funding project to help alleviate traffic problems.

Agenda Item 6: New Business:

  1. Mr. Anzulovic proposed two motions:
    1. That the Civic Association not stand in opposition to the Northgate Condominium project
    2. That the Civic Association become a party of record on the following projects:

                                                               i.      The detailed site plan for Northgate

                                                             ii.      The detailed site plan for Fairfield in Greenbelt and Greenbelt Station

                                                            iii.      Site plans for Springhill Lake Apartment development.

    1. Both motions passed.

 

 

Meeting Attendees:

 

Tim Aldridge

Jerry Anzulovic

Bob Baca

Stacy Baca

Steve Brayman

Bob Catlin

Al Cutino

John Giannetti

Harvey Himmelfarb

Marge Himmelfarb

Maria Hutter

Heather Iliff

Chuck Ireton

Eric Just

Lori Just

Amy Noggle

Jack Perry

Harry Pitt

Carol Savard

Greg Savard

Mark Seaton

Mark Shute

Tim Triplett

Forrest Tyler

Sandy Tyler

Larry Wenzel

Kevin Young

 

Andrea Carpentieri, Recording Secretary, BDCA


City of College Park Police Force -Estimated Cost and Property Tax Impact (9/15/05)

Prepared by Bob Catlin

 

The City of Bowie is voting on having a City Police force in its November election. Bowie researched the cost of having a police force a year ago and from their information I have extrapolated what a police force would cost College Park in operating and capital costs. Bowie is twice the size of College Park, but has a crime rate that is less than 50% of College Park's. We have the advantage of having University of MD police and Metro police, plus the State Police barracks in the city, which would be of value in supplementing our police services. I have based my estimated College Park police costs on having a police department one-half the size of Bowie's, therefore.

 

How large is our non-University police force now?

 

Existing County Police assigned to College Park CSA:      16.5 (my estimate)

Supplemental County Police (Contract Officers):               1.5 (my estimate)

 

Total: 18 officers (actual is less than what is funded, which is 23.5 (21 + 2.5 officers))

 

How large would a minimally sized College Park police force be and what would it cost? A City Police force of 28 officers, plus a chief and a deputy chief, for a total of 30 police, along with 6 civilian support personnel, would have an annual operating cost of about $4.0 million. We already are spending over $150,000 on contract police, plus we could receive about $250,000 in state aid for police. That would bring the net operating cost down to about $3.6 million. The capital cost to be financed would be about $6 million. If financed over 15 years the annual cost would be about $600,000.

 

What is the impact on the City's property tax rate? The City's current tax rate is 28.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Police operating costs would be 24.5 cents in additional taxes and police capital costs would be an additional 4.0 cents, for a total tax increase of28.5 cents, which would result in a doubling of the City's tax rate to 57 cents.

 

These results don't take into account an eventual reduction of City residents' County tax property bill, as the County's tax differential with the City would be slowly adjusted to reduce the County's property tax rate. The reduction in the County tax bill would eventually be about 12 cents. Our current County property tax rate is 94.2 cents.

 

How would a City tax rate of 57 cents compare with other cities in Prince George's County? Berwyn Heights’ tax rate is 48.6 cents; Greenbelt's is 76.6 cents; Riverdale Park's is 67.7 cents; Hyattsville's is 63.0 cents; and University Park's tax rate is 60.0 cents. Elsewhere, Laurel's is 72.0 cents; Cheverly's is 40.0 cents; and New Carrollton's is 45.0 cents. These cities and towns, with the exception of New Carrollton, have their own police force. Bowie's existing tax rate is 32.2 cents. Bowie estimates that a police force would increase its tax rate by at least 16.2 cents (operating costs only), to a rate of 48.4 cents. I estimate that Bowie could finance its capital costs with an additional 2 cents increase in its property tax rate.

 

How long would it take to have a police department fully operational? Bowie estimates it would take it at least four years. I don't see any way that we could do it any sooner.