Looking at the agenda for the annual meeting, Norwood Holabird Community Association President John Ayers wrote that “questions from the meeting room will be allowed on all topics” and the hot issues were related to the potential sale of the North Point Government Center and code enforcement in the area along with the potential closing of the Eastwood Elementary Magnet School.
So with that in mind Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz came well prepared to the meeting. Accompanying Mr. Kamenetz was his Chief of Staff Don Mohler and Bryan Sheppard from the Office of Community Outreach. Also present were the Chief of Code Enforcement Lionel Van Dommelen and the commander of the North Point Police Precinct Capt. Jan Brown.
The sale of the government center would impact several of the schools in the Dundalk area and the audience wanted answers to all the potential issues.
The county executive wasted no time getting to the point, the potential sale of the government center. His address began tempering the potential impact on the community by listing the positives of his tenure including that this is the 24th year the county has not raised property tax rates. He alluded to the county’s AAA bond rating, advances in technology to improve the county’s efficiency and on the reality side, he said that “74 cents of every tax dollar in the county goes towards employee health care."
Now back to the one of the main topics—the government center. Mr. Kamenetz said the county needed a comprehensive new approach in these trying times to deal with fiscal challenges. He assured the packed audience that at this point nothing is a done deal and if the existing government center is not replaced with a facility equal to or better than the current facilities, the county would go back to the drawing board. He stressed that it was important to see what was contained in the bids that will submitted by potential developers before making any decisions. Mr. Kamenetz said the public would be able to review those bids due by April 4th.
In addition to that, Mr. Kamenetz said the county council would vote on the issues of any potential sales. He also referred to the input of Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent S. Dallas Dance and the Board of Education in this very volatile process. Mr. Kamenetz noted the average age of the schools in the county. He said that 80 percent of the schools in the county are at least 50 years old.
Mr. Kamenetz assured the audience that nothing was a done deal and if the bids that would be opened in April and reviewed by the public did not meet the county's requirements, the deal would not be done.
Now here is where the conversation gets interesting. Mr. Kamenetz responded to questions about the Eastwood Elementary School being utilized as a new Dundalk Police Station. He referred to the police “being mobile and not stationary.” What does that mean? Are the plans in the works already? The county executive went on to say the he meet with Chief Johnson and the concept of relocation met with his approval. Again another dot.
There are more questions as well. The following morning I received inquiries from several members of the community on issues of sex offenders and where they have to register. According to a spokesperson at the Maryland State Sex Offender Registration Unit, the offender must register at the nearest county police facility to where he/she lives, meaning if they live in Dundalk that is the police facility they go to.
For me, it’s about connecting the dots. First, the sale of the government center will relocate the police precinct. That is all contingent on the bids that will be opened in April and according to our officials, including the councilman, if they don’t meet expectations then why close Eastwood if the only purpose is to make the school into the new police facility. Given to what Mr. Kamenetz said about the council having the final say, it will be interesting.
None of this makes any sense because the school board is a separate function from the county government with its own leadership and budget. Now get a load of those dots! I guess we shall see.
Other guest speakers were Lionel Van Dommelen, chief of the county’s code enforcement unit which is now charged with overseeing all Section 8 housing and making sure they are all up to code. Mr. Van Dommelen also addressed the rat problem in Dundalk and promised to take action against those offenders who continue not to use proper trash receptacles that must include lids for the cans.
Captain Jan Brown spoke on the "broken window theory" and warned seniors to be wary of anyone approaching their homes who appear to be suspicious or scammers. Captain Brown also said he is doing everything in his power to clean up the graffiti in Dundalk by working with local business owners.
An interesting sidebar to this blog is that John Ayers and Terry Godwin are stepping down in their leadership roles from the organization at the end of the year. Mr. Ayers is getting married and moving to Middle River while Mr. Godwin is retiring after being a long time member and leader of the NHCA association.