I have been honored to serve as a county commissioner for over four years now. Prior to that, I served four years on the Board of Aldermen of our largest municipality, the City of Frederick.
If I learned nothing else during all this time, I learned that there is no more important aspect of this county government than having a good, solid, productive working relationship between the county and the municipalities.
Unfortunately, I have witnessed the exact opposite of that; and, in fact, what I think to be perhaps the worst-ever relationship between the Board of County Commissioners and the municipalities, maybe in the history of Frederick County was between 2006 and 2010, or as I like to call it the “Reign of Terror” on our municipalities.
When the current board was sworn in, we were faced with multiple issues of outright conflict between the commissioners and the county’s municipalities. The previous board seemed to have adopted a policy of outright hostility toward our municipalities.
It failed to cooperate with the City of Frederick, to the detriment of the very popular and economically strong Homewood development on the northern border of Frederick City.
It turned its backs on Rosemont, when that community’s water situation reached alarming levels.
It played games with promised funding for the Carroll Creek project in Frederick City, which almost cost the city a state grant.
And finally, it passed laws which attempted to usurp municipal authority over municipal affairs, which eventually drove many municipalities into court with lawsuits against Frederick County.
One of the very first things the current board did when it took office was rescind the action of the previous board and settle all the lawsuits. This not only restored an appropriate balance between the authority of the municipalities and the county government, but it saved the municipalities many thousands of dollars in legal fees.
The ultimate insult may have been when the 2006-2010 board withheld tax equity money that had always been returned to the municipal coffers from the county treasury in recognition of the fact that municipal taxpayers received certain benefits from their municipalities, relieving county of the responsibility to provide those services.
It got so bad that the municipalities were forced to go to Annapolis, where Del. Galen Clagett drafted and shepherded through the legislature a bill to restore the tax equity payments from Frederick County government to the municipalities. It never should have come to that, and one of the very first things the present board did upon taking office was to restore tax equity payments to each and every municipality. It was only the right thing to do.
My colleagues on the current board and I view the relationship between the commissioners and the municipalities so important that we have created an entirely new position, and we have assigned a full-time county staff member to the role of liaison between the Board of County Commissioners and the county’s municipal governments.
Dave Dunn has done a great job in restoring trust between municipal leaders and county government. He regularly attends meetings in every municipality in the county, and he brings issues back to the commissioners which they tackle immediately, and do everything in their power to assist our municipal leaders. This new-found working relationship and cooperation between the various governments has resulted in municipalities saving thousands of dollars on things such as procurement in bulk purchasing. It is now the policy to allow the municipalities to piggyback on some of the county’s purchases, and take advantage of lower bulk pricing. Again, it is only the right thing to do.
And, this new cooperative environment this current board has created with the municipalities is appreciated.
I never understood why the philosophy of the previous board seemed to be an “us versus them” mentality. Municipal leaders were often treated like the enemy when they ventured into Winchester Hall to say their piece, rather than as valued allies. After all, these governments are all in this together. Frederick County belongs to each and every one of us, whether we live in the unincorporated areas of the county or within the borders of our towns and cities.
It is so easy to treat people with dignity and respect, and it has been a priority of the current commissioners to extend every courtesy to our municipal leaders and municipal residents in conducting county business.
I have enjoyed immensely my four plus years as a county commissioner, and one of the things I have valued most is getting to know so many people in every part of the county, many of them who reside in the municipalities. I look forward to continuing this work and pledge to continue these efforts to make each and every one of our cities and towns a happy and productive place to live and work.