Republican candidates for mayor and board of aldermen took part in a forum Thursday night at Frederick Community College's Kussmaul Theater. Incumbent Mayor Randy McClement, former Mayor Jeff Holtzinger and Alderwoman Shelley Aloi participated.
The forum was sponsored by the Frederick News-Post, WFMD Radio and Frederick Community College.
One of the issues discussed was the city's purchase of the 148-acre Hargett Farm, located along Butterfly Lane. Alderwoman Aloi criticized the past decision to buy that parcel. "If that had not been purchased by the city through the process of condemnation, there would now be taxpaying citizens on that property. There's not," she said. "Today, it's costing us approximately $116,000 per month on average for that farm." The original plan for the parcel was residential housing.
Former Mayor Holtzinger has come under fire for the purchase, which occurred when he was in office. But he defended that decision. "The City of Frederick is the largest municipality in the county. We do not have the active recreational facilities that Walkersville, Middletown or Thurmont do. By a factor of ten, we are larger. The site is ideal for that because of the slopes. It's rolling to very flat." The city had planned to use that property for a regional park.
But incumbent Mayor Randy McClement says work is going on behind the scenes to place an aquatic center at that site. "Myself, the Parks Director, Roelky Myers, have been recently running around talking to a bunch of different partners, local swim clubs, Board of Ed, Board of County Commissioners, YMCA, Frederick Memorial Hospital, to see if we could move forward the aquatic center which was planned for that area," he said.
The GOP candidates for the Board of Aldermen also took part in their own forum. One of the questions they were asked was what they consider the biggest threat to the city. Daniel Cowell said it was unfunded pension and health care costs for municipal employees. "We all know the cost of health care is skyrocketing every year. Three years ago, four years ago, five years ago, it was very inexpensive if you had insurance. All you had to do was pay a $5 or $20 deductible. Now the deductibles are twice that, three times that. And every year they continue to increase," he said.
Candidate Phil Dacey said it's negotiating the best growth for the city. "We want to make sure we grow not with just residential housing. We need to make sure that people can live here, that people can work here, that people can shop here. That will deal with a lot of the traffic problems we have," says Dacey.
Former Alderman Alan Imhoff talked about another threat. "Sequestration, the reduction of federal spending and the loss of major employers in the city are going to affect our ability to raise the funds to attack all of the problems we are talking about," Imhoff says.
Another issue concerned transportation. Katie Nash said the old formula to fund roads and other infrastructure is not working. "We've always relied on the housing industry as they build houses to use the APFO to apply the money at the back end so the houses go up, and hopefully later on, the road improvements are made. It's a failed model. It's not working. Anyone who has been to Wegmens at 5:00 in the afternoon knows that it's not working.
Other Aldermanic candidates who participated were Jill King, Dave Schmidt and Hayden Duke.
The forum was moderated by Cliff Cumber from the Frederick News-Post.
Primary election day is Tuesday, September 10th.