More public safety officers, a Resident Environmental Advisory Committee, and increased pay for teachers and substitutes are part of 63 recommendations made by County Executive Steuart Pittman’s transition team.
Leadership of the transition team unveiled the recommendations Thursday night at a meeting inside County Council chambers. The full report was released online shortly after the meeting. The transition team was co-chaired by former County Executive Janet Owens and former Councilman Chris Trumbauer. They led the conversation at Thursday’s meeting.
“It has been a bittersweet experience to me as a former county executive, we feel behind in some areas,” Owens said. “We need to rebuild. I know we will do that.”
The 20-page document lists a variety of policy and administrative changes under seven different categories. These categories were created based on Pittman’s priorities which cover the gamut of governmental responsibilities: health, public safety, environmental issues, education and government responsiveness. The chair of each group spent five minutes discussing their findings.
In a moment of levity, former Councilman Jerry Walker, R-Crofton, went several minutes past the timer.
“Mr. Trumbauer isn’t going to cut me off,” Walker said with a laugh.
“Don’t test me,” Trumbauer responded.
The transition report isn’t a legal document, but it does serve as a guiding tool for Pittman’s administration.
Pittman said he doesn’t agree with every recommendation in the report but much of it is being added to his to-do list.
“I told all of these committees and department heads, ‘Think big, let’s try to change the world and make this the best place,’ ” Pittman said. “Of course we can’t afford everything. It is expensive to make change sometimes.”
Refreshments including beer and wine were served after the meeting. Pittman said in his closing remarks that they checked with the Office of Law before serving the drinks.
They are mostly for non-county employees, so county employees review your department rules before partaking, Pittman said with a laugh.
Safe Communities was co-chaired by retired county police Maj. Ed Bergin and former county chief of staff Rook Rogers. The committee recommended more public safety staffing, diversity and training for officers dealing with juvenile incidents.
“We based all the recommendations on interviews and data collection,” Bergin said. “There is one guiding theme: staffing and (salary).”
Here are a few public safety recommendations from the report:
- Increase public safety staffing in each agency: police, fire, EMS, 911 center, animal control, school resource officers, the gang unit and others. They also recommend increasing salaries and pay compression.
- Increase diversity in all agencies with an emphasis on Hispanic officers.
- Expand educational resources, like the opioid-focused program Not My Child, and training around mental and substance use disorders.
The county should create an arts district in north and west county, prepare for mandatory pre-kindergarten and improve salaries of county educators, according to education recommendations.
The Educated Communities group was led by former Board of Education president Stacy Korbelak. The committee recommended changes that bolstered staffing and funding for school services.
“Our educators are finding themselves struggling to address mental health and special needs,” Korbelak said.
Here are a few other recommendations in the report:
- Re-examine the Old Mill project to free up capital funding for more space to offer other services such as a regional library, mental health services, workforce development and sports facilities. This would mean reducing the proposed two schools down to a single, larger school.
- Pilot a “mobile outreach vehicle” that can host library resources, a food bank, workforce training and physical and mental health services.
- Create more community spaces where people can gather to learn, meet and talk.
The county should create a new Department of Environment and Sustainability that would include a Resident Environmental Advisory Committee and a “Streams and Creeks Cabinet,” according to the transition team’s report.
The Sustainable Communities group was led by Kate Fritz, the executive director of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
“We saw a great opportunity to shift our culture in our departments,” Fritz said.
Other environmental recommendations include:
- Update county codes and procedures through an environmental review of all departments.
- Revisit last year’s solar panel legislation that changed how and where certain types of solar panel farms could be built. Pittman served on the Agriculture Farming and Agritourism Commission that ultimately released recommendations leading to the 2018 law. Solar panel advocates were disappointed with the legislation, saying it made it harder to build community solar projects.
- Create climate change planning across county agencies and the public.
- Establish a no net loss forest policy. This means every acre of tree cut down would be replanted. This is stronger than current state requirements. Annapolis has a no net loss policy.