Councilmembers pitch their FY 2019 budget wish lists

The city building in the snow.

By ALLAN WALTERS — The Hyattsville City Council has begun preliminary planning for the fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget, which will go into effect on July 1 of this year. On councilmembers’ wish lists: speed mitigations in a West Hyattsville neighborhood, a public restroom at Heurich Park, continuing the city’s Teen Club, bicycle repair stations — just to name a few.

Working sessions — held in December 2017 and January — allowed individual councilmembers to present their priorities for the coming year. In each session, councilmembers were given the opportunity to present initiatives that they would like to see the City of Hyattsville fund and implement within the next fiscal year. Both a discussion of the benefits to the community and an approximate cost were outlined for each proposed initiative. According to Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, the goal of the working sessions was to “give all councilmembers a chance to hear budget proposals, ask questions and ultimately decide to move forward on specific items.”

Councilmember Edouard Haba (Ward 4) kicked off the December session with several proposals. The first was the implementation of safety improvements and speed mitigation on Nicholson Street, 31st Avenue, Lancer Drive, 31st Place and Madison Street. The cost of this proposal was not provided, but the council gave unanimous consent to move forward with including this item in the FY 2019 budget.

Haba’s second proposal was to establish a literacy program at two Hyattsville elementary schools: Rosa L. Parks and Edward M. Felegy. Funding would pay for background check fees for 20 volunteers, supplies and an honorarium for two bilingual coordinators. The cost of this proposal was $2,600. The council gave unanimous consent to move forward.

Councilmember Haba’s final proposal was to build a public bathroom facility at Heurich Park with infant changing tables and separate sections for men and women. The cost of this proposal was $70,000. The council suggested requesting the funding from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission rather than using city funds to build the bathroom facility.

Councilmember Bart Lawrence (Ward 1) showed his interest in promoting a bike-friendly Hyattsville with three proposals that would positively impact local bikers. The first was a proposal to replace longitudinal storm grates on city streets with bicycle-safe storm grates, which typically have grids. Costs were estimated to be $500 per grate. The council gave unanimous consent to move forward.

The second was to install up to four filtered water stations across the city, including one each at Magruder Park and Heurich Park, and two at the municipal building at 4310 Gallatin Street. The cost of this proposal was estimated to be $8,000. The council gave unanimous approval.

Finally, Lawrence proposed to improve bicycle infrastructure by installing up to 50 bicycle racks and six repair stations across the city. The total estimated cost of the proposal was $49,000 and the council again gave unanimous consent to move forward.

Hollingsworth also put forward several proposals. She recommended establishing a pilot “Clean and Safe Team” of new Public Works employees who would maintain a presence in the Queens Chapel – Hamilton Street corridor. This program would seek to improve the public perception of customer service and safety in this area and would be similar to Business Improvement Districts that exist in Washington, D.C. Unlike D.C.’s program, the funding would not come from a self-imposed tax on businesses, but from the city budget. The initial price tag of the program is estimated to be $250,000. According to Public Information Officer and Community Services Director Jake Rollow, this proposal is still under review.

Both Hollingsworth and Councilmember Erica Spell (Ward 5) proposed initiatives to continue the popular Hyattsville Teen Program. This proved to be the initiative that the public was most passionate about, as several residents and program participants stood up to speak in favor of continuing the program in FY 2019.

Spell was passionate in her support of the program. Her proposal would maintain the current structure, “honoring the grassroots nature of the program and continuing as a pilot” into FY 2019. Costs were estimated at $25,000 for program expenses and $45,000 to establish a full-time coordinator position within the police department.

Hollingsworth proposed expanding the existing program by establishing a center in leased space at the University Town Center. This proposal was estimated to be much more expensive than the current program, as the center would potentially be open up to 20 hours per week and would be staffed by new, full-time city employees. Costs were estimated at up to $550,000 for FY 2019.

In an email exchange, Rollow provided the next steps in the 2019 budgeting process: City staff will take the input provided by the city council and draft a budget proposal that will be presented to the council. The council will then be given the opportunity to offer amendments to the budget proposal and vote on a final 2019 budget. As of press time, the dates for these next steps have not yet been scheduled.

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