MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF LAUREL
IN-PERSON MEETING - COUNICL CHAMBERS
Watch the meeting on Laurel TV streaming live in your web browser at https://laureltv.org/watch-live or locally Laurel TV can be found on Comcast Channel 996 (HD), 71 (SD) or Verizon FiOS Channel 12.
- Call to Order- Brencis D. Smith, Council President
- Pledge of Allegiance
- Roll Call- Sara A. Green, CMC, City Clerk
- Report of the Mayor and City Council
- Mayoral Appointments:
- Former Mayor Robert J. DiPietro, Board of Trustees- Retirement Plans
- Ms. Jacki Ricks, Board of Election Supervisors
- Ms. Gwendolyn Boyd, Board of Election Supervisors
- Christina Cornwell, Director, Department of Community Resources and Emergency Management (CREM)
- General Public Hearing
- Second Public Hearing with Possible Action on Ordinance No. 2009 - An Ordinance of the Mayor and City Council of Laurel, Maryland Granting a Non-Exclusive Cable Television Franchise to Comcast of Maryland, LLC., to Construct, Operate and Maintain a Cable System within the City of Laurel, Maryland, Pursuant to the Provisions of Chapter 5 of the Laurel City Code, and to Approve a Cable Franchise Agreement.
- Briefing on Traffic Calming Devices by the Department of Public Works
MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2023
The meeting convened in the Council Chambers of the Laurel Municipal Center at approximately 6:00 pm with Council President Brencis D. Smith presiding. The following members were also present: Councilman Carl DeWalt, Councilman James Kole, Councilman Martin Mitchell, Councilman Keith R. Sydnor and Craig A. Moe, Mayor.
The following staff members were also present: Christian L Pulley, CPM, City Administrator, Joanne Barr, Deputy City Administrator, Sara A. Green, CMC, City Clerk, Ana Navarro, Executive Assistant to the Mayor, Bill Bailey, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation, Audrey Barnes, Director, Department of Communications, James Cornwell-Shiel, Director, Department of Information Technology, Brian K. Lee, Director, Department of Public Works, Robert Love, Director, Department of Economic and Community Development, Deputy Chief Mark Plazinksi, LPD, S. Michele Saylor, Director, Department of Budget and Personnel Services, Danny Selby, Director, Office of the Fire Marshal and Permit Services, Larry Taub, City Solicitor, and Chrissy Cornwell, Emergency Manager. There were approximately thirty (30) members of the public in attendance.
Agenda Item No. 4 was Report of the Mayor and City Council. Councilman DeWalt noted that he had distributed food at the Grace 2 Grace Church and handed out fresh fruit and vegetables through Brighter Bites to children and families of Laurel Elementary School. Councilman DeWalt noted that there were several Department of Public Works (DPW) employees in the audience who had been to the previous few meetings requesting that the Mayor and City Council grant them permission to unionize. Councilman DeWalt said that all it would take was a one-page “referendum” to grant DPW employees’ permission to unionize like the Laurel Police Department had. Councilman DeWalt noted that there were some constituents from the Northlake Community in attendance who had previously attended the Public Works and Transportation Committee meeting that Councilman DeWalt chaired. He said that the constituents were concerned with speeding and traffic throughout their community and wanted some sort of traffic calming device(s) installed to help the situation.
Councilman Mitchell attended the City’s Electronics Recycling and Paper Shredding event at the Department of Public Works; attended the Black Maternal Health event at the Robert J. DiPietro Community Center; on April 20th on the steps of City Hall, he had his announcement “Martin for Mayor” event; attended the Tip-A-Cop event at Famous Dave’s; attended the LARS Community Fair; event at Notes and Jokes on Main Street; Announced that on May 6th he would be helping with a Fentanyl event at Grace 2 Grace Church.
Councilman Kole on April 11, 2023 attended the Laurel Cats Kitten Shower event; attended a TEEX Special Event Training; DPW’s Electronics Recycling and Paper Shredding event and helped DPW staff educate citizens on the benefits of composting; attended the Ramadan meal at the Islamic Community Center of Laurel (ICCL); City’s Volunteer Fair; went to Arco Iris Spring Festival which is the only bilingual child care center in Laurel; Earth Day Cleanup event at Laurel Lake, Native Planting at the Laurel Farmer’s Market lot; announcement that the Environmental Affairs Committee would be hosting a meeting at 6:00 pm on April 25, 2023 at Sturgis-Moore pavilion and would be discussing the Plastic Bag Ban and Composting Legislation; No-Mow April would be ending soon and encouraged residents to cut their grass.
Councilman Sydnor attended a ribbon cutting event at the Roland B. Sweitzer Park as the Top Ladies of Distinction had adopted the park; attended the DPW Electronics Recycling and Paper Shredding event; attended the Black Maternal Health event and thanked Mayor Moe for issuing a proclamation recognizing the importance of Black Maternal Health in the community; Tri Delta Zeta a local chapter of the sorority in Laurel and congratulated them on their 20 years of service in the Laurel area. Tri Delta Zeta surprised Councilman Sydnor with their Thrive Award and wanted to share the award with the Mayor and City Council and City Employees and volunteers that had helped him partner with the sorority throughout the years; attended the Ramadan meal at ICCL as well; announced that he had been contacted by the Braxton Legacy Foundation who wanted to provide dresses and suits to for students to attend prom, so Councilman Sydnor had reached out to Principal Dinkins at Laurel High School and they were able to identify 25 boys and 25 girls who attended Laurel High School and asked provided the information on how the community could help support the cause.
President Smith attended the Prince George’s County Municipal Association meeting; Clergy Board meeting.
Mayor Moe attended the MWCOG Board of Directors meeting; thanked all City Employees for the DPW Recycling Event; attended the Maryland Fire Chief’s Association at the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department; ICCL dinner and thanked the members for all of their work in the community; thanked staff for the Laurel Volunteer Fair; Clergy Advisory Council meeting; Prince George’s County Municipal Association meeting hosted at the Laurel Municipal Center; thanked the community and staff for the Earth Day Clean up event at Granville Gude Park; threw out the first pitch at the Laurel Little League; thanked LARS for all of their hard work and everything they continue to do in the community; attended the Towne Centre at Laurel Family Fun Day; congratulated Councilman Sydnor on being recognized for his service to the community and our Country. Announced: April 26th Arbor Day Tree Planting at Discovery Community Park at 11:00 am and 6:30 pm City Hall in the Park at Emancipation Community Park; May 6th Lakefest at Granville Gude Park at 11:00 am; City moving forward on improvements to Alley #6 and DPW would be notifying the residents; May 1st City’s proposed FY2024 Budget with no tax increases would be available; new electric vehicle charging station had been installed out front of the Laurel Municipal Center. Mayor Moe noted that there had been a lot of accusations and comments being made and the Administration had been working very hard and asked the Council for feedback and had received information back from four (4) Councilmembers regarding a proposed Charter Resolution which was not a referendum, it was a Charter Resolution and he and the Administration had been able to draft Charter Resolution No. 178, a Charter Resolution of the Mayor and City Council of Laurel Amending Article 300 “Government” of the Charter of the City of Laurel to Amend Section 357 to Allow for Collective Bargaining for Certain Employees of the Department of Public Works. Mayor Moe noted that some of the dialogue that had taken place was whether or not the City should rewrite or add to Section 357 and with that said, he was requesting that President Smith place Charter Resolution No. 178 to that evenings agenda and that would allow for the Introduction and first public hearing and then would be followed with a second public hearing with possible action on May 8, 2023 and between those meetings, the City Councilmembers would be able to meet with the City’s labor attorney. Mayor Moe asked Ms. Green, City Clerk to take the copies he had of the proposed Charter Resolution and the memo for the record. Mayor Moe reminded everyone that under State law, Charter Resolutions required two (2) public hearings and once passed, would not become effective until fifty (50) days after the date it was passed and then from there, as was done with the Laurel Police Department, the Labor Code would follow and it was believed that making one Labor Code was the best course of action. Mayor Moe said that he was hopeful that it would be completed in October. President Smith asked the City Clerk to add the item to the agenda under 7.1.
Mayor Moe was going to make the appointment of Ms. Gwendolyn Boyd to the Board of Election Supervisors but had heard from Ms. Boyd who changed her mind due to some personal reasons. Mayor Moe went on make the appointment of former Mayor Robert J. DiPietro to the Board of Retirement Trustees and noted that Chairwoman Jan Abel had announced that she would be stepping down so Mayor Moe would need to appoint a new Chair for the Board in the future. Mayor Moe was also appointing Ms. Jacqueline “Jacki” Ricks as Chief Judge, Ward 1 of the Board of Election Supervisors and Ms. Chrissy Cornwell as the Director of the Department of Community Resources and Emergency Management. The appointments were approved on motion by Councilman Sydnor, seconded by Councilman Kole, and carried on a roll call vote of all members present.
Agenda Item No. 6 was the General Public Hearing. President Smith opened the General Public Hearing at 6:28 pm and called on Mr. Lloyd Holloway, no address provided. Mr. Holloway was a Department of Public Works employee and had reached out to MCGEO (union) to assist the Department of Public Works to unionize and get collective bargaining rights. Mr. Holloway read an article he had written in the Voices of Laurel regarding the Department of Public Works staff and their duties. The next speaker was John Barry, UFCW1994, was at the recycling event and indicated that the citizens of Laurel were very much in support of allowing DPW to unionize and it looked like the City was moving in the direction to allow the unionization. Mr. Barry provided a package containing signatures of people in and outside of the City limits, who were in support of allowing DPW to unionize. Councilman Sydnor asked President Smith if he could say something before, he closed the General Public Hearing and President Smith yielded the floor to Councilman Sydnor. A citizen asked to be heard from the audience. President Smith asked the gentleman to go to the lectern. Mr. Robert Best, resident of Ashford Boulevard for over thirty (30) years, noted that he had emailed Mayor Moe about 11 years prior regarding speeding on Ashford Boulevard and the City had put out a traffic analyzer at the end of Ashford right before the stop sign on Oxford Drive. He said that he figured the results of that indicated the installation of signs in each direction that said, “Speed Limit 25” and then he’d recently read where the City was installing speed humps on Irving Street, Olive Branch Way, and Sandy Spring Road and meanwhile, Ashford Boulevard had nothing. Mr. Best’s recommendation was that the City install a speed bump at each mailbox on the west side of Ashford Boulevard that within a week, he thought would stop the speeding. Mayor Moe told Mr. Best that the speed humps and bumps recently installed around the City were part of a pilot program just to see how they were working but encouraged Mr. Best to stay at the meeting because the Mayor and Council would be having a briefing on traffic calming devices by the Department of Public Works.
President Smith called on Councilman Sydnor who had previously requested to speak. Councilman Sydnor addressed the Department of Public Works staff in the audience and said that he had not been aware that DPW wanted to unionize until it was announced at the February 27, 2023 Mayor and City Council meeting and that he wanted to make it clear that the Mayor and City Council had not been opposed to DPW unionizing, but had wanted to check some things and make sure everything was being done properly to allow for the unionization. Councilman Sydnor noted that as a courtesy, Mayor Moe had asked the Council for input, and they did that. When everyone got to the negotiating stage, the employes would be negotiating with the Mayor and the Administration, not the Council. Councilman Sydnor said that he tried to stay out of somethings because a lot of things go back to the Council to make decisions and approve funding, etc. and he didn’t want to infringe upon anything and that the Council had never been against unionization, but that there was a process and everything needed to be done based on the best interest of the City, the residents, and employees.
President Smith allowed Councilman Mitchell to speak before closing the public hearing. Councilman Mitchell said that he was happy to see his neighbors from the Northlake and Ashford communities at the meeting and that he was in favor of speed humps and bumps more so than speed cameras. Councilman Mitchell addressed the DPW employees and said that he appreciated them attending the meetings to try to get their unionization approved and thanked them for reaching out to him initially to help them with unionizing. Councilman DeWalt also asked to speak again and said that he came from Pennsylvania to Maryland and had previously worked for the United States Steel Workers union and that most times unions aren’t needed, but sometimes they were when people lost their trust in being managed then the unions needed to step in and help make it right and that if something similar ever happened, he would help again. Councilman DeWalt said that he would put speed cameras all over the City if it would help keep the speeding down in the City and spoke again about the accident that had occurred when a woman had been hit by a car while kids were walking to Laurel Elementary School and that he had been promised months prior that something would be done regarding the safety of residents from Selborne House walking across Main Street to the quick stop because people were always speeding and he’d been told that it was going to cost $50,000 to fix the crosswalk and he didn’t care how much it cost, the seniors just wanted to cross Main Street safely. President Smith closed the public hearing at 6:45 pm.
Agenda Item No. 7 was the second public hearing with possible action on Ordinance No. 2009, an Ordinance of the Mayor and City Council of Laurel, Maryland Granting a Non-Exclusive Cable Television Franchise to Comcast of Maryland, LLC., to Construct, Operate and Maintain a Cable System within the City of Laurel, Maryland, pursuant to the Provisions of Chapter 5 of the Laurel City Code and to approve a Cable Franchise Agreement. James Cornwell-Shiel, Director, Department of Information Technology, noted that he did not have anything to add from the Work Session and first public hearing and was available for questions. President Smith opened the public hearing at 6:46 pm and no one was signed up to speak. President Smith closed the public hearing at 6:47 pm. Councilman Sydnor made a motion to approve Ordinance No. 2009 as presented. The motion was seconded by Councilman Kole and carried on a roll call of all members present with Mayor Moe concurring with the vote.
Agenda Item No. 7.1 was Introduction and First Public Hearing on Charter Resolution No. 178, a Charter Resolution of the Mayor and City Council of Laurel Amending Article 300 “Government” of the Charter of the City of Laurel to Amend Section 357 to Allow for Collective Bargaining for Certain Employees of the Department of Public Works. President Smith read the title into the record for the first reading and noted that the item would be on the May 8, 2023 Mayor and City Council meeting agenda. President Smith opened the public hearing at 6:47 pm with no one signed up to speak, President Smith closed the public hearing at 6:48 pm.
Agenda Item No. 8 was a briefing on traffic calming devices by the Department of Public Works. Director Lee said that as a result of the Citywide traffic study conducted in 2021, it was determined that there were some locations within the City that needed traffic calming devices and had drafted a policy that would provide a process for communities and citizens to request a particular area be studied or traffic calming devices to be installed. Director Lee noted that speed humps and bumps were not the only effective traffic calming devices and that they wouldn’t always be the best choice for every street/area.
A citizen from the audience asked to be heard and President Smith agreed to reopen the public hearing at 6:53 pm. Ms. Maria Clifford asked what time frame the City was looking at to install more traffic calming devices in the City and asked about additional speed cameras. Director Lee said that he could not speak to installation of speed cameras because they were not under his authority, that would be the Police Department. Once the policy was finished and a community asked for a study, the Department of Public Works would be able to schedule the study within two (2) weeks or so. Mayor Moe clarified that once the policy was completed, a study could be requested, it would take time to get it scheduled and actually conduct the study and that the program/project would be a multi-year program and the City would see some studies and traffic calming installations in neighborhoods each year. Next, Giovanna Williams, 14050 Vista Drive #63C, Laurel, Maryland 20707, addressed the Mayor and City Council asking if the City would have something online when the policy was done so that citizens would be able to see exactly where the City was with the plan. Mayor Moe said that it was a good idea and Mr. Lee said it would go online. Mr. Charles Bell, 8018 Ashford Boulevard Laurel, Maryland 20707, spoke next and said he was President of Northlake HOA. Mr. Bell said that he had requested speed bumps many years prior when he moved to Ashford Boulevard but had been told that it was an emergency route, so speed humps and bumps couldn’t be installed, but he wanted to see speed cameras. Mr. Bell shared photos of parked cars that had been hit by speeding cars and totaled from the damage. Mr. Bell was very concerned that someone would be seriously injured due to the speeding on Ashford Boulevard if something wasn’t done. Next, Ms. Joyce Gibson, 7946 Ashford Boulevard Laurel, Maryland 20707 who lived at that address for 25 years provided pictures of her son’s car that had been struck by a speeding car. Ms. Gibson said that DPW employees were the best and that they deserved whatever they were asking for. Mr. Lloyd Holloway addressed the Mayor and City Council again and said that he’d seen the speeding cars a lot on Ashford Boulevard while he was working to pick up the trash on the street and that they posed a danger to the community.
There being no further business the meeting was adjourned at 7:10 pm.
Approved: Sara A. Green, CMC, City Clerk Date: September 11, 2023