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Rockville lists priorities for 2019 legislature

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Seal of Rockville MdROCKVILLE — Still six months before the Maryland legislative session begins, the Rockville Mayor and City Council are already getting their priorities for the 2019 session straight.

Among the top issues for the City discussed at Monday night’s meeting were local control over small-cell antennas, changing Maryland to an open-primary state, and funding for infrastructure projects.

The discussion was the first step for the City to get its priorities in line before the 2019 legislative session. Rockville is a member of the Maryland Municipal League, which lobbies in Annapolis on behalf of cities and towns, and is the organization that will represent the City’s priorities in the 2019 legislative session.

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Rockville hires new police chief

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Hagerstown Police Chief Victor BritoVictor Brito COUTESY PHOTO

Former Hagerstown chief is committed to community policing

After about five months, 100 candidates and three binders full of suggestions from residents, the search for Rockville’s new police chief finally came to an end last week after the City announced it has hired Victor Brito to lead the department.

Brito, who currently serves as Police Chief for the Hagerstown Police Department, will begin work in Rockville on June 18. Brito is taking over for Acting Police Chief Bob Rappaport, who served as a temporary replacement for Terry Treschuk. Treschuk had been Rockville’s police chief for 27 years until his retirement in June 2016.

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Rockville passes budget with no tax increase

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Seal of Rockville MdThe Rockville Mayor and City Council adopted their 2019 fiscal year budget, keeping property tax rates the same for yet another year.

Rockville’s $136.2-million budget is a 4.5-percent increase from last year’s budget, which will help supplement the 4.5-percent wage increase City employees are set to see under the new budget. The increases allow the City to add several new positions in City government, including two additional police officers, one GIS/Asset Management support specialist, one urban forestry maintenance worker, and one information systems security engineer.

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Rockville looks for more federal funding

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Seal of Rockville MdROCKVILLE — While traditionally reliant – in part – on county, state and federal dollars to assist with its infrastructure needs, Rockville is now increasingly having to rely on bonds to keep its bridges safe and its roads paved.

According to City Council member Mark Pierzchala, Rockville is receiving $4 million less in infrastructure funding from the county and state, meaning the City has had to turn to bonding to fund road and bridge projects.

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Rockville closer to finalizing plans for Chestnut Lodge

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The site of Rockville’s former historic landmark, Chestnut Lodge, a 19th-century psychiatric asylum that burned down in a 2009 fire, is one step closer to having a final plan.

Although Rockville bought three parcels of land the historic landmark was built on to build a public park, the City still has several more bureaucratic procedures to undergo before it can be official designated as park – mostly notably, choosing a name.

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Rockville continues with proposal for new Twinbrook development

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ROCKVILLE — Representatives from a company that plans to build a new neighborhood in Twinbrook said their new mixed-use development will be like Rockville’s very own French Quarter.

On Monday night the Rockville City Council unanimously voted to continue with proposed development in Twinbrook along Rockville Pike under the City’s champion project status designation, one of many steps needed before the project is finally approved. The City’s champion project status designation will allow the developers to build without providing an access road.

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Rockville seniors testify against water and sewer rate increases

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Seal of Rockville MdROCKVILLE — Rockville residents weighed in on City Manager Robert DiSpirito’s budget proposal at Monday’s Mayor and City Council session, using first of two public hearings before the City Council takes up their own budget to air grievances about suggested increases to the city’s water and sewer rates.

The matter of most concern to those residents who testified was against a proposed 9.7 percent increase to the City’s ready-to-serve charge, a significant increase meant to help funnel revenue back into the Rockville’s sinking sewer fund.

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Rockville budget proposal includes increased wages

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Seal of Rockville MdOne week after Rockville City Manager Rob DiSpirito presented his Fiscal Year 2019 budget to the Rockville City Council and Mayor Bridget Newton, DiSpirito had the chance to defend his proposal Monday as Newton and members of the council questioned him and discussed the city’s budget needs.

DiSpirito’s $136.2 million budget plan increases proposed expenditures by 4.5 percent over Fiscal Year 2018 but despite the increases, it does not increase property taxes. The increases would allow DiSpirito to add several new positions in the City government, including two additional police officers, one GIS/Asset Management support specialist, one urban forestry maintenance worker and one information systems security engineer.

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Affordable housing plan still on track after fire

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Seal of Rockville MdROCKVILLE — Rockville’s plans for revamping affordable housing won’t be derailed by the effects of a fire that broke out at the Fireside Park Apartments almost two weeks ago.

The owner of the apartment complex, Rockville Housing Enterprise, planned to ask the city for a grant to update the apartment complex, located at 735 Monroe Street. RHE Executive Director Jessica Anderson said that although it may take a year to fully repair the damage inflicted by the fire, plans for making the needed addition is still on track and awaiting approval by the Mayor and City Council.

“Other than inspiring us to speed up our timeline…no,” Anderson said when asked if the Feb. 2 fire had affected the refinancing process, adding that she expects the repairing of fire damage and the refinancing process to go on at the same time.

“The two processes will work in parallel,” she said.

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Rockville mulls vote-by-mail for 2019 election

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Seal of Rockville MdROCKVILLE — Rockville residents and area election officials had mostly positive things to say Monday as the Rockville City Council considered a proposal to ameliorate declining voter turnout in city elections by putting an end to in-person voting and implementing a vote-by-mail system for the city’s 2019 election, under which every registered voter in the City of Rockville would receive a ballot in the mail, which voters would return by Election Day. 

“It’s an experience I mourn the loss of, if I go in this direction,” said Rockville resident and former mayoral candidate Drew Powell, who said he favors the change to vote by mail. “It doesn’t mean I’m against the initiative, it’s just something I will miss.” 

The lone voice who spoke in opposition to the proposal was Rockville resident Brigitta Mulligan, who suggested that the proposal be put to a referendum rather than be decided on by the Council.

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