Showing posts with label Terry Treschuk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Terry Treschuk. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Retiring Rockville police chief recognized by Mayor and Council

Terry Treschuk, who has spent the last 27 years as Chief of Police in Rockville, was recognized by the Mayor and Council last night for his service to the City. "I begged him not to go," said Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, who called the occasion "bittersweet."

An emotional Treschuk accepted a Rockville flag and the key to the city. "I'm just speechless, which isn't like me," Treschuk said at the podium. "I'm still in the city, and I'll be coming to Community Forum," he said to laughter.

Image courtesy City of Rockville via Twitter

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rockville Mayor and Council discuss FY-17 budget priorities

Rockville's budget season is officially underway, and a preview of the FY-2017 budget was presented to the Mayor and Council at last night's regular meeting by Deputy Director of Finance Stacey Webster. Some information will not be available until the February 8 meeting, including whether or not tax increases - such as the property tax - will be necessary.

But if the Mayor and Council accept the general outline presented by staff last night, there would be a 5-6% increase in trash fees, and a two-cent hike in what commercial property owners at Rockville Town Square pay toward the parking fund annually. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton asked what that spike in trash fees would cost the average Rockville resident. Webster said it would be about $20 to $25 out of residents' pockets in FY-17. She said a number of factors led to the suggested increase, including a renegotiated city refuse agreement, new vehicle purchases, and labor costs.

Finance Director Gavin Cohen said the Rockville Town Square parking tax hike would cost property owners there about $12,000. He added that the new revenue would help cover the installation and adoption of "smart" parking meters.

Councilmember Mark Pierzchala, known for being well-prepared for meetings, identified a discrepancy in the newest unassigned reserves figure for FY-17. He noted it was now below the target established in the FY-16 budget. Webster explained that the number had to be revised due to new concerns about revenue, particularly in light of the Wynne decision and the recent mistake by the Maryland Comptroller's office in allocation of revenues to municipalities such as Rockville. The latter gaffe means the City will likely have to return an unknown amount of funds it mistakenly received from Annapolis.

In the context of those concerns, Webster said, she did not recommend the City reduce the property tax at this time. Councilmember Beryl Feinberg asked her colleagues if there was any inclination among the body to pursue a property tax reduction or credit for FY-17. There appeared to be no takers. Pierzchala said he was not only concerned about the factors Webster mentioned, but about the increasing forecasts of another national recession.

Webster said that Rockville is in a position to keep water and sewer fees flat this year, but cautioned against reducing the amount of unassigned reserves. She said the money that would free up would likely be outweighed by the negative message such a move would send to bond rating agencies, upon whom staff had impressed last year's increased commitment to reserve funding. Webster said those agencies expect the City to continue on that course to retain its prized Aaa bond rating.

With the recent election having just passed, the Mayor and Council also sought to deliver on promises made during the 2015 campaign. Newton noted that the Rockville Senior Center is in urgent need of both a full-time social worker, and a dedicated staff member who can help manage the aging-in-place Village programs being established across the city. She also pressed for one of her top priorities, increasing the number of police officers in the city. Newton said Rockviille's population, demographics and law enforcement challenges are not what they were 30 years ago. Rockville Police Chief Terry Treschuk concurred with the Mayor's comments. "It's time we had a frank discussion about the Police Department in this city," Treschuk said, "and lay it all on the table."

Pierzchala said he was hesitant to add signifcant numbers of new officers without first examining how current personnel are deployed and other efficiency options. Newton and Treschuk's remarks suggested that such analysis would be part of the overall discussion. But Newton argued that additions to the force are clearly warranted, with Rockville officers answering over 70% of calls within the city last year. She said Montgomery County officials have told her the efforts of the Rockville Police have allowed County Police assets to be redeployed to other priorities.

Feinberg brought up another proposal supported by several candidates last fall, the construction of additional recreation centers around the city. She suggested Potomac Woods Park as a prime location, because it already has utility lines running out to it, and existing recreational facilities in place.

Newton encouraged residents and staff to come forward with needs that could be addressed in this budget, saying it is important that the document reflect their priorities while maintaining the City's sound financial management.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Rockville acts to avoid becoming "safe haven" for massage parlors, prostitution

Rockville's Mayor and Council voted unanimously last night to approve an ordinance that would apply Montgomery County laws to massage parlors in the city. An effort spearheaded by Councilmember Beryl Feinberg led to the measure introduced by Rockville Police Chief Terry Treschuk, which would allow the city to cooperate with Montgomery County Police and Department of Permitting Services in the regulation of "bodywork" businesses like massage spas.

Much like the recent county regulations, the aim of the city ordinance is to fight the growth of human trafficking and prostitution in such enterprises. The growing immigrant population has led to an increase in victims of both crimes who, due to language or fear of being deported, may be unable to seek help from police easily.

The change in the county rules led to concerns that illegal spa businesses squeezed elsewhere in Montgomery would seek refuge in Rockville, making it a "safe haven" for prostitution and human trafficking. Feinberg said about 60 such illegal enterprises have been closed by the county since the new rules went into effect, which created the urgency to extend those rules to the city.

The Mayor and Council voted unanimously to waive the review period for the ordinance, to get the rules into place as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Backyard chickens to be legal in Rockville July 1

Which comes first, the backyard chickens or the election? It turns out, the backyard chickens, after the Rockville City Council passed an animal ordinance last night that would permit up to 5 hens in a backyard with several restrictions.

The update of the animal ordinance, which was spearheaded by Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr, had a number of elements that the Mayor and Council could agree upon. Those included registration of cats, and trap-neuter-release guidelines for feral cats. Councilman Tom Moore said he was "deeply impressed" by Palakovich Carr's work on the legislation.

But only one of their colleagues, Councilmember Virginia Onley, joined them to approve the new ordinance in a 3-2 vote that surprised few by the end of the discussion. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg both voted against the measure.

Newton said the backyard chicken provision in the ordinance "pits neighbor against neighbor," and ignores the evolution of once-rural Rockville into a denser, suburban residential area. She argued there must have been good reason for a previous Mayor and Council to ban backyard chickens in 2006. "What kind of city do we want to be," Newton asked, but said that given the positives of the resolution she was "disappointed to vote against this."

Feinberg was the most vocally-opposed to the chicken provision, citing a long list of unanswered questions, health and safety risks, loopholes in the proposal, and not least, resident opposition.

She argued that the costs alone were troubling, saying she was skeptical that a $25 fee could cover all of the costs to the city. "I don't think we can make any assumptions" of how many residents would seek to raise chickens, she said. Feinberg said there were many potential loopholes and problems in the resolution, which she said would be compounded by the fact that the city does not have a regulatory body to shape regulations to implement legislation.

"Votes should not be cast...without some notion on how they will be implemented, Feinberg said.

Among unanswered questions for Feinberg were:

  • a lack of guidance on maximum coop sizes, potentially leading to "Taj Mahal coops" popping up in Rockville backyards

  • the potential for a resident opposed to chickens being surrounded by 15-20 of them on adjacent home lots

  • noise - Feinberg said comparisons of chicken noises to dog barks were "disingenuous"

  • not enough documentation provided to the Mayor and Council on complaints filed about chickens in other jurisdictions that allow them

  • feather pecking and cannibalism

  • avian flu virus

  • chicken waste contaminating ground water

  • salmonella risk to humans

  • frostbite and coop fires from non-compliant heating rigs for coops in winter

  • no specificity on breeds

Overall, Feinberg deemed the resolution a "far-reaching change" with lacking controls for implementation. She also said many residents were vehemently opposed to the chicken measure.

Palakovich Carr said emails to the city on the chicken issue were running 87 in favor and 88 opposed. How many of those writing were actually citizens of Rockville, Feinberg countered. Palakovich Carr said they all were residents.

"It's about the liberty of our citizens," Moore said. All of the surrounding jurisdictions allow chickens, he noted. To Feinberg's request for more data, Moore said, "We're never going to have a all the information we could possibly have." He noted the restrictions included in the ordinance would likely disqualify a majority of backyards in the city from having chickens anyway.

"We're not turning Rockville into farmland," Onley said.

Feinberg made a last ditch effort to delay implementation of the chicken provision until January 1, 2016. That would allow time for community outreach and education about how to raise chickens safely, and smooth the transition, she argued. "If you want this, let's do it right," she concluded.

Palakovich Carr suspected the amendment was simply a stalling tactic, to allow the next Mayor and Council to undo the ordinance before it could take effect. She asked Rockville Police Chief Terry Treschuk if the city would be ready to enforce the new ordinance on July 1. Treschuk noted that all such major changes require a grace period, and a "velvet glove on an iron fist." But he expressed confidence that the city would be ready. "We're ready when you are," Treschuk told Palakovich Carr.

Feinberg's amendment failed on a 2-3 vote. Newton cast the other vote in favor of the delay.

Along with the Council's recent loosening of the city's school capacity standards, the chicken issue drew strong responses from residents on both sides. Both votes will likely resonate in the city elections this November.

One of the few declared 2015 council candidates, Brigitta Mullican, attended the meeting and spoke in opposition to the backyard chicken measure.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville