After learning that water in Carroll Creek is contaminated by chemicals from Fort Detrick’s Area B, Frederick Mayor Randy McClement (R) said that he plans to meet with post officials later this week to discuss possible solutions, including the posting of signs near the creek warning people of the potential danger.
McClement addressed the creek issue Tuesday, following his annual state of the city address.
Area B is a 399-acre, noncontiguous tract about one mile west of Fort Detrick’s Rosemont Avenue gate. Montevue Lane and Shookstown Road are to the south, and Kemp Lane runs along the western boundary.
Levels of trichloroethene, or TCE, tetracholoroethene, or PCE and chloroform were all found in shallow groundwater and surface water outside of the base along Carroll Creek, but at lower levels than in other testing areas because it traveled through bedrock before discharging into the creek.
Addressing a crowd of about 25 members of the public, city staff and the media, McClement spoke about the projects undertaken by the city this year.
During his 27-minute speech, McClement celebrated a recent reduction in property taxes for city residents of 4 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The cut translated to an annual $82 savings for a home worth $200,000.
He also pointed out that plans for a downtown Frederick hotel and conference center, and the expansion of Carroll Creek Linear Park are under way.
The $13-million park project will extend the development from the Delaplaine Center to East Patrick Street, and from Market Street to Bentz Street. The city is expected to be accepting bids this fall.
McClement also praised the city Board of Aldermen for working to fund the city’s retirement benefit liabilities, with changes made to the 25- and 30-year pension plans for employees hired after June 30. McClement and the board continues to discuss potential changes to the plans for current employees and those already receiving retiree benefits.
The funds for retiree benefits, not including pensions, currently has a $128 million shortfall.
The Board of Aldermen discussed benefits for city employees last week, but McClement was absent.
“One concern was it was an important topic, and the mayor was on vacation,” McClement said after his speech Tuesday. “That was the day that worked for the committee.”
He also said the meeting was a preliminary part of the process, and that the alderman will continue to discuss the situation with a committee that has been tasked with reviewing city pensions and retirement benefits. The committee presented preliminary findings from its retirement benefit research at the meeting McClement did not attend.
The presentation included some suggestions about creating a diverse portfolio of assets and investments, but that investments alone likely wouldn’t fill the city’s shortfall. The documents also suggested that the city would need to evaluate each pension and retirement plan individually, because they carry different constraints. The retirement benefits will continue to be discussed, but a date has not been set.
“This is truly just the first step of the hard decisions we have to make,” he said, noting that the city has made some significant changes to new employee benefits. “These are hard decisions. We need input and haven’t gotten that far yet. Alderman [Michael] O’Connor (D) said it, and I agree — this is important, but we don’t need to rush it.”
Alderman Shelley Aloi (R) said in an interview that she was concerned about the city’s unfunded liabilities in retirement benefits, and that they have not been addressed adequately, despite numerous meetings and discussion on the topic.
“The reason we’ve been working on it for a long time is that there hasn’t been political will to get it done,” she said. “It’s not pleasant, but it has to be done.”