New stormwater rules a budget challenge for Bowie, mayor says -- Gazette.Net


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State requirements regarding stormwater runoff could pose financial challenges for Bowie, Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said in his annual state of the city address — but otherwise, the city is in good shape going into fiscal 2014, he said.

“We haven’t laid off anybody; we haven’t furloughed anybody,” he said Jan. 30. “During these times, we’ve been able to maintain core services and keep the city police moving.”

Bowie is looking at having to overhaul the city’s stormwater management system to comply with new regulations aimed at improving the state of the Chesapeake Bay by reducing runoff. City officials have estimated improvements could cost the city $10 million; the city’s annual budget is around $50 million.

The city is developing a report on the state of existing stormwater retention systems and waiting for further guidance as it attempts to figure out the cost of improving its stormwater retention and how to go about paying for it, city officials said.

Despite the potential challenge, City Councilman Todd Turner (At Large) said the council wants to accomplish its goals without raising taxes.

“I agree with the mayor; we’re in a good position,” he said.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s fiscal 2014 budget seems poised to restore some of the funding the city received from the state for road maintenance, Robinson said. In the current fiscal 2013 budget, the city receives about $400,000 in state highway user fees from the state, down from around $3.1 million in fiscal 2007, Robinson said. The proposed 2014 budget would give the city an additional $1 million toward road maintenance and road repairs, Robinson said in his speech.

The loss in funding has forced the city to scale back significant resurfacing work of city roadways from about every 10 years to about every 11 years, Robinson said.

“It’s expensive maintaining the roads, but the possibility of losing the underpinning of the roads, that gets really expensive,” he said.

Last year, the city continued to work on existing projects such as growing the city’s police department, Robinson said in his speech. As of Feb. 5, the police force had 54 officers and is looking to reach its authorized strength of 57 by the end of the month, said Dwayne Preston, Bowie assistant police chief.

Bowie also completed a plan to provide all residences with larger recycling carts last year — and the carts already are making a difference, Robinson said. The city estimates the amount of solid waste the city has recycled jumped from 25 percent in 2005 to 38 percent in 2012.

Robinson said Bowie continues to have a low unemployment rate of around 5 percent, versus 8 percent nationwide.

Connie Carter, president of pet advocacy group Bowie CLAW, said the city should make a priority of creating a city-run animal shelter that could hold lost pets for a time before transferring them to the Prince George’s County shelter in Upper Marlboro. Previous efforts to create a shelter were unsuccessful; however, Carter and City Councilman Dennis Brady (At Large) said they would bring up the issue again during budget discussions.

“[Bowie must] meet and help all the citizens in the city of Bowie, not just the children and the seniors, but all demographics, including animal owners,” Carter said.

amccombs@gazette.net