Group to incorporate Beltsville takes issue to polls
Nov. 4, 2004
Meghan Mullan
Staff Writer

Lawrence Jackson Jr./The Gazette

Lois Rodriguez (left) of Beltsville prepares to sign a petition being circulated by volunteers Kathy and Pat Mellott (center) Tuesday outside Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Beltsville.

Residents hoping to incorporate Beltsville grabbed clipboards Tuesday and headed to polling places to get neighbors to sign a petition supporting their cause.

"We're surrounded by incorporated municipalities," said Kathy Mellott of Beltsville who volunteered Tuesday to get signatures at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. "We have no one fighting for us. The county tells us what's going to happen."

Early afternoon voters passed Mellott with interest. "Do you want to sign a petition to incorporate Beltsville?" she asked.

A voter shook his head to indicate no and kept walking. Another voter, Holly Baun, a young mother pushing a baby carriage, came over.

"Do we get sidewalks?" she asked.

"It would help," Mellott said. "Right now who do you call?"

Mellott and the other group members working to incorporate Beltsville need to collect 3,000 signatures by March to bring the issue before the Prince George's County Council, which will decide on whether to allow the community to take the issue to a vote.

In February, after more than a year of work, the Committee to Incorporate Beltsville, a group of local leaders and volunteers, decided to proceed with plans to move the issue forward. But, some members decided to bow out of the effort, stating they were not for incorporation.

The rest of the group got the petitions necessary to move the incorporation forward, said Kevin Kennedy, committee chairman. The group obtained the petitions last fall, and has 18 months to gather the signatures of 25 percent of the registered voters in Beltsville, which has about 3,000 people. After efforts Tuesday, the group collected about 2,000 signatures.

"Signing the petition does not mean one is for or against incorporation, signing allows the process to continue forward," Kennedy said.

But, some voters on Tuesday didn't want to sign either way. "Why bring it to a vote?" one voter asked who refused to sign. "There's already enough people living off the government till."

If the effort is successful, Beltsville would have its own municipal government with elected officials and city employees. The group in favor of incorporation argues that there would be more taxes to pay, but the area would receive a lot in services and representation. Mellott said the group has discussed getting a police officer for Beltsville. Currently, District 6 police patrol both Beltsville and Laurel.

Mellott said she thinks if Beltsville had its own municipal government that would help reduce crime and provide services that the county does not offer residents.

"It took a year and a half to get our street light fixed," she said. "We're getting dumped on."

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