ROCKVILLE — The Montgomery County Council met to work through public hearings, introductions and final readings of bills after their regular council session.
On June 25, residents were allowed to speak for three minutes each during the public hearing portion of the meeting about issues they saw in the bills that were up for approval.
One of the first issues up for discussion was the special appropriation in front of the council from the Montgomery County Public School Entrepreneurial Activities Fund, which would grant Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) $5.6 million to improve school bus safety.
According to the information listed in the bill, the Montgomery County Board of Education requested the appropriation of these funds in February, and County Executive Marc Elrich recommended approval of the appropriation in May.
The funding would help finance a contract with BusPatrol America and would provide a school bus safety system to MCPS.
“This supplemental appropriation is needed to provide MCPS spending authority for payments to the contractor that provides the cameras and other systems necessary to issue citations,” Elrich wrote to the county council in May. “These funds are used to improve student safety and enforce traffic violations.”
The council staff recommended approval of the legislation, according to the information listed in the bill.
Judy Koenig, an individual, went to the council meeting to talk about school bus safety.
“I believe that there is a way not to have to spend the $5.6 million; you simply get one designee at each school to randomly stand outside and watch the school buses,” she said. “The buses (seem to be) under the impression that bus stop signals do not apply to the bus drivers or the speed. I’ve seen them on the Beltway doing 65 miles an hour.”
Koenig also suggested that schools assign an employee to sit in a car and document whether the school buses drive through stop signs without stopping. She recommended that the first time a driver is caught doing this they should receive a warning, and the second time they should be suspended for 10 days.
“Or just give (the bus driver) the boot,” Koenig said. “It’s either that or someone is going to get killed in a pedestrian zone, on the road or the kids on the school bus (will get hurt.)”
The council also issued a call for a final reading of bills such as the Landlord Tenant Relations Bill-Termination of Lease and a bond authorization for Stormwater Management.
The Landlord Tenant Relations Bill-Termination of Lease allows a tenant to break a lease agreement if a landlord is not responsive to issues inside the apartment that make living there unhealthy.
“This bill was really inspired by the long-suffering tenants of the Enclave apartment building (in Silver Spring), which is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, residential property in Montgomery County,” said Councilmember Tom Hucker, who was the lead sponsor of the legislation. “We had a lot of tenants complaining about mold and other issues there. For many years the Department of Housing and Community Affairs did a great job of first inspecting 25% of the units in the fall. At our request, they inspected 100%of the units and found 2,600 housing violations just in that one property, including long standing vermin and mold.”
During the public hearing process for the bill earlier this year, the council heard from residents, teachers and local advocates about the unhealthy conditions at the Enclave Apartments. In fact, one teacher from a local elementary school highlighted in her testimony just how many kids were experiencing symptoms of mold exposure. They were suffering from asthma-like breathing issues, headache and fatigue, among other symptoms.
The legislation mandates that tenants be allowed to terminate their leases if their landlord does not address health and safety violations within 30 days, Hucker explained. “Hopefully this legislation will never be used, because hopefully every landlord from now on will actually fix the problems, and our tenants will not have to put up with conditions like this.”
The committee approved the legislation by roll call vote unanimously.
The county council usually meets weekly, and all council meetings are open to the public.