MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF LAUREL
MONDAY, MAY 22, 2023 (Revised as of May 19,2023)
Watch the meeting on Laurel TV streaming live in your web browser at https://laureltv.org/watch-live or locally Laurel TV can be found on Comcast Channel 996 (HD), 71 (SD) or Verizon FiOS Channel 12.
- Call to Order- Brencis D. Smith, Council President
- Pledge of Allegiance
- Roll Call- Sara A. Green, CMC, City Clerk
- Approval of Minutes:
- March 1, 2023 Work Session
- March 13, 2023 Special Work Session
- March 13, 2023 Regular Meeting
- March 27, 2023 Regular Meeting
- Report of the Mayor and City Council
- Mayor Appointment
- E. Michael Greene, Chairman, Board of Pension Trustees
- David Johnston, Board of Appeals
- Michelle Keating, Board of Appeals
- General Public Hearing
- Second Public Hearing with Possible Action on Charter Resolution No. 179- A Charter Resolution of the Mayor and City Council of Laurel, Maryland Amending Article 300 “Government” of the Charter of the City of Laurel to Amend Section 357 to Allow for Collective Bargaining for Certain Employees of the Department of Public Works.
- Second Public Hearing with Possible Action on Ordinance No. 2011- An Ordinance Adopting the General Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Program of the Mayor and City Council of Laurel, Maryland, for the Fiscal Year July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024 and to Levy Property Taxes; and to Authorize the Collection of Such Taxes.
- Second Public Hearing with Possible Action on Ordinance No. 2010- An Ordinance of the Mayor and City Council of Laurel, Maryland to Amend Laurel City Code, Chapter 7 "Garbage, Waste, Weeds, Recycling, etc. to Include the Mandatory Diversion of Organics from the Waste Stream and Providing for an Effective Date.
The meeting convened in the Council Chambers of the Laurel Municipal Center at approximately 6:00 pm with Council President Brencis D. Smith presiding. Ms. Kyah Blanch who was one of the winners of the Maryland Municipal League (MML) “If I Were Mayor…..” Essay contest and her schoolmate, Gabriel who was the 2nd place winner, led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. The roll was called with the following members present: Councilman Carl DeWalt, Councilman James Kole, Councilman Martin Mitchell, Councilman Keith R. Sydnor and Craig A. Moe, Mayor.
The following staff members were also present: Christian L Pulley, CPM, City Administrator, Joanne Hall-Barr, Deputy City Administrator, Sara A. Green, CMC, City Clerk, Ana R. Navarro, MMC, Executive Assistant to the Mayor, Bill Bailey, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation, Audrey Barnes, Director, Department of Communications, James Cornwell-Shiel, Director, Department of Information Technology, Chief Russell Hamill, LPD, Brian K. Lee, Director, Department of Public Works, Robert Love, Director, Department of Economic and Community Development, S. Michele Saylor, Director, Department of Budget and Personnel Services, Danny Selby, Director, Office of the Fire Marshal and Permit Services, Deputy Chief Mark Plazinski, LPD, Larry Taub, City Solicitor, and Chrissy Cornwell, Emergency Manager. There were approximately sixty (60) members of the public in attendance.
Agenda Item No. 4 was approval of the minutes from March 1, 2023 Work Session, the March 13, 2023 Special Work Session, the March 13, 2023 Regular Meeting, and the March 27, 2023 Regular Meeting were approved on motion by Councilman Keith R. Sydnor, seconded by Councilman James Kole, and carried on a roll call vote by members present as written.
Agenda Item No. 5 was the Report of the Mayor and City Council. Councilman Martin Mitchell noted that he’d participated in Teacher Appreciation events at various local schools; on May 12, 2023 he attended the City of Laurel Employee Awards Luncheon; Thanked the Laurel Board of Trade for their work on the May 20, 2023 Main Street Festival and was glad to be voting for the Department of Public Works (DPW) Unionization Charter Amendment.
Councilman DeWalt noted that it was Peace Officers Memorial Week; he’d attended the May 9, 2023 Laurel Cat’s Fundraiser; May 11, 2023 Reopening of the Farmer’s Market; May 12, 2023 Teacher Appreciation and City of Laurel Employee Luncheon; May 13, 2023 assisted with the Laurel Police Department (LPD) Steering wheel locks giveaway for Hyundai and Kia vehicles; participated in the Islamic Community Center Native Plant giveaway; St. Mark’s Church Native Plant giveaway; May 18, 2023 Brighter Bites Laurel Elementary School fresh fruit and vegetable distribution and thanked former Police Chief Roy P. Gilmore for helping at each distribution during the school year.
Councilman Kole noted that he’d attended the May 12, 2023 Music at the Mansion event; May 18, 2023 spoke at the Laurel Resist meeting; May 21, 2023 Tea at the Mansion; May 23, 2023 Environmental Affairs Committee meeting. Councilman Kole reminded everyone that the Committee was always looking for additional citizens to get involved with the group and bring their ideas.
Councilman Sydnor noted that on May 9, 2023 he made presentations to the winners of the Maryland Municipal League (MML) “If I Were Mayor….” Essay Contest with Governor Wes Moore in Annapolis; participated in a May 11, 2023 Teacher Appreciation event and the reopening of the Farmer’s Market; May 20, 2023 Main Street Festival and had worked with the Department of Public Works employees from 7:30 am- 12:30 pm to experience the work they did for the City every day.
President Smith noted that on May 17, 2023 he represented the City of Laurel at the University of Maryland Medical System Laurel Medical Center ribbon cutting event and was glad to be voting on the Department of Public Works Unionization later that evening.
Mayor Craig A. Moe provided condolences to the Friends and Family of Terry Thompson who was a former City employee and had a long career in the Fire Department and Emergency Services in Maryland; thanked staff for stepping up to get the Farmer’s Market back up and running, especially the Department of Economic and Community Development and Department of Public Works staff; he’d attended the Music at the Mansion event that was a very good event; St. Mark’s United Methodist Church Native Plant Giveaway; Main Street Festival and noted that Commander Lee Luby of the American Legion Post 60 was the Grand Marshal, thanked the Laurel Board of Trade for all of their hard work, thanked all of the City crews that were there early and stayed very late to make sure everything was cleaned up and in order and also had Kids to Parks Day; Announced May 24, 2023 City Hall in the Park would be held at 6:30 pm at Discovery Community Park and Memorial Day Service at Ivy Hill Cemetery. Mayor Moe said that he had signed proclamations for the following: LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Gun Violence Awareness Day, Juneteenth, and National HIV Testing Day. Mayor Moe also read a letter from the Juneteenth Committee Chairman Ron Peterson dated May 21, 2023 stating the Committee’s appreciation for FY2023 and FY2024 Allocation for Juneteenth Executive Planning Committee contributions and made it part of the record.
Agenda Item No. 6 was Mayoral Appointments. The first appointment was of E. Michael Greene as Chairman of the Board of Pension Trustees. Councilman Sydnor made a motion to accept the appointment. Councilman seconded the motion, Councilman DeWalt voted “No”, Councilman Kole voted “Yes”, and President Smith voted “Yes”. The appointment was approved on a 4-1 vote. The next appointment was of David Johnston to the Board of Appeals. Councilman Sydnor made a motion for approval, seconded by Councilman Mitchell, and carried on a roll call vote of all members present. The final appointment was of Ms. Michelle Keating to the Board of Appeals. Councilman Sydnor made a motion for approval that was seconded by Councilman Mitchell and carried on a roll call vote by all members present.
Agenda Item No. 7 was the General Public Hearing that President Smith opened at 6:32 pm. The first speaker was Mr. Lloyd Holloway, Laborer II at the Department of Public Works (DPW) who said that the day was a long time coming, that he’s worked for the City for two years and many of his co-workers who were there had worked for DPW for many years and were very deserving of being able to unionize. John Barry with MCGEO Union, thanked the Council and Mayor Moe for getting the Charter Amendment together that would allow for the unionization of DPW. Mr. Barry said that he understood that the Charter Amendment would take fifty (50) days to become effective and that in the meantime, the City would be drafting the Labor Code and that he had provided some information that the group wanted the City to consider such as binding arbitration. Mr. Barry said that the group also wanted to make sure that everyone understood that timeliness was important, knew there were fifty days, but hoped the Labor Code would be done sooner than that and that President Smith had noted that the push for unionization had started when he and the DPW employees were at the February 27, 2023 meeting, but Mr. Barry said the process had actually started much earlier than that. He noted that DPW employees called MCGEO in December of 2022 and they signed cards and the fact that they had to take that long to get to that point didn’t make sense to him and he hoped they could work together to get it done.
Councilman Sydnor asked President Smith that before moving forward if he could ask Mr. Barry to go back to the lectern for some questions he had. President Smith granted Councilman Sydnor’s request and Mr. Barry returned. Councilman Sydnor wanted to be very clear, and that Mr. Barry had said many times on record and again that night that “this had been a long time coming” and that Mr. Barry had known about DPW employees wanting to unionize since December 2022 and Mr. Barry said that was correct. Councilman Sydnor said he hadn’t known about the push to unionize until February 27, 2023 when the DPW employees first came to a Mayor and City Council meeting and informed of such. Councilman Sydnor asked Mr. Kole when the first time was, he knew about the matter and Councilman Kole noted that he hadn’t known until the February 27, 2023 meeting and President Smith noted the same. Councilman Sydnor asked Councilman DeWalt when he first knew, and Councilman DeWalt said that he couldn’t recall. Next, Councilman Sydnor asked Councilman Mitchell when he first knew of the matter, and Councilman Mitchell said that he knew sometime in December but he “championed” and didn’t follow the “let’s investigate” route and that’s why they were still there in May and June because of their continued advocacy. Councilman Sydnor said that Councilman Mitchell withholding information from his fellow Councilmembers and the Administration showed a lack of integrity on Councilman Mitchell’s part and that if he had brought the matter to the attention of everyone else earlier, it would have been further along in the process. Councilman Sydnor noted Councilman Mitchell’s actions were misleading to the public and employees. People in the audience began speaking at once and President Smith called for order in the room.
President Smith called on the next speaker who had signed up, Mr. Kyle Lewis, Department of Public Works employee said he was born and raised in the City on the Anne Arundel County side, wished that hostility wasn’t in the air, felt that there was a much bigger matter at hand and that he just wanted support from the City. President Smith asked Mr. Lewis to provide his address for the record. Mr. Lewis said that he lived at 8002 Covington Way Glen Burnie, Maryland and had worked for the City for 10 years.
The next speaker was Dr. Zabrina Epps, Chair of the Education Committee, lived on Trevino Terrace, Laurel, Maryland, and asked the Mayor and City Council to support the request of the Education Committee for grant funding that would benefit Laurel area schools as they considered the approval of the FY2024 Budget that evening. Dr. Epps also read into the record the key points of a letter from the Education Committee Vice-Chair, Ms. Maria Gonzales-Jackson (email from Ms. Gonzales-Jackson dated May 22, 2023 attached and incorporated into the record) also in support of the Committee’s funding request.
Ms. Ellen Lyons was next on the speaker sign-up sheet. Ms. Lyons noted her address as 7901 Laurel Lakes Court, Laurel, Maryland and asked the Council to support the unionization of DPW employees. Ms. Lyons said that she was also a member of CASA and that Laurel was a beautiful City and that she had walked the City and seen where hyenas had taken it up, but if DPW was able to unionize the City would be able to be beautiful again. Ms. Lyons also asked the City to continue to support Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services (LARS) because they had helped a lot of people with food and rent. She noted that she had been helped by LARS and that she continued to frequent the LARS food bank for food herself.
The last speaker was Mr. Troy Griffith, Muirkirk Road, Laurel, noted that he was the Secretary for the Juneteenth Committee and invited everyone to attend the June 17, 2023 Juneteenth event that would be held at Granville Gude Park. Mr. Griffith spoke about hip-hop artists and songs and mentioned the recent passing of Harry Belafonte and provided a quote that he thought related to the situation and congratulated the Department of Public Works on pushing for the unionization. President Smith closed the General Public Hearing at 6:50 pm.
Agenda Item No. 8 was the second public hearing with possible action on Charter Resolution No. 179, a Charter Resolution of the Mayor and City Council of Laurel, Maryland Amending Article 300 “Government” of the Charter of the City of Laurel to Amend Section 357 to Allow for Collective Bargaining for Certain Employees of the Department of Public Works. President Smith read the title into the record for the second reading and opened the public hearing at 6:51 pm. President Smith asked Ms. Christian L. Pulley, City Administrator if she had anything to add regarding the item and she did not. Councilman Mitchell asked President Smith if he could make a motion to suspend the rules. President Smith noted that it was the second reading and public hearing with possible action on the Charter Amendment and that it was not necessary to suspend the rules, as the item would be voted on during the meeting.
Councilman Kole noted that he wanted to go on record in support of the Department of Public Works unionizing and that his grandfather had been a DPW employee who was in a union where he was from and that he supported DPW being able to unionize and ask for things they wanted/needed. Councilman Mitchell thanked the citizens who had helped support DPW employees and congratulated the DPW staff, thought that the recent pay increase that DPW got was one that they should have received a long time ago, and that the unionization took the entire City Council to get it done. Councilman DeWalt noted that the passing of the Charter Amendment was making history and that DPW staff worked hard for it, and they deserved it.
Councilman Sydnor noted that if a Councilmember knew about DPW’s desire to unionize in December 2022 and had brought it to the rest of the Council, the unionization may have been further along in the process by then, and just wanted the record to reflect that and that he and the rest of the Council had never been against DPW unionizing and that they supported it. Councilman Sydnor made a motion to approve Charter Amendment No. 179 that was seconded by Councilman Kole and carried on a roll call vote of all members present. Mayor Moe concurred with the vote. Mayor Moe noted that there had been a lot of statements on both sides and that in some cases were incorrect and that everyone needed to sit back and relax, and that the Administration had been very transparent and that the City knew that once the Laurel Police Department was granted unionization that there would other City staff and Department’s that wanted to unionize and that there wasn’t a problem with it. Mayor Moe said that the first time the matter of DPW wanting to unionize was brought up on February 27, 2023 under everyone’s report they noted they were in support of it and didn’t think anyone was opposed to DPW unionizing, but wanted to be very clear that the fifty (50) days were not all it was going to take for the City to get the labor code drafted and completed and that he did not want it projected to the membership that that was all the time the City was going to need to get things done, there were other items also being worked on in the City. He said that DPW employees were asking the Mayor and City Council to just give them what the Police had and that’s what the City was attempting do, but now there were things being added to that, but that they would work through it. He noted that once the rest of the Council and the Administration found out about DPW wanting to unionize on February 27, 2023, the City had moved very quickly for a Charter Amendment which were normally very lengthy processes, the City had to find a labor attorney and do other things internally to not only protect the City but also the employees. Mayor Moe said that as to Mr. Barry’s comment about if there was another, easier way to go about getting DPW the right to unionize eluded to, he would start with the City Administrator’s Office or Mayor’s Office and not the City Council next time. Mayor Moe noted that it had been very confusing for everyone because of the way it had been handled and that since Mr. Barry asked how to make it simpler, there was his answer on how to make it simpler. Mayor Moe said that he concurred with the vote and appreciated the staff for being there and for the work that they continued to do for the City. President Smith closed the public hearing at 6:58 pm.
President Smith called for a brief recess. The meeting was called back to order at approximately 7:03 pm.
The next item was Agenda Item No. 9, An Ordinance Adopting the General Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Program of the Mayor and City Council of Laurel, Maryland, for the Fiscal Year July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024 and to Levy Property Taxes; and to Authorize the Collection of Such Taxes. President Smith read the title into the record for the second reading and opened the public hearing at 7:04 pm. President Smith asked Director Saylor if she had anything to add. Director Saylor noted that the Department of Budget and Personnel Services was continuing to receive notice of assessment appeals from the State of Maryland, but that the City was still within the threshold that the City had set to account for such appeals. Councilman Sydnor had a few questions or Brian Lee, Director, Department of Public Works regarding the proposed DPW budget. Councilman Sydnor noted that he had been to DPW the previous week and spoke to many DPW employees to understand their workday and asked Mr. Lee to explain the process for uniforms and boot purchases for the Waste Collection staff and how that would work in the proposed budget. Director Lee explained the proposed budget amounts for each program budget with the general Department of Public Works budget as it related to uniforms and boots for employees. Councilman Sydnor asked if an employee had worn out boots midway through a year, would they be able to get another pair. Director Lee said that the employee would be able to request another pair of boots for the amount of up to $150. The employee would be asked to return the old boots because OSHA requested that boots be examined and notify them if there were flaws with the boots such as steel toe that didn’t hold up, etc. for items that OSHA had set standards for so that if changes were needed, they would be able to follow through. Councilman Sydnor asked if it would be the same process for uniforms. Director Lee said that it would and that in fact, the Department had a uniform committee made up of the workers and a supervisor who was charged with letting the Director know what uniforms worked and which ones didn’t and what they wanted to see as long as it was within the safety requirements.
Councilman Mitchell asked if the request of the Education Committee for $10,000-$12,000 had been honored and wanted a better understanding of how much funding was going to be issued to LARS and noted that LARS had requested a quarter of a million dollars to continue their service in the community. Councilman Mitchell also wanted to know who much revenue DPW bulk pick up had generated in the past five (5) years and where the amphitheater money from Sip on C Street (meaning the C Street Flats project) what account that money was in and was the money still there. Director Lee said that it would take a minute to pull up the correct amounts, but that the money generated by bulk pickup did not cover the cost to the City to provide the service, so there was no revenue or profit from the service.
Mayor Moe said that in regard to the LARS funding they had been provided with a quarter of a million dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and that there was a $10,000 contribution in the Community Promotions budget for LARS. Director Saylor said that LARS had been paid over $520,000 through the ARPA funds and that there was another $198,000 in the ARPA funding and that there was funding in the proposed budget for a contribution to LARS. Funds for development such as the funds for the amphitheater were set aside in an account and were not in the budget. Councilman Mitchell asked what account the money was in and where it was reflected in the budget. Director Saylor reiterated that again, the funds were not in the budget and were sitting off to the side until the Mayor and City Council appropriate the funds and that she believed account was called adequate public facilities escrow. Councilman Mitchell asked if LARS would still be able to request additional funds through ARPA so they could continue to serve the community because the County wasn’t providing as much funding. Ms. Christian L. Pulley, City Administrator noted for the record that LARS had received over $700,000 and still had approximately $300,000 to spend at that time.
Councilman Mitchell asked about the funding requested by the Education Committee and Mayor Moe said that the funding for schools had always been provided for in the Mayor’s Community Promotions budget and distributed to schools. Mayor Moe said that the Chair had been unaware until recently that the City provided funds to the schools and how much and that the Committee wanted to add schools that were not in the City limits and that would need to be discussed. A brief discussion regarding the matter ensued. Councilman Kole asked Ms. Pulley if the resolution that created the Committee allowed for them to be given funds to distribute and Ms. Pulley said no, the Committee was formed to act as a bridge between local schools within the Prince George’s County School Board System and the City to work together on programs and other needs of the schools, but not to distribute money. Councilman DeWalt said that he would always support LARS and that the other thing he wanted to say about the budget was, and that after the Ethics training Mr. Hester had provided, he hoped it wasn’t an issue but he planned to vote yes on the budget, but that he qualified for the 20% elderly tax credit and hopefully that was in the budget, and he’d retired from the City with 28 years of service and that he was going to always advocate for a cost of living for retirees, and that other employees who planned to retire from the City, would understand wanting a cost of living increase after they retire, and that he used to work for a contractor who did work with the City, but that he no longer worked for the company, so he didn’t have to worry about that anymore as far as Ethics went, but that Mr. Hester was very confusing especially when the Governor of Maryland was advocating for veterans to get a tax credit, and Governor Moore was also a veteran, and there didn’t seem to be a problem, but he was told to be careful with what he did and said so he didn’t have to go before the Ethics Commission and be in trouble for voting on the budget. Councilman Kole said that he wanted to thank all of the City staff who but so much work into the budget and that it was a very detailed budget and that he had a long list of questions that were answered expediently and accurately by staff. Councilman Kole made a motion to adopt Ordinance No. 2011, Councilman Sydnor seconded the motion and roll call continued with Councilman DeWalt voting “Yes”, Councilman Mitchell voting “Yes”, President Smith voting “Yes”, and Mayor Moe concurred. Mayor Moe thanked all of the staff and Department Heads for all of their hard work on the budget and especially the pay plan that had taken about eight (8) months to complete. Mayor Moe also mentioned that while the City was not able to include a cost-of-living increase for retirees, a thirteenth (13th) paycheck or extra paycheck was funding for the retirees.
Agenda Item No.10 was Ordinance No. 2010, an Ordinance of the Mayor and City Council of Laurel Maryland to Amend Laurel City Code, Chapter 7 “Garbage, Waste, Weeds, Recycling, etc. to Include Mandatory Diversion of Organics from the Waste Stream and Providing for an Effective Date. President Smith read the title into the record for the second reading and opened the public hearing at 7:25 pm. Mayor Moe said that he had met with staff about the proposed ordinance and listened to some of the comments that had been received about the ordinance and made changes and hoped that the amendments would be accepted. Councilman Kole said that the Environmental Affairs Committee had made recommendations to the Administration and that some of the changes including changes to the dates in the ordinance and to ensure that funding for education of the mandatory composting be included to help citizens understand the process and the Environmental Affairs Committee recommended that approval of the ordinance. Councilman Mitchell thanked Jhanna Levin for her work in composting in schools and that he’d seen it at Laurel Elementary School and asked if the program included commercial or just residential composting. President Smith said it was only for residential composting.
Councilman Kole made a motion to approve Ordinance No. 2010, seconded by Councilman Mitchell and unanimously carried on a roll call vote. Mayor Moe concurred with Council and thanked Michele Blair, Environmental Programs Manager for all of her hard work on the program and the ordinance.
There being no further business to come before the Mayor and City Council, the meeting was adjourned at 7:29 pm.
Sara A. Green, CMC, City Clerk September 11, 2023