Disclaimer: Current student liaison Dhruvak Mirani is a former Diamondback opinion columnist.
College Park City Council members focused on budgeting, the impending city election in November and more during their summer meetings.
Here’s what you may have missed over the summer.
College Park Elections
College Park’s mayor and council member election will be held Nov. 5 at the College Park Community Center, city officials announced in July.
Voter registration will close Oct. 21. College Park residents who want to vote by mail can enter the state’s permanent vote-by-mail list by Sept. 15 or use the city’s website to apply for an absentee ballot.
During a July 11 council meeting, the city’s Board of Election Supervisors discussed election plans with the council. This included presentations from Pam Geppert of Hart InterCivic and R.C. Carter of ElectionGuard.
Hart InterCivic, an election technologies company, and ElectionGuard — a program that verifies the accuracy of election results by ensuring that nobody alters or tampers with votes — will be working with the city on election security, representatives from the organizations said during the meeting.
Carter said it “was very powerful” for voters to see how ElectionGuard’s voter verification system works in real time.
The council also approved early voting dates recommended by the election supervisors board. Early voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 26 at Davis Hall and November 2 at City Hall.
Rhode Island Speed Limit Reduction
The council on June 13 approved a speed limit reduction on Rhode Island Ave. between University Blvd. and Paducah Rd.
The move, which decreases the maximum allowed speed from 35 mph to 30 mph, comes after a week-long traffic study in October. The study showed that about 32% of cars on the road traveled above the speed limit.
There have been 31 accidents on the street in the past three years, according to city engineer Steven Halpern, with most accidents being rear end collisions.
“It’s a neighborhood street. 35 mph is too fast,” Halpern said.
In conjunction with the council’s decision, the city also transitioned to 24/7 use of speed cameras on Rhode Island Ave. between Greenbelt Rd. and Paducah Rd. The cameras previously operated from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Drivers caught traveling 12 mph or more over Rhode Island Ave.’s posted speed limit now receive $40 fines, effective July 1.
The city also installed rectangular rapid flashing beacons, or devices along the street that warn drivers when pedestrians are in crosswalks.
The council is also considering lowering the speed limit to 25 mph this fall if the new traffic calming techniques decrease operating speeds enough to justify the change, according to Halpern.
2024 Fiscal Budget and Housing Developments
Council members approved the 2024 fiscal year budget on May 23.
The total budget for the year is $24.8 million, and includes the lowest real estate property tax rates for both residential and commercial properties in Prince George’s County.
The residential tax rate for the city is the same as the 2023 fiscal year, at 30.18 cents per $100 of assessed value. The commercial tax rate for 2024 — which applies to apartments — will be 33.18 cents per $100 of assessed value, a 3 cent increase from 2023.
During a July 11 council discussion on the commercial tax rate increase, District 3 council member Stuart Adams said too many apartments in the city have become expensive, especially given that many are meant to provide student housing.
“We can definitely look at a program to work together to make more housing affordability for students,” Adams said.
The council received three dozen letters from students advocating for a pilot of an affordable housing program from the council, Dhruvak Mirani, student liaison to the city council, said during the meeting.