Patterson says more information needed on housing plan

Commissioner admits mistakes in outreach to public

Friday, Oct. 17, 2008

Charles County commissioners' Vice President Edith J. Patterson (D) told a Cobb Island audience Monday night that the county's effort to pitch a low-income housing project for Nanjemoy in May was "not … well thought out."

Speaking before the 4th and 5th District Democratic Club at Shymansky's restaurant, Patterson reviewed the results of a series of three informational meetings she held in Nanjemoy in July and August.

She began by admitting that the county had held the May hearing, intended as a trial balloon for the project, without adequately informing Nanjemoy residents.

"It was not, I thought, well thought out in terms of preparing the residents," Patterson said, noting that other commissioners may have different opinions of the effort. Patterson spent much of her time at her three informational meetings attempting to dispel the popular belief that the county's decision to build a housing complex in Nanjemoy was a done deal.

"The biggest challenge we had was to correct misinformation," Patterson said, saying that the county is not planning to force the construction of low-income housing without the support of the local community. "It's a big trust issue. Government is not looked upon in a trusting way."

Patterson stressed that the key for the county solving its substandard housing issue is partnerships between government and nonprofit organizations. She asked the audience to take the literature she distributed about state and federal loans and grants back to their churches and community groups and spread the word about the programs.

"All is not lost," Patterson said. "It is not going to be one solution for everyone."

Hodge defends

baseball stadium

Commissioner Gary V. Hodge (D) took two opportunities last week to defend the county commissioners' construction funding of Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs baseball team.

Critics have faulted the commissioners for financing construction of the stadium and questioned the stadium's ability to draw fans for the life of its bonds.

So on Tuesday, during the new business portion of the commissioners' meeting, Hodge read a list of entertainment and cultural projects on which Calvert and St. Mary's have recently spent taxpayer money.

Hodge noted that Calvert County recently spent $18.3 million on land and construction of its indoor aquatic center in Prince Frederick, $3.65 million to purchase the Chesapeake Hills Golf Course in Lusby, $1 million to construct ball fields in Dunkirk and $500,000 to supplement the construction of a new arts building at Annmarie Garden in Lusby.

He also said that St. Mary's County spent $2.5 million to construct a new clubhouse at the Wicomico Shores Golf Course.

"There is a high interest in the kinds of investments a county should make in the quality of life of its citizens," Hodge asserted.

He stepped up to bat again on Thursday at the State of the County Address at the Waldorf Jaycees center. When an audience member asked if the stadium was maintaining sufficient revenue, Hodge stated that the Blue Crabs sold 216,000 tickets this season and saw an average attendance of 3,300 people each game.

The county financed two-thirds, or $17 million, of the stadium's $25.6 million construction cost. The team pays the county annual installments to cover its $8.5 million share of the construction cost, but the county assumes the liability for all $17 million.

Neither the county nor the baseball team has released any figures about revenue at the stadium during its first year of operation.

The county has not released any information about tax revenues from the project.