When County Executive Ike Leggett took the floor before a room full of his constituents last week, his words of warning belied his friendly and casual demeanor.
“We’re facing some tough times ahead,” said Leggett. The state is facing a $1.5 Billion budget deficit for fiscal year 2008, said Leggett, and that will affect all of the state’s counties including Montgomery County. Leggett said that the county needs to brace itself for future economic difficulties and that for his part, the budget that he recently proposed to the County Council reduced the rate by which recent county budgets had been increasing.
The looming budget crisis was not the only issue Leggett addressed during a town hall meeting at Ritchie Park Elementary school on Wednesday, March 25, but he broached the subject during his opening remarks and returned to it again later in the evening.
Several residents expressed concern over the looming specter of the ICC.
“We’re still fighting the ICC fight,” said Connie McKenna, the president of the Shady Grove Woods Homeowner’s Association. McKenna said that her neighborhood was one of several where ICC onramps will be built and that the future highway will run fifty feet from the houses of her neighborhood and others.
“We know we’re not alone in this,” said McKenna. “A lot of other communities will be affected by it too.” McKenna urged Leggett to consider exercising his power in any way that he could to stop the construction of the ICC. The proposed highway would connect areas along the I-270 corridor like Gaithersburg to I-95 and Prince George's County.
Leggett said that the ICC was too far along in the planning stages for him to be able to stop it. At this point, Leggett said, the only two things that could stop the ICC from becoming a reality would be a decision by the Maryland General Assembly not to fund the project or if one of several lawsuits currently pending against the project were to be successful.
DIANA CONWAY, president of the PTA at Potomac Elementary School, expressed concern over new legislation regarding future construction of portable classrooms at county schools that she said did not sufficiently address existing portable classrooms already at many of the county’s schools.
“This community has lots of active parents,” said Conway. “Other communities may not be so lucky.”
Several residents of the Falls Chapel Way neighborhood asked Leggett to review an ongoing effort to have sidewalks put into parts of their neighborhood.
James McDaniel said that he lives in Falls Chapel Way and that he wanted Leggett to find a resolution to the issue that has been ongoing for at least three years and “to stop this madness.”
While other residents raised concerns over the ongoing “mansionization” and escalating property taxes in the county, Leggett closed by reiterating that the most pertinent issue facing the county is the looming budget shortfall.
Leggett also urged all county residents to continue to express their concerns to his administration, whose main goal is to be as accessible to the public as possible.
Leggett’s next town hall meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 29 at the Holiday Park Senior Center in Wheaton.