Audit finds major problems in Mount Rainier’s finances

A long-awaited audit of Mount Rainier’s 2017 finances uncovered eye-opening issues, including spotty record-keeping, poor oversight, a need for more administrative staff and a lack of official policies governing many spending decisions. While the audit focused on 2017, its authors said many of the flaws found still need to be corrected “as soon as possible.” During a three-minute discussion of the audit during its April 7, 2020, City Council meeting, Mayor Malinda Miles said “the data in that audit has to be obsolete by now.” “Hopefully over the past two years, a lot of what has been found has been fixed as they were going through and preparing to have the audit now,” said Miles. Interim City Manager Latasha Gatling aknowledged the city’s financial safeguards and policies still need work.

Just in time: Mount Rainier closes $1.5M property sale

Just in time to avoid the possible collapse of the commercial real estate market, the City of Mount Rainier completed the sale of 3200 Rhode Island Avenue for $1.5 million to IFG Group Development and Construction. The property is approximately 33,000 square feet of vacant land the city bought more than 10 years ago for an inflation adjusted $1.1 million. IFG Group plans to build a $30 million mixed-use apartment complex. The transaction was scheduled to complete this past Friday. By Monday, the money had not yet shown up in the city’s accounts, causing some concern.

Mount Rainier sells land to developers; $30M mixed-use project planned

It finally happened: Mount Rainier is selling a key downtown lot to a mixed-use developer for $1.5 million, city officials announced during a March 3, 2020 Council meeting. The buyer, IFG Group LLC, plans to build a $30 million, 110-unit mixed-use development on the site, with a targeted opening date of 2025. 

More than 12 years ago in December 2008, Mount Rainier bought several parcels of land at the intersection of Eastern and Rhode Island Avenues for an inflation-adjusted $1.1 million. The property has mostly sat disused, though there were well-meaning attempts to turn the lots into a pocket park. For years, city officials had hoped to redevelop the land. But impacts from the Great Recession plus the city’s own inexperience in real estate development hampered plans. 

Councilor Luke Chesek said during the meeting that the city learned a lot from its previous failures to sell the land.

Mount Rainier library re-opens with new look, new tech

After more than year closed, Mount Rainier’s little library branch has re-opened. During a standing-room-only grand-opening ceremony held Jan. 27, 2020, city officials hailed the library – officially named the Karl A. Young Library after a longtime local fire chief who died suddenly – as an essential, beloved public space for the community. “This represents what we are striving for in Mount Rainier,” said Mayor Malinda Miles during the ceremony. “It speaks volumes to what a city and staff and mayor and council can do when they have partnerships.”

The library is unique in Prince George’s County that the building is owned and maintained by the city of Mount Rainier, which allows the library system to operate within.

Mount Rainier says pit bull ban is ‘lowest law-enforcement priority’

Mount Rainier City Council approved a measure declaring county laws banning pit bulls to be the ‘lowest law-enforcement priority’ for its city police officers. The measure, approved by a vote of four-to-one at Mount Rainier’s Jan. 14, 2020, meeting, instructs the police department to “deprioritize, to the greatest extent possible” enforcement of the pit bull ban. The measure is the brainchild of freshman City Councilor Scott Cecil, who introduced the resolution in late 2019. He said the measure does not prohibit city police from taking action against an individual harboring a pit bull if a situation warranted such a citation.

Hyattsville won’t share video from fatal police shooting

Hyattsville officials now say they cannot yet share with Mount Rainier officials body camera footage its officers recorded during the events that led to the fatal 2019 police shooting of Leonard Shand. 

In a statement read during Hyattsville’s Jan. 21, 2020, City Council meeting, City Administrator Tracey Douglas said she had been advised against releasing additional information on the incident until after Prince George’s County police completed its investigation into the shooting. Douglas’ statement was a response to a Jan. 6, 2020, request from Mount Rainier City Councilor Scott Cecil to see video from Hyattsville police officers on the scene of Shand’s death. Shand, 49, died after 11 officers, including six from Hyattsville, opened fire him at the end of a half-hour early-morning walking standoff that started Sept.

Mount Rainier City Hall is seen from the distance on a bright sunny day. Solar panels top the roof.

Stale email cost Mount Rainier solar panel money

For the better part of a decade, Mount Rainier missed out on revenue it could have earned from the solar panels topping its City Hall, city officials revealed in passing Tuesday. That’s because the energy broker – or “aggregator” – the city worked with to sell the solar power generated from those panels didn’t have an up-to-date email address to communicate with city officials.