Mount Rainier Picks Long-Time Public Works Director for New City Manager

Kamali was selected by a unanimous 5-0 vote of Mount Rainier’s City Council during a special session held July 17, 2021. His tenure as city manager will begin Aug. 2, 2021.

Planned Beltsville Treasury facility raises environmental concerns

Concerns about polluted creeks, increased car traffic, and loss of wildlife habitat dominated a public hearing on a Treasury Department proposal to build a 1 million square-foot cash factory on the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. 

“This project is sited in the wrong place,” said Greenbelt City Councilor Rodney Roberts during the meeting. “It should not be on BARC at all.”

The virtual hearing was hosted Dec. 2, 2020, by representatives from the Department of Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the government office in charge of the production of U.S. coins and cash. The public meeting is part off a mandatory environmental review process for new federal facilities. More specifically, the meeting sough comment on a draft environmental impact report prepared for the project. 

The Proposal

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing wants to build a 1 million square foot cash production facility at a 104-acre tract of land along Poultry Road between Odell Road to the north and Powder Mill Road to the south.

Extra $487,000 found in Mount Rainier budget

Mount Rainier’s budget was boosted by $487,000 found unaccounted for in the city’s bank accounts. For a city with an annual budget of about $7 million, it’s good news in an era when other local governments are bracing for steep declines in tax revenue as a result of the pandemic. Now, city officials are weighing a bill that would use the money for staff pay hikes, facility repairs, and economic development programs. 

According to interim city manager Latasha Gatling, the city was unaware it had this money. Gatling provided cursory details of the surprise surplus during a Dec. 1, 2020 City Council discussion of a budget amendment to allocate the windfall.

Mount Rainier hopes to catch up on audits this year

Mount Rainier city officials anticipate they will have their audits up-to-date by August 30. Until recently, Mount Rainier had not filed completed audits, as required by state law, since 2017. But in March, city officials received the first of the outstanding audits, which revealed serious oversight issues around the city’s financial management.

Hyattsville Council unsure how to use $1M pandemic relief fund

Hyattsville City Council continues to look for ways to spend its $1 million local pandemic relief fund. During discussion at its April 22, 2020, meeting City Council members discussed in broad strokes possible ways the money could be spent, including donations to local charities already dealing with the aftermath of coronavirus’ disruptions, and programs for business aid. 

Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, lead sponsor of the city relief fund measures so far, pushed City Council members to think realistically about how the fund could best be used to provide direct relief to individuals. Additionally, she said Hyattsville economic development officials were crafting ways they could expand existing city business grant programs with some of the relief funding. Hollingsworth noted a city-funded program to provide about 75 grocery gift cards to Hyattsville residents attracted more than 650 applicants, of which only 88 turned out to be city residents. The deluge of applicants, and the work needed to verify their city residency, proved challenging for city staff to manage.

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.