Editor’s Note: The views expressed below are those of the author.
Letter to the Editor:
Per the attached announcement, the County is finally conducting a ribbon-cutting at the Therapeutic Riding Center at the Ag Center on Shawan Road this Sunday at 12:30pm after letting it sit empty for over a year since it’s completion. It appears that most of our politicians will be there, so this may be our only chance to ask them some questions about why they are allowing Fred Homan, the interim County Executive, to hijack our parks for personal pet projects at great expense to taxpayers.
- Why did the Council allow Fred Homan to build a $3mm Therapeutic Riding Center for the exclusive use of his personal friends at Saratoga Warhorse of Saratoga Springs NY when there are numerous therapeutic riding resources in Baltimore County and across Maryland? Did you know that the County conducts therapeutic riding therapy at Cromwell Park just 9 miles away?
- Why did county taxpayers have to pay the entire $3mm for the riding center with no financial assistance from the State?
- Why did the Council allow Fred Homan to award a no-bid $3mm contract to his friends at JMT Construction creating grounds for the State to refuse matching funds?
- Why did the Council allow Fred Homan to attempt to divert $1 million of taxpayer dollars to Saratoga Warhorse when he tried to purchase Shawan Downs from the Land Preservation Trust (LPT) in 2016?
- Is the Council going to allow Fred Homan to divert taxpayer money to Saratoga Warhorse before he leaves office?
- Why is the Council allowing Fred Homan to repurpose the Ag Center and Oregon Ridge Park into a Horse Park against the wishes of the community? A grant for $70k was given to the LPT in October to conduct a study to repurpose the parks, but the County refuses to share the results with the public. Horses will drastically limit hiking in the park and Oregon Ridge is one of the very few hiking resources available in the county.
- Why has Fred Homan tasked his friend, Jeffrey Bunditz, with establishing a new park council at the Ag Center out of thin air for the sole purpose of promoting his personal horse park? Normally park councils are created from a groundswell of community activism, not manufactured out of the blue to support a personal goal. Mr. Bunditz lives near Lake Roland Park and is not a user of the Ag Center, doesn’t own a horse, and is not involved with the horse community, but appears to be driving this proposal to give the impression that Mr. Homan’s project is being led by the community.
While you’re there, you may also want to ask about the greenhouse and the ‘Produce for the Poor’ project.
- Why did Vicki Almond state in October that the greenhouse would cost $225k and imply that it would be run by volunteers when she knew months before that the cost was at least $640k and that staff was being hired to run it?
- Why did Vicki Almond fail to mention that on the day of the groundbreaking Chris McCollum had already been approved to spend $1.1mm on the Produce for the Poor project and over $1.25mm as of today? Those are going to be some very expensive potatoes.
- Does the Council realize that the operating expenses alone for this project would buy 50% more food from a produce wholesaler, delivered weekly, year-round and that this project is a terrible disservice to the poor?
As a lifelong Democrat, I’m all for supporting our wounded servicemen and women, and feeding the poor, but these are clearly self-serving projects that are not driven by requests from the community and are magically justified simply by spinning them as worthy projects because they ‘help wounded vets’ or ‘feed the poor’. If any of that was true, they would have started these projects long ago and not in the waning months of an administration when everyone keeps saying that money is tight. And to legitimize all this spending, they drag unsuspecting but respected members of our community into presentations and convince a small handful to support them so that they can say that they have the community’s blessing. Remember, no one from the community asked for these changes. This is simply an attempt to fast-track a personal pet project at taxpayer expense before leaving office. If it’s such a good idea, it can wait until the next administration.
We’ve been expecting this administration to grab everything they can before leaving office, but it appears that they’re doubling their efforts now that they no longer need to worry about embarrassing Kevin’s gubernatorial run. Remember, Mr. Homan pushed to have the Truck Depot jammed down our throats but couldn’t find anyone to sucker into supporting it. Hopefully the members of the LPT and the horse community aren’t suckered into becoming complicit in this abuse of office.
Please demand that your Councilmember protect our parks from these abuses and give them back to the community.
Mr. Rosenstiel is a daily hiker, neighbor of the parks, and a member of Save Shawan.