Saturday, January 13, 2007

Shady Grove neighbors angered by laborer plan

Derwood, Rockville residents not pleased by Montgomery County choice to open a day labor center nearby as reported in the Gazette

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007

by Melissa J. Brachfeld, Liza Gutierrez and Sebastian Montes
Staff Writers

With county officials looking to open a day-laborer center in the vicinity of the Shadt Grove Metro station, some nearby residents are vehemently against plan while others are relatively indifferent.

Three sites under consideration are on county-owned property near Route 355, south of Shady Grove Road and north of Redland Road, but county officials have not yet released the exact location.

County-owned properties near the Shady Grove station include the Waste Transfer Station and several industrial sites along Crabbs Branch Way.

County Executive Isiah Leggett’s point man on the issue, Chuck Short, said the county is confident that the impact on neighborhoods will be minimal because the site is embedded within an industrial area...

In a letter e-mailed to The Gazette, Brad Botwin, co-president of the Greater Shady Grove Civic Alliance, wrote, ‘‘Had Montgomery officials bothered to conduct any research at all, they would quickly have discovered that this property is part of the county-approved Shady Grove Sector Plan.”

Botwin, who is also a member of the Shady Grove Advisory Committee, adds that residents of Derwood have spent years working closely with county Park and Planning staff to develop a carefully constructed sector plan mix of housing, industrial and commercial uses.

‘‘Now, Leggett and Short would toss all that out the window by forcing construction of a taxpayer-funded illegal worker pickup center on property slated for job-creating, high-tech companies and a needed fire station,” he wrote.

Frank Digiacomo, also a Derwood resident, authored a letter to Leggett opposing a day-laborer site in the area.

‘‘What makes you think that Derwood wants a day laborer center in its midst,” he wrote. ‘‘Now that the Gaithersburg government and its citizens have rejected the [county’s] money and washed their hands over the issue, despite the fact most of the laborers live in Gaithersburg, you now want to give it to Derwood.”

The county already has placed the Ride-On bus depot, a county school system bus depot, the Liquor Authority, the County Service Park, the Shady Grove Metro station and rail yard in Derwood, with the accompanying traffic, noise and pollution, and more development planned for the Shady Grove sector, he wrote.

‘‘You now have tossed another insult to the citizens of Derwood,” Digiacomo says in his letter.

King Farm Citizens Assembly President Andy Gordon said hearing about the plan in the newspaper and not from the county was a disappointment.

In a follow-up e-mail to The Gazette, Gordon wrote, ‘‘If the media reports of the county expediting its processes without public input are in fact true, it leaves our community with less opportunity to participate in the discussion.”

The King Farm Citizens Assembly will begin discussions this week to evaluate the issue and whether it affects the community...

Other residents are not entirely opposed.

‘‘It’s perfectly OK with me to have the day-laborer center in this area,” David Stopak, a resident of Washington Grove and a member of its town council, said. ‘‘It’s something that I sort of was watching and was afraid would not happen; it’s something that needs to happen. ‘‘They’re out on Route 355, which is a busy place and it’s not safe there. It’s not safe for the people passing through and it’s not safe for them,” he added.

Likewise, Jim Snee said he did not have a problem with having a day-laborer center in the area as long as the people using it are legal residents of the United States.

‘‘I have no problem with providing social services for legal residents of the metropolitan area,” he said. ‘‘I’m totally opposed to providing social services of any type to illegal aliens, and I want to emphasize the difference between an alien and an immigrant. An immigrant went through the legal process and an alien is here illegally and should not be using my tax dollars to subsidize our services.”

Botwin has taken more action by organizing a group called Help Save Maryland. The new group’s goals will be enhancing public safety by enforcing the law and working to make the county’s elected officials more responsive, he wrote to The Gazette.

The first order of business will be ‘‘immediately warning the residents of Derwood and King Farm, especially women and children, about the safety problems sure to be created by unemployed illegal aliens loitering in our neighborhoods,” he wrote.

The group also plans to inform customers of area businesses ‘‘of the potential risks,” and alert commuters parked in the nearby Metro lots ‘‘of the potential for increased crime and congestion,” he added.

The county decided to lead the charge and find a site for day laborers after the City of Gaithersburg attempted to tackle the contentious issue for more than a year with no results.

Dozens of day laborers — and their employers — have gathered for three years at parking lots along Route 355 north of Shady Grove Road. In November, after a year of intense work, city leaders gave up their search for a site within Gaithersburg limits.

Short said the county will call for an expedited approval process once a site has been chosen. In the short term, the site will need trailers or other structures, he said. But the goal is to make the site a permanent solution.

Harsh criticism over the lack of a public process caused Gaithersburg leaders to withdraw from a deal to open a center in the city’s historic district in October 2005 and ultimately set out on their own to find a site.

Short, who helped lead the county through the opening of its first day-laborer center in Silver Spring in the early 1990s, said he weighed a number of factors in narrowing the Shady Grove-area sites to three.
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Anonymous Paul said...

About time! It's disgraceful that Leggett is making serving illegal aliens a priority of his new administration when there are so many valid concerns of Montgomery County citizens that should come first.

3:01 PM, January 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HOMEOWNERS BEWARE-you may be contributing to the problem! The contractor that you think is bring skilled, insured, licensed workers into your house may actually be one of those trucks picking up "illegal" workers. Ever wonder why one contractor can do the job at half the cost of the others? The reason is simple, they are driving by a "day labor" center on their way to your house. Contractors who use "illegal" or day labor workers are not paying insurance, payroll taxes, or any overhead on these workers. Their references and credentials are never questioned, background checks for criminal history are never done and the money they are paid is not taxed. The only way to truly get rid of the problem is for homeowners to start questioning the contractors who are bring these workers into their HOMES. Stop using the "cheap" contractor and make sure you are hiring contractors who use legal, insured and skilled labor. Contractors that pay insurance, taxes and benefits for all their employees. Contractors that do background checks and take the responsibility of only bringing in qualified, legal workers into your house.
The use of "illegal" and day labor is taking business away from REAL contractors that run their business within the law, provide benefits to their employess and pay the federal and state employment taxes.

10:13 AM, January 22, 2007  

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