The Prince George’s County Council held its annual retreat in Baltimore this week as it prepares to tackle major issues as it goes back into session.

During the retreat, council members and other county staff discussed economic development, job creation, health care, the legislative process, council technology and transparency initiatives.

The council has some other things on its plate though that it’ll have to deal with soon. One of those things is what it will do regarding Reaching Hearts International.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that the council must revisit its latest decision to approve part of the church’s sewage plan, a decision that goes against an earlier ruling that said the council was acting in a discriminatory manner in denying the church its sewage plan.

U.S. District Court Judge Roger Titus wrote in his decision that the county could find itself in court again if it once again illegally denies Reaching Heart’s application.

“However, should it, upon court ordered reconsideration, again deny the application, the Court will permit discovery to be completed and a trial to be held on the question of whether the 2011 actions of the County constitute a continuation of the discrimination that resulted in a multi-million dollar verdict against the County, including consideration of additional damages, legal fees and costs,” Titus wrote.

The county will also revisit whether or not it wants to bring slots to the county. Councilman Eric Olson, D.-Dist. 3, introduced a bill last session that would ban slots in Prince George’s. The council was split on the measure so it will be revisited this year as there is a push by the owners of Rosecroft Raceway and some community members to bring casino video gaming machines to the race track.

“Quite honestly you all are going to do what you’re going to do,” Council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison, D.-Dist. 5, said to her fellow councilmembers. “But I’m going to tell you this; you better be prepared to deal with the consequences as they come.

“I’m going to do what I have to do,” she continued. “I’m going to support the residents of Prince George’s County.”

One issue with the retreat is the cost. It costs the Prince George’s taxpayers thousands of dollars to pull off, but Harrison says that every effort has been made to keep the costs to a reasonable level.

“We are using a moderately-priced venue for our meetings, and we searched for speakers who either were willing to donate their time, or present at a reduced rate,” Harrison said in a statement. “Overnight stays are permitted only when absolutely necessary, and we have kept the number of active participants to the minimum required for effectiveness.”

The council says it’s ready to stand unified. With a year ahead devoid of the distractions of elections or controversies, they said it’s time to tackle the challenges facing Prince George’s.

“With significant challenges facing the County Council in this coming year, it is imperative that we work together as One Prince George’s County, and reach consensus on our approach to the critical issues before us,” Harrison stated.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO