- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Gaithersburg officials are looking to form a task force to decide how to deal with scrapped plans for opening a day-laborer center in the city.

Mayor Sidney Katz and City Council members will hold a work session next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the task force’s duties, composition and application process.

The session will be broadcast on Gaithersburg’s public access Channel 13, or Channel 95 in the rest of Montgomery County.

Those chosen for the task force will help determine how to deal with day laborers who loiter outside Grace United Methodist Church.

The task force will likely consist of 12 to 15 members, hold televised meetings and make recommendations to the council, officials said.

City Manager David Humpton stressed that no specific criteria for the task force have been decided.

“We are ready and able to staff [the task force],” he said Monday.

Montgomery County officials this month scrapped plans to open a day-laborer center in Gaithersburg, saying the city appeared hesitant to proceed with it. Nearby residents had complained that they were excluded from the process.

Mr. Katz last week apologized for excluding residents from meetings about the center.

However, he said the meetings were open and were unofficial under Maryland’s open-meeting law because they did not have enough elected officials present to qualify as an official meeting.

Resident Cathy Drzygula described the situation as a “government failure.”

“I think we got into this mess in the first place because there’s no common understanding of the term ‘public notification,’” said resident Mike Stomblerg.

Residents have called on the city to establish clearer definitions of what constitutes an official meeting.

Mr. Katz said he wants the day-laborer ordeal resolved as quickly as possible.

“I think that we need to come together as a community and discuss it as a community,” he said.

Residents also said they hope a solution is found soon.

“This is not a matter about immigration. This is not about race … gender or color,” said the Rev. David Rocha, pastor of Camino de Vida United Methodist Church, where sandwiches and coffee are passed out to day laborers. “We believe you are moving in the right direction.”

The county said it remains committed to financing the center, which originally was slated to open last month.

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