MOUNT AIRY - After several months of searching, town administrators have found their planner.
At its regular monthly meeting Monday, the Town Council announced that a design architect for a Baltimore architectural company has been hired for the newly created position of town planner.
Teresa M. Merten, employed by RTKL Associates Inc., was picked over six other applicants town administrators interviewed last week, Mayor Gerald R.
Johnson Jr. said Monday.
Beginning Jan. 2, Merten will take over for Judith Rabb, a staff planner for Rosenfelt & Woolfolk Inc., an engineering consultant based in Owings Mills, Baltimore County. For more than two years, the town has contracted with the company for assistance with its planning.
"She's just a super person, and she's very qualified," Councilman Oliver Davis said of Merten, a Cincinnati native who has worked for RTKL for three years.
"She reminds me of Judy Rabb," Davis said, referring to Merten's credentials and enthusiasm for the job.
Davis, a Planning Commission member who helped interview candidates, said he was impressed with all seven finalists.
The mayor, who announced the hiring and who had spearheaded the recruiting effort, declined to disclose the salary of the new planner.
However, the drive to replace the consulting firm with a full-time town employee was promoted as a way to save Mount Airy a significant amount of money.
During the past 18 months, Mount Airy has paid Rosenfelt & Woolfolk about $100,000 for Rabb's services.
"We don't know what exactly we'll have to pay a planner, but, realistically, we're hoping we can hire someone in the $30,000 to $40,000 range," Johnson said last week.
The hiring concludes a search for a planner that began last summer. The town first advertised for the position in September. But just three resumes came through the mail slot at Town Hall after the ad ran in professional journals and a local newspaper.
The town again advertised for a town planner in October, this time in major newspapers in Baltimore and Washington. The approach netted 48 resumes.
Administrators sifted through the resumes and narrowed the field to seven.
Planning is an unheralded yet crucial function for a municipality, especially one like Mount Airy, which has experienced tremendous growth in recent years and is feeling development pressure from all sides.
A planner works closely with developers and town officials, reviewing builders' proposals to ensure compliance with town regulations and also advising town administrators on development and annexation.
In recent months, some had worried about the trade-off of replacing an entire consulting firm with a single person. Planning Commission Chairman Fred Goundry expressed concern that a one-person planning staff might be overwhelmed by the growing workload in Mount Airy.
I hope it's not going to be a catch-all spot, where they would do a lot more than planning," he said.
But Merten will not be alone, Johnson said. The town will continue to pay for some consulting services. And the town will turn to the planning staffs of Carroll and Frederick counties for occasional assistance, he said.