Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Community Dialogue Series: Frostburg Comes Together to Strengthen Ties Between Students and the Surrounding Community

Gina Angiola, addressing green renovations in off-campus dwellings
On a cold, windy evening in our beloved Frostburg, guests began signing in and getting seated for Monday night’s discussion at the Lyric Theatre at 20 E. Main Street. Everyone is in attendance to discuss the topic, “Living With Each Other: A Discussion of Off-Campus Housing Solutions,” in hopes of educating and building better housing solutions for Frostburg State University students, as well as ways to encourage graduates to take up permanent residence in the city. This is one of several in a series intended to strengthen community relations, and better Frostburg as a whole by grouping diverse personalities from in and around Frostburg in an open forum. 
Despite the weather, there were multiple prominent speakers, from students to alumni, school staff to city leaders, landlords to tenants. At just past 5:30 all the guests were seated, and Dr. Elesha L. Ruminski, chair of FSU’s Department of Communication Studies began with opening remarks, and encouraged the members of each table to get acquainted with each other. Dr. Jesse Ketterman, Frostburg’s own Dean of Students followed up with a solemn moment of silence for Lateef Gazal, the unfortunate casualty of the recent house fire tragedy haunting Frostburg. With the jury still out on what exactly caused the fire, and many Bobcats looking to move off-campus, readily available information on the subject is needed, and several speakers stepped up to provide it.
Speaking first, Mark Monnett, the city Code Enforcement Officer discussed at length Frostburg’s municipal codes and the enforcement of them. Questions ranged from new state housing codes, to landlord tenant relationship abuses. Specifically, the new state mandated smoke detectors were a hot topic. “How many of your smoke detectors beep,” he asked before continuing, “How many of you take them down? How many of you know that’s a fine,” he finished. A $250 fine, and a rather large problem with many students living off-campus. Mark went on to stress the importance of students being well informed on everything about their apartments and lease agreement before they enter into them blindly. “Look for smoke detectors, and secondary egresses” he remarked. Finally, he announced that a checklist of things to be aware of before moving in was recently placed on the city’s website for all to see, a valuable resource for any aspiring for independence.
Jeff Graham, explaining the importance of proactive learning

Next up was Zach Nalepa, an engineering student and off-campus resident of Frostburg. Zach began by discussing the dynamic between landlords and their tenants, a relationship that some landlords take advantage of. While speaking, he addressed the student’s lack of knowledge to deal with a binding legal agreement, while members of the audience brainstormed ideas to reach students. Thoughts ranged from using Twitter and Youtube, to creating a housing handbook, and a course that would act as orientation. Zach’s focus stems from his own experiences living off campus. “My landlord took advantage,” he said when asked about his first year off-campus. “My new landlord and I have a much better relationship” explaining his current housing, “it’s all about respect.” Zach is a great example of how many sophomores and juniors aspire to live: independent with not a parent in site. “It’s a good experience,” he says leaving the podium for the night. 
One of the final speakers for the night, Gina Angiola, a local property owner of a green renovation on Maple Street, took the stage to address greener housing solutions. Her goal for Frostburg is to offer reliable, environmentally conscious housing for students, and she wants them to get involved. Gina, a victim of the 2009 economic crisis, became a successful realtor in response and has since taken time to help develop her own properties for student use. Inspired by lifestyle innovations in Ithaca, New York, Gina stated "green villages facillitate healthy communities. Why not get students involved?" Her avant garde approach is one that many in the audience very clearly supported. Gina wants to start a pilot project where students would "grow their own food," providing income, perhaps even jobs right here in Frostburg. Her cause is genuine, and will most likely be a huge influence in student's choosing Frostburg in the future.
Several others spoke, including landlords, and the mayor himself, all coming together to focus on making Frostburg better for students and citizens alike. The session concluded with words from many in the audience expressing further ideas to better Frostburg for all. One thing’s for sure, students need to be more involved in the procedures that go into moving off campus, and there’s an abundance of help and information in this town. The next dialogue in the series is set for March 27th, and the topic will be "Building the 'Burg: Inviting FSU Students to join and Grow the Local Community." All students are encouraged to attend. For more information on the Dialogue Series and all Frostburg news go to www.frostburgcity.com, or contact Elesha Ruminski, at elruminski@frostburg.edu.

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