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Chat Online with Consumer Protection Director about Post-Storm Repairs

Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) Director Eric Friedman will conduct a live, online chat on Tuesday, July 24 from noon to 2 p.m. that will focus on the recent storm damage and the resulting proliferation of unlicensed home improvement contractors. 

To participate, residents can enter questions prior to or during the live discussion.

Questions and answers will be available for viewing both during and after the chat.

The online discussion is part of the “Consumer Ed Café…Food for Thought” series of online chats conducted by OCP.       

For more information, call the Office of Consumer Protection at 240-777-3636.

POSTED: Friday, July 20, 2012 | 7:00:00 AM |

"Improve Your Home Improvement Experience" at Free Program

Montgomery County’s Advisory Committee on Consumer Protection will host a public forum on Wednesday, June 20, from 7 to 9 p.m., that will examine home improvement issues, with topics covering everything from avoiding scams to State licensing requirements. The forum will be held at the Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Ave., First Floor Auditorium, Rockville. Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen will give introductory remarks.

Entitled, “Improve Your Home Improvement Experience,” the free forum will be moderated by Eric Friedman, director, Office of Consumer Protection.

The forum will address topics including common scams, how to be sure your contractor is properly licensed, how to structure your home improvement contract, permitting requirements for homeowners and what remedies are available for consumers. Light refreshments will be served.

Pre-registration is not required but is recommended due to limited seating. Free parking is available. Sign language interpreter services will be provided only upon request with notice as far in advance as possible, but no less than 72 hours prior to the event.

To register for the forum or to request sign language or other services or aids needed to participate in the forum, call 240-777-3636 or MD Relay at 1-800-735-2258, or email consumerprotection@montgomerycountymd.gov

POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 5:00:00 AM |

Community Input Invited Regarding the Future of Comcast Cable Television Services

Comcast’s current 15-year franchise agreement with the County expires on July 1, 2013, and this summer, the County will begin negotiations for a new franchise agreement which will address past performance, customer service and new technologies.

Meanwhile, the County is seeking community input -- via a series of focus groups planned for the week of March 19-24 -- to help determine what kinds of cable services the public is interested in receiving as part of a new cable television franchise agreement with Comcast.

For more information, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/cable  or contact Marjorie Williams at 240-777-3762;e-mail  Marjorie.Williams@MontgomeryCountyMD.gov .  Please  RSVP to attend a focus group.

CATEGORIES: Consumer , Communtiy Forum
POSTED: Thursday, March 01, 2012 | 7:30:00 AM |


Good Grades Pay Off

In recognition of their scholastic achievement, honor roll students from all Montgomery County public schools can receive an hour of free skating -- and skates -- at the Silver Spring Skating Rink at Veteran’s Plaza, 8523 Fenton St. through March 8. Students must show a copy of their (honor roll) report card and their student ID.

The offer of appreciation is presented by Tri State Ice Management which operates the rink and the County’s Community Use of Public Facilities-Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza.

For more information, visit www.silverspringiceskating.com.

Your Chance to Serve: Openings on Boards, Committees and Commissions

Public participation contributes to the work of County government and provides an important service to the community when a variety of issues, concerns, and viewpoints are presented. Applicants of diverse backgrounds, professions, gender, geography, disability and ethnicity are encouraged to apply.

Currently, there is an opportunity to serve on any one of the following boards, committees and commissions:

  • Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board
  • Cable and Communications Advisory Committee
  • Cable Compliance Commission
  • Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board
  • Workforce Investment Board

Get details about each group.

An application consisting of a brief cover letter and resume should be mailed to County Executive Isiah Leggett, 101 Monroe St., 2nd Floor, Rockville, MD  20850, or by email to countyexecutive.boards@montgomerycountymd.gov.  Home and employment addresses, as well as contact phone numbers and email addresses, should be included. If appropriate, applicants should indicate the position for which they are applying.

The deadline for applying for these openings is March 9.

Residents Beware of Pigeon Drop Schemes and Distraction Thefts

As warmer weather approaches and outdoor activities increase, the Montgomery County Police Department warns residents to be aware of Pigeon Drop schemes and distraction thefts  that typically occur in parking lots and in grocery or other retail stores respectively.

Remaining alert to your surroundings and being aware of the people around you are keys helping to ensure that you don’t become a victim.

There’s a New Galaxy in Silver Spring

The rental housing market in downtown Silver Spring is brighter now by nearly 200 units with the opening of the Galaxy, a new five-story, 195-unit, mid-rise rental apartment building on 13th Street.

Leased and managed by Hercules Real Estate, the building contains 82 affordable apartments (already all taken) and 113 market units.

 “The Galaxy team is fulfilling its promise to bring affordable and market rate housing as well as additional parking to downtown Silver Spring,” said Richard Y. Nelson, Jr., director of the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs. “This public-private initiative demonstrates the opportunity we have for win-win-win developments in Montgomery County. The Galaxy is a win for residents of many income levels, a win for the County in bringing additional parking for a 24-7 neighborhood and a win for a development team that is opening the right product at exactly the right time.”

Amenities include a large, luxurious clubroom with pool table, flat screen televisions and a Wii™ station, a cyber café with a Wi-Fi Hotspot and a fully equipped private fitness center. Apartments are designed with condo-grade finishes, from custom cabinetry to granite countertops and stainless steel appliances to ceramic floors, full-size washers and dryers, walk-in closets, patios and balconies.

For more information, visit www.TheGalaxyApts.com.

New Park and Ride Lot on Georgia Avenue Served by Intercity Buses

A new Georgia Avenue Park and Ride lot, west of Georgia Avenue (Maryland Rte. 97) and just south of the InterCounty Connector (ICC), is now open.  The lot, which has more than 200 parking spaces and two bus shelters with benches, was part of the ICC/MD200 project and was built by the State Highway Administration.

With the opening of the new lot, the Maryland Transit Administration's (MTA) intercity buses for routes #201 and #202 has discontinued service to the Norbeck Park and Ride lot.

Consumer Protection Wants You to Know

Many consumers don’t know their rights when it comes to debt collectors. For example, they are unaware that they have the right to not be sued when it comes to old debt.  Debt collectors have a limited number of years to sue you and collect their money; this is known as the statute of limitation. It varies by state and circumstance, but after that time has passed, your unpaid debt is classified as “time-barred” and is no longer collectible. 

Debt collectors may still try to collect on a time-barred debt; however, the decision to pay is yours. You can choose to not pay anything, make a partial payment or pay off the debt completely.  Each option has its consequences and you may want to talk to a lawyer before you make a decision. To learn more about how to deal with Time-Barred Debts read the Federal Trade Commission’s article, Time-Barred Debts.

The Office of Consumer Protection investigates thousands of complaints each year involving new home purchases, home improvements, credit issues, automotive sales and repairs, retail sales, Internet services and most other consumer transactions.

For additional information on consumer issues, contact the Office of Consumer Protection at 240-777-3636 or e-mail consumerprotection@montgomerycountymd.gov.

CATEGORIES: Worth Noting , Consumer
POSTED: Thursday, March 01, 2012 | 2:30:00 AM |


32nd Annual Women’s Legislative Briefing – January 29

The Commissions for Women of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will co-host the 2012 Women’s Legislative Briefing on Sunday, January 29, from 12:30 to 6 p.m., at the Universities at Shady Grove, Building II, 9630 Gudelsky Dr., Rockville.

This year’s event will include a panel discussion addressing women’s issues in the U.S. Congress, moderated by Catherine Leggett, senior vice president of Human Resources at ICMA – Retirement Corporation. Panelists include U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin, U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen and U.S Congresswoman Donna Edwards. The conference will open with remarks by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett; Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker; and Md. Delegate/President of the Women’s Legislators of Maryland Susan Lee.

The briefing will include seminars on a variety of topics: Effective Legislative Advocacy; Health Care and Health Care Reform for Women; Advocating for Older Women’s Issues; Victories for Women in the 2011 Maryland General Assembly; Women in the Public Realm; Work and Women; Women, Families and Poverty; and Safety, Justice and Human Rights. The program will conclude with a reception with County and State elected officials.

Admission is $15 and includes refreshments. To pre-register, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/cfw. For more information, call 240-777-8333.

Office of Human Rights Co-Sponsors Civil Rights Historic Bus Tour

The Montgomery County Office of Human Rights, in collaboration with Montgomery County Public Libraries, the African American Employees Association, the Lincoln Park Historical Foundation and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is again this year hosting a civil rights historic bus tour that retraces the steps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights heroes.

The bus tour leaves Rockville on April 2 and returns on April 7.

The cost of the tour for a group of four is $445 per person including hotel, transportation, some meals and snacks, and all museum/tour fees. For smaller groups, the fee is slightly higher. All tour costs are paid for by participants’ fees. A deposit for half the fee is due on February 4 with the balance due on March 4.

A pre-tour meeting will be held on Thursday, March 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the Human Rights Conference and Mediation Center, Suite 330, 21 Maryland Ave., Rockville. At least one member of each group is required to attend this meeting. Interested individuals and groups should contact Beverly Marshall in the Office of Human Rights at Beverly.marshall@montgomerycountymd.gov.

For more information about the tour, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/humanrights.

County Offers Resources for Seniors and Caregivers

Caring for an older adult with a disability? The best way to help is to recognize that it is not all up to you. Ask for help!

Montgomery County’s Aging and Disability Services, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, has a variety of resources available to support seniors, residents of long term care facilities and those who care for them.

Read more about specific services and get details.

For more information about services for seniors and caregivers in Montgomery County, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/senior.

Applicants Sought for Council Representative on Investment Policy Boards

The Montgomery County Council is seeking applicants for the position of Council representative on the Board of Investment Trustees for the Montgomery County Employee Retirement Plans and the Board of Trustees for the Consolidated Retiree Health Benefits Trust. The Boards set investment policy, hire investment managers and monitor investment performance for the Trust Funds.

The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

The Board of Investment Trustees oversees the investment of approximately $4 billion in assets for nearly 11,000 active and retired members of the three retirement plans: defined benefit, defined contribution and deferred compensation.

The Board of Trustees oversees the investment program for the Consolidated Retiree Health Benefit Trust.

Read about how to apply.

Consumer Protection Wants You to Know

Be careful next time you go through your mail! What might appear to be junk mail may actually be a check for $18.

As part of the Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation case, more than 10 million checks valued at $18.04 are going out to credit card holders to settle claims over the improper setting and disclosure of foreign currency conversion fees. Consumers who filed claim forms and provided documentation may be entitled to more.

The problem? The envelope looks like junk mail, making it likely that many consumers may unknowingly toss the check in the garbage. What does the mailer look like? Click here for information from abc news.

For questions, contact the Office of Consumer Protection, 100 Maryland Ave., Suite 330 Rockville, MD 20850; call 240-777-3636, email consumerprotection@montgomerycountymd.gov or visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/consumer.

CATEGORIES: Worth Noting , Consumer , Senior
POSTED: Friday, January 20, 2012 | 3:00:00 AM |


New Year, New Parking Rates in Silver Spring

Beginning January 1, 2012, long-term parking rates in the Silver Spring Parking Lot District will increase by 10-cents an hour.

The Montgomery County Council approved the parking rate increase in downtown Silver Spring as part of the fiscal year 2012 budget approved in May. The Division of Parking Management is posting signs in public parking lots and garages to alert parkers about the rate change.

Rate changes in Bethesda went into effect in August.

For additional information on parking options in Silver Spring or the other County parking lot districts, visit the Division of Parking Management’s website at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/parking or call 311.


Filing Deadline for 2012 Primary Candidates Approaching

The Board of Elections reminds potential candidates that the deadline for filing for the 2012 Primary Election is Wednesday, January 11, 2012, at 9 p.m.

Individuals interested in running for Board of Education Districts 2, 4, or At Large positions may file their candidacy with the Montgomery County Board of Elections at 18753 N. Frederick Ave., Suite 210, in Gaithersburg. Candidates for all other offices on the 2012 Primary ballot should contact the Maryland State Board of Elections for deadlines and filing locations.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections is open from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and will be open to accept filings on Wednesday, January 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

To arrange an appointment, contact Brian McKevitt at 240-777-8502.

“Did You Know?” Cable Show Highlights How to Book Public Facilities

Montgomery County’s latest “Did You Know?” cable show episode highlights Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) and its policy-making arm, the Interagency Coordinating Board (ICB).

Hosted by CUPF director Ginny Gong, the 30-minute show provides viewers with valuable information about the public facilities and ball fields that can be reserved and procedures in place for booking these sites. Spaces include school auditoriums, gymnasiums and classrooms; library multi-purpose rooms and conference rooms in government buildings; and even reception halls for weddings and large parties.

CUPF also books all Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission ball fields.

“Did You Know?” is a monthly show that provides viewers with information about services and programs Montgomery County offers residents. It airs throughout the week on CCM – Channel 6 for Comcast and RCN subscribers and channel 30 for Verizon subscribers. To watch online, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/ccm and click on Programs. Scroll down to the “Did You Know?” icon.

 It is also available on YouTube by searching “Did You Know Montgomery County.”

Consumer Protection: Wants You to Know… 

If a car repair doesn’t fix the problem, get a second opinion from a trusted mechanic.

Only do business with auto repair shops that you know and trust or that have good reputations based on other people’s experiences. If you have any doubts about the diagnosis of your car’s problem, bring it to another shop for a second opinion, if possible.

To check a repair shop’s licensing status and complaint history before getting your car fixed, call the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) at 240-777-3636.

If you have a problem with a repair, file a complaint with OCP.

CATEGORIES: Worth Noting , Election , Consumer , Parking
POSTED: Friday, December 16, 2011 | 2:00:00 AM |

Noteworthy Notes - 2

Driver Alert: New Ramp Open from US 29 to Fairland Road

A reminder to motorists driving southbound on US Route 29 (Columbia Pike): a new ramp has been opened by the State Highway Administration (SHA) that provides access to both directions on Fairland Road. Motorists will no longer be able to make right or left turns directly onto Fairland Road from US 29.

A new flashing beacon at Fairland Road from the relocated southbound US 29 ramp will guide motorists to either east or westbound Fairland Road. The beacon will flash red for motorists on the ramp and yellow for motorists on Fairland Road. This new configuration is part of SHA’s $2.5 billion Intercounty Connector project.

For more information on the new ramp, including a helpful map, visit SHA’s website.

Get a Sneak Peek of The Fillmore Silver Spring

Local residents eager to check out The Fillmore Silver Spring can now get a sneak peek inside the venue thanks to the official Preview Center, located at 908 Ellsworth Dr. The center educates visitors on the historical legacy of The Fillmore, the construction of The Fillmore Silver Spring project and the amenities that guests can expect at the new venue.

The center will remain open until The Fillmore Silver Spring opens mid-September. The Preview Center will be open Tuesday and Wednesday from noon to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday, noon to 8 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m.

The Fillmore Silver Spring will be the first venue with its historical namesake to be developed from the ground up. The 23,000-square foot, 2,000-capacity music venue will offer leading industry technology in audio, lighting and video as well as share fiber-optic connectivity to American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre located across the street.

Step Right Up! Fillmore Silver Spring Box Office Now Open

The news that local concert goers have been waiting for. The new Fillmore Silver Spring box office is open for business at 908 Ellsworth Dr. in Downtown Silver Spring (between DSW and Borders). There is a $1 service fee for all tickets purchased on site. The box office opens on Sunday and weekdays at 11 a.m. and on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Tickets are now on sale for the opening night show on September 15 with Mary J. Blige, plus other shows to follow. Tickets are also available at www.LiveNation.com, and all Ticketmaster locations. To charge by phone, call 800-551-7328.

Sign-up to receive a newsletter for show announcements and pre-sale opportunities at www.FillmoreSilverSpring.com.

Hold Your Place in the Holds Line at the Library

Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) is now offering a new feature to help library customers manage holds through their MCPL online library account.

If a customer is going on vacation, has an emergency, or knows in advance that they will be unable to pick up requested materials but want to maintain their position in the holds list, they will be able to use the “Suspend Holds” feature to delay their hold for the dates they will be unavailable.

Under the new feature, customers will keep their place in the holds queue for the item while their request is suspended. Meanwhile, other customers behind them in the queue will be able to receive their item(s) placed on hold.

In addition, customers can choose the date they would like to begin suspending their hold, as well as assign an “End Suspend Date,” by using the calendar icon.

This option is not available for e-books and MARINA and OCLC interlibrary loan requests.

For more information and instructions on using this new feature, visit: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/library.

Sign Up! Become a Maryland Senior Olympian

More than 100 events in 21 sports will highlight the 2011 Maryland Senior Olympics to be held from August 13 through November 6 at venues in Montgomery and Howard counties. New this year will be a trial run with bocce ball.

Registration is easy. Just download the full 2011 MSO Registration Guide and get all the information about events, dates and locations. Or, download the registration forms for individual and team sports. Sorry, there is no online registration. You must register 30 days prior to your event.

Participants must be aged 50 and above. Maryland Senior Olympics welcomes out-of-state athletes, too.

For further registration questions, e-mail info@mdseniorolympics.org or call 240-777-8080.

Good Reviews for Community Use of Public Facilities Newsletter

From Ginny Gong, director of the Community Use of Public Facilities, comes word of good reviews for their newsletter. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from our Summer Newsletter. Would it be possible to put a link in the next Paperless Airplane?” Ginny asks.

Glad to oblige. Here’s the link http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/apps/cupf/documents/newsletter.pdf.

Remember, if you belong to an organization or group that uses public facilities for your meetings and/or events, check out the Summer issue. You’ll learn about the new rates for school use beginning September 1 and new fees for the use of fields that take effect January 1, 2012. Also in the latest issue is information on new sites for rent around the County (see “From the Director”) and details about what’s happening at the Civic Building in Downtown Silver Spring.

Heritage Montgomery Brings Grant Dollars to Local Heritage Groups

The Heritage Tourism Alliance of Montgomery County (Heritage Montgomery) has announced the following the local recipients of FY 2012 Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) Grants totaling $163,000:

  • $47,000 Capital Grant to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission for the restoration of the Poole (Seneca) Store in Poolesville;
  • $9,000 Non-Capital Project Grant to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission for Oakley Cabin Archeological Analysis & Interpretation in Olney;
  • $7,000 Non-Capital Project Grant to Heritage Montgomery for Heritage Days and Civil War Programs; and
  • $100,000 Management Grant to Heritage Montgomery.

MHAA oversees 12 locally administered, state-certified Heritage Areas that work with local non-profits, governments, and businesses to preserve and promote Maryland’s historic sites, unspoiled natural landscapes and enduring traditions.

For more information, contact Peggy Erickson at the Heritage Tourism Alliance of Montgomery County at 301-515-0753 or email director@HeritageMontgomery.org.

Consumer Protection Asks: Did You Know…?

You should look carefully at the signs around parking lots to make sure that it’s OK before parking your car. If your car is towed and you believe that the warnings were inadequate, pay the towing charge to avoid storage fees, then contact the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) to file a complaint.

OCP is the Montgomery County agency responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws that prohibit unfair and deceptive business acts to ensure a fair marketplace for consumers and businesses.

CATEGORIES: Worth Noting , Arts , Transportation , Library , Senior , Consumer
POSTED: Friday, August 12, 2011 | 2:00:00 AM |
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Last edited: 11/8/2010