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First New Recycling Rate Goal in Nearly Two Decades Announced

Upholding its reputation as a local leader in recycling efforts, Montgomery County stepped up again when County Executive Ike Leggett announced establishment of a new, higher recycling goal -- 70 percent of the waste stream being recycled by the end of 2020. 

The new goal is the first to be established since the original goal of recycling 50 percent of the waste stream was established nearly 20 years ago

In addition to the new recycling rate, Leggett also announced a proposal that Montgomery County adopt the Maryland Recycling Act (MRA) methodology for calculating recycling rates.  This means that the Division of Solid Waste Services staff will use the MRA Diversion rate as the official County recycling rate, instead of calculating two separate and different rates each year, as in the past.

The 70% goal would be one of the highest among jurisdictions in the metropolitan region, as well as other counties across the United States.  It puts Montgomery County in an elite group of major jurisdictions which have the highest recycling goals in the country. Both Florida and California have recycling rate goals of 75%, while the City of Seattle's recycling rate goal is 70%.  Maryland's recycling rate goal is 35% with an additional waste reduction goal of 5%.    

For more information about recycling in Montgomery County, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/recycling.

POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 9:00:00 AM |

Summertime Safety for all Ages: In and Near the Water

In response to two near-drownings over the Memorial Day weekend, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue (MCFR) officials are urging residents to take proper precautions around the water and to keep a close eye on children when they are near any water sources. Whether you’re a seasoned swimmer or just learning how to swim, many water-related injuries can be avoided by knowing what to do and how to stay safe

That’s why MCFR and Montgomery Recreation have joined forces to promote the importance of water safety throughout the summer by offering a series of tips, including:

  • Learn to swim and never swim alone. One of the best things you can do to stay safe around the water is to learn to swim and to always swim with a buddy. Even experienced swimmers can become tired or get muscle cramps which might make it difficult to get out of the water safely.    
  • Teaching your child how to swim does not mean that your child is safe in the water. If you have a pool or are visiting a pool, protect your children by supervising them at all times and being prepared in case of an emergency. Consider designating a “water watcher” when children are participating in water activities.   
  • Seconds count when it comes to water emergencies. Keep a phone (cell or cordless) by the pool or nearby when engaged in recreational water activities so you can call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Read the full list of tips.

CATEGORIES: Public Safety
POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 8:00:00 AM |

County Homeowners: Are You Eligible for Property Tax Credits?

Montgomery County homeowners who have a limited income or are at least 70 years of age may be eligible for property tax credits that will limit the amount of taxes they must pay. One application will determine eligibility for three programs -- the Maryland Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit Program; the Montgomery County Supplemental Property Tax Credit; and the Montgomery County Senior Property Tax Credit.

Property owners who have applied for a tax credit previously and been denied are encouraged to apply again, since the tax credit programs have changed and been improved over the years, and your income situation may have changed.

Homeowners who are at least 70 years of age will automatically receive the Montgomery County Senior Property Tax Credit if they already receive either or both of the Maryland and Montgomery County Tax Credits.

Owners who file and qualify after May 1 -- but before the September 1, 2012 -- deadline will receive either a “revised” tax bill that reflects the credit amount or a refund if the taxes have already been paid in full.

See what criteria homeowners must meet to be eligible.

To apply for these tax credits, homeowners must fill out one application form each year. Application forms are available by calling the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) at 1-800-944-7403, or by downloading the form and instructions from the SDAT website at http://www.dat.state.md.us/sdatweb/htc.html .

POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 7:00:00 AM |

Executive’s Next Online Chat

An online live discussion with County Executive Ike Leggett will be held on Wednesday, June 13, from 1 to 2 p.m.
County residents will be able to talk with the County Executive and ask questions through the County’s website by clicking on the Live Discussion with Ike Leggett link.

Residents interested in participating in the online chat can enter questions prior to or during the live discussion. Questions and answers will be available for viewing both during and after the chat.

For more information, call the Office of Public Information at 240-777-6507.

CATEGORIES: County Executive
POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 6:00:00 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 |

Transit Task Force Releases Recommendations

The Montgomery County Transit Task Force recently presented its recommendations to Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett for establishing a 160-mile, innovative, “best-in-class” rapid transit system that creates a comprehensive transit network. 

The Task Force has recommended that the system be built in three phases over the next nine to 20 years to mitigate both construction and affordability issues. 

“Thanks to the tremendous work of the Transit Task Force, we now have a practical roadmap that will guide us to fully implementing the transit we both want and need to keep our County economically competitive in the 21st century,” said Leggett, who created the Transit Task Force in February 2011. 

The proposed rapid transit system uses vehicles that will operate like “light rail on rubber tires” and is more typically referred to as bus rapid transit.  To the maximum extent possible, the network would have separate, dedicated rapid transit vehicle (RTV) lanes, with an emphasis on creating a network with both north-south and east-west connections.

According to the report, an RTV network is essential if the County wants to achieve its smart growth vision and successfully compete for its fair share of the projected job growth in the region.

Read more information, including other recommendations, in the news release.

See the entire report at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/Apps/cex/transit/reportfinal.asp

CATEGORIES: Transportation
POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 4:00:00 AM |


Community Forums to Address Alternatives to Underage Drinking

Two community forums designed to help neighborhoods in Montgomery County change local conditions, reduce underage drinking, and, in turn, cut down on juvenile delinquent behavior will be held on June 6 and 7 in Germantown and Silver Spring.

Hosted by the Institute for Interactive Instruction (Institute), and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, Germantown and Silver Spring Branches, the forums are intended to invigorate members of the community to become more involved in the issue of underage drinking.  The program is funded through the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention.

The Germantown forum on June 6 will be held at the Boys & Girls Club, 19910 Frederick Rd. The Silver Spring forum on June 7 will be held at the Boys & Girls Club at 1300 Forest Glen Rd. Both programs will be held from 6 to 8 p.m.

As part of the forums, the Institute will premiere a new public service announcement that showcases youth using their voices to communicate clear messages to their peers that there is an alternative to underage drinking. 

Following the premiere, a community discussion will be held to gather information from youth and the community at large regarding truths about drinking among teenagers. Taking part in the discussion will be local residents, school administrators, community leaders, and local law enforcement and county officials who have made decreasing underage alcohol use a priority.

For more information, visit www.iiiinc.org or call (301) 776-4294. 

MC311 Call Center has New TTY Phone Number

Montgomery County’s Customer Service Center, MC311 has a new Text Telephone (TTY) number -- 301-251-4850 -- for deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech-impaired customers.

Those who use the Maryland or Video Relay services should contact MC311 by dialing 240-777-0311.

The MC311 call center operates Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Online access is available anytime, day or night, at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/311

Navy SEALS and Montgomery Recreation Challenge Local Youths


Mercy Nuhu, the only female participant, approaches the finish line of the 1.5-mile run.


Participants from Montgomery Blair High School celebrate as they are named the top performing school. 

It may seem that Montgomery Recreation and the United States Navy SEALS have little in common. Our Recreation Department provides progressive recreation and leisure programming and the SEALS are recognized as an elite military organization. However, they share a fundamental principle -- optimal physical fitness offers many benefits.

And, that common bond is what recently brought the two entities together to present a fitness challenge that would encourage area teens to reach for the best in themselves.

More than 50 teens who participate in Montgomery Recreation’s Sports Academy accepted the challenge. The ultimate goal was to help participants exceed personal expectations toward achieving mental and physical excellence.

To prepare for the challenge, mentoring and physical training sessions were provided from both Sports Academy staff and the Navy SEALS.

The event, held on May 19 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Swim Center, consisted of a 500-meter swim, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and running. Participants who successfully met the challenge earned the elite status of having achieved the physical capacity necessary to be a Navy SEAL.

The overarching goal for the Montgomery County Recreation’s Teen programming is to offer a positive youth development program. But, a significant peripheral benefit was providing the opportunity for students to learn to swim. Prior to the event, many of the participants had never learned to swim. 

Students from the Montgomery Blair High School program took the top three places for individual achievement with senior Nebiyu Fitta coming in first, junior Elias Yishak, second and freshman Kalabe Arefeayne, third. Montgomery Blair also won the trophy for top performing school.

In the end, however, all participants were winners by demonstrating that teamwork, dedicated effort and commitment were the spirit of the competition.

Annual Street Sweeping Underway 

The annual street sweeping of the County’s 5,000 curb miles of roads is now underway.  This joint effort between the Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection removes abrasives and other debris left behind after the winter snow season and improves the appearance and safety of County streets. Based on past results, officials expect the effort to remove more than 3,000 tons of material that could, otherwise, be washed into County streams. 

Removing excess debris and abrasives from road surfaces helps to keep drainage systems clean.  It also helps to reduce pollutants that flow into local streams and, eventually, into the Chesapeake Bay. 

For more information, including sweeping schedules or to report a pothole, visit Highway Maintenance's website or call 311, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (TTY, call 301-251-4850). 

CATEGORIES: Worth Noting
POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 3:30:00 AM |


Comments from Public Sought on Three Issues by Charter Review Commission

The Montgomery County Charter Review Commission is seeking comments on a variety of issues to determine if the current system of County Government adequately addresses the needs of County residents.  The Commission is requesting comments be submitted no later than June 30.

General comments are also welcome, but the Commission is seeking community input on the following issues:  (1) if the Charter should allow a special hiring authority for people with disabilities; (2) whether the Charter should be amended to provide for the removal of a Councilmember for a serious violation of the Ethics law; and (3) if the Council should have a Council President that is elected by the voters to a four-year term.

Those wishing to present their opinions on the issues listed above or who are interested in recommending additional issues for the Commission to study should submit their recommendations to:  Charter Review Commission, Montgomery County Council, 100 Maryland Ave., 5th Floor, Rockville, MD 20850.

Suggestions and comments also can be e-mailed to the Commission at CharterReview.Commission@montgomerycountymd.gov. The Commission requests that comments be submitted by June 30.

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.

Included among the current organizations with vacancies are the following:

  • Cable and Communications Advisory Committee
  • Commission on Child Care
  • Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee

The deadline for application is June 15.

Get details about each group with current openings, plus deadlines.

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 emailed 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.

Montgomery County’s Heritage on Display in late June  

Residents and visitors, alike, will have countless opportunities to explore the history, culture and natural beauty of Montgomery County during the free 2012 Heritage Days Weekend to be held June 23 and 24, from noon to 4 p.m.

Musical offerings will include: Glen Echo Park – The 229th Army Band's Ceremonial Band will perform patriotic songs at 1 p.m. in the Spanish Ballroom on Saturday. Civil War-era music by the Washington Revels Heritage Voices and Roustabout Band, presented at 1 p.m. on Sunday.  Hyattstown Mill Arts Project – Live performances by "Shortbread", "The Trio", and more. Sandy Spring Slave Museum – Traditional African-American and Civil War-era music performed by the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices at noon.

Check the Heritage Montgomery website regularly for updated information about the 2012 Heritage Days.

Deadline for Landscaping and Photo Contests is June 22

Nominations are being accepted for the Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) annual Keep Montgomery County Beautiful (KMCB) landscaping and photography competitions. 

The 26th Annual Landscape Contest is open to community groups, businesses, public institutions and other organizations undertaking landscaping projects that enhance the appearance of commonly owned sections of commercial or residential properties in Montgomery County.  Landscaping along County roadsides, medians or other public locations is also eligible for the award. 

For the 21st Annual Amateur Photography Contest, photos of County locations or residents are judged on effective composition, originality, interest and relevance of the subject matter, and technique.  Subject categories include Montgomery County by day or by night, County landmarks, and people and persons at work.  There is also an optional youth category for those 18 and younger who wish to be judged only against their peers.

Applications for both contests are due June 22. 

MCDOT’s Community Outreach website has the landscaping and photography contest applications, which explain the guidelines and judging criteria, and photos of last year’s winning entries for both contests.

For more information or to request a nomination form either by mail or electronically, contact Community Outreach at 240-777-7155 or mcdot.outreach@montgomerycountymd.gov.

CATEGORIES: Worth Noting
POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 3:00:00 AM |


Sligo Creek Restoration Called “National Success Story” by the U.S. EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called the restoration of Sligo Creek by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) -- that has improved water quality and aquatic life -- “a national success story.”

How did it happen?

By 1985, stormwater runoff and extensive habitat destruction in this highly urbanized tributary to the Anacostia River had helped eliminate all but four of the most pollution-tolerant fish species.  And, Sligo Creek’s condition received a “poor” rating on a DEP biological assessment of the stream’s health.  DEP efforts boosted the rating to “fair” by improving habitat that is naturally sustaining 14 fish species and contributing to reducing pollutant loads for phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment. 

“The success we are seeing in Sligo Creek is proof positive that we can improve the neglected streams in our beautiful County,” said DEP Director Bob Hoyt.  “Our success spurs us to continue working even harder to ensure that the next generation enjoys the benefits of healthy and safe water.”

DEP has implemented stormwater management practices on 1,425 acres (48%) of the upper Sligo Creek sub-watershed, resulting in a 41% reduction in peak stream flow discharge. This has led to improvements in water quality; streambed and bank stability, in-stream habitat; and a more abundant benthic macroinvertebrate community that helps support increased fish populations.

About $3 million (excluding monitoring costs) has been invested in the upper Sligo Creek restoration effort, including $1.8 million from the Montgomery County Capital budget, $1 million from Maryland Department of the E’nvironment's Small Creeks and Estuaries Reserve cost share program, and $256,000 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Read the news release for more about Sligo Creek, including background.

To view the Sligo Creek success story, go to: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/success319/md_sligo.cfm

For more information about DEP’s watershed programs, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dep and click on Water.

Montgomery County Receives Two Awards from Alliance for Workplace Excellence

Montgomery County government has earned the Workplace Excellence Award and the Health & Wellness Trailblazer Award from the Alliance for Workplace Excellence (AWE) for its exemplary commitment to the workforce by creating a culture that allows employees to be successful in the workplace, at home and in the community.

The awards honor organizations that promote professional fulfillment and personal wellness for their employees.  Montgomery County was among 73 employers, representing more than one million employees, that met stringent standards regarding the benefits and work environments they provide.

Organizations were judged on supportive corporate culture and management practices, family- and employee-friendly practices, health and wellness initiatives, growth and learning opportunities, and commitment to social responsibility and employee volunteerism. 

The awards will be presented at AWE’s annual awards luncheon in mid-June at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 2:00:00 AM |


Monday, June 18, 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, June 28, 10:30 a.m. – Volunteer Information Sessions for Adult Literacy Tutors. Rockville Memorial Library, 21 Maryland Ave. Hosted by The Literacy Council of Montgomery County for volunteers interested in helping adults learn to read, write, or speak English  Once the orientation is completed, volunteers can select a two-part training session that fits their schedules.  No foreign language skills are necessary. Tutors work one-on-one or with small groups, and typically meet with students in libraries or community centers at mutually convenient times.  For complete details, call 301-610-0030, email info@literacycouncilmcmd.org or visit www.literacycouncilmcmd.org.

Thursday, June 21 -- Child Safety Seat Inspection at Fitzgerald’s Auto Mall, 5501 Nicholson La., Rockville. 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Free check of the condition and proper installation of child safety seats by nationally-certified car seat technicians from Fitzgerald’s staff, Fire & Rescue personnel and police. Every child under eight years old must be secured in a federally-approved and correctly used child restraint system (child safety seat or booster seat) when riding in a motor vehicle, unless the child is 4’9” or taller, or weighs more than 65 pounds.  All vehicle passengers under the age of 16 must be restrained by a seat belt.

POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 1:00:00 AM |

Leggett Praises Council’s Approval of the “Emergency Medical Transportation Insurance Reimbursement Act”

County Executive Ike Leggett has praised the County Council for approving the “Emergency Medical Transportation Insurance Reimbursement Act” during its May 15 session.

Under the act, the County would recover approximately $18 million a year in Emergency Medical Services costs from insurers and the government at no cost to County residents -- whether or not they have health insurance. County residents would not even get a bill.

Currently, all costs for the County Fire & Rescue Service are borne entirely by County taxpayers.

Leggett said, “This legislation will help strengthen our Fire & Rescue Service and is good for the taxpayers. I want to thank the career and volunteer Fire & Rescue personnel who have written to me and spoken out in favor of this legislation.

"The Montgomery County League of Women Voters recommended approval of the legislation, in addition to the Western Montgomery Citizens Advisory Board and the Montgomery Democratic Party that overwhelmingly supported the legislation.  The latter two groups had previously opposed the law.  Other groups in the County also weighed in to support it once they had the chance to fully evaluate the law on its merits.

“The State of Maryland has recently decided to shift to Montgomery County what could very well be more than $400 million over 10 years in state teacher pension costs,” Leggett said. “The State has also approved a new ‘Maintenance of Effort’ law on school funding that could force us to add millions more to our reserves each year above and beyond what we already do.

“These are changed circumstances of monumental significance, ones that were not before the voters in 2010 when the referendum on the County’s EMS reimbursement program occurred,” Leggett noted.

“I believe,” the Executive said, “the evidence is clear that either you allow the County to request reimbursement from insurance companies and the federal government from premiums already paid to them -- just as nearly every other jurisdiction in the region does – or you raise taxes, or you cut services already reduced severely over the past five years.”

“Since 2010, Anne Arundel County in Maryland and Prince William County in Virginia have joined nearly everybody else in the region in authorizing insurance reimbursement – collecting millions of dollars with no evidence of adverse effects,” said Leggett. “Montgomery County should do the same.”

This legislation is different from the law before the voters in 2010 in several important ways. This version:

  • Specifies that County residents pay no out-of-pocket expenses relating to any County EMS transport;
  • Prohibits Fire & Rescue Service personnel who respond to a request for emergency transport from seeking any insurance information from those being served;
  • Establishes an Emergency Medical Services Patient Advocate in the Office of Consumer Protection;
  • Requires the Fire Chief to report on a semi-annual basis to the County Executive and County Council on implementation of the Act; and
  • Requires a broad public education campaign as the program is implemented, especially focused on “New American” communities and County seniors.

“The proceeds from the insurance reimbursements would go to help strengthen our Fire & Rescue Service," Leggett explained. “And, of course, our Fire & Rescue Service will continue to serve all in need, regardless of ability to pay -- just like before.” 

Get more information about the “Emergency Medical Transportation Insurance Reimbursement Act.”

Read Councilmember Riemer’s letter of support.

Montgomery County Council Approves Emergency Medical Transportation Insurance Reimbursement Law (pdf)

CATEGORIES: EMS , County Executive , County Council
POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 8:30:00 AM |

“The right vote” -- The Gazette’s editorial, May 16, 2012

“The County Council made the right call Tuesday in approving County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposal to resurrect a controversial “fee” for ambulance service — despite the fact that voters overturned a similar measure through referendum in 2010.

“Opponents of the bill — which consist mostly of volunteer fire companies whose members fear the legislation will soften their ability to raise money — have pledged to again take the measure to referendum.

“However, if the bill does go to referendum in November, voters likely will approve it this time. The firmer, 6-to-3 support of the council for the measure, along with a promised effort by Leggett to better inform the public what the bill actually does — as opposed to what opponents claim it does — should be enough to convince voters they have nothing to fear.

“As several council supporters of the bill made clear before the vote, the term “fee” is a misnomer. Montgomery County residents already pay for ambulance service through their taxes and through the premiums they pay to health insurers

“The bill will not require county residents having to cough up cash for an ambulance ride. It merely allows the county government to seek reimbursement from insurance companies for the cost of ambulance rides, just as hospitals seek reimbursement from insurers for treating patients.

“Nearly all of Montgomery’s neighboring jurisdictions collect such reimbursements for ambulance service, while Montgomery effectively leaves that money sitting on the table. The only people who would directly pay for ambulance rides in Montgomery would be out-of-county residents who have no insurance, though they would be eligible for a hardship waiver.

“Billing insurers would generate roughly $72 million over the next four fiscal years that the county otherwise wouldn’t collect, according to the executive’s office. That money would go to the county’s fire and rescue service.

“Critics of the bill — particularly County Councilmember Phil Andrews — have accused Leggett of disregarding or circumventing the people’s will by reintroducing the bill less.

“But Leggett rightly pointed out when he resurrected the measure in April that the county’s fiscal situation has changed since the vote. Most importantly, Montgomery is facing the cost of shouldering a larger chunk of the cost of public teacher pensions, which the state historically has paid.

“(The General Assembly was working out the details of the pension shift in this week’s special session in Annapolis; during the regular General Assembly session, Leggett estimated the shift would cost Montgomery $125 million in the next three fiscal years.)

“In explaining their vote on the bill, several supporters on the council said they were swayed by amendments Leggett offered that would create an education campaign designed to explain the legislation to residents and a patient advocate in the Office of Consumer Protection to handle complaints and service problems related to the reimbursement.

“Several also criticized what they called a ‘misinformation’ campaign opponents mounted during the 2010 referendum battle that sought to convince voters that passage of the bill would mean that residents would be forced to pay out-of-pocket fees for ambulance rides.

“Leggett clearly learned lessons from the bruising referendum battle of 2010 and this time made an effort to meet some of the opponents concerns and to ensure that residents are clear about what the bill achieves — and, just as importantly, what it doesn’t.

“Kudos to the council for not bending to the false assertion that passage of this bill somehow subverts democracy in Montgomery County.”

POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 8:00:00 AM |

County Council Tentatively Agrees on $4.6 Billion Total Operating Budget for FY13

The Montgomery County Council has unanimously reached tentative agreement on a $4.6 billion total County operating budget for Fiscal Year 2013 which reflects a 5.6%  increase over the approved  FY12 budget.

In summary, priorities cited are Schools, Montgomery College, Public Safety and a ‘Safety Net.’ Property taxes are below the Charter limit, and there is a $692 tax credit for homeowners.  Library funding and Police staffing are both increased, while the Energy Tax increase is reduced by 10%.

The Council is scheduled to formally adopt the FY13 operating budget and the Fiscal Years 2013-18 six-year Capital Improvements Program on May 24.

The budget becomes effective July 1.

See details on the budget.

Read Council President Berliner’s comments on the budget.

View President Berliner’s reaction on YouTube.

CATEGORIES: County Council , Budget
POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 7:30:00 AM |

Taste of Wheaton: A Treat for the Senses

Downtown Wheaton will host the 17th annual Taste of Wheaton on Sunday, May 20 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Grandview Ave. and Reedie Dr. 

This year’s line up of restaurants will include longtime favorites Hollywood East Café, Moby Dick Sushi, Los Cobanos and Marchone’s Italian Deli, plus newcomers The Limerick Pub and Green Plate Catering.  All will offer food samples at prices ranging from $1 to $5 per “taste.” Wine and cocktail pairings with menu items from selected restaurants will also be featured.

In addition to a variety of food, there will be live music and entertainment.

All of Triangle Lane and portions of Grandview Avenue will be closed during the event

CATEGORIES: News , Calendar
POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 7:00:00 AM |

Leggett to Host Online Chat on 23rd

The County Executive will host a “virtual” Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, May 23 from 1 to 2 p.m. County residents will be able to talk with the County Executive and ask questions via the County’s website through the Live Discussion with Ike Leggett link.
Residents interested in participating in the online chat can enter questions prior to or during the live discussion. Questions and answers will be available for viewing both during and after the chat.
For more information, call the Office of Public Information at 240-777-6507.
CATEGORIES: County Executive
POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 6:30:00 AM |

Montgomery County to be Site of State’s First Bus Rapid Transit System


Governor Martin O’Malley has announced that the locally preferred alternative (LPA) for the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) will be Maryland’s first Bus Rapid Transit system operating along a 15-mile north-south corridor from the Shady Grove Metrorail station to the COMSAT facility near Clarksburg.

The CCT is supported by County Executive Ike Leggett, as well as the Montgomery County Council, the mayors of Gaithersburg and Rockville, and many others along the corridor.

The governor said, “The CCT Bus Rapid Transit line will provide easy, accessible, cost-efficient transportation for Montgomery County’s neighborhoods. This north-south transitway line will reduce our dependence on cars as we continue our goal to double public transit use by 2020.  The CCT will support nearly 15,000 jobs in the corridor, help facilitate smart growth through mixed used development and it can be built in a timely manner." 

The line will connect major employment, residential and activity centers in the corridor including Shady Grove, King Farm, Crown Farm, Life Sciences Center (LSC), Kentlands, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Metropolitan Grove, Germantown and COMSAT.  There will be direct connections to the Red Line at Shady Grove, the MARC Brunswick Line at Metropolitan Grove and local bus service throughout the corridor. 

“The significant economic advantages of implementing Bus Rapid Transit is not lost on Montgomery County,” Leggett said. “Bus Rapid Transit can be built sooner and at a significantly lower cost while complementing our master plan.  The design and construction of the CCT project is vital for the County and state, and we must collectively move forward to bring it into service as soon as possible.”

CCT Bus Rapid Transit Key Facts

  • Mode: Bus Rapid Transit *Overall Length: 15 miles *Stations: 16 proposed *Average Daily Ridership: 47,700 *Maintenance Facility:  Near Metropolitan Grove *Bus Rapid Transit Vehicles: 68.

Projected Capital Cost

  • Total Project: $828 million *Phase I: $545 million  *Phase II: $283 million

One-way Travel Time

  • COMSAT to Shady Grove: 49 minutes  *Metropolitan Grove to Shady Grove: 33 minutes  *Frequency of service: 6 minutes during peak periods and 10 minutes off peak


  • Summer 2012 – begin New Starts process  *Spring 2013 – FTA Approval to Enter Preliminary Engineering
  • Winter 2014-15: Initiate Final Design Activities  *Summer 2017: Receive Full Funding Grant Agreement from FTA  *Summer 2017: Begin Right-of-Way Acquisitions/Permitting/Agreements  *Fall 2018: Begin Construction  *2020: Service begins (this schedule dependent on funding).

For more information on the CCT, go to http://www.cctmaryland.com.

CATEGORIES: Transportation
POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 6:00:00 AM |

Latest Analysis Shows Executive’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative is Working

An analysis at the recent CountyStat review of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative showed that County efforts to improve pedestrian safety are having a positive effect. 

Since 2005, pedestrian collisions per 100,000 residents have fallen from 46.7 in 2005 to 40.5 in 2011, and the severity of those collisions decreased.

The reductions in collisions are most notable in the County’s High Incidence Areas (locations targeted as having the highest density of collisions), areas around schools improved under the Safe Routes to Schools program and locations where traffic calming measures have been completed.

One of the biggest successes of the Initiative has been the Safe Routes to School program where engineering improvements at 129 schools, bolstered by education and enforcement actions, have significantly reduced pedestrian collisions.  The collision rate dropped from 1.45 to .4 incidents a year at some of the areas around schools with the highest number of collisions. 

CountyStat conducts periodic reviews of the components of the Pedestrian Safety Initiative that have played a critical and valuable role in the program.  By reviewing data, the County works to assure that effective strategies are being employed to improve pedestrian safety.  These reviews provide vital information on how to most efficiently target resources to reduce the number of pedestrian collisions in the County. 

See the full CountyStat presentation.

CATEGORIES: Public Safety , Transportation
POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 5:30:00 AM |

Retool, Recharge, Reinvent at the 50+ Employment Expo with News4’s Pat Collins

News4’s general assignment reporter Pat Collins will be the keynote speaker at this year’s 50+ Employment Expo that will also provide day-long seminars and numerous other opportunities for job searches for those over 50. The free expo will be held on Monday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel and Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Rd.

Recruiters representing dozens of employers -- including non-profits, government, healthcare, retail and technology – will be on hand to talk about opportunities. In addition to seminars on Online Applications and Changing Careers, there will be resume help and tips and how-to’s on surfing the internet for jobs and website lists.

See the flyer. 

Register online.

For more information and/or ADA accommodations, email mgordon@AccessJCA.org or call 301-255-4209.

POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 5:00:00 AM |

Website Gets New Look; Feedback Invited

Montgomery County’s award-winning website has been redesigned with a fresh look, new and enhanced features, and easier, more straightforward navigation tools.

Designed by the County’s Department of Technology Services and Office of Public Information, the new site was upgraded in response to users’ requests for certain improvements. For example, there is now greater accessibility for the disabled.

During this soft launch period, visitors to the site are encouraged to respond to a brief user survey about the site. The survey can be found on the soft launch site (look for the big yellow check mark). Comments will be read and evaluated and further changes to the web portal will be made before it is officially launched in the coming months.

Website users can view and use the “soft” launch site at http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov

For more information, call 240-777-6507. 

POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 4:30:00 AM |

Click It or Ticket Campaign Underway

The Montgomery County Police Department, with the support of the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), has joined other law enforcement agencies nationwide for the 2012 Click It or Ticket seat belt campaign which will run until early June.

During the campaign, police officers will emphasize the importance of wearing a seat belt and using appropriate child safety seats through education and enforcement.

Not only will tickets be issued to unbelted motorists, publicity efforts will help ensure that drivers know they are more likely to get a ticket.

CATEGORIES: Public Safety
POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 4:00:00 AM |

Urban Park will Enhance Germantown Town Center Area

The Germantown Town Center Urban Park, that will be a key element in completing the Germantown Town Center, took one more step toward becoming reality when a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony was held recently for the project.

The 8.8-acre urban park -- located on land adjacent to the Germantown Library --  will include open space, trails, boardwalks, gathering areas and enhanced wetland areas for education.

Public art components, created by artist David Hess, will complement the cultural setting of the library and the nearby BlackRock Arts Center while serving as gathering spaces.

Hess will create three large pergolas, using more than 14,000 feet of twisted stainless steel material, formed atop six large natural boulders. The pergolas will create gathering places within a raised plaza overlooking a formal lawn and the existing wetlands. Hess will also build sculptural handrails and benches within the park.

The park is slated for completion in 2014.

POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 3:30:00 AM |


Memorial Day Holiday Schedule for County Services

Montgomery County government will observe the following holiday schedule for Memorial Day on Monday, May 28:

  • County Offices – closed
  • Libraries – closed
  • County liquor stores – closed
  • Recreation – administrative offices, senior centers and community centers are closed; all classes, including aquatics classes are cancelled.  Indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities will be open as scheduled.
  • Ride On – Sunday schedule
  • Metrobus – Sunday schedule
  • Metrorail – Sunday schedule
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection*
  • Transfer Station – closed
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • MCPS Administrative Offices – closed
  • State offices, courts – closed

*All collections scheduled on or after the holiday will be made one day later that week.

Sign Up for Summer Recreation and Parks Programs

The summer issue of the Montgomery County Guide for Recreation and Parks Programs is now available, and residents may register for summer classes and swim lessons.

Registration is available in one of four ways:  by mail or fax, online or in person at the Montgomery County Recreation Administrative Offices at 4010 Randolph Rd., Silver Spring.

Print copies of the guide are now available at public libraries and community, recreation, aquatic and senior centers around the County.  Residents who prefer receiving the guide in the mail can subscribe for $5 to receive a full year of all five issues. 

To subscribe or to view the Guide online, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/rec

Fenton Street Market Returns for the 2012 Season

Fenton Street Market (FSM) is back and in business at Veterans Plaza in Downtown Silver Spring. Since 2010, the market has converted Veterans Plaza into a bustling, community marketplace. Recently, Montgomery County awarded FSM a three-year contract to continue its operations on the plaza.

This year, FSM welcomes more than 60 vendors each week. Their offerings include original artwork, handmade and imported crafts, antiques, jewelry, furniture, vintage clothing and unique services such as acupuncture and henna tattoos.

The market will run every Saturday through October 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Due to large community events on Veterans Plaza, the market will not operate on: August 11, September 8 and September 22. Veterans Plaza is located in front of the Silver Spring Civic Building, at the intersection of Fenton St. and Ellsworth Dr.

To receive weekly market updates, sign up for the FSM e-newsletter at www.fentonstreetmarket.com.

 For more information, contact Megan Moriarty at megan@fentonstreetmarket.com.



A Chance to Help in El Salvador

If you’ve ever wanted to go to a faraway land to experience something new and do something special, here’s your chance.

The County’s Office of Community Partnerships has announced that  Montgomery County's Habitat for Humanity is sending another group of County residents to El Salvador on the week of July 22nd. They are looking for four more residents to join the team.

 No special construction skills or language abilities are required -- just a positive attitude, and a desire to help others. Volunteers may work in all stages of construction, from digging foundations to painting the houses. Regardless of what stage the house is in when the team arrives, responsibilities will likely include carrying bricks, mixing cement, compacting dirt and moving materials.

On the work site, volunteers will find portable bathrooms and designated resting areas with drinkable water. The team will be supervised by technical advisors and construction experts and they will present written construction goals every day.

The cost is $1,290 in US dollars, not including airfare. A $200 deposit is due upon registration, with the remaining funds due June 6. For more details about what is included in this cost, visit Global Village program cost.

For more information, email the team leader, Sarah Reddinger, at sarah.reddinger@habitat-mc.org.

County Receives Monies for Bikeshare Program

The Maryland Department of Transportation announced recently that the Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has received a $1,008,000 grant for a proposed bikeshare program for the downcounty areas of Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Medical Center, Takoma Park and Silver Spring. 

In addition, during its regular session, the Maryland legislature approved a bill that will provide a $250,000 bond to the bikeshare program.  The grant and bond will help pay for a portion of the construction and equipment costs for 50 bikeshare docking stations and 350 bikes. 

The County also received $252,000 in private-sector funding commitments towards the cost of bikesharing stations in the downcounty, pending assurance that the bikeshare network will be established.

Last year, Montgomery County received funding for 20 bikeshare stations and 200 bikes in the Rockville and Shady Grove/Life Sciences Center area through a Federal Transit Administration Job Access Reverse Commute Grant to serve low-income reverse commuters and job trainees.

Together, the Rockville/Shady Grove/Life Sciences Center and downcounty bikeshare programs will foster bikeshare/transit connections for residents and employees traveling between downcounty and upcounty and improve access to Metrorail, MARC and MTA bus services.

Bikesharing provides short-term bicycle rentals at self-service, automated, solar-powered docking stations at publicly accessible locations.  Bikes may be picked up at one location and returned to another, thus allowing for one-way trips.  Bikesharing is considered ideal for short trips of less than five miles. Trips under 30 minutes are included in the membership fee, while longer trips are charged based on their duration.

Making Home a Safer Place for Many Families

Fire Chief Richard Bowers and local firefighters did just that recently when they joined volunteers working with Rebuilding Together, the nation’s largest non-profit organization that rehabilitates and repairs homes for low-income, elderly and disabled residents.

County firefighters assisted with the installation of 10-year smoke alarms and ensured that each of the homes had a fire escape plan and made homeowners aware of the importance of carbon monoxide detectors and other important safety features for the home.   

“This was a true community effort and the fire department was privileged to team up and work alongside the volunteer groups and sponsors who support this great effort,” said Chief Bowers.

Photo: Fire Chief Richard Bowers installs a smoke detector in a Poolesville home.

Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center to Celebrate 10th Anniversary

County Executive Leggett will join the East Silver Spring community to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center on Saturday, May 19 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The center is located at 14906 Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville, and there is ample free parking.

Hosted by Montgomery County Recreation, the free event will feature entertainment, children’s activities and interactive workshops and demonstrations for all ages. A jazz concert featuring The Dean Family will take place from 3 to 6 p.m.  

The celebration will also include the Taste of Burtonsville with food samples offered by local restaurants.  Tickets for the food tasting will be available for $1 apiece. 

For more information, call Carol Brown at 240-777-4970.

Common Sense and More Common Sense when Shopping with Reusable Bags is the Best Defense

The following is in response to questions raised by some residents after the recent norovirus incident in Oregon which arose from the handles of reusable shopping bag.

A little common sense can go a long way in ensuring that your reusable shopping bags are clean.

Health experts -- and shoppers who have been using reusable bags for years -- have repeatedly recommended that consumers clean their reusable grocery bags either by laundering in a washing machine or with sanitizing wipes or sprays. Most bags are washable and all are certainly “wipe-able.”

Next, use common sense when shopping. The thin plastic “sleeves” or bags that are found throughout grocery stores are there for a good reason – to protect not only the bag (be it a reusable one or a clean plastic one being re-used) but other foods from possible leakage -- by meats, for instance, or from other substances that might be on fresh-picked fruits and vegetables. Under the Montgomery County Bag Law, you are not charged for these bags. 

Another couple pieces of common sense advice from health officials are that frequent hand washing and washing fruits and vegetables before eating are good ways to proactively reduce the possibility of picking up harmful bacteria from various sources. 

CATEGORIES: Worth Noting
POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 3:00:00 AM |


False Alarm Reduction Unit Recognized for Significant Achievement 

The Montgomery County False Alarm Reduction Unit (FARU) has received an award from the False Alarm Reduction Association for achieving a significant reduction in commercial and residential false alarms from 2008 – 2011.

Montgomery County, which is home to approximately 1,000,000 people and covers close to 550 square miles, had approximately 90% of alarm users achieve zero false alarms during 2011.  The number of alarm users who have zero false alarms increases every year and is a testament to a well-written, strictly enforced, alarm ordinance and the educational efforts of both the FARU staff and alarm companies doing business in the County.

The statistics mean fewer dispatched calls and more cops being able to proactively patrol and respond to serious crimes and calls for service.  In 2011 alone, Montgomery County saved $1,385,000 in wasted resources, recovered 9,233 hours of police patrol time and recouped the equivalent of nearly nine police work years.  False alarms to which police officers respond have been reduced by almost 70%.

Learn more about the False Alarm Reduction Unit.

You Gave and Rode; Donations Up

Ride On bus system’s 25th annual “Give and Ride” food drive, held in late April, collected almost 8,800 pounds of food and other items, nearly a 50% increase from last year.  Bus passengers received free rides by donating canned or non-perishable food, disposable diapers, formula, baby or toddler food, and juice. 

All food donations were sent to the Manna Food Center, a Gaithersburg-based non-profit organization that distributes food to the County’s neediest residents.  Manna requested that Ride On hold its annual food collection drive in the spring to better meet community food distribution needs.  Manna feeds about 3,000 families every month.

Ride On General Manager Carolyn Biggins said, “Year after year, our customers demonstrate their generosity, and that has proven to be even more important than ever during these especially tough economic conditions.  I am very proud of our passengers and County employees who are so generous to those in need. ”

POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 2:00:00 AM |


June 23 and 24 – Heritage Days Weekend.  Sites throughout the County. Noon to 4 p.m. Free.  Explore the history, culture and natural beauty of Montgomery County. Sponsored by Heritage Montgomery. Over the coming weeks, check the Heritage Montgomery website for more details.

June 25-July 1 – 2012 AT&T National marks the PGA TOUR’s return to the nation's capital. 120 top PGA TOUR professionals from around the world compete for their share of a $6.5 million purse. The event raises funds and awareness for the Tiger Woods Foundation while paying tribute to our armed forces. For information on tickets, parking, public transportation, etc., visit www.attnational.org.

POSTED: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 1:00:00 AM |
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Last edited: 11/8/2010