February 13, 2015

Presidents’ Day Holiday Schedule

Montgomery County government will observe the following holiday schedule for Presidents’ Day on Monday, February 16:
  • County Offices – closed
  • Libraries – closed
  • County liquor stores – closed
  • Recreation – aquatic facilities and community centers open; aquatics programs will meet as scheduled; all other classes and programs cancelled; administrative offices and senior centers closed; Senior Active Adult Programs that meet in community centers are cancelled.
  • Montgomery Parks -- all Parks facilities are open. For operating schedules, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org.
  • Ride On – Modified holiday schedule
  • Metrobus – Saturday supplemental service
  • Metrorail – Saturday holiday schedule
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection*
  • Transfer Station – open
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • MCPS Administrative Offices – closed
  • State offices and courts – closed
  • For County's holidays, check www.montgomerycountymd.gov/holidays.
*Collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday).

Business and Public Officials “United for the Purple Line”

As the new State administration considers transportation priorities for the next four years, business leaders and public officials met recently at the University of Maryland to reaffirm their strong commitment to the development of the 16-mile Purple Line that would run from Bethesda to College Park.

The project is the number one transportation priority of both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and is critical to the economic growth of the region and to the State of Maryland.

The $2.4 billion public/private project is estimated to create 27,000 permanent jobs, increase property values along the route by nearly $10 billion, and provide another transportation option to help reduce traffic congestion, as well as linking the University of Maryland campus in College Park and federal employment centers.

Read the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Capital Investment Program Project Profile on the Purple Line for FY 2016.

The meeting, moderated by Washington Board of Trade president and CEO Jim Dinegar and hosted by University of Maryland president Wallace Loh, included updates on the project’s progress, and highlights of the positive economic impacts.

A key outcome of the meeting was strategizing by political and business leaders on even further outreach to the State’s business community and liaising with the Hogan administration, which is reevaluating the project.

Read more about the Purple Line at www.purplelinemd.com

Cold Weather Safety Reminders for People and Animals

Due to the current extremely cold temperatures and strong winds predicted to remain in the region through Monday, residents and visitors are reminded that:

There is always particular concern for the safety of children, senior citizens and homeless individuals during periods of extreme cold. Children engaged in outside activities should be carefully monitored by a responsible adult. Neighbors, friends or family members should check on senior citizens who live alone. Montgomery County provides a variety of sheltering locations for the homeless.

County facilities, such as libraries, recreation centers and senior centers are open during their regular hours for use by anyone needing an escape from the cold. Public shopping centers are also available as warm locations during their hours of operation.

Outreach program providers have attempted to encourage individuals who are homeless to seek shelter. All emergency and transitional shelters will allow homeless individuals to stay inside until temperatures increase, and/or return to a shelter early from daytime activity programs.

For additional information on County services contact MC311 by calling 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays, or through the www.MC311.com website address available 24/7.

Check the news release for details about conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite, plus outdoor and indoor safety, vehicle safety and care of animals.

Executive Branch Responds to Report on “Review of Alcohol Control in Montgomery County”

The Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) has just released a draft report that analyzes the Department of Liquor Control (DLC) and presents five options that could lead to fundamental changes in the system that controls liquor distribution to County-operated retail alcohol stores, to private beer and wine stores, and to restaurants.

Entitled “Review of Alcohol Control in Montgomery County,” the report examines the DLC’s structure, operations, policies, practices and legal requirements. It also looks at the department’s financial, budget and personnel data. Feedback on DLC’s wholesale operations and an analysis of the costs and benefits associated with changes to the structure of DLC also are contained in the report.

The Executive Branch has responded to the report and its options in a memo saying while the OLO report recommends options to privatize liquor sales in the County, the Executive feels that “local liquor control has served Montgomery County well.”

The memorandum, signed by Chief Administrative officer Tim Firestine, notes that the Department of Liquor Control contributes an average of $30 million in profit each year to the County – “helping us to fund schools, transportation, help for the vulnerable in our midst, and more. It helps us keep taxes lower. We have lower alcohol consumption and higher revenue for public purposes than other jurisdictions.”

While agreeing with parts of the OLO report, the memo states that the Executive branch has “concerns with some of the information and methodology in the draft report.” It goes on to list eight points questioning details of the report. The memo concludes with the statement that the Executive looks forward to providing more detailed information and analysis to the OLO and the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor

Roadblock to Rapid Transit: The Washington Post Weighs In

“Many of the most ambitious ideas to invigorate Montgomery County’s economy — and, therefore, Maryland’s — depend on building a transit infrastructure beyond Metrorail’s reach. Officials envision tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs — and a mecca for life sciences and tech companies — between Shady Grove, just outside Rockville at the Red Line’s western terminus, and the old Comsat facility in Clarksburg, near the county’s northwest border.”
So begins the editorial in the February 12, edition of The Washington Post that outlines the road ahead for the County as it searches for a way to raise money to support bus rapid transit.

Read The Post editorial.

Sign Up Deadline for Affordable Care Act Health Coverage: February 15

The February 15 deadline to enroll in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act is near. Residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are urged to sign up online at www.marylandhealthconnection.gov or get in-person assistance to enroll at more than 20 locations throughout the community.

Many sign up locations are offering extended hours during the last week of open enrollment. Find out where to get in-person sign up help at www.capitalhealthconnection.org/sign-up-locations or call 240-773-8250.

For 2015, the penalty for not having coverage is two percent of gross household income or $325 per individual, whichever is greater. Federal law provides exemptions for certain individuals, including those below a certain income and those who are without coverage for less than three months.

Get more information about eligibility and documents needed for enrollment at www.capitalhealthconnection.org or call 240-773-8250.

State Highway Administration to Shift Lanes on Rockville Pike in Bethesda on February 17

On Tuesday, February 17 at 7 p.m. (weather permitting), crews will shift traffic lanes on MD 355 (Rockville Pike) for a new traffic pattern at the West Cedar Lane intersection. Traffic on MD 355 between North Drive and Locust Hill Road will shift to the west side of the road where widening of MD 355 recently took place.

While the State Highway Administration will maintain three through lanes in both directions during peak travel times, drivers should remain alert for a changing traffic pattern at the intersection.

Turning movements from West Cedar Lane onto northbound and southbound MD 355 will not be impacted by this phase of work and nearby sidewalks and trails will remain accessible. Later this year, all traffic will shift to the east side of the road to continue the culvert work.

Weather permitting, construction will be complete in late summer 2016.

See more information in the news release.

Ground Broken for New Public Safety Training Academy

Breaking ground for a new Public Safety Training Academy (PSTA), County Executive Ike Leggett (center) joined County Councilmembers, first responders and community members. The current PSTA is more than 40 years old. The new facility is estimated to open in the fall of 2016. Pictured left to right are: Community representative from Gaithersburg/Montgomery Village neighborhood; Terry O'Grady representing the Montgomery Village Foundation; County Councilmember Sidney Katz; Retired Fire/Rescue Assistant Chief Michael Clemens; Acting Fire Chief Scott Goldstein; Legget;, Police Chief Tom Manger; County Councilmembers Marc Elrich and Tom Hucker; and Department of General Services Director David Dise.
The County’s new Public Safety Training Academy (PSTA) took one step closer to reality when officials broke ground for the new facility to be located at 8751 Snouffer School Road in Gaithersburg, where it will be part of the Montgomery County Multi Agency Service Park (MASP).

PSTA Building Entrance 
The current PSTA, at 9710 Great Seneca Highway, was completed in 1973. It houses the specialized training programs for all new law enforcement officers hired by: the County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office; the Office of the Fire Marshal of the Department of Fire and Rescue Service; the Police departments from the cities of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park; the Chevy Chase Village Police Department; and the Maryland-National Capital Park Police - Montgomery County. The PSTA also houses functional training programs for all career and volunteer fire and emergency personnel who serve the County Fire and Rescue Service.

This facility is another of Leggett’s Smart Growth Initiative (SGI) projects that is revitalizing a former industrial area into an urban village near the Shady Grove Metro station. The Executive’s SGI provides substantial economic opportunities for further growth while implementing the goals of the Shady Grove Sector Plan.

The new (est. $69 million) PSTA will consist of: an Academic Building, a Fire Residential Training Building, a Fire Commercial Training Building, a High Bay and Fire Training Support Building, an Apparatus Building, a Canine Training Building, a Multi-use Cityscape Structure Training area, a Department of Transportation Vehicle Training Support Building and a Fuel Facility.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2016.

Read more in the news release.

Chat Online with County Executive

Residents can chat online with County Executive Ike Leggett about issues of concern on Tuesday, February 24, from 1 to 2 p.m.

Questions may be submitted anytime but will be answered only during the scheduled discussion time.

Submit Your Questions

WSSC Reminds Residents of Carbon Monoxide Hazards

Two recent carbon monoxide scares in our area resulted in individuals needing medical attention. The source of the carbon monoxide in both events was a gas appliance.

This is why the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is reminding the public that carbon monoxide is a critical public safety issue and to be aware that:
  • plumbers must be licensed and obtain a WSSC permit to install gas appliances and
  • gas appliances must be inspected by a WSSC inspector upon installation. 
WSSC Regulatory Services has public resources available online, including FAQs, Plumbing Code information and flyers in English, Spanish and Chinese regarding gas appliance installation requirements.

WSSC is investigating each of the cases and scheduling inspections for each site. If there are questions regarding permits, installation and inspection, customers can contact WSSC at 301-206-4004.

Celebrating Black History Month: Montgomery Parks Provides Free Lessons in Culture, Community, Connections

As part of Black History Month and the History in the Parks programming, Montgomery Parks' own archaeologists and volunteers will provide free guided tours at Josiah Henson Park every Saturday (14, 21, 28) in February from noon to 4 p.m.

Also on display every Saturday will be PBS' Time Team America documentary, "The Search for Josiah Henson," which will be shown on the hour starting at noon.

The month-long festivities at the park conclude on Saturday, February 28 with a spoken word poetry event, "Lyrical Rhythms: The Sounds of Freedom."

See more event information.

Put Yourself – or Others -- in the Picture on Snapshot Day at Your Local Library

Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) will help celebrate February as Library Lovers Month by participating in the fifth annual Library Snapshot Day on February 18.

The day’s activities demonstrate how residents love and use their libraries and emphasize the value and importance of libraries in communities.

On Snapshot Day, MCPL will compile statistics, customer comments, photographs and other data chronicling a typical library day. Special activities will include VIP Read activities at selected libraries

See the news release.

Bring Spring into Your Life: Register Now for Recreation and Parks Programs

The spring issue of the Montgomery County Guide for Recreation and Parks Programs is now available and registration is open for a wide variety of programs and classes for all ages.

Registration is available in one of four ways: online, by mail or in person at the Montgomery County Recreation Administrative Offices at 4010 Randolph Rd., Silver Spring, MD 20902 or by fax at 240-777-6818.

Print copies of the guide are available at recreation centers, park facilities, aquatic and senior centers, and public libraries. Residents who prefer receiving the guide by mail can pay an annual subscription fee of $5 and receive a full year of five issues (Summer, Fall, Winter, Summer Camps and Spring). To view the guide online, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/rec.

Help Recognize those Who Make a Difference

Volunteers who have demonstrated exemplary community service or volunteerism can be nominated for the 2015 Montgomery Serves and the Neal Potter Path of Achievement awards.

Nominations are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, February 27. Winners will be honored at the Montgomery Serves Awards ceremony on Monday, April 27, at Imagination Stage in Bethesda.

Get more information, including nomination forms.

Details are also available from the Volunteer Center via email serviceawards@montgomerycountymd.gov or by calling call 240-777-2600.

Qualified Maryland Renters Can Receive Up to $750 Tax Credit

Most Maryland residents know they’re entitled to a tax credit for owning their own home. But qualified renters in Maryland who meet the specific eligibility requirements can also take advantage of available tax credits under a program of the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation.

To qualify for the Renter’s Tax Credit the resident(s) must:
  • Be legally responsible for the rent; 
  • Be age 60 or over, or 100% disabled; 
  • Be a surviving spouse of one who otherwise would have been eligible; 
  • Or, if a resident is under age 60, they must have had at least one dependent under the age of 18 living with them, and didn’t receive federal or state housing subsidies or reside in public housing, and the combined income of all residents of the home is below the allowable guidelines during the year they apply for the credit. 
The deadline to apply for the credit is September 1 of the year in which the credit will apply.

Applications and more information are available at www.dat.state.md.us/sdatweb/rtc.html, via email at taxcreditapp@dat.state.md.us, or by calling the Tax Credits Telephone Service at 410-767-4433 (in Baltimore); toll-free 1-800-944-7403.

New Plan Aims to Improve County Workforce Training

Thanks to its Workforce Investment Board (WIB), Montgomery County provides a host of services to help local employers fill positions while enabling job seekers to become job ready.

Tomorrow’s work force, however, will differ substantially from what it is today. There is significant job growth in health care and other sectors, so the WIB – WorkSource Montgomery -- has developed a plan to ensure that diverse public and private workforce programs coordinate effectively with one another and that all parties involved do what it takes to ensure that the County remains an economic powerhouse in the state and region.

Entitled “Recommendations for a High Performing Workforce Development System for Montgomery County,” the plan can be downloaded at https://smartmontgomery.sharefile.com/download.aspx?id=se0e7b4e404c4de48.

The report is one way that WorkSource Montgomery advises the County Executive, County Council and the Division of Workforce Services within the Department of Economic Development. Advice-giving is just one part of the WIB’s multifaceted role. For example, it also oversees the County's one-stop employment centers.

The WIB is a public-private partnership that connects employers and jobseekers. The majority of its 30 members (all volunteers) come from the business community. Other members include representatives from educational institutions, community-based organizations, labor and specific programs.

Learn more on the Economic Development website.