July 19, 2024

Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich


Dear Friends,

Today’s global IT outages have captured the public’s attention and remind us that a lot of our daily lives depend on technology, and technology sometimes fails. County government services have been largely unaffected by these outages, except for a limited number of programs that interface with State agencies, which have been impacted. The outage was caused by a security vendor’s failed software update. Our offices remain open for business and are handling resident services as usual. For non-County services, we recommend contacting the agency or company directly to determine if their services are being impacted.

Drones As First Responder Program Expanding

Since becoming County Executive, I have directed all County departments to explore new technologies and innovations to make our operations more effective. One example is our police department’s use of drones as first responders: these drones help increase public safety as well as better protect our officers and the communities they patrol.

This week, a town hall discussion helped the Bethesda community learn more about how the Montgomery County Police Department’s drone response can improve public safety. You can watch the discussion here.

Since we launched the program in Downtown Silver Spring last fall, we have seen it improve our emergency response capabilities by getting eyes on the scene faster than we can get an officer there. The drones have helped track down wanted suspects trying to evade police and thwart car thefts.

Just this week, 3rd District Officers were alerted to a stolen vehicle entering Silver Spring from the District. MCPD’s drone “Raven 1” along with officers safely apprehended the suspect.

Using technology to help respond to crime has been critical when our resources are stretched thin because of officer shortages.

We anticipate having the program running soon in the Upcounty area and Bethesda, and I appreciate our police department proactively talking to our communities by hosting town halls to explain the program and answer questions, and address concerns.

As was explained earlier this week, the drone first responder does not proactively patrol. So, you won’t see a drone flying around Bethesda on patrol. The drones in this program are only used in response to a call. Our online data dashboard detailing the program shows that the drone is often deployed in theft and robbery cases. The second-highest number of calls are for suspicious persons or vehicles.

Visit the Montgomery County Police Department website to learn more about the program and review the data shared with the public through the dashboard.

Heat, Drought & Climate Change

Excessive heat was back to start the week. Our break from heat indexes above 100 came courtesy of severe thunderstorms that carried warnings of flash flooding. Our normal high temperatures should return next week.

The chart above illustrates the rapid progression of drought conditions in Montgomery County. In just three months, we have moved from a drought-free zone to 100 percent of Montgomery County grappling with abnormally dry conditions. Over half of the County is now in a moderate drought, with over 5 percent facing severe drought. This is not just a statistic but a shared challenge that affects us all.

This prolonged heat and dry weather means our farmers are experiencing a lack of rain, impacting crops grown here. This is not just a problem for our farmers but for all of us who rely on their produce for our food.

We take a weekend each summer to spotlight our Agricultural Reserve, and this summer is no different. Please plan to take advantage of this year’s Farm Tour and Harvest Sale happening on Saturday, July 27, and Sunday, July 28. The tour will feature a variety of produce and products from 24 farms. All sales will directly benefit those responsible for fresh, locally grown food. It is a great opportunity to support our local farmers and learn more about where our food comes from. Visit the Office of Agriculture’s website to plan your trip.

We need sustained rainfall and a break from the heat to aid growers. I will continue to reiterate the importance of looking after your neighbors, family, and friends—especially older adults and those with medical conditions when temperatures rise to potentially dangerous levels. Stay on top of all threats by signing up for our text alerts through Alert Montgomery. And please remember all the pets – they need to be protected from the heat too. Information about heat and pets is available on the Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center website.

I believe this extreme weather is a result of inaction on climate change. What we are experiencing now will not be the worst of it. If you follow the news, you can see that we are not at the peak; this will not be the plateau. Instead, the most likely scenarios foresee a rise in temperature, stronger storms and rapidly rising sea levels that will exceed the previous projections.

It is time to act. Years of misleading messaging from the fossil fuel industry have led to confusion about the dangers of rising carbon emissions, but we see more of climate change's true impacts every day. The facts are clear, and they don't suggest reversing these trends any time soon. We need to reverse the processes that drive climate change.

The County is taking this on with a sense of urgency, and I hope that you will examine what you can do to contribute to these efforts. This could be as simple as reducing energy consumption, supporting local sustainable agriculture or advocating for climate-friendly policies. Because the government cannot do it alone-- this requires an all-in approach. Visit our Department of Environment Protection’s website for information about steps you can take as an individual or business. You will also find information on rebates, including for residential energy, commercial energy and electric vehicle incentives that can help make individual changes to contribute to a greener community.

Cooling Down the Political Rhetoric

Around the country this week, there has been a lot of discussion over toning down political rhetoric following the assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump. Any form of political violence is unacceptable, regardless of who it is directed at or the issue at hand. I have never seen this level of violent rhetoric in my life, and it is stunning how out-of-bounds things have gotten.

Beyond the rhetoric, it is striking that the national conversation about this mass shooting has not focused on the weapon used or the mental health of the suspected shooter.

We need to ensure that all our political discussions moving forward – no matter what level of government or venue – are based on facts, not lies, and with complete transparency. Soundbites meant to rile up the masses have not served us well. I hope we can replace the vitriol with arguments that are accurate and based on data. If all politicians focused more on informing the public and less on incendiary rhetoric, we would all be much better off.

Chief Smedley Sworn-In as Fire Chief

We welcomed Chief Corey Smedley to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service this week. He is the Fire and Rescue Service’s first black chief. You can watch my comments and his from the day of his swearing-in here.

I have lived in this County most of my life and have clear memories of the blatant and systemic racism that guided our government for a long time. Over the past five decades, we have changed to become one of the most diverse jurisdictions in the nation, if not the world. While Chief Smedley is now a trailblazing figure for our County and our Fire Service, let me be the first to remind us that it should not have taken this long for this moment to happen.

I did not know Corey before the process to fill this vacancy. Still, from our first meeting to his confirmation process, he has communicated to me, our County Council, and our leadership in both our career and volunteer fire departments who he is as a person. He is a leader who understands how to move forward for MCFRS and the fire and emergency medical services profession, in general.

He sees how our society is changing, with more emphasis on community health and rescue operations, rather than only putting out fires. He recognizes we have the means and will make the best decisions for MCFRS and our community. Montgomery County will benefit from Chief Smedley being at the helm.

Start Planning for Back-to-School Vaccinations

Parents can avoid headaches and long lines in August and September by scheduling their child’s vaccination appointments in preparation for the upcoming school year. Through the end of September, free vaccinations will be available for school-aged children (pre-K through high school) at several locations throughout the County.

Maryland law requires students to be vaccinated against various diseases to attend school anywhere in Maryland. They include protection against tetanus, meningitis and chickenpox.

The Department of Health and Human Services provides free vaccinations for school-age children who are missing any required immunizations before each new school year begins. The free vaccinations will be available through the end of September. Vaccine requirements also apply to young children attending a state-licensed childcare facility or early learning program.

Booking an appointment with a family physician now or getting vaccinated at one of our upcoming clinics is an excellent way to start the school year off right. Appointments are preferred at our clinics, but walk-ins are accepted.

You can make an appointment and find more information about vaccine requirements on the Immunization Program’s website.

Health Report

COVID-19 cases are on the rise again. Since the end of the flu season, we have seen case levels drop to the point where we stopped including them in this weekly update. While the levels are still low compared to historical highs, the cases continue to increase weekly, and I think it is important to mention COVID-19 again.

We have noticed an increase in COVID-19 activity at emergency rooms in our area. While we have not seen a corresponding rise in hospital stays or ICU admissions, it tells us that the virus continues to spread in our community.

I want to remind everyone that the vaccine is still your best defense against COVID-19. During my weekly media briefing, a reporter asked if it was too late to get a vaccination, with another update expected before the next flu season. The answer is no. Protecting yourself is always the best option, even if it delays your ability to get the new booster this fall because of the wait time recommended between vaccinations.

I also encourage everyone to wash their hands frequently and stay home if they are sick. We know the virus is still with us. Do not put those most at risk of having severe complications from the virus at risk by ignoring the dangers. We must all remain vigilant to keep our entire community safe.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive

July 16, 2024

Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Dawes to be Celebrated with Unveiling of Sculpture at Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center on Tuesday, July 23

Just a few days before the 2024 Olympics kickoff in Paris, France, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Montgomery County Councilmember Gabe Albornoz will celebrate three-time Olympic medalist and Silver Spring native Dominque Dawes with the unveiling of a sculpture at the Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center at noon on Tuesday, July 23.

The ceremonies are open to the public. The Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center is located at 1319 Apple Ave. in Silver Spring. The sculpture artist, Brian Hanlon, is expected to attend the dedication.

Dawes won medals as a member of three U.S. gymnastics teams in Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000). The 1996 team won the gold medal. She is one of three female American gymnasts to compete in three Olympics.

Dawes has been a national ambassador for a number of nonprofits and corporations, and she was the first national spokesperson for the Girls Scouts of the USA of “Uniquely Me! The Girl Scout/Dove Self Esteem Program.” She continues to work with the Boys and Girls Club of America and has served as the co-chair (with former NFL quarterback Drew Brees) of the President’s Council for Fitness, Sports and Nutrition under the Obama administration.

Alongside LeBron James and Maverick Carter, she served as an executive producer of the Peacock docu-series “Golden,” which focused on USA’s elite gymnasts on the road to the Tokyo Olympics.

The University of Maryland graduate was elected to the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame and to the Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame. She attended Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and Gaithersburg High School.

13-Time GRAMMY® Winner Chucho Valdés to Headline 20th Annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival on Saturday, Sept. 7

Chucho Valdés
Montgomery County’s Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment District has announced that the quartet of Afro-Cuban jazz legend Chucho Valdés will headline the free 20th Annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival on Saturday, Sept. 7. Mr. Valdés—known as a pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger—has won seven GRAMMY Awards, six Latin GRAMMY Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Recording Academy.

The festival will run from 3-10 p.m. at Veteran’s Plaza, located at One Veterans Place in Silver Spring. The Chucho Valdés Quartet is scheduled to take the stage at 8:30 p.m.

“The 20th Annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival is one of our County’s most popular events that highlights our community's vibrant cultural landscape and commitment to the arts,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “Jazz has been a cornerstone of our nation's cultural diversity and a music education pillar that transcends generations. Hosting a legendary figure like Chucho Valdés, whose contributions to Afro-Cuban jazz have profoundly influenced the genre, underscores the festival's significance and our dedication to honoring the legacy and evolution of jazz music. This event is an opportunity to appreciate the rich tapestry of musical heritage that unites us all.”

Mr. Valdes’ career has spanned more than 60 years, and he has pushed boundaries to pursue new expressions in Afro-Cuban music. His influence in the genre is immeasurable. His work established the standard by which younger generations set out to create their own interpretation of Afro-Cuban jazz. He is also the founder of the renowned Latin jazz band Irakere.

In its two decades, the Silver Spring Jazz Festival has annually featured some of the great jazz performers of this generation and diverse lineups of local talent. This year’s lineup of performers also will include D.C.-based Ethio-Jazz Feedel Band, The Eric Byrd Trio, Todd Marcus Quintet, Dupont Brass, Paul Carr and the Real Jazz Ambassadors and Marcus Johnson, a founding committee member of the festival.

The Silver Spring Jazz Festival began in 2004 with local jazz great Keter Betts and Silver Spring’s own smooth jazz star Marcus Johnson as headliners. The festival has featured well-known performers, showcasing styles from New Orleans big band to contemporary, smooth, straight ahead and Latin jazz.

The full history of the headliners for the Silver Spring Jazz Festival:
  • 2024 Chucho Valdés Quaartet
  • 2023 Dee Dee Bridgewater
  • 2022 Delfeayo Marsalis
  • 2021 COVID (no event)
  • 2020 COVID (no event)
  • 2019 Arturo Sandoval
  • 2018 Dianne Reeves
  • 2017 Lao Tizer
  • 2016 David Sanborn
  • 2015 Al Chez and the Brothers of Funk Big Band
  • 2014 Preservation Hall Jazz Band
  • 2013 Branford Marsalis
  • 2012 Sergio Mendez
  • 2011 Marcus Johnson Project
  • 2010 Aaron Neville
  • 2009 Allen Toussaint
  • 2008 Mingus Big Band
  • 2007 Arturo Sandoval
  • 2006 Spyro Gyra
  • 2005 Wynton Marsalis
  • 2004 Keter Betts and The Marcus Johnson Project
The Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment District, home to the festival, is surrounded by international and American restaurants. On-site amenities during the festival will include restrooms, first aid and other services. Attendees are encouraged to use public transportation and bring blankets or low-back lawn chairs for seating. The festival is a short walk from the Silver Spring Metro Station on the Red Line.

For more information, including Metro, parking and visitor services, visit the Silver Spring Jazz Festival website.

Sunflowers in McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area on River Road Near Poolesville Are Approaching Peak Bloom

The sunflower fields in the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area on River Road near Poolesville, which are among Montgomery County’s natural gems, are nearing full bloom and ready for residents who want to wander through a spectacular experience.

Residents and visitors from far destinations annually make their way to the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area a 2,000-acre tract in a mixture of woodlands, fields, wooded bottomland and managed wetland impoundments (green-tree reservoirs) that is located at 18600 River Road. The property shares a common boundary with the National Park Service Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to the south and borders Seneca Creek State Park on the east. There is no charge to visit the sunflower fields, but parking is limited.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Heritage Service plants sunflowers each spring on the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area. The primary purpose for planting sunflowers in wildlife management areas is to provide a food source for mourning doves, as well as other wildlife species.

In addition to mourning doves, sunflowers and sunflower seeds are a favorite food source for a host of other songbirds, mammals and pollinators. Sunflowers require pollination by insects, usually bees, to produce a seed crop. In turn, honeybees and many species of native bees, benefit from the abundant nectar and pollen that sunflowers produce.

The many benefits of sunflowers are lost when they are cut or trampled by people. These sunflowers are planted for the benefit of wildlife and regulations prohibit the cutting, destruction or removal of any plants from the areas. The public is welcome to visit, admire and photograph the sunflowers in bloom.

The techniques used to plant the sunflowers, and the sunflower variety planted, may change from year to year, as well as the number of acres planted and their locations. Sunflowers are planted in late April or early May. Weather, seed variety, weed competition, soil conditions and herbivore damage will all impact the time that it takes for the plants to bloom. With favorable conditions, the sunflowers bloom in mid-July.

After the sunflowers are done blooming and seeds are mature, in early to mid-August, strips are mowed through the sunflowers to scatter the seeds on the ground where they are more accessible to mourning doves and other wildlife.

With growing popularity, it is best to visit the sunflower fields on a weekday. If you choose to visit on the weekend, be mindful of traffic getting to the fields.

Dogs are allowed, but must be leashed. Wildlife Management Areas are trash-free. No trash cans are provided. There are no bathroom facilities, no benches and no picnic tables.

The McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area may be accessed any time of day. However, overnight camping is not allowed. There is no fee or permit required to access the property.

To get to the management area from the Capital Beltway, take Exit 39 (River Road) west toward Potomac. Proceed for approximately 11 miles to the intersection of River Road and MD 112 (Seneca Road). Turn left and continue on River Road for about 2 ½ miles. McKee-Beshers will be on the left.

For more information on the wildlife management area, go to https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/pages/publiclands/central/mckeebeshers.aspx.

Annual Farm Tour and Harvest Sale on Saturday-Sunday, July 27-28, Will Feature 24 Locations to Buy Fresh Produce, See Farm Animals and Explore Craft Beverage Industry

The 2024 Montgomery County Farm Tour and Harvest Sale on Saturday and Sunday, July 27-28, will have 24 agricultural locations open to visitors. The Farm Tour offers a chance to explore the County’s Agricultural Reserve by shopping for locally grown food, seeing farm animals and learning about farming as a way of life. The Farm Tour will offer a rare chance to visit many farms that are only open to the public during this special weekend event.

Two farms will join the tour for the first time, including Deere Valley Farms in Dickerson and Koiner Farm in Silver Spring. The Koiner Farm will be the first nonprofit urban farm on the tour.

The Visit Montgomery Adventure Planner “Farm Tour Digital Passport” is available to plan the weekend.

During the weekend, open sites will include farms, orchards, breweries and wineries. Most are free to enter and explore. However, a select few charge a nominal fee for entry or activities. Food/drinks, farm products, pick-your-own and other local items are available for purchase at each farm.

The Farm Tour also will present a fun-filled weekend of family-friendly activities. It is a unique educational opportunity for children to connect with nature and learn about where their food comes from before it reaches their table.

Tourgoers can get a behind-the-scenes look at agriculture from robotic cow-milking to butter churning. Participating farms will offer a variety of activities including hayrides, pony rides and tractor rides. Some locations will have arts and crafts. Tours are self-guided in that families can choose to visit one, two or all 24 farms as their time and schedule allow.

Tourgoers can take part in the Buy Local Challenge to pick fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers or simply appreciate the peacefulness of the Ag Reserve.

During the Farm Tour weekend, all 24 participating venues will be open on Saturday, July 27, and 20 will be open on Sunday, July 28. Tourgoers should check the 2024 Farm Tour website for each farm they plan to visit for any additional costs, details on hours and activities or to make any necessary reservations. No pets are allowed except service animals for persons with disabilities.

The participating agricultural locations, farms, orchards, breweries and wineries will include:

Nominees Sought for Second Annual Early Care and Education Excellence Awards

The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Child Care Support Services (CCSS) is seeking nominees for the second annual Montgomery County Early Care and Education Excellence Awards. Nominations are due by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21. Self-nominations are encouraged.

“The Early Care and Education Excellence Awards are a way for us to recognize the dedicated professionals who play a crucial role in shaping the future of our youngest residents,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “These educators work tirelessly to provide high-quality early care and education, ensuring our children have the best possible start in life. I encourage everyone to participate in this opportunity to celebrate their hard work by submitting nominations. It is important to highlight these professionals' incredible impact on our community.”

The County established the Early Care and Education Excellence Awards in partnership with early care and education associations to recognize and honor dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to ensure that the community’s youngest children (birth to age 5) receive the highest quality early care and education. A panel of child care organization representatives will make award selections. Awardees will be honored at the Montgomery County Early Care and Education Fall Conference on Oct. 18.
There are five nomination categories:
  • Infant and Toddler Educator Award. Honors a center-based or family child care teacher or assistant teacher who cares for children from birth to age 3.
  • Preschool Educator Award. Honors a center-based or family child care preschool teacher or assistant teacher who cares for children ages 3-5.
  • Before and After School Educator Award. Honors a center-based or family child care teacher or assistant teacher who cares for children before and after the school day.
  • Educator Support Professional Award. Honors a center-based or family child care teacher’s aide or supportive professional who cares for children birth to age 5.
  • Innovative Leadership Award. Honors an innovative leader or organization in the early care and education system. This leader/organization works to champion inclusive, equitable and quality policies and practices in early care and education and considers the needs of the child, family and provider in their scope of leadership.
Parents, caregivers, colleagues, directors/administrators, community leaders and others are encouraged to submit nominations for early care and education professionals. Educators can self-nominate or recommend a fellow educator.

In October 2023, the County’s CCSS presented the first Early Care and Education Excellence Awards to eight selected individuals from more than 250 nominations.

Visit the DHHS CCSS website for more information. The Montgomery County Early Care and Education Initiative Action Plan for Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025 is available here.

Free ‘Back-to-School’ Vaccinations for Available for School-Aged Children at Multiple Locations

The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is offering free vaccinations for school-aged children (pre-K through high school) at locations throughout the County until the end of September.

Maryland law requires students to be vaccinated against a variety of diseases. Visit the Maryland Department of Health’s website to learn more about the 2024-25 school year vaccination requirements.

Free vaccines are available to County school-aged children who are missing any required immunizations. Appointments are preferred. Schedule an appointment here. A parent must be present and bring an ID and immunization record if available.

The “back-to-school” vaccine offerings include:
  • Tdap
  • Meningococcal (MCV4)
  • Meningococcal B
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • COVID-19
Vaccination appointments are available at the following locations:
  • Dennis Avenue Health Center, 2000 Dennis Avenue, Silver Spring. 240-777-1050
  • Germantown Health Center, 12900 Middlebrook Rd., Germantown. 240-777-3380
  • Silver Spring Health Center, 8630 Fenton Street, 10th floor, Silver Spring. 240-777-3160
  • School Health Services Immunization Center, 4910 Macon Rd., Rockville. 240-740-4430
Visit the Immunization Program website at montgomerycountymd.gov/immunizations for more information.

‘Live from the Lawn’ and ‘Cool Concerts for Kids’ Upcoming Free Outdoor Concerts at Strathmore Will Feature ‘American Patchwork Quilt’ and ‘Marsha and the Positrons’

Free outdoor music at Montgomery County’s finest performing arts venue will be available on Wednesday and Thursday nights through August on the grounds of Strathmore in North Bethesda. Wednesday night events are family friendly and Thursday events feature “Cool Concerts for Kids.”

Strathmore is located at 5301 Tuckerman Lane in Bethesda. Although the concerts are free, attendees are asked to RSVP in advance at Summer at Strathmore. By sending in an RSVP, audiences will be able to receive weather or performance updates.

The Live from the Lawn concerts will continue through Aug. 21.

The next performances will be headlined by the reimagined roots music supergroup American Patchwork Quilt at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24, and the Cool Concerts for Kids show with Marsha and the Positrons at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 25.

All Live from the Lawn shows are family friendly. Cool Concerts for Kids offer upbeat tunes for people of all ages while creating fun ways for younger audiences to interact with the music.

Attendees can bring low-rise chairs or blankets for their lawn experiences. The use of higher chairs is discouraged, but concert goers with those types of chairs are asked to sit toward the back of the lawn. The Strathmore team will ask those in higher chairs to move back if seated in a location that will block others’ view of the stage. Pets and comfort/emotional support animals are not permitted at Live from the Lawn events. Trained service animals are permitted.

Strathmore Culinary Arts will be serving a variety of barbeque-style food and drinks for purchase on site. View the menu here. Ben & Jerry’s will have ice cream options available for purchase. Attendees are welcome to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages. Outside alcohol is not permitted on property.

Parking suggestions:
  • Parking is in the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro garage off Tuckerman Lane and is payable by SmarTrip or credit card.
  • Members at the Two Star level and above can park in the Mansion lot when attending Live from the Lawn events. Upon entry, display your VIP Parking Pass on your dashboard and follow the instructions from security personnel. View more detailed information here.
  • Valet parking is not available.
  • See more directions and parking information.

Permitting Services Latest Podcast Touts New ‘eSolar’ Program to Expedite Solar Installation on Residential Rooftops

With scorching summer temperatures, many Montgomery County homeowners may be considering adding solar panels to make the most of the long summer days. The 17th episode of the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (DPS) podcast series, which is now available, highlights the department’s new “eSolar” program that will help get solar panels installed faster on residential rooftops by approved installers.

DPS Customer Support and Outreach Division Chief Gail Lucas, who hosts the podcast, is joined by DPS Sustainability, Energy and Mechanical (SEM) Manager Bryan Bomer for a discussion about the eSolar program. Their discussion addressed how the eSolar program works to get solar on a rooftop faster, what projects are eligible and why homeowners should ask potential installers about the program.

“Safety and sustainability are two of our department’s top priorities and the new eSolar program addresses both of them,” said Division Chief Lucas.

The new program integrates approved third-party certified documents, including Solar APP+ (Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus), for residential rooftop solar systems through DPS’ electronic plan review system (ePlans).

“Our new eSolar program, is very exciting, and focuses on basic residential rooftop solar installations,” said DPS Manager Bomer. “The goal is to issue a near instantaneous permit with projects that are compatible with the program. Time is money and this program saves you time by expediting the permitting process. We encourage homeowners to ask their installers about this program.”

In addition to eSolar, they also discuss Bomer’s work at DPS on sustainability, energy and mechanical issues and projects, and the latest information about the code adoption cycle.

This episode of the Permitting Services podcast series is available on the DPS website and various podcast platforms including Amazon, Apple and Spotify. It also is available at https://permittingservicespodcast.buzzsprout.com/.

Subscribe to the podcast by tapping the “plus” or “follow” sign on the podcast provider’s platform. This episode is also available on video to watch on-demand on the County’s YouTube channel.

Previous podcast episodes have covered accessory dwelling units, building safety, deck permits, the Design for Life program, home improvements, use and occupancy certificates, fences, fire code compliance, GIS maps, the public right-of-way, septic systems, urban farming, vendor licenses and zoning. Listeners are encouraged to send questions and ideas for future podcast episodes to dps.podcast@montgomerycountymd.gov. Earlier this year, the Permitting Services Podcast was recognized with a 2024 achievement award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) in the category of civic education and public information.

The Department of Permitting Services is located at 2425 Reedie Drive, Seventh Floor, in Wheaton. The customer service lobby is open from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday. An appointment is not necessary to get in-person assistance. Customers may also reach out to DPS staff by calling MC 311 or 240-777-0311. For more information about the permitting process for eSolar, visit the DPS website at montgomerycountymd.gov/dps.

Concerts, Puppets and West Africa Food Crops Highlight Montgomery Parks Special Events and Programs in July

Concerts in parks, puppets and Foodie Friday are among the program highlights for the Montgomery Parks special events and programs being offered in July.

The July schedule of special events will include:

Parks Summer Thursday Concert Series. Thursday, July 25. 6–8 p.m. Series of free musical performances by local acts at different parks around the County. Bring chairs, blankets and picnics. Food and refreshments will be available for purchase at some events. All ages. Free.
  • July 25. Juliet Lloyd (folk/pop). Cabin John Regional Park, 7400 Tuckerman Lane, Bethesda.
Parks Playhouse Junior. July 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31. 10–11 a.m. Live performances for the kid set, ages 2-12 (ages may vary with some performances). Free.

Puppet Company
  • Thursday, July 25. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Park (Performance will have an ASL interpreter and sensory retreat tent).
  • Friday, July 26. Falls Road Local Park, 12600 Falls Road, Potomac.
  • Saturday, July 27. Cabin John Regional Park, 7400 Tuckerman Lane, Bethesda.
Uncle Devin Show
  • Monday, July 29. Flower Avenue Urban Park (Performance will have an ASL interpreter and sensory retreat tent), 8746 Flower Avenue, Silver Spring.
  • Tuesday, July 30. Germantown Town Center Urban Park, 19840 Century Boulevard, Germantown.
  • Wednesday, July 31, Arora Hills Local Park, 23244 Arora Hills Drive, Clarksburg.
Foodie Fridays: Smell the Flowers. Friday, July 26. 6:30 –8:30 p.m. Josiah Henson Museum and Park, 11410 Old Georgetown Road, North Bethesda. Learn about the role of pollinators in agriculture and local food systems while identifying insects and exploring pollination biology during this hands-on lecture with researcher Michael Roswell. The registration fee includes light refreshments, one alcoholic beverage (21 and older) and a ticket to Josiah Henson Museum ($5 value, redeemable during regular museum hours). Ages 18 and older. Registration required. $15 per person.

Dance Fitness. Thursdays through Aug. 29. 6–7 p.m. Clarksburg Neighborhood Park, 22501 Wims Road, Clarksburg. Ages 16 and older. Eight weekly classes-$64 per person. Registration required; no walk-ins.

Breath and Movement Flow Yoga. Saturdays through Aug. 17. 10–11 a.m. Quince Orchard Valley Neighborhood Park, 12015 Suffolk Terrace, Gaithersburg. Ages 16 and older. Five weekly classes-$50 per person. Registration required; no walk-ins.
Programs for 55+:

Rockville Town Square Summer Concert Series Features Free Events Most Fridays, with Acoustic Duo ‘Shelby Blondell’ Headlining on July 26

Shelby Blondell

Free summer concerts will be happening in Rockville Town Square from 6-9 p.m. most Friday nights through Sept. 20. The series will feature a variety of performers. The next performance will feature the acoustic duo of Shelby Blondell on July 26.

Shelby Blondell is an international, songwriter, singer, inventor and speaker from Linthicum who has a unique sound that captivates a crowd by bringing them to their feet and hitting their heart.

Her music, story and work have been featured on radio and multimedia internationally, with a radio hit Top 10, "Fun In The Sun" on the European Indie music charts while sharing the stage with artists like Scotty Mccrerry, Pentatonix, Howie Day, Walker Hayes and many in between.

Her career began with her self-released debut EP, “Fly,” in 2013 and self-titled EP in 2014, which led her to perform throughout Maryland, Virginia, the District, and Pennsylvania alongside national acts. In 2016, Shelby’s career began to take on a new speed with the release of her singles, “Fun In The Sun,” “Harmony,” and “Hope Begins Tomorrow.”

In January 2022, the band was brought together again in the studio to record another grouping of new music to be released in the new year and into 2023. That year brought the release of “Fairytale,” “Takes A Day,” and “Uncle Jack.”

The Rockville Town Square summer concert lineup will include:
  • July 26. Shelby Blondell duo (acoustic rock)
  • Aug. 2. Don’t Back Down (rock)
  • Aug. 9. Ocho de Bastos (Latin pop)
  • Aug. 16. Unity Reggae Band (reggae)
  • Aug. 23. The Rockets (pop rock)
  • Sept. 6. Midnight Elixir (classic rock)
  • Sept. 13. Joe Falero Band (Latin)
  • Sept. 20. The National Bohemians (classic rock)

Alternative and Pop Sounds of ‘The Breakaways’ Will Headline ‘Thursday Evenings in Olde Towne Gaithersburg’ Concert Series on July 25

The alternative rock and pop sounds of The Breakaways will highlight the “Thursday Evenings in Olde Towne Gaithersburg” summer concert series at 6:30 p.m. on July 25. The free, family-friendly series will energize the City Hall Concert Pavilion on Thursdays throughout July and into early August.

All concerts take place from 6:30-8 p.m. Concerts are weather-dependent. Check the City’s website or social media for updates.

The City Hall Concert Pavilion is located at 31 South Summit Ave. in Gaithersburg.

The Breakaways have logged more than three million miles on tour, leading to more than 4,000 performances. They have performed in all 50 states and more than 40 countries. They have sold thousands of albums and have had hundreds of thousands of songs streamed online.

The band includes Phil Kominski (vocals/guitars), who formed the band Lloyd Dobler Effect and has now moved on to focus much of his time on the 2020 release of his first solo album,

Elizabeth Coyle Kominski (vocals/acoustic guitar), who also is a member of the jazzy pop trio Guys And Doll teams with husband Phil as the children's music duo, The Bubbas. Chris Brooks (keyboards), who has been a professional world-touring pianist and keyboardist for more than 20 years. Javi Godinez (violin/vocals), who provides rich Latin American timbre and identity is very important to him, so his music often reflects that. Always passionate about violin pedagogy, Joe Brotherton (trumpet/vocals), a performer of every genre of music with countless bands on the East Coast since his honorable discharge from the Quantico Marine Band. Dan Gallagher (bass/vocals) is a co-founder of the band Chasing Autumn.

The concert series this summer is partnering with Saints Row Brewing to provide on-site beer sales and food trucks. It is suggested that attendees bring a blanket or low-back chair for lawn seating.

Evenings in Olde Towne Concerts could be cancelled at the last moment if weather conditions are not conducive to the event. Check the City's Facebook page or Twitter feed, or call the inclement weather line at 240-805-1148, for the latest updates.
The remaining lineup for the Thursday Evenings in Olde Towne series include:
  • July 25: The Breakaways (alternative rock, pop covers and original songs)
  • Aug. 1: Damon Foreman (funk rock)
Evenings in Olde Towne Concerts are funded in part by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC). To discover more about MSAC grants and how they impact Maryland's arts sector, visit www.msac.org.

Tot Rock of ‘Rocknoceros’ Will Conclude Gaithersburg’s Children’s Summer Concert Series on Wednesday, July 24

The tot rock of Rocknoceros at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 24, will conclude the free Gaithersburg Children’s Summer Concert Series at the City Hall Concert Pavilion in Gaithersburg.

Parking in Olde Towne is free. Limited parking is available at City Hall, the upper parking lot by Wells/Robertson House and at the Community Museum across the train tracks. Limited parking also is available in the parking garage located across Summit Avenue at 112 Olde Towne Avenue. A list of additional short-term parking locations in Olde Towne can be found here.

The City Hall Concert Pavilion is located at 31 South Summit Ave. in Gaithersburg.

Rocknoceros has entertained tens of thousands of fans around the country, performing at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and the Kennedy Center. Since its inception in 2005, Rocknoceros has won 10 Washington Area Music Awards.

Rocknoceros features Boogie Bennie on piano-drum and accordion and Williebob on guitar and banjo.

Children’s Summer Concerts could be cancelled at the last moment if weather conditions are not conducive to the event. Check the City's Facebook page or Twitter feed, or call the inclement weather line at 240-805-1148 for the latest updates.

The Children's Summer Concert Series is funded in part by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC). To discover more about MSAC grants and how they impact Maryland's arts sector, visit www.msac.org.

‘Refresh with Cool Summer Art: A Virtual Community Art Show’ Will Be Flowing on Monday, July 22

Koi Pond - encaustic on panel by Artist Marcie Wolf-Hubbard

Artists of all abilities from every visual medium are being invited by Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. to share their work inspired by the summertime from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, July 22, in the online event “Refresh with Cool Summer Art: A Virtual Community Art Show.”

The free show, presented by Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. (SSTCI), will be hosted by artist Marcie Wolf-Hubbard.

Artists who would like to participate can submit up to three images by Friday, July 19 to marcieplusart@gmail.com.

Others are invited to join us as spectators only, but everyone is required to register in advance.

Marcie Wolf-Hubbard received her B.A. from the University of Maryland in Studio Art and studied Fine Art and Illustration at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Her paintings have been exhibited widely on the East Coast. She has illustrated for magazines and books and worked as a courtroom artist.

Marcie is an instructor at Glen Echo Park, Yellow Barn Studios and The Smithsonian. She has transitioned to teaching virtually from her studio. To learn more about her, go to www.marciewolfhubbard.com.

SSTCi educates, entertains and inspires residents by activating public spaces with arts and cultural events that embrace the region’s diversity and build community connections. For more information, visit www.silverspringtowncenter.com.

Department of Permitting Services to Provide Customer Training for Navigating Updated Version of ‘ePlans’ Software

The Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (DPS) will launch an updated version of its "ePlans" software on Monday, July 29. The new version of ePlans will make the permitting process easier for customers who submit residential building applications electronically. Customers utilize ePlans to apply for permits and submit construction plans online.

To help customers navigate the improved permitting system, DPS staff will provide virtual customer training sessions on Tuesday, July 23, and Friday, July 26, and post-launch on Monday, Aug. 5, and Tuesday, Aug. 6. Registration is not required. Customers who want to attend a training session should visit the DPS website on the day of their choice, and click on the Microsoft Teams link to join the live, virtual training session.

In addition to providing training sessions for customers, DPS has produced five training videos to help customers utilize the updated ePlans software. These videos are posted on the County’s YouTube channel and the DPS website and include:

“These software updates are designed to streamline the permitting process for our customers to make it easier and faster to get a permit,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “DPS issues thousands of permits a year and customer satisfaction is a top priority. I hope our customers will attend the free training sessions and watch the new training videos to become familiar with how to apply for permits and upload plans in the new system.”

The training videos and links to the upcoming online training sessions are posted in the banner at the top of the DPS website.

“As project partners, we want DPS customers to know we are accessible and readily available to answer questions and to assist them throughout the permitting process, particularly at the front end with ePlans,” said DPS Director Rabbiah Sabbakhan. “Earlier this year, DPS unveiled updates to the ePlans software for fence, public right-of way, sediment control, sign, stormwater concept and all trade permit applications. These changes also included bringing well and septic permit applications online for the first time ever. Later this summer, the update will be expanded to include all commercial building permits. Indeed, we are very excited about these enhancements as the aspiration has long been 100 percent paperless permitting.”

For more information about ePlans, visit the DPS website at MontgomeryCountyMD.gov/dps or stop by the department’s customer service lobby at 2425 Reedie Drive, seventh floor, in Wheaton. DPS offices are open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and appointments are not needed. Customers may also email dps.eservices@montgomerycountymd.gov or contact MC 311 at 240-777- 0311.

Wheaton’s Newest Building Mural ‘Wheaton Lives’ Will Be Formally Dedicated on Sunday, Aug. 11

Elbe’s Beer and Wine is located at 2522 University Blvd. West in Wheaton.

Wheaton's newest mural on the side of a building, called "Wheaton Lives," will be dedicated in ceremonies at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11. The mural is on the building that house Elbe's Beer and Wine store.

Elbe’s Beer and Wine is located at 2522 University Blvd. West in Wheaton. The store will close at 4 p.m. on Aug. 11 for the celebration that will be held in the parking lot. There will be a tented area for shade and refreshments will be served.

A plaque will be unveiled and there will remarks from Bridget Cimino, the project’s artist, the property owners and representatives of the Wheaton Arts Parade. Elected officials and sponsors are also expected to attend. The Maryland State Arts Council, the Wheaton Arts Walls Foundation and members of the community whose contributions made this project possible also will be represented.

Elbe's Beer and Wine has been family owned since 1951 when it was started as a neighborhood market by Willie and Miriam Bobrow. Willie Bobrow served in the U.S. Army in World War II and was stationed near the Elbe River, hence the store’s name. The store is now run by their sons, Andy and Jeff.

The mural is another addition to Wheaton's Arts and Entertainment District.

The mural can be viewed at https://www.wheatonartsparade.org/elbesmural.

Ms. Cimino is a mural artist from Baltimore. Her design moves through time from the past to the future, from right to left. On the right side of the mural, above the customer entrance, is an image of a Native American village as it might have looked hundreds of years ago, with children at play. Below this scene, is an image of the same terrain being farmed by a European settler in the 18th Century. The next images are of local commerce in the mid-20th Century, the distinctive Wheaton Plaza sign and the founders of Elbe’s when it was the neighborhood grocery store. Moving further toward the present day is a woman cooking pupusas. She represents the current diverse population in Wheaton, who have brought aspects of their culture to further enrich Wheaton. The youth at play create a 21st Century bookend to the Native American children at play 400 years ago.

Work on the mural started on May 9 and was finished on June 12.

The project's major sources of funding were planning and project grants from the Maryland State Arts Council's Public Art Across Marland program and from Leonard Greenberg's Wheaton Arts Walls Foundation.

The project was managed pro bono by the Washington Arts Parade.

July 11, 2024

Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich


Dear Friends,

The heat has been unrelenting since the Fourth of July. Even at night, it rarely cools down enough to call it “cool” outside.

Montgomery County has been under an Extreme Heat Alert for much of July. For at least five hours, and up to nine hours some days, we have been asking people to be careful because of our heat indices. They have consistently soared past 95 degrees over the past week, and sometimes, it has felt like 105 degrees or more.

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warning that expired Wednesday. The County also elevated its warning to a Heat Emergency Alert. When temperatures are this dangerous, we bring together our departments to determine what actions must be taken to help keep people safe.

I encourage everyone needing relief from the heat to use our libraries, senior centers and recreation centers. They can provide a cool break from the punishing heat. The centers are open during regular operating hours. County pools may see a surge in activity, but could also reach capacity, so plan accordingly.

The County Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Aging and Disability Services has been distributing a limited number of free desktop fans for the County’s older adults, individuals with disabilities and residents in need. Call the Aging and Disability Resources Unit at 240-777-3000 to arrange for pick up of a fan in Rockville.

If you must be out during the day's heat, drink plenty of water, limit your time outside and never leave kids or pets in cars because vehicles heat up extremely quickly. For more information on hydration, see Heat Stress: Hydration (cdc.gov).

Stay current with signs of heat illness. Look for nausea, excessive sweating, light-headedness and signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat exhaustion can cause heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale, clammy skin, a fast pulse and nausea or vomiting. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. Signs include a high body temperature (above 103°F), hot, red, dry or moist skin, a rapid and strong pulse and possible unconsciousness. If there are signs of heat stroke, call 911 and go immediately to the emergency room.

We also pass along messaging through our Department of Permitting Services focused on worker safety and reminding employers to protect workers as much as possible from the heat.

Anyone concerned about the well-being of someone living outside can call the 24-hour line at 240-907-2688. Outreach partners will attempt to locate the individual and offer resources and support.

The science is clear: our planet is warming at an unprecedented rate, leading to more frequent and severe heat waves. These can pose significant health risks, especially to our most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children and anyone with pre-existing health conditions. Extreme heat exacerbates air pollution, which can aggravate respiratory diseases and other health problems. Please take the danger seriously and seek help if needed.

For more hot weather tips for humans and pets or to learn more about heat warnings, visit montgomerycountymd.gov/heat.

Sign up for the County's Alert Montgomery notification system to receive emergency alerts regarding weather and other emergency information.

Taking Action to Prevent House Party Businesses

We have an update on a topic many people were concerned about last month. Large house parties have gotten the attention of State lawmakers representing Montgomery County, neighbors and public safety leaders.

I am happy to share that we have thwarted a couple of these events over the last week through our efforts. Our efforts forced the organizers to relocate the planned parties out of Montgomery County.

We have identified some of the houses used for multiple parties and are working across departments to respond quickly to any illegal activities that occur during these parties. That includes, but is not limited to, noise violations, capacity issues, parking hazards and alcohol laws.

We know these parties are skirting laws by charging for things like alcohol and food without acquiring proper permits. These safeguards are in place to ensure safety. Without those permits, these parties could be dangerous to partygoers and people living nearby.

Teams are ready to respond if parties off our radar pop up. It is important to understand that most of the violations created by parties like these are civil infractions that may warrant a ticket, but not an arrest.

It is not a police officer’s job to break up parties if no criminal activity is observed or witnessed. Those issued tickets will get their day in court, and repeated tickets could lead to criminal charges. If you think one of these parties has popped up in your neighborhood, notify police via the non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.

New MCFRS Fire Chief Confirmed

I want to welcome Corey Smedley, who will lead the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service as its next chief. When he is sworn on Monday, July 15, he will be the County’s first Black fire chief.

Corey began his fire career as a firefighter and paramedic in Prince George's County before taking on roles like being the lead public safety official at Washington Commanders football games and rising to the deputy chief level. In 2019, he became the fire chief in the City of Alexandria. This past January, he returned to Prince George's County Fire/EMS.

His breadth of experience was a key factor in hiring him. He met all our criteria, having worked in a union environment, in a combined service of volunteers and professionals and in public safety systems that are adaptive to community needs.

I want to thank the County Council for unanimously confirming his nomination this week. I am confident Corey's wealth of experience and dedication to public safety will significantly benefit our community and I look forward to working together.

Fire at Women’s Shelter

An electrical fire at a women’s shelter in the County last week forced the evacuation of around three dozen residents. No one was injured in the fire, but extensive damage to the roof (shown above) forced relocation of that shelter and 16 staff members to a temporary shelter without a working kitchen. This creates a new set of problems for women struggling with homelessness.

Despite the Fourth of July holiday, our Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management members coordinated with our Department of Health and Human Services team to quickly find a temporary shelter. There was a lot of teamwork on display. I also want to commend Montgomery County Fire and Rescue crews, Interfaith Works staff, the American Red Cross, the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps and the Department of Transportation for working to prepare a safe and welcoming place for the women to be sheltered after the fire. Employees and volunteers with these departments and organizations gave up their holiday and worked quickly to help these women handle this disruption.

The women still need help. Interfaith Works is seeking assistance from the community to feed the women housed at the shelter. That could include homecooked meals from organizations with the capacity to feed large groups or donations from restaurants. If you can help, call 240-468-6386 or visit iworksmc.org.

‘Plastic Free July’ and Additional Recycling Opportunities for Plastic

This month is being recognized as “Plastic-Free July.” We are using this month to encourage everyone to find alternatives to single-use plastics. Some easy ways are to bring reusable bags to the grocery store and not buy or use bottled plastic water. Use refillable containers instead. You can find more suggestions and explanations at Give Up Plastics, Department of Environmental Protection, Montgomery County, MD (montgomerycountymd.gov). This link explains why targeting single-use plastics is essential.

When you must use plastic, please recycle. To see what you can put in your recycling bin at the curb, check here.

And now big news: So much of the other plastic that previously was put in the trash can now be taken to the Shady Grove Transfer Station to be recycled. While many of us usually make an extra effort to recycle the plastic shopping bags we get from the grocery store, you can now recycle those bags and much more at the transfer station. Here is what is now accepted:
  • Plastic films labeled with No. 2 or No. 4 recycling symbols (polyethylene films), like bread bags
  • Product wrap (such as the plastic wrapping around paper towels and toilet paper)
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Newspaper sleeves
  • Clean and dry produce bags
  • Ice bags (must be dry)
  • Wood pellet bags
  • Salt bags
  • Clean cereal box liners
  • Pallet wrap
  • Stretch film
  • Case overwrap (such as on water bottles and drink cases)
  • Shrink-wrap
  • Mattress bags
  • Furniture wrap
  • Air pillow packaging material
  • Plastic shipping envelopes
  • Film bubble wrap
Not accepted items: Biodegradable or compostable bags and packaging, pre-washed salad mix bags, resealable food storage bags (such as Ziploc® bags), frozen food bags, candy wrappers, chip and snack bags, six-ring packs, pet food bags, pet waste bags, netted mesh produce bags, hot dog or meat wrap packaging, personal protective equipment (gloves, masks or protective wear), pool covers, backyard kiddie pools or ice rinks, inner tubes, lamination film, silage and hay bale wrapping, other plastic film utilized in agriculture, vinyl shower curtains, tablecloths, bedding or linen packaging, floral wrap and other shiny, crinkly films.

You can also recycle—for free—electronics, mattresses and other items that should not be set out to be thrown away. For a list of how to recycle or dispose of various household and yard items, follow this link to the Department of Environmental Protection website.

Summer COVID Uptick

Since 2020, we have warned the public to be ready for a summer wave of COVID-19. The recipe is simple: More people traveling and interacting with people they do not typically interact with leads to more transmission and a rise in cases.

We have seen an increase in cases over the last few weeks. However, our levels of COVID-19 in Montgomery County pale in comparison to past levels. Nor are we seeing the same impact on our hospitals and healthcare system that the past summer waves of COVID-19 brought. The graphic above shows where we are right now compared to COVID-19 levels in the past. It also shows how COVID-19 persists even as the flu dies out with the cold weather.

The elevated risk of contraction is still something to be prepared for, especially if you are around the elderly. Precautions are as simple as washing your hands frequently and staying home if you are sick.

Home test kits for COVID-19 are no longer widely available for free. They can be bought at most pharmacies when needed. Montgomery County has continued to make COVID-19 test kits available, mostly at our libraries.

This month, the resupplies of test kits will end. You can check the MCPL website to see if your branch still has some available. I want to thank the staff at our public libraries and at the Department of General Services for their work as a resource for the community in supplying kits and facemasks for several years.

Gardening and Home-Grown Food Gets a Boost

If you did not know, we have produced two videos over the past year in which I discussed my love of gardening. You can find links to those videos here and here. They have allowed me to show everyone one of my favorite ways to relax and eat healthy.

The new Resident and Community Food Gardening Grant Program is one way to help our community partners get healthier, homegrown options to families struggling with food security. The money will be used to expand local food production and access gardening and small-scale farming, which could feed more than 1,800 residents.

Congratulations to the grant winners including AfriThrive, Community Food Forest Collective and Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER). Groups like the Islamic Center of Maryland and Shepherd’s Table also have created unique proposals to help feed more hungry County residents. The Charles Koiner Center for Urban Farming will expand its community-based education farm in Wheaton. At the same time, the People’s Community Baptist Church will aim to get more youth from the Black community involved in gardening.

Our commitment to local food production and access is about more than growing food. It is about building resilient communities, improving public health and fostering a deeper connection to our environment.

These grants support thousands of residents who have experienced high barriers to accessing nutritious, culturally relevant food. By supporting these innovative projects, we are empowering residents to take control of their food sources and contribute to a sustainable future for Montgomery County.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive