February 29, 2024

County Celebrates Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center

County Celebrates Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center

Enjoy some photos of the new Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center (SSRAC). Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich was joined by U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin, County Council President Andrew Friedson and other Councilmembers, the County’s Department of General Services, Montgomery County Recreation, the Housing Opportunities Commission, Holy Cross Health, other elected officials and residents for the grand opening on Saturday, Feb. 24.

County Celebrates Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center 

Located at 1319 Apple Ave. in the heart of the Silver Spring Central Business District, the SSRAC offers recreation and leisure activities, including pools designed for general swimming, low level diving, exercise, aquatic play, training and teaching opportunities. The facility also features a gymnasium, fitness space, movement and dance studios, multipurpose activity rooms, staff offices, a teaching kitchen, café, a new home for the Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame, public use space and social space. Find out more on the SSRAC website.

County Celebrates Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center
County Celebrates Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center

WalletHub Names Gaithersburg Most Diverse City in United States

WalletHub Names Gaithersburg Most Diverse City in United States

Once again, Montgomery County stands out as the home of diversity in WalletHub’s latest look at ethnic and racial diversity. This year’s list of Most Ethnically Diverse Cities includes Gaithersburg at the top, followed by Germantown at #3, Silver Spring at #4 and Rockville at #8.

The online finance company publishes an annual survey that analyzes more than 500 of the largest cities across the U.S.

All four Montgomery County cities had the best scores among small cities, defined as less than 100,000 residents. Scores were tallied based on residents’ ethnicity and race, language and birthplace. Gaithersburg is the most ethnically diverse city in the U.S., with 32 percent of its residents identifying as white, 26 percent Hispanic, 16 percent black and 21 percent Asian.

“Our community has benefited from how diverse it has become because of our willingness to welcome those who are different from us,” said County Executive Marc Elrich.

Read more about the survey here.

Montgomery County Public Libraries Celebrates ‘Read Across America Week’ March 2-6 with Special Events

Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) is partnering with the Jewish Council for the Aging Heyman Interages Center (JCA), or Interages, to celebrate “Read Across America Week” with a reading program at three MCPL branches. The celebration will take place Saturday, March 2, through Wednesday, March 6.

The one-on-one reading program will pair JCA volunteers with children in kindergarten through third grade. The volunteers have been recruited, vetted and trained by JCA in communication and intergenerational interaction. Reading sessions will be at the Gaithersburg, Wheaton and White Oak libraries.

“Instilling a love for reading in our young people is one of the most important things we can do to in providing great educations for our upcoming generations,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “Having a reading partner often is the key to making reading fun and interesting. The Read Across America program in which Montgomery County Public Libraries partners with the Jewish Council for the Aging is a model program worth replicating wherever possible, even within our own homes.”

Participation does not require advanced registration. Children may bring their own book to the reading sessions or select one from the library.

Program dates, times and locations:
For more information about the program, contact Clotilde Puértolas at Clotilde.puertolas@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Montgomery County Police Department Receives $499,993 Federal Grant to Help Combat Opioid and Firearm Crimes 

 Montgomery County Police Department Receives $499,993 Federal Grant to Help Combat Opioid and Firearm Crimes

Montgomery County’s Police Department (MCPD) recently was awarded a $499,993 competitive Federal grant to address opioid epidemic and firearm-related challenges. The funding will enable MCPD to handle cases with greater efficiency, process evidence more quickly and stay updated on advancements in forensic science.

“One of the reasons I advocated for the establishment of our new Office of Grants Management was to more aggressively go after and win competitive grants such as this Department of Justice grant that will assist the Montgomery County Police Department’s forensic crime lab to more quickly and effectively solve crimes,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “I am grateful to the Department of Justice for this funding opportunity and applaud our Office of Grants Management and the Police Department for their work in securing these competitive funds. Investing in state-of-the-art technology is an important component of our public safety efforts. We are going to see improved results and quicker turnaround time from our crime lab due to us securing this important competitive grant.”

The grant was awarded to MCPD by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance through the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant Program. It will provide MCPD's forensic crime lab with essential equipment including a mass spectrometer, a high-capacity virtual microscopy scanner with analysis software and employment of a contracted firearms/toolmark examiner.

Police Chief Marcus Jones said the grant will have a major impact on the department’s ability to solve crimes and make the County safer.

“By securing this grant, the Montgomery County Police Department’s forensic crime lab is poised to make significant strides in addressing the challenges posed by the opioid epidemic and gun crimes,” said Chief Jones. “This strategic investment will not only reduce case load backlogs, but also will bolster our ability to solve crimes, prevent drug-related deaths and create a safer community for all County residents.”

Visit the Office of Grants Management’s (OGM) website to learn more about County grant programs, other grant-related resources and OGM’s mission.

Expanded Eligibility for Police-Private Security Camera Incentive Program

Expanded Eligibility for Police-Private Security Camera Incentive Program

The Montgomery County Department of Police (MCPD) has announced expanded eligibility of the priority areas of the Police-Private Security Camera Program. 

Locations within these areas are eligible to participate in the program. 

The Police-Private Security Camera Program is designed to deter and solve crimes by incentivizing the installation of security cameras in geographic areas experiencing relatively high crime incidents.  An owner or tenant of a property used as a residence, business, or nonprofit organization located within an eligible priority area may apply.

To participate, individuals, businesses or nonprofit organizations must register online. Residents must purchase and install their security cameras before applying for reimbursement.  

For more information on the program, including applying and viewing an interactive map to determine eligibility, visit the MCPD website. 

Permitting Services Podcast Highlights Montgomery County Design for Life Property Tax Credit Program


Permitting Services Podcast Highlights Montgomery County Design for Life Property Tax Credit Program

The 12th episode of the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (DPS) Podcast series, “Design for Life Property Tax Credit Program", features information and tips about navigating the permitting process for homeowners who are planning to add accessibility features such as elevators, grab bars, no-step entrances, ramps, stairlifts and wider doorways at their homes.

To qualify for the Design for Life Property Tax Credit Program, homeowners must spend at least $500 on accessibility features and the work must be certified by DPS.

“This is an important episode for Montgomery County homeowners who are planning to redesign or renovate their homes to make them more accessible for people with mobility issues,” said DPS Customer Support and Outreach Division Chief Gail Lucas, who hosts the podcast. “This is the time of year when property owners are planning home improvements and we want to make sure they are aware of the Design for Life Property Tax Credit Program and how it works.”

Joining Ms. Lucas on the podcast is DPS Residential Plan Reviewer Mariella Dallas, who explains how important it is to submit detailed drawings for the review process.

“It’s important to indicate you are applying for a Design for Life property tax credit when filling out the application at the beginning of the permitting process,” said Ms. Dallas. “That alerts plan reviewers to look for these accessibility features on the drawings. We also suggest applicants book a free, predesign consultation to meet virtually with code officials to get your questions answered before you apply for permits.”

Homeowners can book a predesign consultation online by visiting the DPS website at montgomerycountymd.gov/dps. The Design for Life website includes detailed information about the program for building professionals and homeowners.

The Design for Life permit and process webpage is another resource to guide applicants through the steps—from applying for permits, submitting plans, scheduling inspections, applying for tax credits, reviewing the application, to receiving the property tax credit on your property tax bill.  

This episode of the Permitting Services Podcast is now 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 to watch on video on the County’s YouTube channel.

Previous podcast episodes have covered building safety, accessory dwelling units, deck permits, commercial building trends, use and occupancy certificates, fences, fire code compliance, the public right-of-way, septic systems, urban farming and zoning. Listeners are encouraged to send questions and ideas for future podcast episodes to dps.podcast@montgomerycountymd.gov. 

The Department of Permitting Services is located at 2425 Reedie Drive, 7th Floor in Wheaton. The customer service lobby is open from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday. No appointment is necessary to receive in-person assistance. Customers may also reach out to DPS staff by calling MC 311 or 240-777-0311.

Celebrate Women’s History Month by Dining at Woman-Owned Restaurants in Montgomery County

Celebrate Women’s History Month by Dining at Woman-Owned Restaurants in Montgomery County

March is Women’s History Month, a great time to support the many woman-owned restaurants and eateries in Montgomery County. From New Orleans cuisine to Montreal poutine, and from farm-to-table fare to artisanal ice cream, these eateries add to the County’s diverse culinary landscape. Additional offerings include craft beverages along the Tastemakers Trail. Explore Visit Montgomery for more ways to support Women’s History Month.

Montgomery County Announces New $1.5M Grant Opportunity to Help Low and Moderate-Income Residents Prepare Homes for Climate Hazards  

Montgomery County Announces New $1.5M Grant Opportunity to Help Low and Moderate-Income Residents Prepare Homes for Climate Hazards

The County's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Office of Grants Management are currently accepting applications for the inaugural FY 2024 Healthy, Efficient, Electrified, Climate-Adapted Pilot (HEECAP) Homes Grants Program. This new program aims to retrofit homes of income-eligible community members for energy efficiency, a healthy indoor environment and climate resilience along with the use of all-electric appliances. 

The County is offering a grant opportunity to eligible organizations, with a total of $1.5 million to be awarded. Individual awards may range between $300,000 and $1.5 million. The purpose of this grant is to pilot new ideas for the best strategies to help income-eligible residents ensure their homes are safe, healthy, efficient and resilient to climate change. This is part of a broader effort to preserve and protect housing for vulnerable residents. 

“In our Climate Action Plan, we recognize the urgent need to empower our communities to combat the effects of climate change and help residents prepare for climate hazards,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich.  “We also recognize the need to support efforts that address racial equity and social justice. This grant helps enhance the resilience of our community while working to preserve and protect housing for vulnerable residents in the face of environmental challenges.” 

The HEECAP program seeks to fill gaps not currently covered by existing federal, state and County programs, as well as to pilot creative approaches that may be scaled up. 

“We are looking to work with mission-aligned organizations that share our goals of advancing innovative solutions to help low- and moderate-income residents adapt to the impacts of climate change,” said Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection Director Jon Monger. “I encourage nonprofits already working with income-eligible residents in energy efficiency to apply for this new grant opportunity to work with DEP to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate hazards in our community.”

There will be a virtual information session at 1 p.m. on Monday, March 4 to provide eligible and interested applicants an opportunity to ask questions about the solicitation and receive guidance on how to complete the application form, ask questions about the solicitation and receive guidance on how to complete the application form.

Key Program Dates: 
  • Microsoft Teams Live Online Grant Program Information Session: 1 p.m. on Monday, March 4.   
  • Submission Deadline: 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 8. 
Key Program Resources:  
Applicants may submit multi-year funding proposals for up to two years, but funding beyond the first 12 months will be contingent on both satisfactory project performance and availability of funding. 

For more information about the program, eligibility and to apply, visit the Montgomery County Office of Grants Management grant application platform. Applications must be submitted by eligible organizations by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 8. 

Grant applications will be reviewed by an independent committee organized by the Department of Environmental Protection. The committee will include neutral, qualified individuals from Montgomery County Government who are selected for their expertise in grants administration or project management, as well as community members with grant review expertise. 

For more information on the application process, contact the Office of Grants Management by calling 240-773-3344 or by email to grants@montgomerycountymd.gov.  

For more information about energy efficiency and energy assistance programs available to County residents, visit the Montgomery Energy Connection website, call 301-7-ENERGY or email energy@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Office of Consumer Protection Celebrates National Consumer Protection Week

Office of Consumer Protection Celebrates National Consumer Protection Week

Looking to protect yourself from fraud, identity theft and scams? The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) has information for you during National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), March 3-9. NCPW is a time when government agencies, consumer protection groups and organizations like OCP work together to share information about consumer rights and help people learn to spot, report and avoid scams. 

Be sure to keep an eye on OCP's social media channels next week and beyond for useful tips and information to help you navigate the consumer landscape with confidence. You can find OCP on Twitter/X, Instagram and YouTube at @ConsumerWise, and on Facebook at @OCP.ConsumerWise.

For additional details about OCP’s services, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/OCP. To access free consumer education materials, including advice in multiple languages, and stay updated with the latest insights from consumer protection experts, visit ftc.gov/ncpw.

Maryland State Police to Provide FreeAnti-Theft Devices to Hyundai and Kia Owners March 2 and 3

Maryland State Police to Provide FreeAnti-Theft Devices to Hyundai and Kia Owners March 2 and 3

The Maryland State Police barracks in Rockville will provide free steering wheel locks to Hyundai and Kia owners on Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3. The Rockville barracks is located at 7815 Montrose Road in Rockville.

One wheel lock will also be provided per vehicle owner while supplies last. Driver’s license and vehicle registration is required.

The giveaways start at 9 a.m. Similar promotions will be held at all Maryland State Police barracks. Here is a full list of those offices.

Maryland State Police warn that on average a vehicle theft occurs every 47 minutes. Some Kias and Hyundais are being targeted by thieves because of a vulnerability that makes it easy to start the cars without a key.

Even if you do not own one of these vehicle types, remember to lock your car, hide your valuables and use an anti-theft device to protect your vehicle.

February 23, 2024

Message from County Executive Marc Elrich

Dear friends,

Before I was elected County Executive, Ike Leggett held the position for three terms. I appreciate his many years of leadership in the County, including his passion for service and dedication to helping people. In honor of Black History month, I sat down with him to hear more about his remarkable story of how he came to serve in Montgomery County after growing up in Louisiana during the height of Jim Crow laws.

I hope you will listen to this conversation and share it with others. I want to thank him for his time and his honesty about the challenges he faced as a Black man. His stories are powerful, and his commitment, perseverance and strength are to be celebrated. I hope you watch and share the video (see the link above) because it is important to understand our true and complete history – both good and bad as we work toward a more just future.

‘Fair Share’ Taxes Would Benefit Maryland

Speaking of a more just future, this week I testified on behalf of the Fair Share for Maryland Act of 2024. You can watch that testimony before the Budget and Taxation Committee here. Maryland’s current tax structure is not equitable - multi-state corporations and LLCs have many tax avoidance options that sole proprietorships and individuals who receive a W-2 each year do not have. There is no good reason to continue tax structures that favor large corporations over small businesses and residents. We need corporations to pay their fair share and end the overburdening of residents. We need a progressive income tax structure.

For businesses, the legislation closes corporate loopholes, including the adoption of combined reporting. A majority of states (28) and the District of Columbia already have combined reporting. These states are not just the “usual suspects” and include Texas, Kansas, Kentucky and West Virginia. They know that large multi-state corporations base their location decisions on a variety of factors. In Montgomery County, Discovery, located in downtown Silver Spring, relocated from Maryland, a no combined reporting state, to New York, a combined reporting state. Clearly, the reasons were multifaceted and were not just about taxes.

The legislation also establishes three new tax rates above the current top rate of 5.75 percent, which would allow us to reduce the tax burden on low-income residents and make the structure more progressive. The bill would also apply a surcharge to capital gains and reduce the unified credit used to calculate the Maryland estate tax. The bill would also improve the State’s existing Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

Our current structure calls into question whether Maryland’s system of taxation would meet the spirit of the IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights that “. . .taxpayers are entitled to a fair and just tax system.” Based on the numbers provided by the Maryland Fair Funding Coalition, enacting Senate Bill 766 would certainly move Maryland closer to that federal goal. Fortunately, that goal can be met while at the same time, the State can generate significant and necessary new revenue streams to support a quality of life that we have come to expect – but it is not free. An additional $1.6 billion per year in new revenue can help us make the types of strategic investments that will be necessary to realize the benefits of the Blueprint, build a functioning transportation system, expand access to healthcare, enjoy a wealth of cultural amenities and grow our economy. Our current tax structure and historically giving corporations a lower tax burden has not done us any favors.

Businesses and developers have shown they are willing to pay a special tax rate—higher taxes—if they know that the money is invested in infrastructure. In Maryland, we are obligated to keep our residential property taxes tied directly to the rate we tax commercial property. For too long we have ignored the fact that an expense is really an investment, and we have to invest in order to help our community succeed and thrive.

A robust coalition of organizations, including labor unions representing teachers and service employees and nonprofit organizations, backs the Fair Share Maryland plan. I stand with these groups in advocating for changes that increase the income of working families.

Del. Julie Palakovich Carr is sponsoring an identical bill in the House. As she told Maryland Matters, the necessity for this stems from the fact that currently, the wealthiest one percent of Marylanders contribute the smallest portion of their income toward state and local taxes. Put differently, the majority of us are shouldering more than our fair share. It is time to address this disparity and rectify that.

Improving the Affordable Housing Situation Across Maryland

Also, this week the House of Delegates heard testimony on the Housing Expansion and Affordability Act. I am always looking for innovative projects within Montgomery County to produce, protect and preserve more affordable housing. House Bill 538 allows for zoning changes and is supported by the Maryland Association of Counties with amendments. You can read more about these positions here.

It is understandable why the State is prioritizing affordable housing since it is crucial for our economy. We finally have a governor who recognizes the importance of ensuring that everyone can afford to live, work and succeed in Maryland.

The adjustments proposed in the Housing Expansion and Affordability Act would clear roadblocks that local governments could use to prevent affordable housing projects from being added in some communities. In my time, our County has not passed legislation to treat affordable housing construction differently in order to block it, but that is not necessarily true everywhere else. These changes could be key in our effort to preserve affordable housing as well.

In 2000, we had nearly 43,000 naturally occurring affordable housing units (NOAH) according to Montgomery Planning’s County Preservation Study. In 2020, the number of NOAH units in Montgomery County was just 22,000, a decrease of nearly half. Those losses are not due to zoning changes to exclude affordable housing, but rather the lack of any controls to protect affordable housing.

The Rent Stabilization Bill I signed into law last year is one tool to help combat that. Over the years, many developers replaced existing affordable units with more expensive ones.

Affordable housing continues to be a top priority of my administration and I am grateful to our leaders in the Montgomery County Congressional and State delegation as well as our Governor and Lt. Governor for their efforts on this issue on Capitol Hill and in Annapolis.

Food Council Town Hall

Last week I had the chance to speak at the Montgomery County Food Council's Food Security Community Town Hall and take questions from over 50 of our essential community partners fighting hunger in our community.

Their first and most important question is what are we doing to help? It is a fair question when across the board many of the organizations that coordinate food drives are seeing the need for help continue to grow. This is a map developed by the Capital Area Food Bank developed by the Capital Area Food Bank that shows which areas around the region that need the most help accessing nutritious food.

Like few other places in the nation, Montgomery County is committed to address food security issues. I joined with our County Council and the Food Council last year in announcing the Strategic Plan to End Childhood Hunger. The plan’s recommendations were developed through the expertise of more than 140 community nonprofit and government leaders and the insight of over 1,000 County residents. The County also launched the Office of Food Systems Resilience to help all our departments be more aware of food security issues and how they impact everyday life.

Our goal is to put into action strategies that are immediately actionable to build on existing successful partnerships and programs. We are also pursuing innovative approaches to address the systemic barriers to food access in our community.

These problems can be traced back to oppressive laws drawn up by the racist majority at the time to keep large portions of the Black and other minority communities down. Those laws succeeded in preventing many people from living where they wanted to or to have the means to break free from the constraints enacted by racist laws. Even generations after those laws were repealed, we still see their impact on the people the County serves. We serve as the last resort for many people and that population is disproportionately Black and Brown.

Montgomery County is providing a roadmap for addressing inequities by strategically leveraging local resources to maximize federal and state funding while also filling service gaps. By creating strategic partnerships with community organizations that reflect the geographic and demographic diversity, our County will be able to serve residents in trusted spaces and connect them effectively and efficiently to a wide range of available resources.

There are many families in Montgomery County that can benefit as we expand affordable housing, pour more resources into mental and behavioral health resources and focus on improving job training and upskilling opportunities. Tackling hunger issues with a wholistic approach is the best way to help our County in an equitable way.

Black History and the Environment

February is Black History Month, dedicated to honoring the lives, legacies, and contributions of African Americans throughout history and into the present. One of the many influential movements that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement was for environmental justice, led primarily by Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Environmental justice is an important part of our own Climate Action Plan (CAP) implementation right here in Montgomery County.

Understanding where the County's most vulnerable groups are located can help prioritize mitigation, adaptation efforts and the corresponding equity-enhancing measures. During the development of the CAP, our staff delved into the historical policies and practices that have contributed to disparities and perpetuated the severity of climate change impacts.

Historical wrongs such as racism, segregation, disenfranchisement, Jim Crow laws and socioeconomic inequality have played a role in how communities across Montgomery County are experiencing climate change today. Due to historic disinvestment and red-lining, low income and communities of color continue to be hit first and worst by the impacts of climate change like severe storms, extreme heat and more frequent extreme weather events.

Montgomery County led a community-inclusive process to develop a Racial Equity and Social Justice Policy that was formally adopted in December 2019. The County’s Chief Equity Officer who was appointed in February 2020 is responsible for implementing the Racial Equity and Social Justice Policy.

Fiscal year 2023 brought movement toward change, including the critical support of particularly vulnerable communities. Incentives were provided through the Montgomery County Homeowner Energy Efficiency Program to reduce energy costs. Specifically, the Brooke Park Apartments received $507,000 toward upgraded electric appliances and systems for its complex. In addition, eight single family homes, coordinated by Habitat for Humanity, received all electric, upgraded appliances and systems.

The County also established a new Climate Action Team to raise awareness about the intersection between climate, health, equity and populations served by the County’s Health and Human Services Department. The team includes staff from the African American Health Program, the Asian American Health Initiative and the Latino Health Initiative.

Montgomery County Public Schools developed and successfully piloted an Environmental Justice course that includes research, investigation and action focused on the disparate effects of climate change on people of color and those living in lower income areas. The course was taught at Walt Whitman High School.

Currently in development, the Community Justice Academy is an effort to partner with frontline organizations and community members to develop a strategy and programming for equitable resilience. The partners meet regularly and have been making progress moving towards community ownership of climate resilience initiatives.

Montgomery County is developing community justice initiatives to shift the community engagement paradigm from one that is relatively conventional and top-down to one where communities most impacted by climate and racial injustice are deeply integrated into planning processes as collaborators and co-creators with the government.

Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Health and Human Services staff have been working with community-based organizations establishing a blueprint for a sustainable collaborative governance, which we anticipate concretizing in the months and years ahead.

Montgomery County continues to progress our climate conscious work to correct injustices of the past, but of course, there is plenty of work that remains. Only through the power of sustained collective efforts from the County Council, County staff, stakeholders partner organizations, and the state and federal governments can we act for a clean inclusive future for generations to come.

To learn more about the history of environmental justice in the U.S., you can visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Timeline.

One Year Since Deadly Arrive Fire

Sadly, it has been one year since the tragic apartment building fire in Silver Spring that killed Melanie Diaz. Since then, her family has been pushing for the kind of reforms that may have saved her life and would undoubtedly save the lives of others in the future.

Melanie died as she was trying to escape a fire in her building with her two dogs. The building did not have sprinklers like many newer units are now required to have.

In Annapolis, a bill introduced by Del. Lorig Charkoudian - House Bill 823- the “Melanie Diaz Fire Safety Act” - would require a smoke alarm in every unit of large apartment building that does not have sprinklers.

I appreciate and support the efforts by Del. Charkoudian and other elected leaders to make our communities safer and prepared should disaster strike.

Health Report

Public health leaders continue to be concerned with the level of flu cases in our community. We have seen a slight uptick in the number of patients being treated for influenza at clinics and hospitals in Montgomery County, but so far that has not translated into more hospital stays.

This is predominantly being seen in our children and young adults. That level of transmission of a respiratory virus can still pose a threat to seniors and others that are the most vulnerable to suffering serious complications. The bottom line is there is still a lot of flu and COVID-19 being spread in our community.

I encourage you to seek out your flu or COVID-19 vaccine if you have not had one since the last one was released in September.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive

February 21, 2024

Grand Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center Saturday, Feb. 24

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, County Council President Andrew Friedson and Vice President Kate Stewart, Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Evan Glass, president of Holy Cross Health Network Annice Cody, representatives from the Housing Opportunities Commission and the County’s departments of General Services and Recreation, will join the grand opening of the Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24. The pool will be open to the public for swimming on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 9 a.m.

The center will feature:
  • General swimming
  • Low-level diving
  • Exercise aquatic play
  • Training and teaching opportunities
  • A gymnasium
  • Fitness space
  • Senior programming
  • Multipurpose activity rooms
  • Teaching kitchen
  • Café
The center also will be home to the Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame and Holy Cross Health Partners at Elizabeth Square.

Rescheduled MCPL MoComCon Coming Up Saturday, March 2 in Germantown

The eighth annual Montgomery County Public Libraries free comic convention, MoComCon, postponed earlier this year, will be held from 10 a.m.–5 pm. on Saturday, March 2 in Germantown. One of the largest free comic conventions in the Mid-Atlantic area, it will take place at the Germantown Library and at the BlackRock Center for the Arts.

The Germantown Library is located at19840 Century Blvd. in Germantown, and the BlackRock Center for the Arts is nearby at 12901 Town Commons Drive in Germantown.

MoComCon is an extraordinary all-day celebration geared for all ages interested in pop culture, fandoms, comics, graphic novels and libraries. The schedule of events includes workshops, story times, panel discussions, card trading, trivia, dance parties, book sales, button making, crafts for kids, retro gaming, anime viewing, a cosplay parade and a cosplay contest.

Breaking new ground this year, MoComCon, in collaboration with Classroom 2 Community and the Maryland State Library Agency, will introduce “Blerdtino@MoComCon!” (BAM!).* Combining the words Black, Latino and Nerd, “BAM!” captures the essence of diverse communities celebrating fandoms through a unique multicultural lens. The “BAM!” celebration will feature a stellar lineup of artists and performers from the Black and Latino nerd/fandom culture community during various sessions held that day. Highlights include:
  • David “D-Stroy” Melendez from Sirius XM and Host of “Showoff Your Gems (Blerdtino Edition).” Join D-Stroy in a live library broadcast featuring Black and Latino Nerd collectibles. D-Stroy will interview guests/audience members eager to showcase their Black and Latino Fandom, Anime, Pop and Hip-Hop culture collectibles.
  • DJs Virak, TrickSet and Phenomenon from the Mid-Atlantic Scratch League (MASL). MASL Invades MoComCon: Experience MASL live, spinning music throughout MoComCon, including Cartoon theme songs and live mixing of Anime videos throughout the day.
  • Bomani Armah Presents a Kids Songwriting Workshop Called “Baba Got Bars!” Dive into the “Baba Got Bars!” songwriting and sing-along for this baby nerds workshop.
  • Maki Roll Presents Cosplay for Black and Latino Creatives. Enjoy a presentation of costumes and insights into the life of a professional cosplayer.
  • Orlando Caicedo Presents “Undeniable Movement (Rise of Blerdtino Creatives).” Meet Orlando Caicedo, winner of “Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment/LINE Webtoon Superhero Comics Contest.” Orlando's published work includes the critically acclaimed graphic novel “Colin Kaepernick: Change the Game.” Get an insider’s perspective on his journey from animation to comics on hit shows like “Archer” on the FX network and “Frisky Dingo” on the Adult Swim cartoon channel.
  • Thomas E. Delfi, Founder of Nerdtino Presents “And I Got Away With It Too! A Supervillain's Guide to the Creative Arts Industry.” He will discuss the evolution of Nerdtino and Latino Comic Cons. Explore marketing and cultural items from Thomas' collection and learn how he created one of the largest Latino Comic Cons.
MoComCon and BAM! sponsors and collaborators are Friends of the Library Montgomery County, Inc.; Maryland State Library Agency; BlackRock Center for the Arts; and Classroom 2 Community.

*The “Blerdtino@MoComCon” portion of the MoComCon event is made possible by grant funding from the Maryland State Library Agency.

For more information about MoComCon and BAM!, click here.

New Wheaton Community Access Program Offers $75,000 Toward Fee Reductions for Community Groups Reserving Public Facilities

The Montgomery County Government launched a Community Access Program (WCAP) on Feb. 16 that offers a total of $75,000 of in-kind assistance to community groups seeking to host events at Wheaton facilities managed by Montgomery County’s Office of Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF).

Modeled after successful initiatives like the Silver Spring Community Access Program and the Facility Fee Assistance Program (FFAP), the WCAP will lower reservation costs for community groups using local government facilities and venues in Wheaton. This initiative aims to foster equity by making it possible for groups that might face financial constraints to afford renting these venues.

“We want to support organizations doing business in Wheaton, and the creation of the Wheaton Community Access Program underscores our commitment to that,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “Reducing facility fees will help community-based groups defray costs so they can focus on developing and funding programs that impact our community and residents.”

WCAP aims to offer user groups financial help toward reservation costs for Wheaton Urban District facilities, which include Marian Fryer Town Plaza located at 2424 Reedie Drive; Wheaton Veterans Park, located at 11200 Amherst Ave.; and a community meeting room inside the M-NCPPC Wheaton Headquarters building, located at 2425 Reedie Drive. More information about the select facilities can be found on the CUPF blog.

“The Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee appreciates the support for the new Wheaton Community Access fund to help enliven our community with events and meeting spaces,” said Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee Chair Jim Epstein. “We encourage a wide variety of arts, humanities and community groups to apply for funds to reduce the costs of your events and outreach efforts. Thanks to the Wheaton Urban District and Community Use of Public Facilities teams.”

Community groups that are working to improve or positively impact the community are eligible to apply. Priority will be given to organizations and groups that also contribute to the growth of the Wheaton Arts and Entertainment district.

“We have outstanding and beautiful public spaces in Wheaton, and lack of funds should never be an obstacle for our local organizations to use those spaces to move Wheaton forward and more vibrant for all,” said County Councilmember Natali Fani-González. “That’s why I’m thrilled to see the Wheaton Community Access Program becoming a reality to close the financial gap.”

The WCAP review committee, which will be composed of a CUPF representative, a Mid-County Regional Services Office representative and a WUDAC board member, will review and evaluate applications on a rolling basis as they are submitted. Consideration for financial need will be given to user groups that can demonstrate their event positively impacts the community.

For more information about the program and to submit a short application, visit the Montgomery County Office of Grants Management portal. Applications must be received at least 14 days in advance of the event and users should have their CUPF reservation number ready when starting a WCAP application.

For questions about the event spaces available through this program, and how to reserve please contact Marta Martinez at CUPF by calling 240-777-2709 or via email at marta.martinez@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Applicants with questions about the WCAP application process should contact Olga Kravets in the Office of Grants Management by calling 240-773-3344 or by email at grants@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Visit www.wheatonmd.org to learn more about events happening in Wheaton.

Donate New or Gently Used Items for Annual ‘Project Prom Dress’

Donate New or Gently Used Items for Third Annual ‘Project Prom Dress’

Attending prom is a big milestone for high school students and Montgomery County Recreation is working to make that dream a reality. The department is collecting gently used and new dresses, suits and accessories that students will be able to choose from during the third “Project Prom Dress” giveaway event.

From Monday, Feb. 12, through Thursday, Feb. 29, dresses, suits and accessories can be donated at the Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center in Burtonsville from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays and from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays. The Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center is located at 14906 Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville.

Donations should be cleaned garments—made in 2010 to present—in wearable condition.

“Celebrating prom is a ‘rite of passage’ for many students, unfortunately the high cost of prom apparel and accessories prohibit many students from participating,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “I am grateful for the efforts of our Department of Recreation’s ‘Project Prom Dress’ to provide dresses, suits, shoes, jewelry and other items to students in need. However, for us to provide this opportunity to as many students as we can, we are requesting new or gently used items to be donated to us. Every student deserves the right to attend their prom. I encourage any resident or business with prom related items to donate to us and help provide this memorable experience to our young adults.”

More than 160 students attended the event in 2023.

Montgomery County Recreation will also host special collection dates on:
  • Saturday, March 2. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Jane E. Lawton Community Recreation Center, 4301 Willow Lane, Chevy Chase
  • Saturday, March 9. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Germantown Community Recreation Center, 18905 Kingsview Road, Germantown
Once collected, items will be dry cleaned and displayed in a special formal boutique that will be held at the center. Any high school student, just by showing their I.D. card, will be able to “shop the racks” and select one outfit for free from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at the Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center.

Project Prom Dress seeks to eliminate the financial obstacle of attending prom, which for many students, turns out to be one of the most memorable days of high school. View photos from last year’s giveaway event through Montgomery County Recreation’s Flickr album.

‘Library Lovers Month’: A February Filled with Exciting Activities

‘Library Lovers Month’: A February Filled with Exciting Activities

Montgomery County Public Libraries and Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, Inc. (FOLMC) are joining in February’s “Library Lovers Month” celebration by hosting special activities and virtual events this month. Programming will be held at library branches across the County. The events and activities highlight the variety of resources and services MCPL provides year-round.

“Our libraries serve as lively centers of learning, imagination, creativity and community engagement—essential for fostering equity and ensuring universal access to education,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “As we celebrate Library Lovers Month, I encourage everyone to explore our library branches, utilize resources they offer and participate in their special event programs.”

A sampling of programs scheduled during February include:
Library Lovers Month 2024 is sponsored in partnership with FOLMC and the Montgomery County Library Board.

For more information about MCPL and Library Lovers Month, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/library.

60,000 Free Computers Being Distributed to Low-income Residents

Montgomery Connects to Distribute 60,000 Free Computers

“Montgomery Connects,” Montgomery County’s digital equity and inclusion program, has launched a new program to distribute 60,000 free laptop computers to low-income families. There is a limit of one computer per resident. Eligible recipients must be Maryland residents, do not need to be U.S. citizens and may not have already received a computer from the County before April 2023.

Residents must make an appointment online, certify that they do not have access to a computer, and appear in person to pick up the computer.

Montgomery Connects received a Federal Emergency Connectivity Fund grant valued at $22.7 million to distribute 60,000 Chromebook laptops to people who do not have a computer. Montgomery Connects is operated by the County’s Department of Technology and Enterprise Solutions (TEBS).

"Access to a computer is essential for every person," said County Executive Marc Elrich. "While children may have access to computers through schools, it is equally vital for parents, college students, working individuals, and seniors to have their own computers. It is our responsibility to ensure that everyone in our community has equal opportunities for success in today's digital age."

Appointments to receive a computer can be made at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/computer. Appointments open approximately two weeks in advance of the appointment dates. 

“I've seen from my experience developing digital connector programs that it is a game changer for young people to have their own digital opportunities,” said TEBS Director and County Chief Information Officer Gail M. Roper.

Supplies are expected to run out by May or June, so residents are encouraged to make appointments now.

“We encourage nonprofit organizations and neighbors to pass the word along and to help elderly residents sign up. This may be the last large computer grant the County will receive, so we want everyone who doesn’t have a computer to make an appointment to get one while supplies last,” said Montgomery Connects Program Director Mitsuko R. Herrera. “We also are working to connect residents who receive computers with free technology training resources available from the Montgomery County Public Libraries and SeniorPlanet.org.”

Every person, including children over age 7, must have an appointment to receive a computer. After arranging an appointment to get a computer, eligible residents should bring the following items to their pick-up appointment:
  • Photo identification.
  • Proof of address. If a person is using a Photo ID without an address (such as a passport), they must bring a piece of mail or online bill showing their address.
  • Every person receiving a computer, including children, must appear in person. Appointments are available until 7 p.m. and on many Saturdays.
The program will prioritize Montgomery County residents.

The schedule for upcoming computer distribution events:
  • Tuesday, March 12. 1-5 p.m. Gaithersburg Library, 18330 Montgomery Village Ave, Gaithersburg.
  • Wednesday, March 13. 2-6 p.m. East County Community Center, 3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring.
  • Thursday, March 14. 2-6p.m. Aspen Hill Library, 4407 Aspen Hill Rd., Rockville.
Appointments open for registration approximately two weeks prior to event dates. Additional events will be added as locations confirm.

Eligible residents must have an email address to make an appointment online at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/computer. If a resident needs assistance to make an appointment, call the Marylander Online Help Hotline at 301-405-9810, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday to Friday, or from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday. Help is available in English and Spanish and in other languages upon request.