February 13, 2010

Excellent story about home maintenance after snow storms

Susan Hasten had not heard of ice dams until this week. That's when the frozen gutters in the sunroom on the back of her Bethesda home backed up and water dripped down the wall of windows. In a panic, she cooked up her own triage.

"I have a complex system of taped-up black trash bags and roaster pans to catch the water," said Hasten, who measured 40 inches of snow in her yard. "It feels like the whole house is sinking into a snow hole."

Now that snow accumulations are subsiding, many area residents are having their own meltdowns. All that snow has started dissolving in the above-freezing temperatures of the past few days, and misery has descended on buried neighborhoods. Homeowners, still reeling from power outages and shoveling marathons, are discovering water seeping through roofs or into basements, or they are anxious that it will be soon. They are knocking icicles and snow piles off roofs, shoveling out drains around exterior basement stairs and moving mountains of snow away from foundations. They are using everything they can find in their domestic arsenals to fight off Mother Nature.

"I'm out there every morning and every night with a hockey stick or a curtain rod trying to knock the icicles off my house," said Isabelle Howes of Rockville.

The family's troubles started Sunday when John Howes went to make coffee. He found water dripping from his kitchen light fixture. By the time his wife came down for breakfast, he had a beach towel and a bucket sitting on a table under the drip. By the end of the week, they had water seeping through the double doors in the breakfast room and the master bedroom walls. Yesterday, it showed up in the finished basement.

SOURCE: Washington Post

Northrop Grumman discusses headquarters move with state leaders

Two top executives from Northrop Grumman, which announced plans last month to move its headquarters to the Washington region, spent more than an hour in the State House in Annapolis on Friday, meeting with Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and legislative leaders. Maryland, Virginia and the District are all vying to host the defense contractor, which is planning to relocate from Los Angeles.

Maryland still appears to be in the game, as potential locations were discussed Friday including National Harbor, the Gaithersburg-Rockville area and College Park, according House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who sat in for part of the meeting. The Northrop Grumman representatives were Wes Bush, the company's new chief executive and president; and Gaston Kent, vice president of finance.

SOURCE: Washington Post

February 12, 2010

Mortgage foreclosures remain high in MC

Maryland's home mortgage foreclosure rate fell 22.7 percent last month from December, according to new figures from RealtyTrac of Irvine, Calif. However, the state's rate of one filing per 446 households was up 41.4 percent from January 2009. Maryland had the 13th highest rate in the nation last month, below the U.S. average of one filing per 409 households. The national average fell 9.7 percent in January from December. For the first time in more than a year, Prince George's County did not have the highest rate in the state. The county's rate of one filing per 285 households was second to Baltimore city's rate of one per 235.

SOURCE: Gazette

County opens overnight shelters

Montgomery County officials opened two additional overnight shelters yesterday for residents affected by power outages, according to county spokeswoman Mary Anderson. The shelters are located at the Gwendolyn Coffield Community Center in Silver Spring and Seneca Valley High School in Germantown. The Coffield Center is located at 2450 Lyttonsville Road in Silver Spring and Seneca Valley High School is located at 19401 Crystal Rock Drive in Germantown.
Snow covers tree branches in a local neighborhood. The storm has caused a number of downed trees and power outages throughout the county.
Snow covers tree branches in a local neighborhood. The storm has caused a number of downed trees and power outages throughout the county.
Richard Montgomery High School, located at 250 Richard Montgomery Drive in Rockville, will remain open as well. Individuals planning to go to a shelter should bring all medications and personal supplies with them. Pets are not permitted at shelters except for service animals, Anderson said in a press release yesterday.
SOURCE: http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/9862

February 11, 2010

MC trash pickup cancelled for rest of week

February 10 - 12, 2010: Montgomery County-provided residential garbage, recycling and yard trim collection services are cancelled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday February 10 – 12. The normal collection schedule will resume on Monday, February 15.

SOURCE: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/swstmpl.asp?url=/content/dep/solidwaste/collection_services/trash/bulk.asp

February 10, 2010

Uncle Sam closes federal government on Thursday

Delegate Roger Manno proposes tax for pensions

A bill that would attempt to bring the state’s employee pension fund into balance is getting plaudits for its aim, but was panned Tuesday for its plan to pay the cost using two controversial tax proposals. Del. Roger Manno, D-Montgomery, presented a proposal to the House Appropriations Committee, which would use an extension of the state tax surcharge for incomes above $1 million and a controversial corporate tax proposal known as combined reporting.

Manno said at the hearing that he realized that the tax proposals would be unpopular, but he thought he should suggest something to deal with the state’s mounting pension liability.

“I’m sure there are better solutions out there,” he said. “But my goal is to illuminate the problem.”

The state has been falling further and further behind in its obligations to retired workers, teachers, lawmakers and police. At the end of last fiscal year, it stood at $28.6 million, or about 65 percent funded. The 6.25 percent millionaire’s tax has been on the books since 2008, and is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

Del. Wendell Beitzel, R-Western Maryland, said he thought the bill put too much of a burden on businesses. Firms would effectively be paying for more generous benefits than they provide to their own employees, he said. Nobody spoke in favor of the bill at the hearing, other than Del. Manno. However, barely anybody made a comment about it without first complimenting the delegate for his goal of getting the state caught up on pensions.

SOURCE: http://www.marylandreporter.com/page550523.aspx

Snow crews retreat amid blizzard conditions

"Whiteout" conditions prompted Montgomery County, the State Highway Administration and Pepco to pull their crews off the roads as a winter storm intensified this morning.

The county suspended plowing and snow removal operations around 9:30 a.m. today, said county spokeswoman Bonnie Ayers.

"They were doing the primary roads when [they were] called off," Ayers wrote in an e-mail, referring to major non-state roads such as Shady Grove Road bordering Gaithersburg and Rockville and Arlington Road in Bethesda.

Plowing would resume once conditions improved, Ayers said. As with the Feb. 5-6 storm, about 900 pieces of equipment such as snow plows were clearing roads. Liquid salt brine had been used on roads prior to the storm to prevent ice from bonding to road surfaces, and enough salt is available to distribute "some to some municipalities," said Ayers.

"The weather conditions are some of the worst we've seen in years," said SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen in a statement. "You are taking your life into your own hands and jeopardizing others' lives if you choose to go out."

Pepco has suspended power restoration crews until the blizzard and storm conditions subside, according to a statement on Pepco's Web site. As of this morning, about 5,100 customers in the county were without power from the weekend storm, according to county reports. The utility company anticipates additional outages.

SOURCE: http://www.gazette.net/stories/02102010/montnew125125_32572.php

February 9, 2010

Leisure World developer appointed to planning board

Norman Dreyfuss, who developed Leisure World, a retirement community in Silver Spring, was selected Tuesday for a vacant spot on the five-memberMontgomery County Planning Board.
Dreyfuss, 66, a Republican, will fill out the remainder of the term left vacant by the death last year of Jean Cryor, also a Republican. The vacancy had to be filled by a member of the same political party.
Dreyfuss was approved on a 6 to 3 vote. Council members Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) and Marc Elrich (D-At Large) backed Kenneth Hurdle, who has been active in efforts to build community support for a major redevelopment of the White Flint area.
The part-time position as a planning commissioner pays $30,000. The planning board acts as the land use adviser to the Montgomery County Council, and helps supervise the $100.million planning and parks departments budgets. Commissioners also serve as members of the bi-county Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, with their counterparts from Prince George's County.
SOURCE: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/annapolis/2010/02/vacant_montgomery_planning_boa.html

U.S. government closed on Wednesday, for 3rd day in a row

MC schools closed for rest of week

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) are closed Wednesday, February 10, Thursday, February 11 and Friday February 12, due to emergency weather conditions. All school activities and community activities in school buildings are canceled. A decision about administrative offices will be made at a later time.

MCPS Superintendent Jerry D. Weast released the following statement: "We take very seriously the decision to close schools for the rest of the week, but given the circumstances we felt this was in the best interest of our students and employees. Montgomery County and MCPS staff have been working around the clock to clear the roads and school parking lots, but given the sheer amount of snow we received over the weekend, this is taking longer than we had hoped. Given the forecast for another serious snow storm, it does not seem possible that we will be able to clear the roads, parking lots and sidewalks in time to resume school this week. With a day off Monday for Presidents' Day, we are very hopeful that we will be in good condition to resume school on Tuesday, February 16.

We encourage all Montgomery County residents to make sure their sidewalks are cleared as quickly as possible so that when school does resume, our walkers will have a safe passage to school and our riders will have a safe place to wait for the school bus. Thank you for your understanding during this unprecedented weather event. We look forward to having our students and staff safely back in schools as quickly as possible."

VIDEO: Cool time-lapse video in downtown Silver Spring

PICTURE: Empty grocery store in Bethesda

This is a picture of a Safeway in Bethesda, obviously empty of food in this section. Maybe it's time to dig out the last of the carrots in my urban garden!

Sign ordinance targets pregnancy centers

Rockville, MD (LifeNews.com) -- Montgomery County officials in Maryland have given their final approval to a new county ordinance that targets pregnancy centers located in this suburban area of both Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The new rules come after the city of Baltimore approved their own ordinance attacking such centers. Montgomery County Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg is behind the new legislation there, which received a 7-2 vote from the county.

They would be required to tell potential clients that they should go elsewhere for medical advice because Trachtenberg claims they are misleading women. The new law makes it so pregnancy centers must post a disclaimer if they don't have medical professionals on staff and would refer them to a center with licensed medical professionals.

"It's pretty much just a consumer protection measure more than anything else," Trachtenberg said, according to the Examiner newspaper earlier. "We're not saying they can't seek clients and they can't counsel them."

John Naughton, a local pro-life advocate, emailed LifeNews.com about the vote. He said the resolution would "dramatically impair the operations of the four county pregnancy centers which have offered free services to approximately 195,000 women for a combined total of 108 years without complaint."

During the hearing, he said the pregnancy centers "were publicly castigated as 'misleading and misinforming' the poor pregnant women who seek their help, for advising that abortion risks future fertility, breast cancer and psychological trauma, which it does."

"At a public hearing, the Council was advised the resolution violated the constitutional rights of pregnancy center personnel. It was gutted and approved 7-2 on February 2. Members Andrews and Knapp voted against it; Andrews commented that it was unnecessary," he said.

SOURCE: http://www.lifenews.com/state4787.html

Duncan expresses interest in top Metro job

Former Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's name has publicly surfaced as a candidate for the top Metro job after days of chatter around the State House and elsewhere in Maryland government. The Associated Press reported over the weekendthat Duncan (D), who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006, was calling around to let Maryland officials know of his interest. The AP cited two unnamed officials who said they had spoken to Duncan directly.
In a brief interview last week, Duncan declined to comment to our colleague Ann Scott Tyson, who is covering the nationwide search to replace John B. Catoe Jr. as general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, an agency beleaguered by funding shortfalls and safety lapses. The agency is overseen by a board that is made up of four members each from Maryland, Virginia and the District. Four federal members are also being added, two of whom have already been appointed. Among those saying Duncan is worthy of consideration is O'Malley.
"Doug Duncan is a talented and well-respected public administrator, and the governor thinks he would make a strong candidate for the board to consider," O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec told us.
Following his 12-year tenure in Montgomery County, Duncan worked for 17 months as chief administrative and finance officer at the University of Maryland at College Park. He then joined CivicUS, a government advisory firm, as a co-founder and senior vice president for research and business development.
SOURCE: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/annapolis/2010/02/duncan_expresses_interest_in_t.html

Travel at a premium during snow storm

WASHINGTON – A $20 cab ride to the airport skyrocketed to the "snow rate" of $100 in the nation's capital, and those travelers who could get to the airport or train station still had to haggle or wait in long lines to escape the snowbound Mid-Atlantic.
The most pressing matter: get out before another foot or more of snow comes Tuesday.
"I'm done with city, urban snow life," said Chris Vaughan, a Washington resident who was able to re-book a flight to go skiing in Utah. He dodged the pricey cab fare by having a friend drop him off at the airport — in exchange for a bottle of wine.
The region had nearly 3 feet of snow in some areas. One scientist said if all the snow that fell on the East Coast were melted, it would fill 12 million Olympic swimming pools or 30,000 Empire State buildings.Philadelphia and Washington each need just a little more than nine inches to give the cities their snowiest winters since 1884, the first year records were kept.
Meteorologists predicted the snow would start Tuesday afternoon and continue into Wednesday. Between 12 and 18 inches was forecast for Philadelphia, the nation's sixth-largest city and a travel hub — which could cause a ripple effect of travel problems for the rest of the Northeast. Airlines warned travelers more flights would be canceled, and the new storm was expected to hit a wider area, affecting New York and Boston.
SOURCE: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100209/ap_on_re_us/us_winter_weather

February 8, 2010

Montgomery County Daily begins website about Montgomery County, Maryland

MONTGOMERY COUNTY -- Beginning on February 4, 2010, Montgomery County Daily began publishing a daily news website about Montgomery County, Maryland. The website will have multiple posts each day, keeping Montgomery County residents aware of breaking news throughout the county. The largest county in Maryland, Montgomery County had previously lacked a website dealing exclusively with issues and topics relevant to county residents.

"I'm a news junkie who had continuously perused news websites in Maryland, wanting local news about Montgomery County but found little," says Daniel Vovak, website founder and resident of Bethesda, Maryland. "The website will provide original news coverage and reposts from relevant news sources, though identifying the source of the news."

The website will not cover national news unless it is specifically relevant to Montgomery County. In addition, coverage about the State of Maryland will only be included if it has local appeal. Vovak says he will work diligently to keep the website fair to all political parties. Vovak was previously the editor of Greenwich Post in Greenwich, Connecticut and Movers & Shakers in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He is also a former member of the Press Club of Cleveland. For advertising information, please contact Daniel Vovak at MontgomeryCountyDaily@gmail.com or 202-367-4835. The official website is http://MontgomeryCountyDaily.com.

Government closed on Tuesday, 2/9

The government is closed on Tuesday, February 9, 2010.

MC Schools hit for $23 million

MARYLAND EDUCATION officials maintain that Montgomery County didn't give its schools enough money this year. Its solution -- believe it or not -- is to slap a $23.4 million fine on the very schools that they say are underfunded. That's the equivalent of 360 teachers, or adding 1 1/2 children to each classroom. It is time that the Maryland General Assembly step in with some much-needed common sense and end this absurd fight over funding.

The Maryland State Board of Education levied the fine against Montgomery last month because it had determined the county failed to meet the state's "maintenance of effort" requirement for education during the 2010 fiscal year. Under this law, local school funding levels must remain at least the same as in previous years if the system is to receive state funds. It is an admirable policy that has provided stable funding for Maryland schools, making them among the nation's best. Under normal circumstances, we might understand the state's insistence on strict adherence.

But county and school officials in Montgomery agreed last year that an exception was in order because of tough times and because federal stimulus dollars provided sufficient cushion for education needs. That local comity -- and the fact that Montgomery County has a history of generously funding its schools -- mattered not a whit to an inflexible state board. It wouldn't grant a waiver and is insisting that the schools give back millions of dollars. To use a technical term, this is ridiculous.

Several bills have been introduced in Annapolis to provide relief to Montgomery. Those eliminating all funding requirements go too far, but lawmakers should act so that Montgomery schools and students aren't penalized.

SOURCE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/07/AR2010020702165.html

PICTURE: Welcome to Twinbrook

It was a beautiful sunny day on Sunday so I climbed over the wall of snow surrounding my house and walked out along Meadow Hall Road from Twinbrook Parkway to Viers Mill Road to snap some photos to remember the “snowmaggedon.”  I love taking panoramas so I’ve included several that are composed of up to a dozen individual photos, so they’re very wide.  These are taken using the “panorama” feature on my Canon S5 and then stitched together in MGI Photovista but I’ve done no other editing, hence the ragged edge on the top and bottom which reveals the original images.  You may need to click twice to get to the largest image (first click on the thumbnail to open a size that fits on screen, then second click on that image to open a 1600 pixel wide image).   At least I think that’s how it works.  You’re welcome to download and share with friends and family.  If you want an original image (just warning you, they can be as wide as 6000 pixels), send me an email at max.vanbalgooy@gmail.com.  Enjoy!
SOURCE: http://maxforrockville.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/sunny-sunday-a-great-day-for-pix/

Montgomery County schools closed 2/8 and 2/9

According to the Montgomery County Public Schools:
MCPS schools closed Monday (2/8) and Tuesday (2/9) due to emergency weather conditions. Administrative offices closed Monday.

Maryland General Assembly closed on Monday

From Speaker Mike Busch's office:

The Presiding Officers have decided that the 8pm session of the Maryland General Assembly is cancelled for Monday, February 8, 2010, due to potential icy conditions.

All Legislative Services and General Assembly employees are on liberal leave.

This announcement includes the cancellation of all meetings and hearings of General Assembly committees, task forces and workgroups.

February 7, 2010

All eyes on Montgomery County Speed Cameras

Several Maryland jurisdictions that have or are considering speed cameras to ticket drivers say they are paying close attention to a class-action lawsuit filed in Montgomery County. At issue is whether the county has been operating its speed camera program illegally by paying its contractor per ticket. The lawsuit is expected to be heard June 30 in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Maryland law states, "If a contractor operates a speed monitoring system on behalf of a local jurisdiction, the contractor's fee may not be contingent on the number of citations issued or paid."

Besides Montgomery County, local jurisdictions Rockville, Gaithersburg and Chevy Chase Village, which operate their own speed camera programs, are named in the lawsuit. Maryland Sen. Alex X. Mooney (R-Dist. 3), who has long opposed speed cameras, says he hopes the lawsuit is successful and that the county and others are forced to end their speed-camera programs.

"It's exactly one of the many things we were worried about," Mooney said of the lawsuit's claims. "And [Montgomery County's practice] does violate the intent of the law. We specifically said during discussions and debate that we did not want to provide financial incentives for these companies to ticket people."
But Montgomery County spokesman Patrick K. Lacefield says the county's program is legal. Under a contract with Texas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc., the county pays the company $16.25 per ticket. After paying a vendor, the county only would receive about $2 from a $40 citation, he said.

SOURCE: http://www.gazette.net/stories/02052010/polinew203335_32556.php

Gov. Martin O'Malley State of State Address

Below is a link on MPT.tv to Governor Martin O'Malley's State of the State Address.

SOURCE: State of State Address.

Important numbers during Snowmageddon

Hypothermia Hotline – If you see a homeless person, calll 1 (800) 535-7252 IMMEDIATELY
PepCo – Report an Outage 1 (877) PEPCO-62, Report Downed Wires(202) 872-3432
PepCo Stormcenter – Shows areas out of power
BGE -  1-877-778-2222
Dominion - 1-888-667-3000
Allegheny Power – 1-800-255-3443
Montgomery County Plowing of Roads - Highway Services at 240-777-6000, FAQs
“Plowing and salting major county roads. All crews will continue this process until all precipitation stops and all major county roads and primary neighborhood streets are cleared. After a 24-inch snowfall [stops falling], our crews should complete the work in about 48 to 60 hours.”
Metro Service – No above ground service or Metrobus running, below-ground service active until 11pm, modified service schedule here . Glenmont to Forest Glen service running in Silver Spring. Yellow Line – Pentagon to Crystal City, Red Line – Medical Center to Union Station and Glenmont to Forest Glen, Orange Line – Ballston to Stadium-Armory, Green Line – Fort Totten to Congress Heights, Blue Line – Ballston to Stadium-Armory.
Report Downed Trees
In The District – call 311 for downed trees, Montgomery – 240-777-6000, Prince George’s – 301-499-8600, Fairfax – 703-383-8368.
Locate a Towed Car in The District – You may have been blocking the plow.  Call (202) 727-5000.
Washington Gas – Customer Service for interuptions in service  (703) 750-1000
“To avoid the possibility of an interruption in gas service, Washington Gas would like to remind its customers to clear any accumulated snow from their natural gas meters and regulator vents as well as any appliance exhausts using hands, a brush or broom.”
Comcast – 1-800-COMCAST (1-800-266-2278), Live Chat with Customer Service
Verizon -1-800-VERIZON (1-800-837-4966)Live Chat with Customer Service
Cox -703-378-8422, Live Chat with Customer Service
Reminder: It’s every resident’s responsibility to shovel out his/her entrance to his/her residence, sidewalk and driveway.

SOURCE: http://aparentinsilverspring.com/2010/02/snowmageddon-important-phone-numbers-and-links.html