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Ellicott City Retaining Wall Improvements to Begin

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A Howard County construction project to repair and stabilize an undermined stone retaining wall behind 3732 Old Columbia Pike, in Ellicott City is underway. The stone wall foundation was undermined by the May 2018 storm and subsequent events. The wall, located along the south side of the Tiber Hudson Branch, will be repaired and stabilized.

Several small and medium-sized trees in the affected area will be removed as part of the work and large stones will be placed along the base of the wall for erosion protection. Weather permitting, the project is expected to be completed by early February. For questions about the project, call 410-313-3440 or email publicworks@howardcountymd.gov.

BWI Marshall Inspects Jet Bridges After Incident

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After a recent incident involving a new jet bridge, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport completed inspections of all 33 jet bridges with the same manufacturer and found they were safe to use, and is continuing inspections for the rest of the airport’s jet bridges.

Six people who were transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries after the incident, which occurred during the holiday travel season, and were shortly thereafter released. Investigation into the incident concluded a metal bracket was defective on the jet bridge involved and, as a precautionary measure, all brackets on five other jet bridges that were installed at the same time as the affected jet bridge were replaced. Airport operations were not impacted.

Ball Announces Spending Affordability Advisory Committee

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Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has established the Spending Affordability Advisory Committee (SAAC) to prepare recommendations regarding revenues and expenditures for County government during the next five years. Created by Executive Order, Ball identified 20 members and seven current leaders of Howard County Government to serve on the committee, which will be led by Budget Director Holly Sun.

In the Executive Order establishing the SAAC, Ball directed that it “review in detail the status and projections of revenues and expenditures” for the coming fiscal year 2020, and for years 2021-25. Ball also tasked the SAAC with evaluating the impact of economic indicators, such as changes in personal income and the growth of the assessable base.

The committee will also consider the county’s existing long-term educational, safety, environmental, transportation, health and human services, and employee benefit obligations. The committee is directed to prepare and present a report by March 1, 2019. Meetings will be open to the public.

Clyde’s Restaurant Group CEO Dies

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John Laytham, co-owner and CEO of Clyde’s Restaurant Group ― which has operated a restaurant at the Columbia Lakefront since the mid-70s ― died on Jan. 3 at Washington Hospital Center after fighting a heart condition for many years. According to the company website, the Columbia location was its “second property in the D.C. area and the first to shuttle our neighborhood concept outside of Washington, D.C.”

“John was a giant of a man and a lion in the industry. His fingerprints will forever be visible throughout the restaurant scene and on the countless lives he’s impacted,” said Tom Meyer, president of Clyde’s Restaurant Group. “I count myself among the many lucky enough to call him a boss, a friend, mentor and father figure.”

Columbia Second Among ‘Best Cities for Jobs’

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Columbia ranked second on WalletHub’s 2019 list of Best Cities for Jobs. The city clocked in with a total score of 65.78; it also came in as the fourth job market; and fifth for socio economics, placing behind only Scottsdale, Ariz. (66.58/2/6). Rounding up the top five were Orlando, Fla.; San Francisco and Colorado Springs, Colo., respectively.

Washington, D.C., was eighth (61.79/11/32) in the list and Baltimore was 89th (51.70/53/173). Columbia is tied with five other cities (three in Arizona and one each in Kansas and in Texas) for having the highest median annual income. Among the economists compiling the list was Daraius Irani, chief economist, Regional Economic Studies Institute, Towson University.

More Merriweather Updates Underway

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Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavilion is undergoing construction on the next phase of its $55 million, multi-year renovation, with the active project being the completion of the two new loge roofs that are located on either side of the main structure. This project will include new, unique seating and viewing opportunities that have been designed to enhance the fan experience.

The next (and among the last) aspects of the facility update will be the construction of additional restroom and concession facilities, which are slated for next winter.

“After a season in which the loge roofs were only partially complete, we’re excited to be working towards their full completion ahead of 2019,” said Ian Kennedy, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. “The improvements we’re making this off-season will take our one-of-a-kind venue to new heights.”

State Ranks High on Milken Institute Tech Economy Report

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Maryland ranks among the top states for technology economy preparedness, according to a new report by the Milken Institute, a nonprofit, independent economic think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif. The 2018 State Technology and Science Index ranked Maryland third in the nation for its ability to foster and sustain a technology sector, which is considered a major indicator in determining a state’s economic health.

Overall, Maryland ranked in the top 10 in four out of five of the report’s key indexes, coming in first in the technology and in science workforce category; and second in human capital investment, and in research and development inputs.

According to the report, Maryland’s third-place ranking, which is the same as in the last report, released in 2016, can be attributed to the state’s high concentrations of computer science, engineering and life sciences employment, which is further supported by the number of federal agencies located in Maryland and the amount of federal research and development funding that the state receives.

The report also notes that Maryland has taken steps to grow high-tech businesses by creating programs like the Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit, the Maryland Innovation Initiative, and Employment Advancement Right Now.

Delays Expected at Routes 175/295

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BGE has started work to relocate a major gas line on Route 175 (Annapolis Road/Jessup Road) near the Route 295 (Baltimore-Washington Parkway) interchange. Crews have shifted westbound Route 175 travel lanes to the eastbound lanes, and Route 175 has been reduced to one lane in each direction between National Business Parkway and Route 295, a distance of one-quarter mile.

In addition to the lane closures on Route 175, utility crews will also close the ramp from southbound Route 295 to westbound Route 175. Motorists will be detoured using the loop ramps at the Route 295/Route 175 interchange. Finally, utility crews will temporarily close Race Road at Orchard Road; motorists will be guided to Wigley Road to Orchard Road, then back to Race Road. The lane closure on Route 175, Race Road and ramp at the interchange are expected to re-open early-February.

Nearly 20,000 motorists use this section of Route 175 each day, so motorists are urged to allow extra commuting time and consider using Route 100 or Route 32 as alternate routes. With questions, contact BGEPipeline@bge.com or call BGE at 800-685-0123.

Howard Suspends Residential Water Disconnections, Other Fees During Shutdown

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Howard County is assisting federal workers and contractors impacted by the current government shutdown by requesting all county departments and agencies to offer aid where possible. In response to County Executive Calvin Ball’s request, the county’s Department of Finance is suspending residential water service disconnections until the federal government shutdown is over.

Additionally, the Howard County Library System (HCLS) announced a suspension of library fines and fees during the shutdown, and the county Department of Recreation & Parks (HCRP) is offering alternative payment schedules for impacted federal workers and contractors. Eleven percent of Howard County’s employed residents and their families are directly impacted by the current government shutdown that has lasted for nearly two weeks.

Howard County has nearly 72,000 residential water and sewer customers. The county bills customers for water and sewer service four times a year, with 30 days to pay. Shut-offs occur after two additional notices have been sent. There are between 10 to 60 disconnections a month, which only take place on residential accounts with more than $250 past due. The average county water and sewer bill is about $150.

Federal workers or contractors finding themselves in need of support with health or human services can call 410-313-6400 or the Maryland Access Point at 410-313-1234. A complete list of resources and services can be found at www.howardcountymd.gov/communityresources.

Q&A with Sam Minnitte

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BWI Business Partnership Prepares for a New Era

It’s the dawn of a new era for the BWI Business Partnership. Founded in 1985 as the BWI Commuter Assistance Center at a time when only a few hotels operated within what was becoming the BWI Business District, it is now home to more than two dozen lodging options. The organization is also a leader in promoting economic development in the area.

With the hiring the entrepreneurial Gina Stewart as executive director, Board Chair Sam Minnitte, vice president and area manager with the Baltimore office of engineering professional services firm WSP, is excited about the partnership’s new direction.

What will the $1 million Anne Arundel County Local Development Council (LDC) grant be used for?

It will be used for the circulator bus program for the county, which will allow for a full-time transit service to run through most of the high employment areas within the BWI Business District, including BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, the car rental facility, Arundel Mills, Airport Square, the Cromwell Light Rail station (in Glen Burnie) and other locations, to run more frequently. It currently serves about 200 passengers a day.

What other grants has the partnership received?

We’ve received a beautification grant, also from the LDC. People sometimes ask, “Why is the partnership involved in beautification in the district?” But understand that how it looks and functions has much to do with perceptions of the market and people who want to establish a business here.
We may also work on creating more signage for the area, too. As a nonprofit, we’re always looking for grants that help make us more viable.

What’s your opinion of the Mass Transit Administration’s (MTA) Light Rail service?

Light rail has one really important characteristic: it has a dedicated right-of-way and thus does not have the challenge of traffic with congestion uncertainties. That’s important, because when you look at transit, you analyze a series of options, such as pedestrian traffic, buses and bikes, and more recently, shared rides and scooters.
The purpose is offering options for improved mobility. Remember, five years ago Lyft and Uber didn’t exist, and by 2025, they will be employing autonomous cars. All of these will improve mobility for patrons in the Greater BWI Marshall area. Coordinating these alternatives is the need and challenge to improve mobility for all.

How is the partnership getting involved in microtransit opportunities?

By investing grant money in the circulator and working with the MTA to expand services. This is all a part of the “first and last mile” transit challenge.

Do you think the Linthicum Light Rail station should close?

I’ve always wondered why it was there and assumed it was for walk-ups, given that it does not offer parking. I’ve never seen many folks stop there, but I don’t know what the MTA would gain by closing it, either.

What are your thoughts about expanding Baltimore Washington Parkway?

It’s critical that it happens. It’s a tough subject to tackle, due to the ownership of the parkway by the federal government west of Route 175 and the state east of that artery; however, I know that MDOT [the Maryland Department of Transportation] and [Secretary Pete] Rahn are working hard on that issue.

It is so over capacity that more accidents have been occurring there.

What will the upgrades to the BWI MARC station accomplish?

When I used the garage regularly, I was always shocked at how full it was at 5:15 a.m.
We recognize the value of the station to the MARC Penn Line and the access it provides to the northeast corridor. Construction will modernize the station from an infrastructure standpoint. Construction is moving quickly and it appears that it will be complete during the first half of 2019. At that point, I think the station will really take off.

What are your thoughts on the expansion at BWI Marshall?

The airport served 27 million passengers a year ago. When I heard that news, I recalled a conversation I had with [long-time area businessman] Lou Zagarino, when he mentioned that BWI Marshall’s goal 20 years ago was to reach 2 million patrons; no one imagined the growth to 27 million.

So, the expansion will only make a great airport even greater. Actually, the main challenge today is that BWI Marshall doesn’t have the real estate to expand, like Dulles [International Airport, in Northern Virginia] does. However, Maryland Aviation Administrator Ricky Smith and his team are always addressing efficiencies, which allows BWI Marshall to successfully attract patrons from all over the Baltimore-Washington region.

What would you tell residents who are affected by noise around the airport?

The Federal Aviation Administration manages the planes in terms of how flights are directed and that’s where they need to focus. We cannot affect operations at BWI Marshall due to federal program actions that it’s not Maryland’s policy to address. However, BWI Marshall, is doing all it can do locally to work with the airlines and residents.

What’s your take on the MagLev?

It is a necessary option for intercity mobility, but we will need to address area residents’ concerns. We look forward to hearing more from the MagLev team in 2019.

What would you like to see happen in the BWI Business District?

Greater involvement that would help elevate the Greater BWI Marshall area as the economic engine between Washington and Baltimore that it truly is.
We need to elevate the partnership’s game to support this goal for the area’s thoughtful development and transportation infrastructure, as well as local mobility. With the hiring of Gina and a renewed focus by the partnership board, we’re poised to achieve that goal.

Is joining the partnership economical for small businesses?

It’s one of the best bucks a business can spend. We have about 200 members from public and private sectors, from the southern side of Baltimore to Annapolis to Columbia.

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