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MES welcomes Glass as director

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Charles Glass, Director. Courtesy of MES.

Charles Glass has been appointed director of the Millersville-based Maryland Environmental Service (MES) by Gov. Larry Hogan. He joins MES after most recently serving as deputy secretary at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Prior to his position at DNR, Glass served as assistant secretary at the Maryland Department of Transportation. He has 20 years of experience in academia and the engineering consulting industry, including serving as an associate professor in civil engineering at Howard University.

“In a time where the need to be focused on the challenges of operating in a pandemic and post-pandemic environment will be a priority, MES will have an important role,” said Roy McGrath, who recently became chief of staff for the executive branch of the state of Maryland after serving as CEO of MES since 2016.

State-led audit kicks off at HCPSS 

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Certified public accounting and business advisory firm SB & Company has begun a state-led audit of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS). The Howard County Council unanimously voted to approve Howard County Executive Calvin Ball’s legislation calling for a state audit of HCPSS in July 2019.

“Despite a challenging fiscal outlook, we were able to provide significant funding to our schools this year, with a direct appropriation of $620.3 million,” said Ball. “This is a $13.1 million increase (2.2 percent) over last year’s budget and exceeds Maintenance of Effort (MOE) levels by $2.7 million. Every educator, student, parent, and resident in Howard County deserve to know exactly how and where our money is being utilized. This audit will ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent sensibly, to best serve our students and educators.”

The focus of the audit will be on four key areas, established through cooperation with HCPSS:

  • Health and Dental Fund
  • Budgeting and Actual Expenditure Variance
  • Personnel Cost Development
  • Procurement

The scope of the audit was confirmed with the engagement, collaboration and cooperation of the Board of Education, Superintendent Michael Martirano and HCPSS.

“I appreciate the county’s continued partnership as we tackle the various budget pressures we have faced,” said Michael Martirano, HCPSS Superintendent. “We welcome the audit as it will add another layer of transparency that HCPSS strives to achieve in how taxpayer dollars are spent and the critical need to avoid future adverse audit opinions by eliminating the historic Health Fund deficit.”

FMA appoints Crockett, Wood to Board

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The Fort Meade Alliance (FMA) elected new members of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors during the FMA Annual Meeting.

The two newest members elected to the FMA Board of Directors are Jennifer L. Crockett, of the Kennedy Krieger Institute; and Roxanne Wood, of Boeing Intelligence and Analytics. Penny Cantwell of Sandy Spring Bank was re-elected to the Executive Committee and Kevin Crain of the University of Maryland Medical System was re-elected to serve another three-year term on the board. The board terms are effective July 1 for three years.

Northrop Realty named No. 1 specialty brokerage

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Northrop Realty, A Long & Foster Company, was named the No. 1 specialty brokerage in the nation for team-owned brokerages in a REAL Trends report. “The Thousand” ranking report compiles the top residential real estate professionals and teams across the United States as measured by transaction sides and sales volume in 2019.

“Ranking No. 1 in the nation based on transaction volume is an incredible feat for our new billion-dollar brokerage,” said Creig Northrop, founder and CEO of Northrop Realty. “The recognition follows our rapid growth throughout the region, which we’re continuing to do, as we provide the absolute best service to home buyers and sellers in the mid-Atlantic.”

“The Thousand” ranking report is sponsored by REAL Trends and Tom Ferry International and advertised in The Wall Street Journal. REAL Trends, a residential real estate consulting and communications company, releases industry rankings annually, identifying the country’s largest and most successful agents and firms according to closed transaction sides and sales volume.

Northrop Realty opened an office in West Ocean City, Md., in May, the brokerage’s 12th location and latest in a series of new office openings throughout the region. Northrop Realty has offices in Fenwick Island, Del., as well as Annapolis, Clarksville, Columbia, Ellicott City, Fallston, Frederick, Silver Spring, Sykesville and Timonium.

Access point gates completed for Ellicott City flash flooding

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Howard County has completed the installation of private access point gates in Historic Ellicott City, allowing pedestrians to retreat quickly to higher ground in the case of imminent flash flooding. The gates, located at 8060 and 8044 Main Street, provide additional egress points out of the floodplain.

The gates are only intended to be used when a flash flood is either imminent or occurring and when pedestrians in the area have no other alternatives to get to high ground quickly.

In the event of rising water, the gates are equipped with a high-water sensor that will automatically open them when approximately 1.5-feet of water above the sidewalk is sensed. In the event of a power failure and loss of battery back-up, the gates will unlock. Howard County’s public safety team also can unlock the gates as needed.

Private Access Point Gates

Today, we are adding another tool to our public safety tool box with the launch of the private access point gates. These gates provide a way to quickly get off of Main Street in the event of a public safety emergency. For more information, please visit the Ellicott City Safe and Sound website at https://www.ecsafeandsound.org/ensuring-public-safety

Posted by Ellicott City Safe and Sound on Friday, 19 June 2020

Howard Receives $109K in Grants From MEA

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The Howard County Office of Community Sustainability (OCS) was awarded two grants, totaling $109,000, from the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA).

OCS received a $9,000 grant to plan a Combined Heat & Power (CHP) system at the Howard County Detention Center and up to $100,000 to plan a micro-grid project at the George Howard Complex and the Roger Carter Center. The micro-grid project includes two forms of clean and efficient on-site power generation to improve the resiliency of critical public safety operations.

“Especially in tough times, Howard County needs to lead with bold visions for the future,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. ”As we anticipate more extreme weather and other adverse effects of climate change these projects will increase our emergency preparedness and our community resiliency, without any additional costs to Howard County residents.”

The micro-grid, which can operate independently of the power grid, would allow Howard County to provide uninterrupted public safety and other critical services even in the event of prolonged grid outages, while generating clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The planning and design work funded by the grant will help the county determine the exact configuration of power generation, which likely will include solar and highly efficient natural gas generators, among other technologies.

The micro-grid planning project includes four buildings that are part of the Howard County Government Campus on Court House Drive in Ellicott City. These buildings house many critical government functions, including the county’s Emergency Operations Center, Government Administration, County Council, Northern District Police, Fire and Rescue and other critical services.

The grants are part of MEA’s highly-competitive pilot Resilient Maryland program to provide funding for eligible organizations and governments to conduct feasibility analysis, engineering and design plans to increase resiliency of mission critical buildings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower the cost of energy.

Macy’s closing Columbia, Annapolis locations

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Macy’s, which has recently operated 16 stores in Maryland, has announced the permanent closing of some stores, including its locations at The Mall in Columbia and Westfield Annapolis.

The company announced details of a restructuring that will align its cost base with anticipated near-term sales as the business recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the closure of stores from March 18 through May 4, 2020, and gradual reopening. The area stores at Marley Station, in Glen Burnie, and Bowie Towne Center appear to be staying open.

Macy’s will reduce corporate and management headcount by approximately 3,900. Additionally, Macy’s has reduced staffing across its stores portfolio, supply chain and customer support network, which it will adjust as sales recover.

“COVID-19 has significantly impacted our business. While the re-opening of our stores is going well, we do anticipate a gradual recovery of business, and we are taking action to align our cost base with our anticipated lower sales,” said Jeff Gennette, chairman and CEO of Macy’s. “These were hard decisions as they impact many of our colleagues. I want to thank all of our colleagues ― those who have been active and those on furlough ― for helping us get through this difficult time, and I want to express my deep gratitude to the colleagues who are departing for their service and contributions. We look forward to welcoming back many of our furloughed colleagues [during] the first week of July.”

“We know that we will be a smaller company for the foreseeable future, and our cost base will continue to reflect that moving forward. Our lower cost base combined with the approximately $4.5 billion in new financing will also make us a more stable, flexible company,” Gennette said.

Howard library system starts contactless pickup

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The Howard County Library System begins contactless pickup at all six branches on Monday, June 29. Items placed on hold may be picked up between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. An appointment is required for pickup.

For more information, visit http://hclibrary.org/books-movies-music/contactless-pickup.

Looking for work: New app answers “wanna job?”

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The unemployed have a new resource for a job search.

Ready for public release on June 1, a new app called 1aJob (pronounced “wanna job”) is born of a necessity that rose long before COVID-19.

The app, a free service that matches jobseekers with employers, was designed by Columbia-based Sunny Patel, working with his father, Suresh Patel, who operates 11 Dunkin stores in Howard County, along with others throughout Maryland.

Sunny Patel

Over the years Sunny has seen firsthand his family struggling to find the right employees and retain them.

“Especially during certain months of the year, due to holiday seasons, summer vacation, college starting – employees always quit their jobs at the last minute or just don’t show up to work,” he said. “My dad thought of having an app or website that would take away employers’ pain, similar to Uber providing rides within minutes.”

Suresh, who had tried several hiring apps in the past, found they took too much time and money.

“Here,” he said, “we are doing it for free, and we’re providing a video-chat interview process that can help especially in the current situation.”

People being interviewed won’t even have to leave the app, which Sunny describes as “a one-stop solution.” It’s especially designed for part-time jobs or jobs with high turnover.

The name came up during an hours-long father-son conversation, and the heart behind it formed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people lost their jobs, and many employers have had to painfully cut their staff.

“As things get better, job demands will increase drastically from job seekers and employers,” said Sunny. “We have noticed it is easier to get employees as summer starts, since most of the students are looking for part-time jobs to help with their tuition fees.”

When schools and colleges start, it then becomes very difficult to find employees, he added. “Also, during the holiday season – November to December – employees do take several holidays and it becomes very difficult for small business to continue their normal operations. Even one less employee can make a huge difference in the business revenue.”

By Susan Kim | Staff Writer | The Business Monthly | June 2020 issue

CBD sales increase

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Business has been solid at Revolution Releaf, a medical cannabis dispensary in Laurel since it opened about two years ago.

But Owner Alan Sharp said that doesn’t mean that anyone knew what to expect when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Would sales jump due increased need for medicines to heal the body and calm the nerves? Would they drop for what some observers see as an optional item?

Or would dispensaries even fit the state of Maryland’s definition of an essential business and stay open?

The dispensaries were deemed essential and many dispensary owners have reported a boost to their bottom lines, at times boasting a 50 percent sales increase.

“I think there has been an increased demand within the past two-plus months, which is especially good because people were concerned that there might be supply chain interruption due to the pandemic,” said Sharp.

Like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, “There was a panic-buying mentality going on during the pandemic’s earlier days. Every time [Gov. Larry] Hogan had a morning briefing to discuss the stay-at-home order or the various restrictions,” he said, “we saw a big spike in sales right around that point in the day.”

Thankfully for Sharp and his peers, supply chain issues haven’t materialized as they have in the food processing business. He thinks that when dispensaries were deemed essential by the state government, “There was a sense of relief from the medical cannabis patient community, with sales now having returned to closer to normal,” he said, though adding that “demand is still about 20 percent more than pre-COVID-19.”

Gina Dubbé, managing director of Greenhouse Wellness in Ellicott City, has also found business “consistent-to-very-good.”

Shad Ewart, chair of the Business Management Department at Anne Arundel Community College, was also unsure of what to expect when the pandemic hit since the medical cannabis industry is relatively new.

“This is the era of the Wild West,” said Ewart. “There are minimal regulations and everyone and their brother and sister are jumping in with products for pain and anxiety for dogs, cats and humans. You name it and they’re putting [CBD] in anything and everything. You can even get it at gas stations.”

He said,  “I think what we’re witnessing is a humongous roll-out of products, most of which are cheap enough that folks are giving them a try – and sales keep rising. However, cannabis dispensaries in Maryland, after a dip in [sales in] February ($27,567,518) experienced a big increase in March ($33,495,662),” which could also have been the result of customers stocking up since it wasn’t known yet if dispensaries could stay open.”

April’s figures will be telling, Ewart said, adding that state residents who hold Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) cards “tend to be more highly educated and therefore may hold jobs that were not subject to layoffs, so there might be just a general increase as more folks get cards in Maryland.”

Today, the medical cannabis market has returned to normal activity but at higher volumes.

While some stores are still allowing patients to enter while keeping a six-foot distance, Revolution Releaf, which Sharp called “an average size for a dispensary,” opted for online pre-order and curbside delivery for minimal contact.

“Our customers simply park in our lot, we give them a number, they present their MMCC ID and we hand them their order,” Sharp said.

Greenhouse is also using curbside delivery, Dubbé said, adding that the dispensary has prepared to reopen by setting up cough guards and placing more distance between registers.

With dispensaries now considered essential businesses, the stigma might finally shift away from the cannabis industry.

“I’m wondering if the legalization of cannabis will be part of the resurgence of our country’s economy,” Dubbé said, “much like alcohol helped with tax revenues after prohibition. It seems kind of the same, doesn’t it?”

Mark R. Smith | Senior Writer | The Business Monthly | June 2020 issue

 

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