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BWI Marshall welcomes Sun Country Airlines

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Sun Country Airlines has added BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport to its growing network. Sun Country plans to start seasonal nonstop service between BWI Marshall and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on May 8, 2020.

Sun Country will initially offer two weekly roundtrip flights between BWI Marshall and Minneapolis-St. Paul, then increase the number of flights to four weekly roundtrips on June 4. The airline is a privately-held company based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul and is a leader in leisure travel flying to more than 50 destinations across the U.S., Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

“We are excited to welcome BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport to our growing network and to provide service to Minneapolis-St. Paul,” said Sun Country Chief Revenue Officer Grant Whitney. “We’re committed to affordably connecting guests to their favorite people, places and memories, and we look forward to bringing that commitment to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. We think guests will enjoy our low fares, great customer service, and comfortable onboard experience.”

A recent economic impact report revealed that BWI Marshall Airport produces a total economic impact of $9.3 billion. The airport and visitors generate and support more than 106,000 jobs throughout the region and remains the busiest airport in the region.

Wegmans pulls out of Annapolis plan

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Here is a statement from Anne Arundel County Planning and Zoning Officer Steve Kaii-Ziegler:

“On Nov. 5, 2019, Wegmans informed county planners that it was withdrawing its application to build a 91,057-square-foot store that would occupy the former US Internetworking property on Riva Road, directly across the Annapolis Towne Center in the Parole Growth Management Area (PGMA).

“The Office of Planning and Zoning has been in discussions with Wegmans for approximately a year, working with Wegmans to help it achieve its business plan while maintaining the integrity of the goals and standards of the PGMA. Unfortunately, Wegmans business plan called for a one story, big box design with a huge parking lot that was more suitable for a rural or suburban setting. The parking plan proposed a sea of surface parking (650 spaces) in the front of their building, which is approximately 200 spaces more than the county requires.

“[The] Office of Planning and Zoning provided Wegmans with several alternative design options that would have better connected the store to the Riva Road corridor and been compatible with the adjacent town center. Wegmans was unwilling to adequately address those issues and, unfortunately, we were not able to reach a consensus on the design.

“The Office of Planning and Zoning is disappointed that Wegmans has apparently made a decision to withdraw their application. Despite their decision, we remain committed to assisting Wegmans should they reconsider their current position.”

Wegmans operates stores in Maryland in Columbia and at the Waugh Chapel Towne Centre, in Gambrills, plus six others.

Statement from Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman regarding Wegmans:

“I’ve heard from many constituents that they are disappointed that Wegmans is apparently pulling out of plans for an Annapolis store. I’m disappointed, too. But planning decisions we make now will affect communities for years to come, and so we can’t settle for a design that isn’t right.”

Thrive expands into the Mid-Atlantic with EaseTech

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Foxborough, Mass.-based Thrive, a provider of NextGen Managed Services, has acquired EaseTech, a well-established, leading managed services provider based in Columbia. The addition of EaseTech will provide a new region for Thrive to offer their advanced suite of cybersecurity, hybrid Cloud, global network management, disaster recovery and compliance-driven NextGen services.

Founded in 1993 by Chuck Bubeck, the EaseTech roster of employees reached 40 and provides Cloud-focused managed services for businesses in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., to maximize their technology return on investment and concentrate on their own business core competencies.

“Partnering with EaseTech is a highly attractive proposition for Thrive as they’re one of the most widely respected technology firms in the mid-Atlantic region. EaseTech’s ‘customer-first’ philosophy is a perfect match for our core values,” said Rob Stephenson, Thrive CEO. “The EaseTech clients will benefit greatly from Thrive’s vast engineering expertise and our NextGen platform of advanced cybersecurity, hybrid Cloud and compliance-driven services.”

Bubeck will now begin serving as a consultant to Thrive while beginning his new position as executive director for the Howard County Economic Development Authority’s new Maryland Innovation Center. Jason Shirdon, formerly the president of EaseTech, will continue to lead the day-to-day efforts of the division as Thrive’s executive vice president and general manager.

Howard County will host 2020 National Women’s Cricket Tournament

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The 2020 National Women’s Cricket Tournament will be held in Howard County from July 12 to July 15, 2020, by the Howard County Cricket League, in partnership with Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks and the United States Youth Cricket Association (USYCA).

The 4-day event is offering seven 20/20 matches per team and a minimum two teams are expected to be Junior girls (age 15 and under). The tournament will also feature some of the top women players in the United States. Matches will be held at Schooley Mill Park, in Highland, and Murray Hill Middle School, in Laurel.

“This is a huge win for Howard County and a testament Howard County Department of Recreation & Park’s ability to construct and maintain world-class facilities and to seek out quality events,” said Amanda Hof, executive director of Visit Howard County. “With 70 teams, their coaches, and respective friends and family this event has the potential to generate well over $1.5 million dollars in booked hotel rooms and visitor spending in Howard County in just four days.”

Maryland Casinos generate $143.9M in October

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Maryland Lottery and Gaming announced that October 2019 gaming revenues for the state’s six casinos were $143,895,409. The total represents a $14,065,258 (-8.9%) decrease compared to the October 2018 total of $157,960,668.

Contributions to the state of Maryland from October 2019 casino gaming revenue totaled $59,267,140, including $44,456,366 for the Education Trust Fund. Casino gaming revenues also support local communities and jurisdictions where the six casinos are located, as well as Maryland’s horse racing industry.

Maryland has six privately-owned casinos that offer both slot machines and table games, including three in central Maryland. They include the MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill; Live! Casino & Hotel, in Hanover; and the Horseshoe Casino, in Baltimore City. Three of the six casinos saw year-over-year increases compared to their October 2018 gaming revenue totals:

MGM National Harbor (3,139 slot machines, 207 table games)
$59,865,449 in October 2019, a decrease of $13,577,649 (-18.5%) from October 2018

Live! Casino & Hotel (3,781 slot machines, 195 table games)
$47,609,584 in October 2019, an increase of $606,560 (1.3%) from October 2018

Horseshoe Casino Baltimore (2,184 slot machines, 145 table games)
$19,147,504 in October 2019, a decrease of $1,915,040 (-9.1%) from October 2018

Details on each casino’s gaming revenues and contributions to the State of Maryland are included in the attached charts, and both fiscal and calendar year-to-date totals are available at www.mdgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/October-2019-Casino-Revenue-Data.pdf .

HCGH receives top patient safety rating for Fall 2019

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The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit health care ratings organization, released new Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades, assigning letter grades to hospitals nationwide based on their performance in preventing medical errors, infections and other harms. Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) was one of nearly 860 facilities awarded a top rating for its commitment to keeping patients safe and meeting the highest safety standards in the U.S.

Developed under the guidance of a Blue Ribbon National Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 27 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign A, B, C, D and F grades to more than 2,500 U.S. hospitals twice per year. It is calculated by top patient safety experts, peer reviewed, fully transparent and free to the public.

To see HCGH’s full grade, and to access patient tips for staying safe in the hospital, visit www.hospitalsafetygrade.org.

Cardin, Portman introduce Hospice Care Improvement Act

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U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced new legislation – the Hospice Care Improvement Act – to address the lack of safety protocols and transparency in hospices across the country.

Following the release of reports in July from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighting specific instances of patient harm in hospices and a lack of transparency to highlight potential patient abuses and facility deficiencies, this legislation would act on recommendations from HHS, patients, and industry experts to ensure patient safety.

The bill would seek to improve oversight and accountability in the nation’s hospices by focusing on improving patient awareness of hospice abuse and by ensuring that hospices remain responsible for the care that they provide to patients. The proposed bill would publish hospice survey results for patients, increase survey frequency, improve educational materials and opportunities for hospices and surveyors, and establish penalties for bad actors in a manner commensurate with existing penalties for other providers, like nursing homes and home health agencies. Congressmen Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY) are leading the effort on similar legislation in the House.

The text of the bill is available at www.portman.senate.gov/sites/default/files/2019-11/GOE19A43.pdf

“Families in need of hospice care should be able to concentrate on the comfort and care of their loved one without the worry of unacceptable safety and medical standards,” said Senator Cardin. “The OIG and DOJ reports, coupled with HHS and stakeholder recommendations gave us a path forward that will increase transparency and patient safety, as well as increase the peace of mind and respect that should be ever present during hospice care.”

Board takes action to reduce health fund deficit

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The Howard County Board of Education has approved a funds transfer to significantly reduce the cumulative deficit in the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) employee Health and Dental Fund. Subject to County Council approval, the decision will immediately transfer $15.2 million of the unassigned General Fund balance to reduce the current $39.2 million deficit to $24 million.

In the board report presented on Nov. 7, HCPSS staff provided a timeline for when HCPSS may be able to use additional savings or fund balances in the future to further reduce the deficit. Due to the uncertainty of these savings, HCPSS will next seek to collaborate with Howard County government to adopt a comprehensive plan to gradually reduce the remaining deficit balance during the next several years and re-establish sustainability for the fund.

Prior to fiscal 2015, HCPSS maintained a healthy fund balance in the Employee Health and Dental Fund to account for year-to-year changes in the total amount of health claims. However, from fiscal 2015 through fiscal 2018, the employee Health and Dental Fund was underfunded to meet operating budget priorities, contributing to an accumulated deficit of $39.2 million. A detailed description of the history and factors contributing to the deficit is provided at www.hcpss.org/about-us/budgets/health-fund

When Superintendent Michael Martirano took the helm of the school system near the close of the fiscal 2018 budget planning cycle, he immediately worked to address the deficit, and HCPSS has since taken steps to contain and pay down the deficit by reducing spending in other areas, negotiating increased rebates and applying savings from turnover.

However, HCPSS does not have sufficient financial ability or the appropriation authority to fully eliminate the deficit while meeting its other funding obligations in the operating budget. The most recent independent auditor’s report for HCPSS included an adverse opinion, noting that while the actions taken to date have begun to establish stability for the Health Fund, no plan for fully reducing and eliminating the deficit has yet been formally adopted or approved.

A comprehensive stability plan will require a collaborative and incremental solution jointly developed and supported between HCPSS and the county. The transfer of $15.2 million from the unassigned General Fund balance to substantially reduce the deficit to $24 million represents a major first step, demonstrating a commitment to begin resolving the deficit immediately, and the Board will request that the County Council treat this budget action as an emergency item to be voted on at the Council’s meeting in December.

Unassigned fund balance occurs when actual expenses are lower and/or revenues are higher than the budgeted amounts. These savings add to fund balance and do not have a designated use. The budget savings in fiscal 2019 occurred across most budget categories and are primarily attributable to savings resulting from a spending and hiring freeze and position turnovers. Revenues came in higher than budgeted for e-rates, which are cash rebates for certain technology purchases. Moving forward, the HCPSS will propose an action plan for working with the county to stabilize the Health and Dental Fund and create ongoing sustainability.

The complete board report providing details of the causes of the deficit, the fund balance transfer, actions taken to date and action plan are provided at https://go.boarddocs.com/mabe/hcpssmd/Board.nsf/files/BHNSWE6B0BAC/$file/11%2007%202019%20FY%202020%20General%20Fund%20Supplemental%20Budget%20Augmentation%20and%20Categorical%20Budget%20Transfer%20BR.pdf

Northrop Grumman delivers 500th ‘top of the line’ fighter radar

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Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) delivered its 500th AN/APG-81 fire control radar for the F-35 Lightning II.

The Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array is the cornerstone of the F-35’s advanced sensor suite, providing unparalleled battlespace situational awareness that translates into platform lethality, effectiveness and survivability.

“As a principal member of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 industry team, our continued investment in facilities and equipment, production enhancements in process and design, and expanded supply chain capability through second sourcing helped reach this milestone,” said Chris Fitzpatrick, director, F-35 programs, Northrop Grumman. “The 500th delivery of this top-of-the-line fighter radar was made possible by our continuous focus on quality and excellence across our company.”

The AN/APG-81 radar has long-range active and passive air-to-air and air-to-ground modes that support a wide range of demanding missions. These modes are complemented by an array of stealth features as well as electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance functions.

Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35.

In addition to producing the AN/APG-81 radar, the company manufactures the center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.

To learn more about Northrop Grumman’s role on the F-35 Lightning II, visit this website.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide. Please visit news.northropgrumman.com and follow us on Twitter, @NGCNews, for more information.

Ball Establishes LGBTQ+ Work Group

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Howard County Executive Calvin Ball signed an Executive Order to create a LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+) Work Group to promote the shared community values of diversity and civility. The Work Group will work with county agencies, non-profit organizations and other community groups to facilitate an environment of inclusion, communication, understanding, and respect throughout Howard County.

The new LGBTQ+ Work Group is charged with the following:
• Conduct quarterly meetings, open to the public, which will include the members of the Work Group, the Administrator of the Office of Human Rights and designated staff
• Organize a series of events and facilitated discussions, in partnership with community and non-profit organizations, to provide opportunities to share concerns, promote mutual understanding and foster stronger relationships to encourage a more inclusive community. This may include things like focus groups, facilitated dialogues, summits and additional outreach efforts
• Advise the County Executive on best practices and strategies to further protect and promote the LGBTQ+ community
• Work with Howard County Government employees to identify best practices to affirm members of the LGBTQ+ community
• Ensure that all meeting minutes are made available to the public on the Office of Human Rights website
• Submit a yearly report to the County Executive by November 1st each year about the work of the Work Group, in addition to current and emerging issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community

The Work Group will include:
• Two representatives from PFLAG Columbia/Howard County
• One representative from HopeWorks
• One representative from the Howard County Human Rights Commission (HRC)
• At least two student representatives
• At least five representatives from the Howard County community (employee and/or resident)

In addition, Office of Human Rights Administrator Yolanda Sonnier will provide leadership, oversight, staffing and logistical support. Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Janssen Evelyn will serve as Ball’s liaison for the group.

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