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Anne Arundel Candidates Sign Tax Pledge

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Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and seven of the 14 County Council candidates have signed the Anne Arundel’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge. All candidates for county executive and the county council were invited to sign the pledge, but County Executive Candidate Steuart Pittman and seven County Council candidates did not sign.

County Council candidates in attendance were Kim Burns, candidate for District 1; Tom Gardner, candidate for District 2; Nathan Volke, candidate for District 3; Torrey Snow, candidate for District 4; Michael Christman, candidate for District 6; and Jessica Haire, candidate for District 7. Amanda Fiedler, candidate for District 5, was unable to attend, but signed the pledge earlier in the day.

Senators Propose Election Security Systems

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U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.); Amy Klobuchar, ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee (D-Minn.); and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) have introduced legislation to bring greater transparency to America’s election systems in an effort to protect our country from foreign interference, as occurred in the 2016 presidential election. The “Election Systems Integrity Act,” (S. 3572) would require disclosure of foreign ownership of election service providers.

This past summer, it was revealed that a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin has become the largest investor in a fund tied to the company that hosts Maryland’s statewide voter registration, candidacy and election management system; the online voter registration system; online ballot delivery system; and the unofficial election night results website. Disclosure to state officials of this change in ownership was made by the FBI, not the company itself.

“There is bipartisan agreement that our elections are under threat from foreign cyberattacks and disinformation efforts. It makes securing the integrity of our elections one of our highest national security priorities,” said Cardin. “While there are many safeguards in place, the American people have a right to know when foreign players have made their way in to the very inner workings of our election system. Transparency and communication between all levels of government will help keep our future elections free and fair.”

Kittleman Announces Transportation Improvements

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Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has announced a milestone in his initiative to improve public transportation for residents: That is, with the arrival of six new fixed-route buses placed into service this month with the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland (RTA), more than half the fleet serving county riders has been replaced in the last 16 months.

The RTA provides public transportation across Central Maryland, including Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Northern Prince George’s County and the City of Laurel. In 2018, the RTA delivered more than 1.1 million trips across the three counties. An estimated 60 percent of RTA riders use the service to travel to and from work.

Since July 2017, 24 new buses have been added to the RTA fleet. In addition to the buses entering service this month, the county added three electric buses last July, seven clean diesel buses in December 2017 and eight paratransit buses which were purchased using state and county funds.

Additionally, a new fare policy went into effect on July 1. Under the policy, seniors age 60 and older and persons with disabilities now ride fixed-route buses for free. Already, more than 500 people have been certified to ride for free, doubling the number of senior and disabled riders since the policy took effect. The policy also made fares more consistent across the region.

Property Purchased for School and Park Site

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Anne Arundel County has agreed to purchase 71 acres of land on Hospital Drive in Glen Burnie for a future park and potential school site. The proposed agreement comes as the county has begun an initiative to acquire the needed land for schools and parks. This announced purchase is the third major land acquisition announcement since the summer.

In May, County Executive Steve Schuh, along with Speaker Mike Busch, announced that Anne Arundel County is in negotiations to buy a 100-plus-acre parcel of property for a future school site and/or regional park in the Brooklyn Park/North County area.

The purchase of the Glen Burnie parcel off Hospital Drive, currently owned by the Pumphrey family, was made possible through the county executive’s Land Acquisition Fund, which was initially proposed in this year’s budget.

Aldridge Acquires Chesapeake Electrical Systems

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Evergreen Advisors Capital, a middle-market investment bank based in Columbia, has announced that Chesapeake Electrical Systems has been acquired by Illinois-based Aldridge Electric. Evergreen acted as the exclusive financial adviser to Chesapeake. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Chesapeake, of Laurel, provides a range of electrical contracting services to various clients in the commercial and industrial sectors. Founded in 1993, the company has completed contracts on some of the region’s most recognizable landmarks, including Dulles International and Ronald Reagan National airports, the M&T Bank Stadium, Walter E. Washington Convention Center and the Washington Beltway Express Lanes.

“This is great news for our customers and our employees as Aldridge sees tremendous potential in having Chesapeake as their platform for growth in the Washington/Baltimore region,” said Joey Tominovich, president and CEO of Chesapeake. “Furthermore, Aldridge shares our vision in taking care of their employees and providing opportunities for them to advance and grow professionally.”

Senators praise FAA Reauthorization

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Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen
SOURCE: Courtesy U.S. Senate

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen recently lauded Senate passage of a bipartisan, five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that will go to President Donald Trump for his signature.

In addition to stabilizing grant funding for airport improvements and passenger safety, and right-to-know measures, the legislation includes provisions put forward by Cardin and Van Hollen to mitigate the noise levels from incoming and outgoing flights at both BWI Thurgood Marshall and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports.

Reauthorized in this FAA funding package is the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) that has brought more than $140 million in federal investment during the last five years along to Maryland airports for safety improvements. From BWI Marshall to other state air facilities and beyond, federal funds have been used to rehabilitate and extend runways, clear hazards and make Maryland’s airports more efficient. Maryland has received more than $30 million in AIP funding during fiscal 2018 alone.

Cardin and Van Hollen also praised the final, five-year FAA reauthorization for updating passenger rights when it comes to travel disruptions and flight schedule changes, including the addition of Van Hollen’s “Customers, Not Cargo” provision that prevents passengers from being forcibly removed from planes.

The bill also makes improvements for passengers with disabilities, expands the availability of lactation rooms for new mothers, protects pets by barring them from overhead storage compartments and cuts down on in-flight distractions by expanding the cell phone ban and creates a grant program to support education of future pilots and aviation maintenance technical workers.

Energy Manager Ready to Cut Costs

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Cutting the cost of heat, power and light for county services by at least 20 percent, saving millions of taxpayer dollars, is the goal of Howard County’s new Energy Manager.

Leah Miller, most recently Montgomery County’s Sustainability Program Manager since 2016, is ready to start gathering utility billing information from county departments and agencies and then develop plans for improving energy efficiency.

“Howard County budgets approximately $10 million each year for electricity, natural gas, and propane,” said Miller. “From my experience in this field, I would expect that the county can reduce energy use by 20 percent or more over the next five years. Once we have completed the full analysis of the county’s energy usage and identified the top priorities to reduce energy use, I’ll have a better sense of exactly how much we can reduce energy use.”

Howard County has nearly 200 government buildings with 2.5 million square feet of space — and Miller is looking at ways to save energy in them all.

The energy manager position is part of a policy office that works closely with the county executive, Allan Kittleman. While energy conservation work is currently decentralized throughout several departments, Miller will work with a dozen or more staff across the county to centralize information, analyze data, develop new policies and programs as needed, and pull in grant funding, private partnerships, new technologies, and other resources to help make the county’s energy management as effective and efficient as possible.

One of Miller’s first tasks has been to collect utility billing information from several county departments and agencies. Once all of the information is in hand, she plans to look at the county’s energy use in specific buildings over several years and compare it to that of similar buildings nationwide to identify the best opportunities for improving energy efficiency.

Some examples of the county’s successful energy initiatives include solar on county-owned facilities, hybrid vehicles in the county’s fleet, electric vehicle charging stations at county facilities, and an Energy Performance Contract that financed energy efficiency upgrades in more than a third of the county’s buildings with no up-front costs.

Growing up in a community north of New York City, Miller has been concerned about the environment. She also worked in the non-profit community for the Izaak Walton League of America, Inc., one of the earliest national conservation organizations in the country.
While Miller’s job is to analyze the county’s energy efficiency programs and policies, and develop internal and public energy savings initiatives, she’s full of applicable and encouraging tips for businesses.

One of the most straightforward ways to save energy ­— aka money — is to invest in a lighting upgrade, she recommended, and if possible, to invest in LED lights that turn themselves out via motion sensors.

Next on her list is to have HVAC systems regularly inspected and maintained. Most lighting upgrades and building tune ups pay for themselves in energy savings within one or two years, she said.

She’s also a fan of the Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, program because it provides a means of financing energy-efficiency upgrades or renewable energy installations for residential, commercial and industrial property owners, and the loan is attached to the property rather than an individual.

There are also plenty of incentives offered by, among others, BGE and PEPCO. “If any business is not involved in an incentive program yet, they really should be,” Miller said. “The Maryland Energy Administration also has grants for businesses.”

In fact, there is a sea of energy-related opportunities,including solar, and part of Miller’s job is to help people navigate those waters.

Managing energy well also helps businesses become good stewards to the community. “Customers like to know their businesses are green,” Miller pointed out.

Miller encourages businesses to contact her at lemiller@howardcountymd.gov or 410-313-6172. Visit livegreenhoward.com for more information.

Free Admission for OPUS Festival

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OPUS Merriweather, the multi-faceted festival that combines art, sound, technology and taste into a surreal sensory journey, will return on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 5-11 p.m. The event will be free, thanks to a sponsor who offered to buy out all the remaining tickets and distribute them to fans.

Attracting more than 15,000 visitors in 2017 to Downtown Columbia’s Merriweather District, the pioneering art and music festival will once again transform Symphony Woods and Merriweather Post Pavilion into an immersive atmosphere of discovery, imagination and wonder.

Presented by The Howard Hughes Corp., OPUS Merriweather is an ambitious festival merging groundbreaking contemporary art with world-class musical performances. OPUS transforms the iconic, newly-renovated Merriweather Post Pavilion and the surrounding Symphony Woods into an open-air theatre featuring state-of-the-art mixed media installations, music, vocal and dance performances, as well as premieres of contemporary art works and culinary presentations.

Food and entertainment for all ages will be available. Registration is required at opusmerriweather.com.

Maryland Scores Fed Funding

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The Maryland Department of Commerce (DOC) has been awarded $515,636 in federal funding from the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) to assist in-state businesses. Part of OEA’s Defense Industry Adjustment grant program, the funding is designed to help Maryland defense contractors comply with recently-enacted DoD enhanced security regulations.

As of Dec. 31, 2017, all DoD contractors that handle Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) must meet certain minimum cybersecurity standards or risk losing their DoD contracts. The program will provide support to small and mid-sized prime contractors requiring assistance in meeting the standards.

“Military installations in Maryland contract with companies across our state to provide goods and services and generate an economic impact of more than $57 billion on our economy,” said Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. “This program will not only help companies protect their data and remain in compliance with DoD regulations, but also retain the defense contracts that help companies grow and military commands achieve their mission.”

The Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership MD MEP will educate defense companies on the new cybersecurity standards (NIST 800-171) and provide funding to assess qualified companies for compliance with the new regulations; it will also offer technical assistance to ensure compliance with the NIST standard. From September 2018 until September 2019, MD MEP will provide cybersecurity compliance assessments to at least 40 Maryland defense contractors, and technical assistance and mitigation support for at least 30 defense contractors in the state.

Regent Healthcare Acquires Loving Touch

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Odenton-based Regent Healthcare, which bills itself as the largest, non-franchised Home Care Agency in central Maryland, has completed the acquisition of Loving Touch Home Care, of Chestertown, on Maryland’s upper Eastern Shore. Under the agreement, Loving Touch will be absorbed by Regent, which will employ all former Loving Touch employees, including office staff and caregivers, and assume care for nearly all former Loving Touch clients.

Founded in 2008 and accredited by The Joint Commission, Regent Healthcare provides all levels of in-home companion, personal and skilled nursing care throughout central Maryland, Southern Maryland and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. With this acquisition, Regent will establish a local presence in Chestertown by taking over the office space previously leased by Loving Touch, which has served that area since 2013.

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