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2016 MACo Winter Conference: December 7-9, 2016 | Cambridge, MD
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St. Mary’s Receives $2M For Business Incubator

St. Mary’s County announced Wednesday an important first step in establishing a business incubator in the county. Business incubators, which are usually managed by entrepreneurs and growing small firms, help nurture start-up firms during their early months or years. The firms receive affordable office space, management training, mentoring, marketing support and access to capital resources.

According to a St. Mary’s County press release,

St. Mary’s County will receive $1.9 million through the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) from the Technology Transfer Office of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWC-AD). The seed money will be used to establish and operate the incubator. The Technology Transfer Office allocated the funding to TEDCO because of its expertise in establishing incubators and helping small firms and entrepreneurs. The incubator will focus on commercialization of Navy technology and Unmanned Autonomous Systems (UAS) work.

The St. Mary’s County Regional Airport will be home to the incubator. Some of the advantages of the site are its close proximity to the University of Maryland’s UAS Test Site, its runway access and the neighboring Southern Maryland Higher Education Center, which plans to construct a new building. A primary focus of the new building will be research and development of UAS. 

“This is an exciting development for the county as we continue to diversify our economy,” said Commissioner President Randy Guy. “St. Mary’s County is pleased to stand up the incubator and assist small businesses get their footing and grow into profitable ventures.”

The Commissioners of St. Mary’s County have also accepted a donation of land and agreed to a three-year lease of a soon-to-be constructed building at the airport for $90,000 which will house the incubator.

“Having a business incubator is a vital part of our economic development strategy to diversify the economy by creating an ecosystem of innovation and technology,” said Chris Kaselemis, Economic Development director. “Helping aspiring entrepreneurs create new businesses will help diversify our economy and over time, reduce our reliance on military spending.”

Read the full press release for more information.

Capital Debt Affordability Committee Recommends Bond Authorization of $995 Million For FY 18

The State’s Capital Debt Affordability Committee (CDAC) chaired by State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, approved a recommendation during its meeting on September 28 to set the State’s bond authorization at $995 million for the coming year. The vote to approve the recommendation was 4-1, with Treasurer Kopp voting against.

Department of Budget and Management Secretary Brinkley raised the recent revenue write-down when speaking in favor of the recommendation. Treasurer Kopp spoke to the importance of investing in infrastructure when explaining her vote.

CDAC, created pursuant to Section 8-104, et seq., of the State Finance and Procurement Article, is required to submit to the Governor and the General Assembly each year an estimate of the maximum amount of new general obligation debt that prudently may be authorized for the next fiscal year. Today’s recommendation will be forwarded on to the Governor and General Assembly for their consideration.

 

 

Take Precaution: Rabid Bats on the Rise!

Fast Facts: to date Maryland has confirmed 100 rabid bats in 2016; approximately 900 Marylanders receive preventative treatment for rabies exposure each year. 

It’s the 10th Annual Worlds Rabies Day and the Worcester County Health Department is spreading rabies awareness and prevention information. As Maryland is seeing a rise in rabid bats, the health department has shared tips for dealing wild bats as well as what to do if exposed to a potentially rabid animal.

For the second consecutive year, Maryland is experiencing an increase in the number of rabid bats. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is promoting the World Rabies Day theme of “Rabies: Educate. Vaccinate. Eliminate.” to increase awareness about the world’s most fatal disease and how to prevent it.

In Maryland, rabies is most often found in raccoons, skunks, foxes, cats, bats and groundhogs. Other mammals including dogs, ferrets and farm animals, can get rabies if they are not vaccinated. This year so far, there have been 100 confirmed rabid bats in the state.

“Rabies is a serious disease transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, such as a bat. It is nearly always fatal without the provision of preventive treatment.”said Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Howard Haft. “Residents who encounter sick, injured or nuisance wildlife should be sure to avoid contact with the animal and to report it by calling toll-free in Maryland: 1-877-463-6497.”

When a person is bitten by a rabid animal or is exposed to its saliva, onset of the disease is prevented by the provision of a rabies vaccine series administered in a 14-day period and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin given at the beginning of that series. Each year, approximately 900 Marylanders receive preventive treatment after exposure to (potentially) rabid animals.

If you or your pet has been bitten or otherwise exposed to a rabid or suspected rabid domestic animal, get the owner’s name, address and telephone number. Contact your local health department or animal control agency immediately.

Residents who need to report sick, injured or nuisance wildlife should contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at 410-260-8540 or 1-877-463-6497 for assistance; for after-hours wildlife emergencies, call 1-800-628-9944.

For more information visit:
The Worcester County Health Department
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene – Center for Zoonotic and Vectorborne Diseases
Department of Natural Resources – Tips for Reporting Nuisance, Injured or Sick Wildlife

Cecil Council Mulls “Hire Local” Guidelines

The Cecil County Council agreed Tuesday to appoint a work group to examine the pros and cons of asking contractors bidding on county projects to at least consider hiring county-based vendors or subcontractors. The idea was introduced by Council President Robert Hodge, who is a local business owner and a longtime proponent of hiring locally.

From The Cecil Whig,

Hodge has brought this business initiative up in previous years, but it failed to go anywhere. This time, council members suggested the proposal has merit, but needs more study.

“I’m generally in favor of this,” Councilman George Patchell said.

Patchell, who is the executive director of the YMCA of Cecil County, said his organization tries to use local vendors whenever possible.

However, Hodge got pushback from some of the county administration, including Finance Director Winston Robinson and Department of Public Works Engineering and Construction Division Chief Phil Muzik, who said they worry that a clause that asks contractors to contact locals could result in fewer bidders.

“We don’t get enough bidders on some projects now,” said Dave Hollenbaugh, deputy director of public works.

But while Hodge said such an initiative wouldn’t take a lot of time, the administration complained that it will add more bureaucracy to the system and require an “extensive amount of work.”

“This will be a mandate similar to the minority business rules, adding four to six weeks times to a project,” Muzik said.

But Hodge said the initiative wouldn’t be a mandate.

“This would only give business to locals if they’re qualified,” he clarified.

Tentatively, the council suggested the newly formed work group should include a representative from the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce and staff from public works and procurement, as well as a representative from Cecil County Public Schools, town governments, the library, and local business owners.

Hodge, who agreed to participate in the group, said he hopes the group could conduct their first meeting within 30 days and have results within six months.

Read the full article for more information.

New Maryland Transportation Laws Take Effect October 1

Starting Saturday, October 1, 2016, new transportation laws on impaired driving, insurance cards, historic vehicles and commercial licenses in Maryland will go into effect.

The Washington Post coverage states

Noah’s Law: Named after Montgomery County police officer Noah A. Leotta, who died after being hit by a drunk driver, the law expands the use of ignition interlock for impaired motorists and significantly increases the driver’s license suspension period. An ignition interlock prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects a certain level of alcohol in the driver’s breath and retests the driver at random points while driving.

The ignition interlocks will be required for anyone convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), driving while impaired (DWI) while transporting someone under the age of 16, driving while intoxicated while also refusing to take an initial breathalyzer test, and committing a homicide or life-threatening injury while driving under the influence or while impaired.

Over the past five years, Maryland officials say, drunk or impaired drivers have been linked to about one-third of all roadway deaths in the state.

Insurance cards: Drivers must have with them or in their vehicle a current insurance identification card issued by their insurance company. The card may be on paper or plastic or in an electronic format. Starting July 1, anyone without a card can be charged a $50 fine.

Historic vehicle registrations: Vehicles may no longer be registered as a historic vehicle if they are used for employment, “commercial purposes,” or commuting to and from a job or school. Also, vehicles with a historic registration that are a model year 1986 or newer may be issued roadside safety equipment repair orders by law enforcement officers.

Trading in leased vehicles: Anyone trading in a leased vehicle to buy or lease another may receive a trade-in allowance toward the “total purchase price” of the new vehicle.

Commercial driver’s licenses: If a commercial driver’s license is canceled solely because the motorist didn’t submit a required certificate showing they’d had a physical exam, the motorist may continue driving under a noncommercial license after the commercial license is automatically downgraded. State officials say this will help commercial drivers continue to drive for noncommercial purposes while they regain their commercial license.

Smart Cities Initiative Empowers Montgomery County, Baltimore City

Montgomery County, Baltimore City & the National Association of Counties (NACo) are participants of the White House’s Smart Cities Initiative which allows cities, governmental agencies, universities, and the private sector to work together to research, develop, deploy, and testbed new technologies that can help make cities more inhabitable, cleaner, and more equitable. The White House Administration has expanded this initiative with over $80 million in new Federal investments and doubled the number of participants to help cities in the areas of climate, transportation, public safety and transformation of city services. The Administration’s approach involves working together with communities to identify local needs and priorities, develop and build upon evidence-based and data-driven solutions, and strategically invest Federal funding and technical assistance.

Montgomery County was awarded a Replicable Smart Cities Technology grant and selected to focus on the development and deployment of interoperable technologies to address important public concerns regarding air pollution, flood prediction, rapid emergency response, and improved citizen services through interoperable smart city solutions that can be implemented by communities of all types and sizes.

NIST will work with the County to build a first-of-a-kind alert network that uses sensors to detect hazardous situations such as dangerous pollutants and poor air quality.

“Montgomery County continues not only to participate nationally as a smart community, but also to lead as one,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett. “This grant and our partnership with NIST is continued evidence that the County is actively using technology to create a safer environment for all residents, especially our most vulnerable.”

Montgomery County is also a member of the Urban Innovation Council which is dedicated to overcoming challenges to build smarter cities through entrepreneurship.

Baltimore City, with Johns Hopkins University & the University of Baltimore, are members of the Big Data and Human Services Lab which brings together stakeholders from the MetroLab Network’s membership to connect disparate policy and research efforts that harness data-driven approaches to transform human services. This effort will support coordination across communities, develop new tools and infrastructure, and help replicate what works, such as the collaboration between University of Washington and Seattle to use predictive analytics to identify precisely when city services succeed in helping homeless individuals transition into permanent housing, offering the promise of a future of personalized intervention.

The National Association of Counties (NAC0)  is a member of the Better Communities Alliance (BCA), which is a new DOE-led network of cities and counties with the goal of creating cleaner, smarter, and more prosperous communities for all Americans. Through the BCA, which is part of the Better Buildings Initiative, DOE is creating a one-stop shop for cities and counties to plug into DOE resources and AmeriCorps resources from the Corporation for National and Community Service to support them in tackling energy and climate challenges. DOE will gather key stakeholders to promote knowledge exchange and collaboration, while streamlining access to community-focused DOE resources and funding through coordinated assistance across programs and a common digital portal.

Click here to find out more about the White House Smart Cities Initiative.

St. Mary’s County to Hold 50th Annual U.S. Oyster Festival, Draws Fans Nationwide

This October 15th and 16th, St. Mary’s County will hold the 50th Annual U.S. Oyster Festival…an event that draws people from all over the nation! It’s home to the National Oyster Cook-off and the US National Oyster Shucking Competition.

posterThe Bay Journal highlights this year’s event:

The annual gathering is one of the oldest in the Chesapeake region, created and still sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lexington Park.

“It was a one day event back in the late ’60s and early ’70s,” said David Taylor, Rotary member and former festival administrator. “At the first festival, they claimed they had 1,000 people, and it was $2 for all you could eat.”

The festival now draws approximately 15,000 people, with more than 75 artists and nonprofit organizations showcasing displays and items for sale, including oysters prepared in just about any way possible. There many activities for children, including small carnival rides, and a nonstop variety of live music on two stages.

“It’s grown from a little festival that attracted a lot of locals to a prominent regional if not national festival,” Taylor said.

Visitors and participants have come from as far as Washington state, Oregon, Colorado, Louisiana and Florida. In the ’90s, an RV group from Buffalo stopped by on their way south every year.

“There is a loyalty to it,” Taylor said. “It’s grown in size but the purpose remains the same — to celebrate the opening of oyster season in the Chesapeake Bay.”

Oysters, of course, are the main event. The festival serves up approximately 150,000 oysters each year, and the shells are used to help regenerate oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay.

Raw and cooked oysters abound, although seafood and other Southern Maryland specialties are on the menu too. You can purchase oysters from vendors or sample top-notch recipes during cooking contests and demonstrations. Fried oysters served by the St. Mary’s County Watermen’s Association are always popular. In the Tasting Room, which was introduced in 2015, you can sample the difference between the various farm-raised and wild-caught oysters that are available in St. Mary’s County. You can also pair the samples with a craft beer or local wine.

The festival is also home to the National Oyster Cook-Off, which began in 1980. Hundreds of recipes are submitted every year, but only nine are selected to compete. Professional chefs judge the results, and the crowd selects a “People’s Choice.” Submitted recipes are compiled in an annual cookbook, and this year’s festival will include a commemorative collection of grand champion recipes from each year of the cook-off.

The shucking contest includes divisions for men and women. Contestants come from across the country, and the two winners face off to become the U.S. Oyster Shucking Champion. Louisiana shuckers have won five times.
There’s an amateur round for those with lesser skills, and all ages get in on the action.

Visit usoysterfest.com for more information.

Dorchester Wastewater Plant Gets Latest BRF Grant

Earlier this month, the Maryland Board of Public Works approved a $200,000 grant to the Town of Secretary in Dorchester County to upgrade its sewage treatment plant which will in turn reduce pollution and improve water quality.

According to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE),

“The Twin Cities Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade is a smart investment and great news for Maryland communities and citizens of the Chesapeake Bay region. The Maryland Department of the Environment thanks Governor Hogan for his leadership on this environmental priority,” said Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles. “Reducing nutrient pollution to our waterways will help us to green and grow the state’s economy and lead in the race to protect and restore Chesapeake Bay watersheds.”

The project involves the planning, design and construction of BNR and ENR upgrades at the plant at an approved design capacity of 281,000 gallons per day. After the upgrades, the facility will reduce its nitrogen discharge by 83 percent and its phosphorus discharge by 85 percent, significantly reducing the amount of nutrients discharged to the Choptank River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Excessive amounts of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus lead to lowered levels of oxygen needed to support aquatic life in waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay. ENR upgrades of the state’s major wastewater treatment plants are a critical component of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay restoration plan.

Fracking Crackdown: State Introduces New Regulations

A year before a fracking ban in Maryland expires, the state has proposed rules for the controversial industry.

Maryland environmental officials are proposing new regulations for the natural gas drilling technique known as fracking. Maryland currently prohibits hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break up rock and release natural gas. A state moratorium on issuing fracking permits ends Oct. 1, 2017.

From The Baltimore Sun,

The Hogan administration has proposed rules that would prohibit the gas-drilling technique known as fracking within 2,000 feet of a private drinking water well, require steel casings around gas bores to a depth of 100 feet, and require energy companies to replace any water supply that is contaminated by the practice.

The Maryland Department of the Environment submitted the measures Monday to a legislative committee that reviews regulations, a year before a state ban on fracking ends.

The plan was unveiled five days ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline set by lawmakers for the rules to be formally adopted. Department of the Environment officials now expect the approval process to finish by the end of the year instead.

Secretary Ben Grumbles said the rules “will be the most stringent and protective environmental shale regulations in the country.”

“If fracking ever comes to western Maryland, these rigorous regulations will be in place beforehand to help ensure safe and responsible energy development,” Grumbles said in a statement.

The General Assembly passed legislation last year requiring the environment department to write the regulations. It became law without Hogan’s signature.

Opponents of fracking said the proposed regulations don’t change their plans to push for a permanent ban on the practice.

Nadine Grabania, secretary of Citizen Shale in Western Maryland, said the group “has no confidence in the state’s ability to regulate this hazardous activity, nor in its commitment to monitor and enforce those regulations.”

“We urge the General Assembly to save our communities from the Hogan administration’s plans for a misguided experiment,” Grabania said.

State Del. Sandy Rosenberg, the House chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review, said the panel would review the regulations and would be open to negotiations over any differences of opinion.

State environment officials said they expect the rules to be formally proposed Nov. 14. After that, they will be subject to a 30-day public comment period.

Read the full article for more information.

Perdue: More Oysters, Not Less Fertilizer, Are Solution For Bay Cleanup

Speaking to the Baltimore Sun editorial board on Tuesday, Jim Perdue said chickens are not the greatest threat to bay water quality, but another creature – oysters – might be the solution.

Jim Perdue, Chairman of the Salisbury-based chicken enterprise that bears his family’s name, says chickens aren’t the biggest problem facing the Chesapeake Bay. Perdue prefers to focus on what he considers the best solution for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay: more oysters.

From The Baltimore Sun,

Only 8 percent of the water that flows into the bay washes over Eastern Shore land where farmers spread chicken manure as fertilizer, he said.

So while agriculture is blamed as the biggest detriment to the estuary’s health, that responsibility is overstated, he told the Baltimore Sun’s editorial board in a meeting Tuesday.

The focus of addressing bay pollution should be on rebuilding the oyster population, the Perdue Farms chairman said. Perdue was named chairman of the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a nonprofit focused on helping the bivalves multiply in the bay, this spring.

Oysters serve as natural filters for estuaries like the Chesapeake, but the bay’s oyster population has fallen by 99 percent over the past 150 years.

“Until you put a filter back in the bay, you’ll never clear up the problem,” Perdue said.

Chicken manure, along with failing wastewater treatment plants and septic systems, are chief sources of pollution in the bay. The nitrogen and phosphorus they contain fertilizes algae blooms that cloud waters and create dead zones with little or no oxygen.

Perdue argued that data shows Eastern Shore farming is not as big a problem for the bay as many believe. Instead, he pointed to increased waterfront development and pollutants and sediment that wash into the bay from its western shore and Susquehanna headwaters.

According to Maryland’s BayStat program, agriculture is the biggest source of nitrogen and phosphorus statewide, and on the Eastern Shore.

One water quality advocate said Perdue’s comments seemed an attempt to deflect attention from the poultry industry and its contributions to bay pollution.

“It’s all a problem; it’s just that the contributions from ag are a bigger problem than everything else,” said Kathy Phillips, the Assateague Coastkeeper and an advocate for Eastern Shore water quality.

“You can’t keep deflecting attention away from ag,” she said. “It needs to do more because it’s a bigger contributor.”

Efforts to rebuild the oyster population, to benefit both water quality and the seafood industry, are meanwhile advancing.

Read the full article for more information.