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Seattle Firm Proposing Solar Projects in South Anne Arundel County

A Seattle company is proposing to build solar projects on three South Anne Arundel County farms is holding a public meeting this evening to discuss the project and field questions and comments.

According to The Capital Gazette,

The installations could cover about 10 acres of each farm in solar panels, plus access roadways and infrastructure required to convert and distribute the electricity generated at each site.

The company, One Energy Renewables, has been developing medium- sized solar projects on agricultural land across the country.

It was partner in two large projects on the Eastern Shore; the 40,000 solar panel project in a field near Wye Mills providing power for Johns Hopkins and another outside Cambridge, 14,326 panels indirectly supplying The National Aquarium with 40 percent of its electricity needs.

The projects in South County — on a 58-acre property on Sands Road, an 82-acre parcel on Bayard Road and a 50-acre plot on Franklin Gibson Road — would likely have under 8,000 panels each.

According to its website, the company leases land from farm families.

“You’ll be harvesting a renewable resource that promises a stable and long-term source of revenue for your family – one that doesn’t fluctuate with global commodity markets, or vary based on weather events year to year,” the site reads.

Once the lease is up, or the panels have exhausted their usefulness, One Energy says it removes all equipment and infrastructure and the land can be farmed again.

But some farmers wonder if this is the best use of agricultural land.

“I thought the county was committed to preserving agriculture in South County,” said John Ball, who owns 160 acres on Franklin Gibson Road.

“That’s not agriculture, that’s light industrial, if you ask me,” Ball said.

He also questioned the wisdom of plopping down such a complex in the middle of several farms in agricultural preservation.

“The county has to make a decision: Is it going to preserve agriculture or chase solar farms?” he said.

Read the full article for more information.

Proposed Bill Would Protect Montgomery Burial Sites from Development

Old cemeteries and burial grounds that may lay in the path of new development would receive better protection under legislation introduced Tuesday by a trio of Montgomery County Council members.

The county has a list of more than 250 burial sites established by churches, families, and enslaved and free black communities, some dating back to the early 18th century. But in many cases, the boundaries are not exact, and the information is fragmentary.

According to The Washington Post,

The measure requires that when land earmarked for new construction includes a burial site listed in county records, the developer must “use best historical and archaeological practices” to establish the exact location. Projects would not be approved without plans in place to protect those sites during construction and maintain them going forward.

“We in Montgomery County owe it to our many historic founders and historic residents to pay them the respects they deserve,” said Council member Craig Rice (D-Upcounty), who co-sponsored the bill with Council member George Leventhal (D-At Large) and Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda). Officials said Howard and Prince George’s counties have similar laws.

Planning officials say the presence of cemeteries on land to be developed is now relatively rare. The bill strengthens provisions aimed at preventing what appears to have happened in Bethesda’s Westbard neighborhood during the 1960s, when an early-20th-century African American cemetery probably was disturbed and paved over during construction of an apartment high-rise.

A proposal to redevelop that area is now at the center of a bitter dispute pitting nearby Macedonia Baptist Church against the property owner, Regency Centers, and the county. Church members want to see a museum on the site commemorating the black community that existed along River Road until the mid-20th century. The matter is in mediation.

Useful Links

Bill 24-17 – Land Use Information – Burial Sites

Read the full article from The Washington Post

City Officials, Cycling Advocates Reach Settlement on Baltimore Bike Line

The Potomac Street protected bike lane will remain in place after cycling advocates and Baltimore officials reached a settlement agreement on Tuesday evening.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

Bikemore, a leading advocacy group, had sued the city after officials announced plans to tear out the cycle track after hearing residents’ concerns that it would make it harder for emergency vehicles to travel down the street.

Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Mayor Catherine Pugh, confirmed the settlement but declined to comment further.

Bikemore won a temporary restraining order this month preventing the city from demolishing the protected bike lane. The matter was set to go to court on Wednesday. Instead, bike advocates said they would be outside the courthouse Wednesday morning handing out coffee and donuts to supporters to thank them.

Bikemore members said on their website that they would sit down with city officials to help hammer out a modified plan. That plan would then be released to the public for a two-week comment period.

The suit came as Pugh ordered a review of all bike lanes and parking spaces. Cyclists and their advocates fear a rollback of what they see as gains in making Baltimore more bike friendly. They also point out that millions of dollars in planning and construction money would be wasted.

Bikemore had previously alleged in court the city’s decision “reversed five years of extensive planning and public input” and was “arbitrary and capricious.”

But neighbors near some of the bike lanes say they actually make streets more dangerous due to bad design. They argue the design encourages crashes, eliminates parking spaces and prevents emergency vehicles from traveling.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Judge Protects Baltimore Bike Lane

Read the full article from The Baltimore Sun

Maryland Board Approves New Rating System for Schools

Every public school in Maryland will be judged on a five-star rating system beginning next school year, under a plan the state school board approved Tuesday.

The rating system, which will award one star to the lowest performing schools and five stars to the highest performing, is designed to give parents and others a simple guide to the quality of a school.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

For the first time, schools will be judged not just on test scores but on a whole list of factors — including academic achievement, parent surveys, attendance rates and student enrollment in a range of subjects.

“We have a new way of providing information to the public on school and district performance,” Andrew Smarick, the president of the state board, said after the vote. He said he hopes the new rating provides more clarity to parents.

Maryland will also identify the bottom five percent of all schools in the state based only on academic indicators, including the percentage of students passing tests and whether student achievement improved over a school year. The state will give those schools more attention and could require they make changes.

The grading system is part of a much larger plan the state board will send this week to the governor and the legislature for review. The lawmakers’ input is considered advisory, but the board can choose to make changes to the plan before it must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in September.

Every state is required under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, to submit a school accountability plan that spells out the guidelines for how schools will be judged through 2030.

For more than a decade schools have been judged largely on how their students scored on reading and math, an emphasis which caused some principals to focus solely on those subjects in the early grades at the expense of social studies, science and the arts.

Under ESSA elementary and middle schools will get points based on whether students are enrolled in fine arts, social studies, physical education and health classes. Middle schools also will be judged on how their students score on social studies and science tests the state is introducing over the next several years.

High schools will be judged on the percentage of students that complete advanced classes, master various career skills, meet University of Maryland entry requirements, or get a high enough SAT score.

ESSA replaces the No Child Left Behind Act, a law that was in effect for more than a decade and was widely criticized for being too punitive because schools were judged almost solely on test scores. ESSA was designed to give more authority back to the states for how schools are held accountable.

The rating system will attempt to take into account the progress of students in low achieving schools, not just whether students pass tests. The plan does not lay out how the different star levels will be determined. Board members said five star schools would have to be in the top percentage and meet all of the targets set for students of different races and economic backgrounds, among other groups.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: General Assembly Overrides Hogan Veto on Struggling Schools Bill

Read the full article from The Baltimore Sun

Prince George’s Council to Hold Zoning Rewrite Town Hall Meeting

The Prince George’s County Council, in partnership with the Prince George’s County Planning Department, is encouraging county residents to attend a Zoning Rewrite Town Hall Meeting on Monday, July 17, 2017, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., at the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.

According to a press release,

The County Council and Prince George’s County Planning Department, are conducting a comprehensive update of the County’s 50-year-old Zoning Ordinance to streamline zoning laws and create a user-friendly document supporting the County’s vision for smart growth, economic development and improved quality of life for residents.

Council Chair Derrick L. Davis (D) – District 6 says citizen involvement in the Zoning Rewrite process is critical.

“Updating the County’s zoning policies is among the most important undertakings of the Council in its role as the County’s land use authority. Residents deserve a leaner, clearer zoning process to be better informed about development and to play a more significant role in shaping the future of our County. I encourage all County residents and stakeholders to attend this Zoning Rewrite Town Hall meeting and share their thoughts and ideas concerning the Zoning Rewrite and its various modules.”

Presenters for the Council’s Zoning Rewrite Town Hall Meeting are Clarion Associates’ Directors Don Elliott and Craig Richardson. Chief of Countywide Planning, Derick Berlage; Zoning Rewrite Project Manager, Chad Williams; and Zoning Rewrite Outreach Specialist Brittney Drakeford will also be on hand to answer audience questions and participate during the discussion portion of the Town Hall meeting.

To watch live, please visit: http://pgccouncil.us/townhall

Read the full press release for more information.

Record Number of Teens Employed Through City Summer Jobs Program

A record 8,300 youths were offered jobs this summer through the Baltimore City YouthWorks program. The program provides teens with productive employment in an effort to help keep them off the streets. The Baltimore Business Journal reports:

“A summer job can be an incredibly valuable experience that lasts a lifetime,” said Patrick McCarthy, CEO of Annie E. Casey Foundation. “We are proud to support this effort that is giving a record number of youth an opportunity to get a taste of the workforce, earn a paycheck and possibly learn a thing or two about personal finances – all of which are important to have on the path to adulthood.”

The companies and nonprofits that committed to donate at least $15,000 to YouthWorks and or directly hire at least 10 participants are: the Johns Hopkins Health System and Johns Hopkins University; Sagamore Development Co. LLC; the Bank of America Charitable Foundation; Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.; Motorola; Martin’s Caterers; MedStar Health; University of Maryland Medical Center and University of Maryland Medical System; University of Maryland, Baltimore; Kaiser Permanente; Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and the T. Rowe Price Foundation Inc.

Baltimore’s young people between 14 and 21 will be working in over 900 workplaces across the region in the fields of health care, finance, energy and law. The city government itself is employing 450 Baltimore young people in various government departments.

The YouthWorks program operates two five-week cycles, during which participants work a minimum of 25 hours a week and receive at least minimum wage, $9.25 an hour.

For more information:
Baltimore Youth Offered a Record Number of Summer Jobs (The Baltimore Business Journal)

DHMH Honors Worcester County Health Officer Debbie Goeller

Worcester County Health Officer Debbie Goeller and DHMH Deputy Secretary of Public Health Howard Haft (photo source: Delmarva Now)
Worcester County Health Officer Debbie Goeller and DHMH Deputy Secretary of Public Health Howard Haft (photo source: Delmarva Now)

Worcester County Health Officer Debbie Goeller was honored by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with the first Dr. Ulder Tillman Commemorative Annual Award for Public Health Officers Community Service.

Delmarva Now reports:

Goeller has served as health officer for the Worcester County Health Department for 25 years, making her the longest-tenured health officer in Maryland. Her leadership facilitated her health department becoming Maryland’s first accredited health department.

“Dr. Tillman left a legacy of tireless, caring education and service in the field of public health,” said Haft. “We are proud to honor Debbie Goeller for her work, including her persistent and focused leadership, which has paved the way for new programs and specialty services now offered by Worcester’s health department.”

The article notes a number of Goeller’s achievements over her years with the county health department including helping to open the Center for Clean Start and to create the Lower Shore health insurance assistance program. Goeller, who is retiring at the end of June, will be succeeded by nurse Rebecca L. Jones.

For more information:

Worcester health officer honored for public service (Delmarva Now)

Amazon, AAWDC, UMBC Partner to Train Military Vets

A new partnership between Amazon Web Services, Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp (AAWDC) and University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Training Centers will help train military veterans for jobs in Amazon web support services.

As reported by The Baltimore Business Journal:

Amazon Web Services is the cloud services technology of the online retail giant. The goal of the new program is to train transitioning military members and veterans at Fort Meade as Amazon cloud support associates. Training will include skills in relevant operating systems and software, cybersecurity fundamentals and programming in preparation for careers supporting Amazon Web Services.

UMBC Training Centers was selected to develop this program after a request for proposals process by the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp. in collaboration with Amazon. The initiative is a part of a $4.3 million grant through the U.S. Department of Labor called Military Corps Career Connect, or C3, which aims to assist service members transitioning from active duty, active duty spouses and veterans find jobs.

C3’s goal is to reduce unemployment and underemployment among veterans. The initiative offers training, certification, on‐the‐job experience and paid work placements to help service members transition to successful civilian careers.

Amazon has a goal of hiring 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2021.

Read The Baltimore Business Journal to learn more.

Veteran services will be discussed at the 2017 MACo Summer Conference session “Serving Those Who Served Our Country“.

The MACo summer conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year’s theme is “You’re Hired!”.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Baltimore Ranks Among Fastest Growing Cities for Tech Jobs

Baltimore City ranked no. 10 out of 20 on ZipRecruiter’s list of fastest growing tech markets. Time Magazine reports:

Job search site ZipRecruiter recently analyzed its database of more than 8 million active jobs, and ranked the 20 fastest-growing tech markets based on year-over-year data. Job growth for engineering, software, and IT roles may be losing steam in the Bay Area, but smaller cities are picking up the slack, the company says.

“The tech industry is no longer bound to the coast,” says ZipRecruiter’s Chief Economic Adviser, Cathy Barrera. “As a result, we’re seeing the tech industry expand out of the major metropolis areas, and into smaller regional cities that have since flown largely under the radar.”

Barrera credits government policies, like tax breaks that attract entrepreneurs and business startups for much of this growth. But the main impetus, she says, is the skyrocketing cost of living in coastal tech hubs like San Francisco and New York.

The Time’s article notes high rents and slowing markets as a reason tech jobs may be leaving Silicon Valley for smaller cities, but the Baltimore Business Journal shares some local insight on Baltimore City’s ranking:

Baltimore’s top tech jobs include project manager, software engineer, network engineer and software developer. Year-over-year growth in tech jobs here is 109 percent, along with $62,500 in early career median pay, $105,000 in mid-career median pay, $1,375 in median rent and a $196,900 median home price.

The city ranked just behind Jacksonville, Florida on Time’s list, and one spot ahead of Cincinnati. No other local cities made the list. The very top spot went to Huntsville, Alabama.

Baltimore has a growing tech community that has recently seen a number of co-working spaces and startup hubs open. By having various accelerators like Betamore, Spark Baltimore and City Garage to support tech entrepreneurs, more idea makers may feel confident about coming to Baltimore to build a company.

More information:

The 20 Hottest Cities for Tech Jobs Now (Time Magazine)

Baltimore ranks among 20 hottest cities for tech growth — and here’s why (Baltimore Business Journal)

Will You Throw the First Pitch?

Screenshot 2017-06-26 15.05.44
Step up and share your county’s IT needs at MACo’s Summer Conference.

This year’s MACo Conference offers attendees an opportunity to voice county government information technology interests directly to private sector providers in an informal, informational format.

Share challenges & discover capabilities in this new Tech Wednesday offering.

SWITCH PITCH” IGNITE! — Meet Your Match: Solutions to County IT Challenges

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Gain quick insight into what tech can do for county governments in this fast-paced session. County IT and management professionals will state their needs, and vendors in the Tech Expo Tradeshow will respond with their pitch for solving the top tech issues. Attendees will get a chance to learn a little about a lot of vendors in a short period of time. Listen and learn!

Example County Pitches

  1. How do I empower employees to work from home in a secure and productive manner at minimal cost to the County?
  2. There are so many mobile apps in the market. Other than reading through the reviews, how can one determine the overall quality of a mobile app?  Is there a standard to check an app’s quality? What is it?
  3. What and where have been some of the more successful public/private partnerships providing broadband to unserved rural areas?

SIGN UP HERE TO BE A PART OF THIS SESSION Space is limited – Reply by July 19.

Have a pitch, but you are not attending this session?  Contact Robin Clark Eilenberg at MACo.

Tech Wednesday Vendor List

  • AVI-SPL, Inc
  • CDW-G
  • Comcast
  • Commvault
  • Cybersecurity Association of Maryland, Inc.
  • Data Networks of America
  • ePlus Technology Inc.
  • Esri
  • Freedom Broadband
  • Fujitsu America, Inc.
  • GovDeals, Inc.
  • Juniper Networks
  • Lenovo
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Maryland Libraries
  • Maryland Relay
  • Motorola Solutions, Inc.
  • Musco Sports Lighting
  • NIC Maryland
  • Phillips Office Solutions
  • Presidio
  • Prosys Information Systems
  • Regent Development Consulting, Inc. (RDC)
  • Ricoh USA, Inc.
  • Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.
  • Rudolph’s Office & Computer Supply, Inc.
  • SAIC
  • ShoreScan Solutions
  • Splunk
  • Sprint
  • Supply Solutions, LLC
  • Tomi Environmental Solutions

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: