Metro derailment halts service on three lines

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A non-commuter train approaching a switch by the Smithsonian Metro station derailed early Thursday, shutting down both tracks of the Blue, Orange and Silver lines.

The operator was the only person on the train and wasn’t injured, according to a Metro spokesperson.

Metro officials encouraged commuters to ride Metrobus shuttles as an alternative to those three lines until further notice. Tracks may be shut down through the afternoon and into tonight, according to Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly.

Timothy Wilson, a spokesperson for the Washington, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said rescue crews sent fire engines to the scene but left the scene approximately 20 minutes after arriving. He added the department averages one call from Metro per month.


Community leaders angry with education budget

BOETableLarge20131218 1ROCKVILLE - Community organizations are not happy with the proposed Montgomery County Public School operating budget for the 2013-2014 school year. 
At the “Book Club Budgetpalooza,” members from the Montgomery County Civic Federation, the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Tax Payers League went through the proposed $2.2 billion budget chapter by chapter.
Complaints about the budget included the absence of transparency in the budget process, secret meetings, sloppy documentation, a large percentage paid to direct overhead and lower pay for red zone teachers – teachers paid less than other teachers because of lower student scores.


Canadian Geese population in county rises

DNR logoANNAPOLIS - The Maryland Department of Natural Resources released its 2013 midwinter waterfowl survey last week, showing the Canada goose population has increased by more than 25 percent since last year.
Canada geese comprise more than half of the total population of waterfowl in Maryland.
“The goose population is greater than the ecosystem can handle,” Julie Lawson, spokesperson for the Anacostia Watershed Society, said.
“We have been getting calls from people about seeing geese in places they don’t normally,” Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles of the National Park Service said.


Josiah Henson to be honored

UncleTomCabin2BETHESDA - Josiah Henson, the inspiration for George Harris in Harriet Beecher Stover’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabinet,” will be honored with a museum here called the Josiah Henson Park.
Last week, Ellen Emmett of Montgomery Parks, Larissa Hallgren, exhibit designer for Experience Design, and architect Robert Kinsley laid out preliminary plans at a meeting at Tilden Middle School. 
Preliminary designs for the 1.5 acre, 3,000 sq. ft facility include a 2200 sq. ft. welcome center with a gathering space, retail shop, restrooms, lunch area and 60-seat multimedia theater, all of which may be used as event space. It is estimated to hold 100 people, who will be separated into 15 person groups as each room holds 15-17 people. The museum will be housed on the former Riley Plantation. 
From 1795-1830, Henson lived on the Issac Riley Plantation, at 11420 Old Georgetown Rd. in modern day Bethesda, as a slave before escaping to Canada. His 1849 autobiography, “The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself” is believed to have inspired the Beecher’s novel. 
Tom Kehhuas, director of Montgomery County Historical Society said he is happy Henson’s contribution to history will be honored. “He was a very important figure, not only locally but nationally. He was the model for the fictional Uncle Tom and there is no Uncle Tom’s Cabin without him. Without that there is no bringing the enslaved to national prominence and without that novel, there may not have been a civil war. This story needs to be told,” said Tom Kehhuas, director of Montgomery County Historical Society. 
Montgomery Parks Project manager Eileen Emmett said the museum is still in its early planning stages and nothing will be finalized until mid-year. 
Planning is 30 percent complete, with final plans scheduled to be submitted to the Montgomery County Planning Board in June. The completed plans will account for five parking spaces, two handicaps, one staff, and two visitors. The museum estimates that the majority of visitors will arrive by bus. 
If the plans are approved, the next steps will be a public hearing, a county council hearing, and then getting the museum funded for the 2015-2020 fiscal years. The National Park Service and the county’s Historic Preservation Committee are asking for a $100,000 federal grant.
The museum is predicted to open in 2018. 
In celebration of black history month, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Montgomery Parks are currently offering guided tours at the site. The tours are offered every Saturday in February between 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm.


Rockville takes in more than planned large 1.web 1ROCKVILLE – Real property tax assessments in Rockville for 2014 increased by approximately three percent from 2013, according to the fiscal year 2014 budget preview presented to the city’s Mayor and Council Monday evening.
The three-percent increase of $950,000 was not anticipated, as properties reassessed in January 2012 decreased in value by approximately four percent. According to Councilmember Tom Moore, the three-percent hike likely decreases the need for an increase in the property tax rate.
The preview of the 2014 budget also revealed the average resident will likely pay $98.38 more each year, or an increase of $6.81 each month for water, sewer, refuse, and stormwater management services. The water usage rates are estimated to increase by 20 percent. The current quarterly charge for three-quarter inch water meter is $12.15. The increased charges would go into effect in July 2013.
“We’re making it difficult for some of our citizens to stay in the city,” Councilmember Bridget Donnell Newton said. “It concerns me we’re not giving our citizens lots of notice and us up here to ascertain the impact. We need to be very careful with what we’re doing with our utility funds.”
The Mayor and Council also discussed changes in the 2014 budget which would affect some of the city’s art programs. 
City manager Barbara Matthews suggested personnel changes for 2014. One of the suggestions was to eliminate two positions in recreation and parks. The elimination of these positions would result in the elimination of the Rockville Youth Orchestra. The Mayor and Council also discussed whether the Rockcrest Recreation Center should be renovated for $90,000, or abandoned. Abandoning the building would result in the elimination of city’s ballet program. Councilmember Mark Pierzchala said he hates cutting things affecting citizens.
“We need to look long and hard at things affecting teens,” Pierzchala said.
The city’s finance department also presented a financial report to the Mayor and Council reviewing the second quarter of fiscal year 2013. According to the report, red-light camera revenues are now projected to bring in $1.9 million in revenue—an increase of $1.26 million from the original budgeted amount of $637,500.
The increase in revenues comes from the city’s installation of five new red-light cameras in August 2012, which capture right-turn-on-red violations and an initial hike in the number of citations. Representatives from the finance staff told the Mayor and Council, however, not expect the same amount of revenue in the future because they said the red-light cameras are working because the number of citations is already decreasing.
During the meeting the Mayor and Council discussed recommended changes for elections with representatives from the Rockville Board of Supervisors of Elections. Some of the changes discussed were fixing the voter database, the withdrawal deadline for candidates and the reporting date for campaign finances. 
The Mayor and Council decided to continue the discussion at a later meeting.


Local businesses seek county help

468440 10150970896345980 793167429 oROCKVILLE – Local businesses, still reeling from the recent recession are looking for help from government to help them stay fluid.
For Dave O’Connor, owner of O’Connor’s Paint Service in Gaithersburg, the main hurdles he faces are getting licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission and making sure he is keeping up to date with state and county requirements. O’Connor, who has run his business for 25 years, said he is required to carry workers compensation coverage, fall protection, and become lead-safe certified by the Environmental Protection Agency. 
While O’Connor makes sure his business complies the law, he said there are other businesses which try to slip through the government’s fingertips. 
“The area where they need big improvement on is there are so many unlicensed contractors out there,” O’Connor said. “This is where I really think (the county) fails us. There are so many under-the-table workers, unemployed workers. The teacher who works in the summer or the high school kid who does this, nothing against that, but I also want them to have the same things we have to abide by that they have to. The county could do it very simply by having an inspector just riding around and when they see ladders in the air they ask to see the license.”
All contractors are required to carry a license issued by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission. The license costs $370 for the original, and renewals cost $405.
While O’Connor does not feel Montgomery is destroying small business, he said he thinks the county could do more to help protect contractors. 
Another factor affecting O’Connor’s business are websites which rate small businesses, like Angie’s List and While Angie’s List does report certified businesses, O’Connor said anyone can post their business on Checkbook.
“I guarantee if you start looking through these people, you’ll see they don’t have licenses,” O’Connor said. “They’re not even doing the first step. If they don’t have a license they’re not carrying anything else.”
Others businesses, like ASCII Group which is based in Bethesda, have taken their cases to Congress.
Doug Young, vice president of distribution and management and membership services for the ASCII Group, attended an industry-wide fly-in on Feb. 12, to discuss key issues impacting his business. ASCII Group is a group of 1,000 small and medium-sized companies in the information technology field which provide services to clients.
“Members constantly have to get their employees retrained,” Young said. “It can be a pretty pricy proposition for a small business to get trained. There’s things Congress probably can do as far as helping to fray some of that training expense with tax breaks and that sort of thing that will help the customers remain up to speed on the latest technologies.”
Young also said members of the information technology industry, such as himself, are asking Congress to reauthorize acts, such as the Higher Education Act, to get companies the funds they need to ensure people are trained.
Young said the major problems for information technology companies are finding qualified employees, and keeping those employees qualified. By talking with members of Congress, 
Though ASCII Group went to Congress for help, the option is not necessarily the best route for all local small businesses. 
O’Connor said his business has been growing and has a loyal following of customers. While his business follows the rules, O’Connor said he thinks the county should do more to protect small businesses by ensuring everyone is complying with the law.
“If (the government) is going to make us have safety programs and follow the payroll taxes, then they’ve got to do it with everybody. They have to make it a fair playing ground. It’s got to be fair.”


Local college opportunites for immigrants widen

campus-1WHEATON - The Ana G. Mendez University, in Wheaton, offering degree programs geared for Spanish-speaking adults, has almost doubled its enrollment during the past year from 125 students last January to 230 students presently enrolled. 
Syndia Nazario, campus director, says the non-profit institution has received a lot of support from the community since it opened its doors on January 23, 2012. She says the programs at the Capital Area branch, one of four U.S. branches of the Puerto Rico-based university system, are helping remove the language barrier for Latino immigrants who want to pursue higher education but are not proficient in English.


They’re Back!

adult-female-fullThey stink and their numbers are growing.
The brown marmorated stink bug is a pest that has plagued Marylanders for the past several years. They are found in homes and gardens and while the bug doesn’t bite, it can produce a foul odor if you step on it or otherwise handle it.
University of Maryland Professor of Entomology Michael Raupp said you can get used to seeing more of them this year as the population is “way up.” 
“The data is in, and it shows a rise in stink bug population at the end of 2012,” Raupp said.


New way to kill “Frankenfish”: Eat it!

DNR logoROCKVILLE - John Riggins spent 14 seasons dieseling his way through his share of scary opponents in the NFL, but now he is working to encourage others to fight against a very different opponent – with their forks.
Riggins is one of many who helped promote a solution to the growing population of the invasive northern snakehead fish – known as the “frankenfish” to some – by appearing at the second annual ProFish Invasive Species Benefit Dinner.
The event, hosted by Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place in Georgetown, was held to raise awareness of the issues invasive species like the snakehead can present and present an easy – and tasty – way county residents can help out.