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Metro still having trouble with “Back2Good”

Metro officials said in a November report the yearlong SafeTrack program did not meet goals for some of the projects as management had claimed; more service disruptions will be caused by single-tracking and shutdowns for additional repairs. 

Quality assurance internal compliance and oversight (QICO) officials at Metro said several of the projects from the year of SafeTrack’s multi-day, single-tracking- and shutdown-related projects either left some problems unresolved or had fresh problems develop after the SafeTrack program ended. Some problems led to service disruptions such as speed restrictions. 

Metro officials determined Metro has problems in planning, defining scope of capital projects such as SafeTrack and ensuring that work consistently meets the requirements for inspection and data recording from inspections. Also included in the report are corrective action plans for each of the problems found in the investigation.

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Discovery discovers NYC

County to lose more than 1300 jobs in media relocation

Discovery Communications BuildingDiscovery Communications, a longtime Montgomery County-based corporation which currently employs 1,300 workers, announced Tuesday it will move its corporate headquarters from Silver Spring to New York after months of negotiations with County officials failed.

Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav announced Tuesday the company will likely move from its headquarters located in downtown Silver Spring to New York sometime in the second half of 2019.

“The media industry is rapidly evolving, increasingly global, more consumer focused and more multi-platform and Discovery must evolve with it,” Zaslav said in a statement. “The decision to move our global headquarters from its founding home is one we do not make lightly. We remain unwavering in our support of the Maryland and Greater Washington, DC area and we thank the leadership of the State of Maryland, Montgomery County and, most importantly, our employees for their cooperation and understanding as we make this important next step for the long-term success of Discovery.”

County Executive Isaiah “Ike” Leggett said Discovery’s departure will be a big blow to the County, with 1,300 jobs now being moved to New York.

“When you lose that number of jobs and that number of employees and the salaries, that is not easily replaceable,” Leggett told the Sentinel.

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Leggett plans budget cuts

MoCo LogoMontgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett released his plan for $60 million in proposed cuts last week, after news the County is way short of its proposed revenues for the current year.

Leggett’s proposed cuts, most notably target schools – the largest part of the County’s budget – include a proposed $25 million cut to Montgomery County Public Schools and a $5.2 million cut to Montgomery College.

“There are very few options that are there, you don't go there unless you absolutely have to,” said Leggett of his proposed $30.2 million cut to schools.

In addition, Leggett also proposed a $3.8 million cut to police, a $2.6 million cut to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a $2.6 million cut to fire and rescue services and a $4.4 million cut to the Department of Health and Human Services to make up for the revenue shortfall.

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Bethesda loses iconic bookstore

Barnes and Noble closing signBarnes and Noble prepares to close its Bethesda store Jan. 11. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK  BETHESDA — Maria Pagliarini and Brad Schwartz sat at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore’s café last week, sipping hot drinks and leafing through some magazines.

Their weekly excursions to the three-story bookstore on the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues in Bethesda have ended. Barnes and Noble, which has been at the heart of downtown Bethesda for 21 years, shuttered its doors for good on Thursday, after having failed to agree to the terms of a new lease.

“The lease at our Bethesda location will expire at the end of 2017 and the store will close in January 2018. We had discussions with the property owner in hopes of agreeing to an extension of the lease, but unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement. It has been our pleasure to have served this community and we hope to continue to serve our valued customers” at the Rockville store, wrote Jim Lampassi, vice president of real estate development.

Pagliarini said that many people go to the bookstore while shopping and eating in downtown Bethesda.

“It’s sad. It’s a Bethesda landmark,” said Paglairini of Potomac. “This is the meeting place. We go to the movies and we come here.”

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Progressive icon mourned by county

IMG 0297 1Marcus Raskin at playing the piano COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF CONGRESSMAN RASKINMarcus Raskin, father of Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8) and an icon within the progressive community, died Dec. 24 at his home in Washington, at age 83. 

“Generations to come will cherish his memory and be inspired by his remarkable life,” Rep. Raskin wrote in an online statement. “He was a piano prodigy and musical sensation, a born philosopher and magical teacher, a political visionary, organizer and risk-taker.” 

Marcus Raskin was born in 1934 to Russian-Jewish immigrants in Milwaukee, Wis. After briefly studying music at the Juilliard School in New York, he earned his bachelor's degree, and later, his law degree, at the University of Chicago.

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Metro cutting negative SmarTrip balances

WMATA metro logoStarting Monday, Jan. 8, Metro riders will no longer be permitted to have a negative balance on their SmarTrip cards after entering or leaving a station or bus with slightly less than the required fare.

WMATA Chief Financial Officer Dennis Anosike said that fare gates and bus fare boxes would stop allowing negative balances because the unpaid negative fares are costing Metro too much potential revenue. 

"In an environment where every dollar counts, we are taking a common sense approach to ensure that Metro is properly collecting the value of the transportation it provides to reduce the demand on Metro customers and the region for additional funding," Anosike said on Nov. 24.

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Additional candidates file to run for several county offices

Paul Geller (Democrat)

At-large candidate Geller, a former president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, said he wants to take his experience of building relationships and with the schools system to the County Council.

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Two-alarm Olney fire destroys townhouse, displaces 20 neighbors

Olney FireA two-alarm fire at an Olney townhouse displaced 20 people from their neighboring homes Friday night. PHOTO BY GLYNIS KAZANJIAN  A two-alarm fire in Olney Friday night obliterated an entire townhouse, caused approximately $1.4 million in damages and displaced 20 people from neighboring homes, fire officials reported.

The fire started in a townhouse community in the 3500 block of Softwood Terrace as a result of a unidentified resident using lighter fluid to restart a wood-burning fire in the basement, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Spokesman Pete Piringer said.

“There was some kind of malfunction with the lighter fluid can,” Piringer said. “The fire came back at him and the rest of the lighter fluid became involved. Then the fire spread rapidly.”

The resident left the door to the basement open when evacuating, which fueled the fire, according to Piringer.

Piringer said a neighbor called the fire department after noticing the neighbor’s deck ablaze.

Station 40 of the Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department on Georgia Avenue in Olney was the first to respond at 7:15 p.m. Approximately 100 MCFRS firefighters overall from multiple stations responded to the fire, Piringer said.

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Kagan briefs Gaithersburg on legislature

GAITHERSBURG Senator Cheryl C. Kagan (D-17) came to Gaithersburg City Hall Tuesday night to brief Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council on the issues she would prioritize in the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly.

“I have had two constituents die when 911 failed,” Kagan said. She said she would pursue legislation to improve and modernize 911 service. “In a lot of the country, you can text 911. In Gaithersburg, you can’t. If there’s a bad guy in your house, you should be able to text 911. Currently, Frederick County is the only jurisdiction in Maryland where you can text 911. Montgomery County is moving in that direction, but I don’t think they’re moving fast enough.”

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Homeless deal with frigid local temperatures

Darryl Roundtree slept outside on a bench by the Silver Spring Metro station Friday night with only two blankets between him and the freezing cold temperature, which dipped down into the low teens that night.

It’s not the first night by far the 55-year old man has slept outside. He’s been homeless for about seven years now, he said as he finished enjoying a free, healthy brunch at Progress Place on Georgia Avenue Saturday morning. 

He had tried to get over to the Montgomery County-owned-facility where Shepherd’s Table, Interfaith Works and other non-profits provide services to the area’s homeless. He had hoped to sleep in the shelter there Friday night, but wasn’t able to make the half-mile trip, he said.

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