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G-Burg authorizes Kelley Park negotiation

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Gaithersburg Govt logoGAITHERSBURG — The Gaithersburg City Council voted unanimously to grant City Manager Tony Tomasello the authority to negotiate with Montgomery County Public Schools over the proposed construction of a new elementary school on Kelley Park.

On March 22, the Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the superintendent’s recommendation for the construction of a new elementary school on the grounds of Kelley Park, a city-owned property on the east side of Gaithersburg, which features a playground, walking trails, a tennis court, and baseball fields that are used in the summer by the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. The school is intended to reduce overcrowding in the Gaithersburg cluster, where several of the elementary schools that serve city residents are operating well over capacity.

The vote and the prospect of the new school have been divisive issues in Gaithersburg. Some residents feel that the school would provide much-needed relief to the city’s elementary schools, whereas others have argued that the construction and operation of the school would deprive residents of a valued community gathering and recreational area, negatively impact property values, worsen traffic congestion as a result of parents picking up and dropping students off, and provide negligible relief to the schools.

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Gaithersburg mulls variety of projects

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Gaithersburg Govt logoGAITHERSBURG – City advisory committee staff told Mayor Jud Ashman and the Council Monday night of concerns about public perception of Olde Towne, updates on art projects in the City and plans for the 2018 Book Festival.

At a work session that evening, Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council heard reports and plans from the staff of several of the City’s advisory committees.

For many years, the economic revitalization of Olde Towne has been one of the most contentious issues in the City. Lenny Levy, chairperson of the Olde Towne Advisory Subcommittee, said that the City had made progress on that front recently.

“Archstone, Hidden Creek and other Olde Towne apartment communities are over 90 percent leased,” Levy said. “16 South Summit is in design to be our new police headquarters and several new restaurants are open, including Rincon Peruano and Greene Growlers, which used to be Growlers.”

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Award-winning author speaks at Gaithersburg High School

ngozi adichieChimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke at Gaithersburg High School on Sept. 26, as part of the One Maryland, One Book program. COURTESY PHOTO  GAITHERSBURG — Award-winning and world-renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke to an audience of about 1,000 people at Gaithersburg High School on Sept. 26 as part of the One Maryland One Book program.

Adichie is a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award and her work has been translated into over 30 languages.  She divides her time between nearby Columbia and Lagos, Nigeria.

The Maryland Humanities Council established the One Maryland One Book program 10 years ago to encourage Marylanders to read and discuss a certain book every year. A committee with the council chooses a book that aligns with the year’s theme. This year’s book is “Purple Hibiscus” by Adichie and the theme is “Home & Belonging.”

This year, there are 350 programs in the state focused on this book, including three events with the author, said Phoebe Stein, executive director of Maryland Humanities.

“Purple Hibiscus” is a coming-of-age novel that follows the account of 15-year-old Kambili as she navigates a fraught relationship with her abusive father during political upheaval in Nigeria. Kambili and her brother spend time together living in two different homes: one with their parents, and another with their aunt who, while having less money than Kambili’s family, has a home full of laughter and life. The novel tackles themes such as colonization, religious hypocrisy and gender and family dynamics.

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Monroe seeks full term in G-Burg

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Gaithersburg Govt logoGAITHERSBURG — Yvette Monroe, the most junior member of the Gaithersburg City Council, is seeking a full term this fall.

Monroe and her husband moved to Gaithersburg from Philadelphia 27 years ago for work. Her interest in civic affairs in the city began when she attended the 2010 State of the City Address.

"I had been president of the Watkins Mill PTA, and I was interested in staying involved in education issues after my daughters graduated," Monroe said. She joined the city's Education Enrichment Committee and became its president in 2013. She also joined the Olde Towne Advisory Subcommittee in 2016. At the 2016 State of the City Address, Monroe received the city's Distinguished Citizen award.

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Gaithersburg residents vow to continue suit

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GAITHERSBURG – The plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Gaithersburg city government has pledged to modify and refile his suit after being dealt a legal setback last week.

Aaron Rosenzweig, a Gaithersburg resident who has testified several times before Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council and founded the website teamgaithersburg.org with the goal of increasing civic involvement, filed suit on Feb. 1 against Gaithersburg with regard to a vote taken by the Council on Dec. 19. On that date, the council passed two resolutions authorizing the annexation of the Johnson Property, an area near the intersection of Darnestown Road and Quince Orchard Boulevard and authorizing City Manager Tony Tomasello to execute an agreement to develop the property for mixed-zone commercial and residential development. Because of the absence or recusal of most of the five-member council, Council Vice President Neil Harris and Council member Michael Sesma passed both resolutions with a 2-0 vote.

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Barve and Kagan brief G-burg on legislature

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GAITHERSBURG – Legislators from the 17th District visited City Hall Monday night to brief Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council on key issues addressed in the recently concluded legislative session.

Del. Kumar Barve (D), chairman of the Environment and Transportation Committee, discussed the “thorny” issue of stormwater management fees and securing reimbursement from Montgomery County for Gaithersburg and Rockville.

Barve noted that he drafted legislation to negotiate a compromise between the County and municipal governments that passed his committee and the House of Delegates by a wide majority but that it stalled in the Senate because the chairman there was “skittish” about the issue.

“I think I have a way around the problem. I don’t want to say what it is yet, but I think next year will be the charm,” Barve said. “I was very heartened to hear representatives from Montgomery County government tell me that regardless of whether a bill passes next year or not – and I’m very committed to passing a bill – that they felt that the negotiated compromise we were able to get to was a good template.”

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Court date set in Gaithersburg annexation lawsuit

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Gaithersburg Govt logoGAITHERSBURG – A lawsuit concerning a controversial annexation will have its day in court. On December 19 last year, Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council took up two resolutions concerning the annexation of the Johnson Property, an area near the intersection of Darnestown Road and Quince Orchard Boulevard and authorizing City manager Tony Tomasello to execute an agreement to develop the property for mixed-zone commercial and residential use.

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Gaithersburg Considers Budget Proposal

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GAITHERSBURG – The heads of city agencies came to City Hall Monday night to tell Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council how their departments planned to allocate funds in the city’s proposed operating budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

City Manager Tony Tomasello, in his opening remarks, said the budget increased by less than a quarter of a percent over the previous year. Several department heads discussed personnel or organizational changes.

“Although there has been talk in Congress of eliminating CDBG (Community Development Block Grants), we decreased that allocation just a small amount,” said Louise Kaufmann, chief of Housing and Community Development. “Last year, we received $353,000 in CDBG funds, of which $230,000 was allocated to the housing programs and this year $220,000. If we get a smaller grant from Congress, we can make adjustments.”

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