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Public weighs in on possible BRT on U.S. 29

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ROCKVILLE – There is little debate that traffic is one of the biggest issues in the County, but there is much debate on what to do about it.

Tuesday night, residents testified at the County Council on the County’s plan for a Bus Rapid Transit system on U.S. Route 29.

The proposed U.S. 29 BRT would be a 14-mile bus route that would quickly shuttle people up and down the East County while driving in both mixed traffic and on shoulder lanes. The proposed bus route would cost $31 million, $21.5 million coming from the County and $10 million coming from a U.S. Department of Transportation grant.

At the public hearing Tuesday night, reaction to the planned BRT was mixed. While most agreed there needs to be more transit options for commuters in the East County, residents are split on what that solution is.

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Rockville battles budget woes

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ROCKVILLE – Residents and community representatives spoke out Monday night in the last public hearing before the City Council passes the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

City Manager Robert DiSpirito proposed a $129.4 million operating budget, which would be a 2.5 percent increase from last year’s. DiSpirito proposed to keep the city’s taxes for real property and personal property the same as last year’s.

The city manager said he did not have as much influence over the budget as he would like, given that he started in Rockville long after the city began to craft its budget.

“I’m a Johnny-come-lately on the process, definitely,” said DiSpirito, who started as city manager in January.

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Rockville considers sanctuary

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City holds public forum and listens as residents and neighbors discuss immigration

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ROCKVILLE – More than 80 people testified during a public hearing Monday on a planned ordinance which would preclude the city from enforcing federal immigration law.

Residents, property owners and workers in the city, as well as individuals from elsewhere in the county, shared concerns about what would happen if the ordinance was implemented.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said the purpose of the public hearing was to give residents a chance to comment on the idea of Rockville becoming a sanctuary city. She said she and the council received many letters over the past few weeks pertaining to the sanctuary city status.

There were “many in support and there are many who have concerns,” Newton said.

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County to hold hearing on providing security to Jewish centers

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Interfaith clergy assembly at JCCSpeakers from a variety of faiths were present at the Jewish Community Center's hate crime solidarity event earlier this week. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  

The Montgomery County Council agreed Tuesday to hold a public hearing on April 4 to allocate $225,000 to three Jewish institutions so that they could beef up their security in light of the 130 bomb threats received across the United States since the beginning of this year.

The most recent threat occurred Monday night at the Bender Jewish Community Center in Rockville. A threatening email was received at 11:32 p.m., said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Halber declined to say who the email was sent to, noting, “I am not interested in giving anyone ideas.”

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Parents and students talk inclusion at local schools

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ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County Public Schools’ parents and students said the school system’s intentions of not tolerating hate are clear, though their levels of satisfaction varied.

Richard Montgomery freshman Isabelle Young, co-founder of school club RM Huddle, said MCPS responded in a satisfactory manner to incidents of discrimination that she and her little sister observed at school. Her sister witnessed a friend who was Muslim being called a terrorist at her elementary school.

“There had been a student, I don’t know where he had heard it from but he had said some pretty nasty things,” Young said, “but their school counselors actually handled it really well and talked to all the kids.”

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WSSC rates called "Unfair"

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ROCKVILLE – Calling the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s (WSSC) rates unfair, WSSC customer testified against the company’s rate structure last week during a Montgomery County Council public hearing on the utility’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

At the hearing, WSSC customers testified to the council about what they called an unfair rate structure, calling for the Council to restructure how WSSC charges its customers.

“The ball is now squarely in your court, and that of the (Prince George’s) County Council, to move ahead to assure a reasonable rate structure is implemented that treats all of WSSC’s residential ratepayers, your constituents, fairly” said Richard Boltuck, a resident of Bethesda.

“Perhaps that will not happen in FY ‘18, but there are simply no remaining excuses for it be delayed beyond FY ‘19. For that to happen, however, you must insist clearly and unequivocally to WSSC now that this council will not approve an unduly discriminatory rate structure next year.”

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Cell tower exemptions being considered

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ROCKVILLE -- The Montgomery County Council Planning, Housing and Economic Development committee discussed Monday a proposed bill to allow telecommunication companies to install cell phone antennas on towers without a public hearing.

Under zoning law, all telephone towers must undergo a public appeal process.

However, Council President Nancy Floreen (D-At large) proposed in Zoning Text Amendment 16-05 to exempt telecommunication poles 30 feet or lower from public hearings.

At the meeting, the PHED committee decided not to vote or provide a recommendation for the proposed bill.

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Pepco prices draw local outrage

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Berliner decries 'offensive' proposed rate increase by power company

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ROCKVILLE – Local elected officials spoke out against a proposed rate hike by Pepco Tuesday during a Maryland Public Service Commission public hearing, saying a nearly increase would burden residents.

“This rate request is particularly offensive to ratepayers given the highly-touted $50 rate credit given to customers as a result of the Pepco and Exelon merger,” said Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), who has repeatedly criticized Pepco’s management during his time on council. “That paltry sum would be erased in a mere three-and-a-half-months if this proposed rate increase is adopted.”

Berliner also criticized Pepco for prior reliability problems though other speakers said the utility company has improved its service.

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Council examines future Pike development

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DSC 4405Development on Rockville Pike is being hotly contested in Rockville. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER

ROCKVILLE – Preventing new buildings from blocking sunlight to local residents’ homes and developing more access roads along MD-355 are two of the hot topics City Council members and staff plan to address with the new Rockville’s Pike Neighborhood Plan.

There will be public hearings on the Pike plan April 11 and May 16, which are separate from the April 4 and April 18 public hearings for the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

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