The Montgomery County Council. (Courtesy Photo)

ROCKVILLE – In the first meeting from the holiday break on Jan. 14, the Montgomery County Council covered a series of proclamations, bills and resolutions involving many different topics.

The meeting started with a proclamation recognizing January as National Radon Action Month.

That proclamation listed out statistics that are prevalent both at the state, county, and country-level that influence citizens to test for radon and make any necessary changes to prevent it.

“Radon claims the lives of 20,000 Americans each year, and one in every 15 homes has radon levels above the recommended guidelines,” the proclamation pointed out.

“Radon gas is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause cancer,” said Councilmember Craig Rice. “It’s the second leading cause of cancer in the United States behind smoking.”

“Radon does not discriminate,” said Jeff Ganz from the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors. “It doesn’t matter where in the county you live. It’s such an easy fix; there is no reason not to get tested and for repairs to get done.”

Radon is highly prevalent in this region. According to tests done by radon resources, Maryland has 20 counties and eight have been assigned Zone 1 counties by the United States Environmental protection Agency (EPA). Zone 1 counties have the highest potential to have homes test with higher levels of radon. Montgomery County is one of them.

Despite the negative results of these tests, Montgomery County was the first jurisdiction within the United States to enact a law requiring single-family homes to be tested for radon before being sold.

“We continue to do a great job in Montgomery County, promoting the safety of our residents,” Rice said.

The next proclamation of the day honored heroic first-responders. Montgomery County Police (MCP) officer Scott Brooks and Montgomery County Fire & Rescue (MCFRS) Lt. firefighter Wesly Owens, for saving two people from a fire on their way to work.

Owens commented on the rescue by acknowledging the heroism of Brooks, who arrived at the scene first.

“It’s truly incredible that someone that has never received training in the fire department like I have, stepped across, and did a role that he has no experience,” said Owens. “I’m impressed, and that’s what a true hero is.”

They moved on to the approval of the consent calendar where both Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Evan Glass spoke about Item G, which was a resolution to reappoint Christopher Cihlar as the director of the Office of Legislative Oversight.

“The reports his office makes not only help us make informed decisions but the public as well,” said Navarro.

“The office services an important function in our county government as an independent, non-partisan research arm of the county, Glass said. “I want to thank him for his leadership.”

The council voted in a unanimous decision to reappoint Cihlar.

The council also voted on Bill 18-19, which is Landlord Tenant Relations – Relocation Expenses. The bill would require a landlord to pay a tenant a relocation payment if the tenant’s housing is condemned as unfit for human habitation under certain circumstances.

It would also require a landlord to provide a tenant with a right of first refusal to reoccupy rental housing under certain circumstances. The council used a role-call vote and unanimously voted to approve the bill.

“The proposal is intended to help residents that are displaced at no fault of their own when a property owner fails to keep the building in a livable condition, said Councilmember Hans Riemer. “This is a tool for our department of housing and community affairs to talk to property owners after tenants submit complaints.”

Riemer also stated that if a property owner did not respond to the committee’s bill, that property owner would be responsible for payment of two months’ worth of rent.

“Property owners who do not maintain their rental properties and allow them to become unsafe or hazardous should bear the responsibility of their actions,” said Councilmember Will Jawando.

If the tenant caused the damage to the property, they would be held responsible, the bill states.

The last thing on the agenda was the resolution to adopt Bill 1-20, Health and Sanitation – Bodyworks Establishments – Licensing as a Board of Health Regulation.

This bill would require every individual performing bodyworks services to be a certified massage therapist or registered massage practitioner, require compliance with all county licensing requirements as a condition of building permits, allow the revocation of use and occupancy permits for zoning and licensing violations and generally amend the provisions for bodyworks establishments.

“The nice part about this legislation is that it would go a little farther in terms of promoting the safety of Montgomery County residents,” Rice said.

The public hearing for this bill is scheduled for Feb. 4 at 1:30 pm.


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