Human Services delivery in Howard County now enhanced with new Nonprofit Center

Howard County is creating a model of collaboration for the delivery of human services.  The New Howard County Nonprofit Center has opened at Patuxent Woods Drive in Columbia. My post about the plans for the Center is here.  The offices will soon be part of a larger Community Resources Campus when several Howard County government offices move to adjacent buildings. 

The Campus will be a one-stop shop for folks in need of assistance. It is centrally located at Broken Land and Snowden River Parkways, and is on several RTA bus routes. 

Proximity can serve to enlarge the world view among participants and foster innovation, for the benefit of the organizations and the clients. It requires the commitment of the agencies to make it happen, and our encouragement. 

Nonprofit center model comes to Columbia

by Fatimah Waseem (Columbia Flier), April 28, 2017

A vision floated more than two decades ago to bring local nonprofit organizations and human service agencies under one roof is materializing in a small corporate park in Columbia.

A dozen local agencies and organizations have moved into the nonprofit center at 9770 Patuxent Woods Drive, which will serve as their headquarters and as a Continue reading Human Services delivery in Howard County now enhanced with new Nonprofit Center


Aerial Videos of Columbia and Howard County

Two drone operators, LRogers1096 and JONTBMX have posted on YouTube several aerial videos of Columbia and Howard County.  These are my favorites. If you want to subscribe to be informed of future videos by these folks, click on the links above.

January 13 is Korean-American Day in Maryland

On Friday, January 13, Maryland is one of several states and the federal government to celebrate Korean American Day. It honors the Korean American community’s contributions in the United States and commemorates the arrival of the first Korean immigrants on January 13, 1903.  In 2005, the United Sates Congress passed resolutions supporting the goals and aspirations of Korean American Day.

republic-of-korea-war-service-medalI feel real kinship with Korean Americans. My father fought in the Korean War 1951-1952 and came to love Korean people and culture. He was thanked by conferral of the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. As the son of my father, I have felt a partnership with Korea. I appreciate Korean-American’s contributions to our community.

Maryland road to be named ‘Korean Way’

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) — A section of a Maryland road will be named “Korean Way” in recognition of Koreans’ contribution to economic development and cultural diversity in the U.S. state, the office of Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday. Continue reading January 13 is Korean-American Day in Maryland

We waste a lot of food; In sink garbage disposals make the waste worse!

In the season just past of great foods and feasts, I’m mindful of the amount of food waste we generate. Obviously, there are huge amounts of wasted food in restaurants, and there are always leftover scraps from family dinner.  What we do with that waste has environmental consequences.

It is estimated that 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten, and perhaps 25% of household food.  Uneaten food is reportedly the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste landfills.  And 93% of us in Howard county have Insinkerators that flush scraps down the drain, requiring that it be processed by Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant or Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant in Baltimore City.

The Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant in Howard County, Maryland (photo by Atkins Global)
The Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant in Savage, Maryland (photo by Atkins Global)

There’s a better way.  Howard County has now made composting food scraps even easier! Residents in the collection areas can now “Feed The Green Bin” with all of their food scraps, including meat, fat, and dairy; other residents can drop off food scraps at the Alpha Ridge Landfill.  And there are efforts to divert still edible food to people and places that can use it.

What’s Going Down Your Drain
by HoCo Office of Community Sustainability — 12/21/16

Wow! We had a great response to our garbage disposal survey. Here’s what we learned… Continue reading We waste a lot of food; In sink garbage disposals make the waste worse!

Current Status of Charter Schools in Maryland

Public Charter Schools have the potential to improve our education of elementary and secondary school students. I’ve learned this from my work the last eight years facilitating more effective financial management of these schools. It is disappointing, therefore, that Maryland/Howard County has made so little commitment to Public Charter Schools.  It is equally troubling that there is not better understanding of  what charter schools are. 

I have found that the agencies operating Charter Schools, like the nonprofit world in general, range from ineffective but well-intentioned, to cutting edge and well-managed. The former schools need to be closed by the authorizer. The latter need to be replicated for the good of all our kids. But there are real obstacles to charter schools achieving their potential in Maryland. Here’s a primer on what Charter Schools are all about.

Continue reading Current Status of Charter Schools in Maryland

Howard Countians need to pay more attention to mental health

People experiencing an acute or chronic mental illness need to have access to the help they need when they need it. Failure to connect with the appropriate support in a crisis can have dire consequences. And yet, health insurance coverage for mental illness is often inadequate. And while Howard County has a wide variety of behavioral health resources, there are gaps among needed services. 

Howard Countians collectively need to pay better attention to our behavioral health, identifying mental health issues when they occur and obtaining early intervention. That means volunteers should get Mental Health First Aid training (like CPR), agencies need to find ways to collaborate and remove barriers to care, and County government needs to make a bigger commitment to funding programs that plug service gaps.

Leaders of Howard County’s behavioral health system know what needs to be done, outlined here in the plans and advocacy goals of key players. It only requires the will and financial commitment to make it happen.

Continue reading Howard Countians need to pay more attention to mental health

The Ellicott City Flood and Flooding

This post was updated May 28, 2018. CLICK HERE.

As we mourn the deaths of two people, the torment inflicted on residents and businesses, and the loss we feel as a community from the July 30th flood, planning has begun for the city’s restoration.

Ellicott City has a long history of flooding, and each time has recovered better than before. Short-term planning needs to consider long-term requirements for improved flood mitigation. Significant work has already been done to understand the challenges and identify the work to be done. As we consider next steps, let’s step back and get a better understanding of the big picture.

Ellicott City – The Great Floods

Lower Ellicott City had been prone to flooding since it was founded. There has been at least four different major floods in recorded history in Downtown Ellicott City. So what makes it so prone?

First of all, Ellicott City sits at the confluence of the Tiber and Patapsco Rivers. This in itself moves a lot of water. Another issue is that Ellicott City sits in a shallow valley, with many of the expanding buildings and homes having to be build literally over the Tiber river. This makes water from almost all directions converge in the valley to the Tiber River before being emptied in the Patapsco. And this isn’t even the biggest issue.

Tiber River watershed, adapted from Google Maps
The Tiber River is tiny compared to the Patapsco River. The Patapsco can carry larger amounts of water than the Tiber River can, adding to the quickness of the flooding downtown. The valley and large water confluence causes the natural watershed to be turned into a river itself. Water rushed from all directions until the larger Patapsco River can’t handle the volume. It then backs up like how a dam backs up water. This causes water levels to rise, and rise, and rise.Flooding can cause billions in damaged and can be cause by numerous things such as hurricanes or unusual rainy periods and have unfortunately caused deaths in Ellicott City.

Ellicott City gets rainfall expected only once every millennium

Ellicott City July 30, by Josh Zimmerman
Ellicott City July 30 (Photo by Josh Zimmerman)

by Scott Dance (The Baltimore Sun) – July 31, 2016

Six and a half inches of rain dumped on Ellicott City in about two hours Saturday night, a deluge expected to occur only once every thousand years.

More than 4.5 inches fell within one hour, from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., according to a Howard County rain gauge.

The massive burst of precipitation sent a wave of floodwaters cascading down the hillsides in the historic downtown where it turned into a wall of water smashing down Main Street, sweeping cars downhill, sending restaurant-goers scurrying for higher ground and carving away the road and sidewalks, leaving behind massive sinkholes.

The Patapsco River rose 14 feet from about 7:20 p.m. to 9 p.m., according to the weather service.

Based on records for a gauge five miles away in Woodstock, there is a less than 0.1 percent chance of such intense rainfall happening in any given year, Elliott said — making this a once-in-1,000-years storm.

Tropical Storm Agnes, June 21 – 23, 1972

Flooded Main Street Ellicott City from Agnes. (Photo by Mike Hartley)
Flooded Main Street Ellicott City from Agnes (Photo by Mike Hartley)

Tropical storm Agnes struck the area with nine inches of rain causing flash floods all over the county. Massive flooding caused at least 3 deaths and bodies were still being found days later. Extensive personal and government property damage occurred as well as the complete flooding of Elkridge and Ellicott City, which had to be evacuated in the middle of the night by boat.

(The Patapsco River crested at 14.5 ft with a flood volume of 80,600 cubic feet per second.) Several commercial enterprises including trucking firms, paper producers, chemical plants, and others were completely washed away along the Patapsco River.

Howard County became what was called a “veritable island” as bridges were washed away on the Patapsco and Patuxent Rivers. This disaster was so complete that the financial damage could not be estimated in some instances due to the total removal of all traces of property. Many businesses simply did not attempt to reopen.

Howard County Flood Mitigation Plan, Department of Public Works (Sept. 6, 2010)

In Howard County, the flood origins consist of riverine flooding from the tributaries of the Patuxent River bordering Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties to the southwest and the Patapsco River bordering Carroll and Baltimore County to the north and northeast, as well as many streams and rivers in between. These include the Little Patuxent River, the Middle Patuxent River, Cattail Creek, Deep Run, Dorsey Run, Bonnie Branch, Plumtree Branch, Guilford Branch, Hammond Branch, Clyde’s Branch, Tiber-Hudson Branch, and many others (Figure 1.2).

Potential Flood Damage

Several conclusions can be made regarding the question of flooding vulnerability in Howard County.

  • First, given that Howard County has a number of streams and rivers that have significant floodplains and given that it contains more than 90,000 improved properties, the fact that only 198 (0.2%) are vulnerable to flooding is probably a result of strong land use regulations and the leadership and foresight to implement them (as well as a fortuitous geomorphology).
  • Second, given the potential for increased development potential plus the “flashy” nature of many of the County’s streams, the time to redouble the County’s efforts to protect its citizens from flooding is now.
  • Third, even though the County is largely flood-resistant, there are certain areas that remain very vulnerable, such as Ellicott City and Elkridge, for which there is no easy answer.
      • In the chapters that follow, a number of potential actions will be recommended. In the end, it will be incumbent upon the people of Howard County to reduce their personal vulnerability to flooding.

    Historic Ellicott City Flood Workgroup, Introduction

    Flooding is a major problem in the Patapsco River and Hudson/Tiber Watershed Tributaries, causing significant property damage and personal loss. There have been numerous incidents of flooding, including several recent major events.

    The Howard County Flood Mitigation Plan identifies Historic Ellicott City as an area of flood vulnerability, stating:

    “The (Old) Ellicott City area will potentially be one of the most impacted during a 100-year flood event on the Patapsco River…Nearly all structures in the area may suffer flooding damage to their buildings and contents. Many are likely to be impacted significantly or severely. In addition to flooding from the Patapsco River, the (Old) Ellicott City area is also impacted by the Tiber Hudson Branch, Cat Rock Run, Autumn Hill Branch, and New Cut Branch. There are many businesses in the (Old) Ellicott City area, making both the buildings and their valuable contents vulnerable to flooding.”

    The Howard County Executive funded approximately $2,500,000 in Fiscal Year 2016 for a first phase (Phase I) of flood mitigation projects in the Historic Ellicott City area. In conjunction with that effort, the Howard County Executive created the Historic Ellicott City Flood Workgroup through Executive Order 2015- 06. While the Workgroup will not oversee Phase I efforts, it is tasked with recommending flood mitigation solutions to be included in future efforts (Phase II).

    Workgroup Recommendations (Dec. 1, 2015)

    The Historic Ellicott City Flooding Workgroup is making the following recommendations to the Howard County Executive and County Council with the goal of protecting the Ellicott City Historic District by enhancing public safety and minimizing damage to properties.

    A. Structural: The Flood Workgroup has identified short and long range structural improvements to the stormwater management systems in the Ellicott City drainage area to mitigate and possibly eliminate property damage.

    B. Maintenance/Monitoring: Minimize the amount of debris that accumulates within the stream channels of the Tiber and Hudson tributaries, as well as the drainage channels that empty into the Tiber and Hudson; Monitor the channels and tributaries on a scheduled basis of four times per year.

    C. Education: In a world where climate changes are somewhat unpredictable and building developments can change the flow of stormwater in Historic Ellicott City, Howard County should reach out to developers, commercial interests, business owners and residents with the latest information about techniques to control and mitigate floodwater.

    D. Programmatic/Capacity: In order to mitigate flooding in Ellicott City, the Flood Workgroup feels that consistent and dedicated resources need to be applied to the flooding issue until measurable improvements are seen.

    E. Other

    Elli­cott City Clean Green and Safe Com­mit­tee

    Maryland Flood Highlights Need for Climate Change Planning

    by Becky Hammer (NRDC) – August 1, 2016

    This weekend, a historic flash-flooding event killed two people and caused massive destruction in Ellicott City, Maryland. The town received more than 6 inches of rain over the span of two hours. According to the National Weather Service, an event like this should statistically happen only once every 1,000 years, based on historical data.

    But because of climate change, extreme events like this one are happening more frequently, and scientists expect that trend to continue into the future. Our past experiences with floods are no longer a reliable indicator of our present or future risk.

    So why is Maryland not comprehensively accounting for climate change in its new plan to protect its communities—like Ellicott City—from future natural disasters?

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