ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced that the State of Howard County is strong, and that Howard County is on “the road to excellence.” During his annual State of the County address, Ball outlined significant plans for faith-based initiatives, upcoming progress on the Ellicott City Safe and Sound flood mitigation plan, transformative expansion of hospital capacity to improve emergency operations, and exciting investment in building and retaining our workforce.
We endured one of the most challenging times in our history. However, throughout it all, Howard County remains a national model for response, recovery, and resilience. Our bold, transformational vision has always been data informed and people driven. We will continue to be at the forefront of sparking innovation, investing in education, protecting our environment, and strengthening our communities. The state of Howard County is strong, and I believe our biggest, boldest, and brightest days are ahead, as we journey towards the next stop on the road to excellence.
Faith-Based Initiatives: Following recent events in Israel and Palestine, and a rise of Islamophobia and Antisemitic rhetoric in the county, County Executive Ball announced $750,000 in grants to protect houses of worship in Howard County. This funding will help deter potential acts of violence and hate crimes in the county.
In addition, Ball announced a future Interfaith Advisory Council, comprised of more than 35 faith leaders to build, and nurture relationships within the interfaith community. This council, a first in Howard County, will provide valuable recommendations to address some of the most pressing matters in local religious communities.
Ellicott City Safe and Sound: County Executive Ball announced two major advancements in his comprehensive Ellicott City Safe and Sound flood mitigation plan. In Summer of 2024, Ball will break ground on the H4 flood mitigation pond, which will hold more than 5.5 million gallons of water during storm events. As part of the EC Safe and Sound plan, the H7 and Quaker Mill flood mitigation ponds have already been completed under Ball’s leadership, and hold a combined total of more than 7.5 million gallons of water.
Ball also announced that this January, the County will begin the building removal work on Lower Main Street in Ellicott City. He anticipates that once the work begins in January, it will continue into Spring of 2024. Four structures are slated to come down as part of Ball’s plan, and the County and will preserve and renovate six other County-owned buildings on Lower Main Street. Under the prior administration, ten buildings were slated to be removed, adversely impacting the historic culture in Ellicott City.
Health: Ball announced a $15 million commitment to the Johns Hopkins Howard County Medical Center, the County’s only hospital, to address the growing needs in the emergency department. This funding will support the renovation of the first floor of the pavilion building into a 29-bed observation unit. This new unit will reduce wait times and length of stay for all patients.
In his Fiscal Year 2024 County Budget, Ball provided $1 million towards an expanded Behavioral Health Unit at the Johns Hopkins Howard County Medical Center. Ball announced additional funding of $1 million to support mental health needs at the Howard County Medical Center in the upcoming budget.
Workforce: In his FY24 budget, Ball included $1 million for Howard Community College’s Workforce Development and Skilled Trades Center. Ball announced a total commitment of $10 million to support this transformative center. Ball noted that this center will “be a beacon of innovation and increase our economic viability statewide.”
Housing Opportunities: Ball reiterated his commitment to address housing affordability through his bold Housing Opportunities Meant for Everyone, or HOME, package. One element of this package is a commitment of $1.6 million to secure final funding for the groundbreaking Patuxent Commons affordable housing initiative.
“This is a visionary, multigenerational project that will include 25% of units set aside for persons with disabilities, ensuring that we are growing inclusively, together,” said Ball.
Recreation and Parks: Ball announced significant investment in Howard County Recreation and Parks facilities in the upcoming capital budget, including
- $20 million for the already designed, long-awaited construction of a pool at the North Laurel Community Center.
- $5 million to begin the planning and construction of an indoor track facility at Troy Park in Elkridge.
- $3 million for new community centers in Howard County:
- $1.5 million for planning and design to reimagine the site of the Columbia Flier building as a new center for recreation and community services. This is partnership between Columbia Concepts and Columbia Community Cares.
- $1.5 million to plan and design an Elkridge Community Center.
- $1.5 million to start the planning and design for a future ice rink.
- $400,000 to begin design for a Public Gardens Concept. This garden, a first for Howard County, will include plant cultivars and species such as trees, shrubs, groundcover, and flowers that are native to our region.
Ball also announced the future establishment of a Boys and Girls Club in partnership with Howard County Government, Howard Community College, and the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore. Scheduled to open in 2024, this new club will provide critical after-school programming and mentorship. It will also be the first of its kind in the state.
Revitalizing the Ellicott City Courthouse: Ball announced that the Historic Courthouse in Ellicott City will be repurposed to become a transformative Center for Arts, Culture, and History. After receiving comments from more than 600 community stakeholders, the historic courthouse will become a space for the Howard County Center for the Arts, the County’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Cultural Center, the nationally recognized Roving Radish, and a shared commercial kitchen space.
The current site for the Howard County Center for the Arts will become a new space for Howard County Black Greek Letter Nonprofits. For the first time in Howard County history, there will be a dedicated space for historically black fraternities and sororities to meet and offer key programs for the community. This space will be the first of its kind in Maryland.
COVID-19: During his address, Ball announced that he will break ground on the Howard County COVID-19 Memorial on November 3, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. This will be a space where people can reflect on a challenging period in recent history, while serving as a reminder of our resilience and a symbol of renewal in our community. The groundbreaking will occur at Meadowbrook Park in Ellicott City.
In addition, Ball announced special COVID-19 vaccine clinics, in partnership with the Howard County Health Department (HCHD), Centennial Medical Group, and the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. Clinics will occur on the following dates and times for the respected age groups:
- Beginning October 30th, HCHD will host special clinics to children under 11-years-old. This includes toddlers and babies. HCHD is the only health department in the state to bring COVID-19 boosters to elementary schools.
- On November 17th, Ball will host a Senior Clinic at the Bain 50+ Center to provide an opportunity for Older Adults to get vaccinated.
- Uninsured adults can get a COVID-19 booster and flu shot at HCHD on Mondays and Fridays.
Poet Laureate: Ball also announced the establishment of Howard County’s first Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate program in partnership with the Howard County Arts Council and HoCoPoLitSo. As the first program of its kind in Howard County and one of the only in the state, this competitive initiative will put a spotlight and focus on our incredible poetry and literature community right here at home. The Howard County Arts Council Board unanimously approved the administration of this program.
Flag Commission: Ball announced a commission to redesign the Howard County flag. The current Howard County flag was adopted nearly 55 years ago. The commission will oversee the guidelines, public submission, and review process that will result in the selection of a brand-new flag design that truly encompasses Howard County’s past, present and future. Coleen West, Executive Director of the Howard County Center for the Arts, will serve as chair of this commission.
Cold Cases: Ball announced that the Howard County Police Department and Howard County Department of Technology and Communication Services will build a new database and website dedicated to solving cold cases in Howard County. Currently in Howard County, there are 27 cases that remain unsolved, dating back to the 1970’s. This initiative will not only help bring families closure, but it will also underscore the importance of using modern technology to bring closure and justice to families.
Digital Equity: Ball announced that in addition to expanded WiFi at the Howard County Fairgrounds for the first time in Howard County history, Howard County will expand its digital network to Columbia Association facilities, including six village centers and all 23 pools. Currently, the County has six dedicated fiber rings with a network that includes all county buildings, schools, the hospital, Columbia Association, and all Howard County Public Libraries.
Education: During his speech, Ball noted that Howard County is ahead of schedule in implementing the state-mandated Blueprint for Maryland’s Future due to progress in opening a new Pre-k center at the Faulkner Ridge Center, recent opening of Guilford Park High School, the County’s first new high school to open since 2005, and record investment in the school system’s capital and operating budget requests.
Ball also announced that High School 14 will no longer be considered in Troy Park, and he made a $15 million commitment to invest in site acquisition for a new home for High School 14 in Elkridge.
Volunteer Firefighters: Howard County remains home as the Safest City in Maryland, and one of the safest cities in America. To that end, Ball will provide $100,000 to each of the six Volunteer Fire Corporations during the next fiscal year. The stations are located in Elkridge, Ellicott City, West Friendship, Savage, Lisbon, and Clarksville.
Solar: In 2021, Howard County signed the largest Solar Power Purchase Agreement in Maryland. Howard County now receives 47% of its electricity needed for County Government operations from solar. There more projects are under design and permitting, and Ball expects at least 55% of County government operations to be powered by solar within the next two years.
Serving as your County Executive has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. We have faced hardship and uncertainty, but the goal remains working for our community and establishing the best quality of life, not just overall, but for all. Together, we will think bigger, grow bolder, and shine brighter to shape the future of Howard County. I truly believe that our best days are ahead as we journey to the next stop on the road to excellence, together.