February 7, 2019
Scott Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412
ELLICOTT CITY – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today provided an update on progress in the first phase of his Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan at a news conference at the Visit Howard County Welcome Center in Historic Ellicott City. Ball unveiled the new Safe and Sound website, launched the Flood Mitigation Assistance Pilot Program application, announced an upgraded emergency alert plan and introduced the members of an exploratory committee to examine the potential for creating a Community Development Corporation (CDC) for Ellicott City.
Additionally, Ball provided a status report on ongoing repairs as upstream projects included in the previous flood mitigation plan are still moving forward as scheduled and updated current Ellicott City related legislation in the Maryland General Assembly. To see video of this event, please click https://youtu.be/UQJJxr3KYnQ. To access photos, please click https://flic.kr/s/aHsmAu9z6s. For all Ellicott City Safe and Sound information, updates, and prior reports/studies, please visit www.ecsafeandsound.org
“Substantial progress has been made on our Safe and Sound plan as part of our commitment to be open and transparent about our public safety, flood mitigation, and resiliency efforts in Ellicott City,” said Ball. “I am proud to unveil our new website for Safe and Sound that can be found at ecsafeandsound.org and encourage all residents to visit that site for the latest news, updates, as well as past reports and studies. I am also pleased to launch our flood mitigation grant program and announce our newly created exploratory committee to examine the potential for creating a Community Development Corporation (CDC) for Ellicott City. Finally, the safety and security of the residents, businesses, and visitors to Ellicott City is our top priority. Our Office of Emergency Management has purchased two temporary speaker arrays that will be placed at the Colored School and the Welcome Center to bolster the county’s Emergency Public Alert System, with new technology to enhance capabilities during extreme weather situations.”
ELLICOTT CITY SAFE AND SOUND – PHASE 1 UPDATES
Ongoing Repairs and Upstream Projects
The Howard County Department of Public Works (DPW) installation of a new culvert on Ellicott Mills Drive in Ellicott City will begin tomorrow, Friday, February 8. While installation is underway, parking lot “F” will be closed. Parking lot “G” will be available with limited pedestrian access to Main Street. The new culvert replaces an aluminum arch pipe installed in 1970 that was washed out during last year’s flood. While work is underway, visitors to Historic Ellicott City are encouraged to use parking lots “D” and “E”, which are both west of Old Columbia Pike. Combined, those two lots provide more than 260 parking spaces. Additionally, nearly 200 more spaces are available in the Circuit Courthouse parking lot. Following completion of the culvert installation, in about four weeks, DPW will begin work to backfill, rebuild and pave the section of Ellicott Mills Drive that was destroyed in the 2018 flood. Weather-permitting, DPW hopes to have Ellicott Mills Drive reopened by the Ellicott City Partnership’s SpringFest scheduled for April 27, 2019.
Additionally, DPW continues repair work to stabilize the stone retaining wall near Hi Ho Silver behind Old Columbia Pike. The wall’s foundation was damaged initially last May and by other rain events since then. Part of this project involves placing large stones along the base of the wall to prevent future erosion.
Emergency Public Alert System
The Office of Emergency Management has purchased two temporary speaker arrays that will be placed at the Colored School and the Welcome Center. These speaker systems emit a tone that can be heard at 120 decibels from 100 feet away (If you were 100 feet away from the system, it would sound like you were standing right next to the wailing siren of an ambulance). The speakers only emit tone, not voice, and are meant to be the last line of defense against a flood. The system will be hooked into the weather service’s alert system so it is triggered automatically anytime there is a Flash Flood Warning. The system can also be triggered manually by our local public safety professionals. This temporary system is meant to be a pilot for a permanent system that we plan to install next year. There will be a series of public meetings held over the next few months to educate people about the system and to get feedback that will be used as OEM works to build the permanent system. In addition to the speakers, the county has upgraded the variable message sign boards, so the messages can be changed remotely and those will be back in place before the spring storm season.
Clearing the Waterways
At the county executive’s direction, the Department of Public Works will be developing a program to increase the frequency of inspection and debris removal along nine waterways that experience a heavy debris load during significant weather events. Within three business days of any severe weather event (defined as rainfall greater than 2 inches over a 24-hour period or a storm with sustained winds greater than 30 mph), the county will inspect the nine waterways included in the pilot. Any debris that accumulated during the storm will be removed within 14 business days. Residents will be able to track inspections and see pictures of debris that was removed on a public dashboard on the ecsafeandsound.org website.
Flood Mitigation Assistance Pilot Program
The new “Flood Mitigation Assistance Pilot Program” is a matching grant program that will provide funding for flood mitigation projects in certain areas. After a year, the pilot program will be evaluated, and a determination will be made regarding the feasibility of expanding the program to other areas of the county. Applications are due by March 29th and awards will be made by April 29th. There will be two public meetings in advance of the application’s due date to provide the public with an opportunity to ask questions about the program and get help with applying, as needed. Those meetings will be held on February 19th and February 28th at the George Howard Building. This is a 50% matching grant program (meaning the property owner has to pay for half of the project cost) and the maximum amount per project is $5,000. To apply for Flood Mitigation Assistance Pilot Program, please visit ecsafeandsound.org.
Working with State Partners
Delegate Courtney Watson has introduced House Bill 428 – Comprehensive Flood Management Grant Program – Awards for Flood Damage and Mandatory Funding. The crossfile bill, Senate Bill 269, has been filed by Senator Katie Fry Hester. House Bill 428/Senate Bill 269 alters the policy and purpose of provisions of law governing flood control and watershed management to include establishing a grant program to assist local jurisdictions with infrastructure repairs, debris removal, and emergency protection work associated with a flood event; authorizing the Department of the Environment to use the comprehensive flood management grant program to award grants to subdivisions that incurred infrastructure damage of a certain monetary amount caused by a flood event on or after January 1, 2009.
Supporting Main Street Businesses
To assist Main Street businesses, County Executive Ball has directed the county’s Economic Development Authority to support one full-time staffer to act as an ombudsman for Main Street businesses. This individual will help promote tourism on Main Street and will assist business owners with any aspect of their business, including connecting them to available resources at the local, state, and federal level. We will be posting an application for this position next week.
Creation of a Community Development Corporation Exploration Committee
To examine the feasibility of creating a CDC for Ellicott City, County Executive Ball is launching the “Ellicott City CDC Exploration Committee.” This representative and diverse group of stakeholders will examine what a CDC for Ellicott City would look like, what its role would be, and how it would interact with other existing organizations already doing great work for the residents and businesses owners of Ellicott City. The Chair will be Mike Smith. The committee members are made up of individuals nominated by the county executive, as well as five individuals that were nominated by each Howard County Councilmember. There were also two spots that were selected by public application.
Members of the Ellicott City Community Development Corporation Exploration Committee:
Mike Smith (Chair)