Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rockville’s first dog park to open in King Farm on Saturday

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Canines and their human companions are invited to attend the grand opening ceremonies on Saturday from 10 a.m. 1 p.m. at Pleasant and Piccard drives.

Hosted by the city and the Rockville Dog Owners Group, the free event will include dog-friendly information booths, local vendors, dog specialists and a moonbounce for kids.

The park includes fenced-in dog runs, canine water fountains, a shade shelter and a picnic area. Only Rockville residents who have completed a liability release form for licensed dogs will be allowed to use the free park.

The dog park is the first section of the new 28-acre Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park at King Farm.

Walking paths are ready for use. Tennis courts, basketball courts, a playground and two rectangular sports fields are scheduled to open this summer.

The park is named for the King Farm teenager who succumbed to a neuromuscular disease in 2004. Stepanek spread his message of peace worldwide through his books of best selling poetry.

Mattie’s mother, Jeni Stepanek, lives across the street from the park with her son’s service dog, Micah. A life-sized bronze statue of Mattie at a chess table with Micah by his side will be dedicated along with the rest of the park in 2008.

‘‘The park is an incredibly special place that captures Mattie’s philosophy of playing after every storm,” Jeni said.

For more information, call city employee Mark Kibiloski at 240-314-8704.

Speed cameras come slow

Speeders are getting an extended warning period from a new speed camera system initiated last month.

Originally scheduled to end last week, the warning period will continue until April 30 in the city, allowing the county more time to post warning signs.

An agreement was recently reached between the county and Maryland State Highway Administration, allowing signs at speed enforcement zones on state roadways throughout the county.

‘‘The departments want to make sure the public is fully informed about where the technology is deployed before the first actual citations are issued,” states a county police news release.

City officials say they delayed the start of the enforcement period because they are piggybacking on a county contract for the cameras.

No RHS cell tower

T-Mobile has dropped a proposal to build a cell tower at Rockville High School.

‘‘This is withdrawn purely for financial reasons,” Jane Builder, T-Mobile spokeswoman, said in a phone interview last week.

In February, the company announced a proposal to build a 98-foot cell tower in place of one of the stadium lights at the school. The proposal was pulled after a financial review made by the corporation, not because of any pushback from the community, Builder said.

The proposal had not attracted the attention and community opposition that T-Mobile’s other proposed tower, at Julius West Middle School, has.

The high school administration supported the idea, saying the rent money for the tower would have come in handy for student activities and other needs.

‘‘I’m immediately going to go after another one,” Principal Debra Munk said about the proposal. ‘‘The cell coverage in this area is terrible. And we got very little pushback from the community.”

Powell and Marcuccio talk

Two potential mayoral candidates have been talking about their plans — with each other.

Rockville City Councilwoman Phyllis R. Marcuccio and Drew Powell, executive director of the watchdog group Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, discussed their political plans during lunch earlier this month.

‘‘We don’t believe that running against each other would serve the greater good,” Powell said.

Marcuccio and Powell have both confirmed that they are considering a run at replacing outgoing Mayor Larry Giammo.

The only candidate to announce so far, Councilwoman Susan R. Hoffmann, declined to comment until someone officially announces his or her candidacy.

Marcuccio said she and Powell do not want to split a voting block that opposes Hoffmann.

‘‘We don’t want to run against one another,” Marcuccio said.

A greener city

Environmentally friendly can be friendly on your wallet.

The city is beginning to reap the financial benefits of a $1.1 million capital improvement project that made municipal facilities more energy efficient.

Johnson Controls guaranteed the city $115,655 in energy cost and operational savings in fiscal year 2006. The results were in last week, as Director of Recreation and Parks Burt Hall told the council the actual savings came to $180,104.

The project was completed in May 2005 by Johnson Controls Inc., an energy management company out of Alexandria, Va.

Improvements included replacement of the City Hall boiler and cooling tower and the Swim Center boiler, lighting retrofits, the installation of programmable thermostats in most city buildings and computer-controlled energy management systems in City Hall, the Swim Center and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre.

The city is expected to offset its initial investment with continued savings over the next 14 years, something the council praised.

‘‘It’s nice to know somebody’s turning the lights out in City Hall,” Councilwoman Phyllis R. Marcuccio said.

City gets EPA award

The city recently received an award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for its restoration of the main stem of Watts Branch.

From January 2005 to February 2006, the project restored a stream buffer, stabilized 4,000 feet of eroding stream bank and upgraded storm drain outfalls.

Designed to reduce the level of pollution entering Chesapeake Bay, the improved section of Watts Branch runs through Woottons Mill Park from Watts Branch Parkway to Wootton Parkway.

The federal government financed the project, issuing a $1.4 million zero-interest loan, administered by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The Department of the Environment nominated the city for the EPA’s 2006 Performance and Innovation Creating Success Award. It is given to communities that effectively use the federal funding from the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

Reappointment

The council reappointed Stuart Crump to the Senior Citizens Commission on Monday. His new term will expire April 1, 2010.