On Thursday, February 16th, for the third time in his tenure as County Executive, Allan Kittleman stepped before a packed Chamber Luncheon and declared “the state of the county is strong!” as part of his annual State of the County address.

Let me start by saying that the state of our county is strong.

Nothing shows this more clearly than the way we have handled the challenges of the past year. We, as a county, have been tried and tested.

Yet, we’ve weathered those challenges and continued to make progress with our priorities:

  • Investing in our education system to keep our schools, libraries and community college among the best in the nation;
  • Growing our economy through innovation and economic development;
  • Providing comprehensive, effective services to our community;
  • Making government more responsive, efficient and accessible;
  • Pressing fast forward on projects that we’ve talked about for many years.

-Allan Kittleman

Of course this year’s speech was Allan’s first since the historic flooding took place in Ellicott City last July. The County Executive was quick to play homage to the people involved in the storm as well as the rebuild.

And then on July 30, six inches of rain in two hours. This unimaginable storm hit at the worst possible place in the state – Historic Ellicott City.
Ultimately, it took three lives and disrupted hundreds more. 90 businesses were damaged, residents were displaced and hundreds lost work. Buildings were unsafe. Streets impassable. Sidewalks destroyed.

It was heart-wrenching to watch residents and business owners sift through the mud and debris to find pieces of their lives. Ellicott City was knocked down. Experts told us it could be years before it got back up. But… we’re Howard County.

From the first 911 call, the entire county sprang into action. Within hours, public works crews began repairs. Within 48 hours, we held a town hall and resource fair. Within a week, a job fair. And within two weeks, many were able to come back to collect valuables.

Slowly, even with a state of emergency still in place, residents and businesses returned as conditions became safer.

And because of our fiscal stewardship, we were able to absorb the response and recovery costs without dipping into our rainy day fund.

Today, Main Street has come back to life.

  • 75 businesses have reopened.
  • 9 more have committed to reopening and three new business have set up shop here.
  • Residents have returned, traffic has returned and economic activity has returned.

The County Executive also recognized and presented a ceremonial coin to the venue’s owner and community member, Pete Mangione, for making available commercial store space inside the Turf Valley Conference Center to displaced Ellicott City shop owners.

In several cases, this space allowed these businesses to survive the difficult period after the flood.

The County Executive went on to speak about the need for a stronger educational system, economic development in Columbia’s Gateway complex, and the creation of the Non-Profit Center where multiple nonprofits will be located in Howard County under one roof.

But that wasn’t all.

So [far]..this year:

  • We’ll finalize the purchase of land in Jessup to allow for new schools, including a 13th high school;
  • The widening of Route 32 from 108 to Linden Church Road will begin;
  • In Columbia, Howard County Bike Share will launch with seven stations and 70 bicycles;
  • We will spend $10 million for road resurfacing to catch up on a $56 million, 10-year backlog;
  • We’re moving forward with changes to the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which hasn’t been updated since I was on the County Council back in 2002;
  • We will take ownership of the Harriet Tubman School and hope to celebrate Harriet Tubman Day at the school this fall. This project is near and dear to my heart, and I know that the community has been waiting over 20 years to preserve the building as a cultural and educational center;
  • TRACKHoward, our performance management system, is already improving services and increasing transparency. For example, since September,
  • we’ve saved a quarter of a million dollars through a more efficient, online procurement system;
  • We have asked the County Council to support a public-private partnership to replace the aging Circuit Court House. We haven’t kept up with technology, federal and state mandates or the needs of our residents and businesses. Due to a lack of space, a sixth judge can’t be appointed, causing cases to move slowly. Security remains a concern, particularly for juries, victims of domestic violence and children involved in domestic cases. I’d like to thank Judge Lenore Gelfman for her leadership on this critical project.

The County Executive covered these and many more important issues in this year’s State of the County address. To see the County Executive’s address in full, or for a transcript, please click here.

Be Heard Howard County