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By Peter Rouleau @petersrouleau
GAITHERSBURG — Members of several of Gaithersburg’s advisory committees came to City Hall Monday night to provide Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council with an overview of their work this year and to make recommendations for the future.
Carolyn Bass, chair of the Senior Advisory Committee, said that her committee’s work had been largely focused on improving the facilities at the Benjamin Gaither Center, which hosts many senior-oriented activities. Committee members and city officials toured other senior centers in the area, seeking inspiration for improving the city’s facilities.
“In the short term, we are requesting improvements to the Benjamin Gaither Center building interior through painting, graphics and artwork, thereby giving an inviting and appealing impression to current and prospective members,” Bass said. “Where possible, we hope to find more permanent ways to improve the inconsistent heating and cooling in various areas of the building, especially the exercise room and the dining room annex.”
Bass also urged the Council to expand facilities and program offerings in the long term, citing Census Bureau projections that indicate the senior population in Montgomery County will significantly increase in the coming decade.
“I’ve gotten to know the Benjamin Gaither Center up close and personal over the last year,” said Council member Laurie-Anne Sayles, the council liaison to the Senior Advisory Committee. “I’ve taken some exercise classes, and I can testify to having to quickly rearrange the room for the next class to come in.”
Sayles encouraged the Council to hold public forums and listening sessions with the city’s senior community.
Former Council member Yvette Monroe, who served as the Council liaison to the Senior Advisory Committee until she was unseated by Sayles in last year’s election, is now a member of the committee.
Members of the Environmental Affairs Committee discussed several environmental programs sponsored by the City over the past year, such as a community shredding event, as well as recommendations for action the Council.
“The EAC brought up chlorides and salts in local streams,” said Committee member Paul Helvinka. “We should monitor chlorine in the city streams and explore recommendations for mitigation strategies. Also, explore food-composting options for city residents. The city should sign and endorse a letter to Congress endorsing the Climate Fee Dividend as a key element in reducing the risks of climate change. Also, explore the Montgomery County lawn care bill, 52-14, as a means of addressing pesticides in the city of Gaithersburg.”
Helvinka also paid tribute to the memory of John Hudson and John Stokke, city residents who often participated in park cleanups and other environmental activities. He referred to Hudson and Stokke, who both passed away earlier this year, as “fallen oaks.”
Joe Allen, chair of the Transportation Committee, raised the issue of the committee’s participation in discussions at the county level to improve public transit and expand bicycle routes.
“We improved National Bike to Work Day with a pit stop in Olde Towne, and though weather wasn’t ideal that afternoon, to say the least, we feel like we had a lot more participation,” Allen said.
Allen said that his committee would like to work closely with the Environmental Affairs Committee, the Police Advisory Committee, and Planning Commission in addressing the city’s transportation needs.
“The County is doing a lot of great work on Bus Rapid Transit and the Bicycle Master Plan,” Allen said. “We expect the Bicycle Master Plan to be in [place] the next month or so, and as we look to build our own short links into the master plans, we would like to continue to meet with other city committees.”
“I’ve talked to our County Executive-elect, Marc Elrich, several times over the years,” said Council member Neil Harris, the Transportation Committee liaison. “In recent years, he’s talked about taking another good, hard look at the CCT (the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway). So, we’re not just looking at 355 for the BRT, but hopefully a more rational view. In fact, Marc’s thoughts on the CCT and BRT are much in line with the suggestion made by the city, that was rejected by the state, about taking those lines and straightening them out and making them something a bit more rational than the latest iteration of the state’s plan.”