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Baltimore County News

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New Urban Park Coming to Towson Courthouses Next Summer

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz smashed through the concrete surface of the existing Patriot Plaza this morning, officially starting construction of a new urban park that brings more green open space to the people who live and work in, or visit, downtown Towson.

A crowd of Towson supporters, including Councilmen Julian Jones and David Marks, Delegate Steve Lafferty, Towson Chamber of Commerce Director Nancy Hafford and County officials, looked on as the County Executive operated a hydraulic hammer on a large backhoe to take out a section of the stone fountain in the plaza’s center.  

The $5.5 million renovation project will remove nearly two acres of impervious concrete from the existing plaza, between the Historic Courthouse and Circuit Courthouse buildings and replace it with 1.8 acres of attractive green space with new pavers, sidewalks, seating walls, lighting and furnishings. The park will better showcase the existing memorials dedicated to fallen police and fire fighters.

“Towson is evolving into more of a 21st century vibrant urban center and beautiful public spaces are an important element in offering that lifestyle for people,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “Our courthouse gardens have long offered a convenient place to take a break and enjoy nature, right in the heart of downtown Towson, and this new green space on the opposite side of the Historic Courthouse will offer a welcoming venue for people to gather during the week and for special events. We thank our community and civic leaders who gave helpful feedback that contributed to this design.”

The new green space will replace an impervious concrete and paver courtyard centered by a fountain that has not functioned for several years.  Leaks in the fountain’s infrastructure require immediate reconstruction of a significant portion of the plaza. Repairs must take place on a tight time frame to avoid additional costly damage to office spaces and technology systems located below the plaza.

The County consulted with the Towson Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations (GTCCA) and representatives of the fire and police unions and memorial associations to gather input on the design. The design was developed by Rubeling & Associates, a Towson architectural firm. The general contractor is Northpoint Builders and the civil engineering firm is JMT.

“This will be a welcome transformation and a complement to some of the other “green” efforts in town,” said Nancy Hafford, Executive Director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce. “This beautiful new space will expand the possibilities for great public events and gatherings.”

“I was pleased to be asked for my input on the park design, and I think the final result will be very attractive with the dramatic shift from hardscaping to green space,” said Paul Hartman, a member of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations.

"The improvements to Patriot Plaza will make the Baltimore County Police Memorial more visible and accessible, while ensuring that the monument continues to provide a solemn tribute to officers who made the ultimate sacrifice," said retired Colonel Dennis Robinson, Chair of the Baltimore County Police Memorial Fund. “I want to thank the County Executive and his team for their thoughtful consideration of our recommendations.”

Retired Fire Chief Elwood Banister added, “Anything that we can do to educate more people about our tribute to our fallen fire fighters is greatly appreciated. I find this new design very respectful of our monument.”

Funds for the $5.5 million project were approved by the County Council in the FY2017 operating budget. The new green plaza is expected to be completed in June 2018.

Baltimore County has spent more than $57 million on open space and recreational projects since 2010. “We are committed to enhancing the quality of life in our County by providing attractive open space and community gathering places,” concluded Kamenetz. 


County Officials Remind Residents of the Importance of Being Prepared

On the anniversary of 9/11 and with the nation focused on two historic hurricanes, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and emergency management officials today highlighted local preparedness efforts, unveiled a renovated Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and summarized the County’s ongoing efforts to assist with response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

A press briefing, held in the EOC, featured Baltimore County Fire Department (BCoFD ) personnel recently returned from deployment with Maryland 1-DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team), a U.S. Health and Human Services task force, to areas of Texas flooded following Hurricane Harvey.

In addition, Fire Chief Kyrle W. Preis III provided a summary of activities by BCoFD personnel deployed to Texas and now to Florida as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Pennsylvania Task Force #1, an Urban Search and Rescue team.

The number and placement of Baltimore County personnel on these various task forces has varied since August 28. Currently, five BCoPD are in Florida to assist with recovery from Hurricane Irma – one with DMAT and four with PAT1.

EOC upgrade

The Kamenetz administration recently invested in a comprehensive upgrade to the EOC, including a $152,000 technical upgrade featuring two video walls capable of displaying up to 16 different media sources.

EOC representatives have access to GIS information; a video telepresence to internal and external resources; access to Maryland Emergency Management Agency and Web EOC information; CCTV, including CHART and Baltimore County Police’s Aviation feed; and shared information from EOC command PCs. The upgrade also included new air conditioning, upgraded emergency power and new furniture.

“Working through a disaster is difficult under the best of circumstances,” Kamenetz said. “It’s critical that our personnel have modern facilities and reliable, state-of-the-art technology. Every citizen has an interest in this investment.”

Local Preparedness Efforts

Irma, one of strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, is unlikely to have a significant impact on our region. However, Irma and Harvey – two Category 4 hurricanes that struck the U.S. within weeks – are reminders of the need for every community in every state to prepare.

The County’s preparedness efforts began last week – when Irma’s track was uncertain – with equipment checks and outreach to mutual aid and private and non-profit partners to ensure that contact information and agreements are current. Training for first responders occurs constantly, and EOC representatives meet several times a year for exercises designed to refresh them on processes and procedures during an activation. EOC activations occur when an emergency requires a coordinated, multi-agency response.

StormReady Community Certification

Baltimore County’s preparedness includes certification by the National Weather Service as a “StormReady” jurisdiction. StormReady communities must establish a 24-hour warning points and emergency operations center; have multiple warning systems in place; establish weather monitoring systems; promote public readiness; and conduct emergency exercises.

With hurricane and tropical storm season still at its peak, now is the time for citizens to check home emergency kits and other preparedness needs including emergency contacts, family communication plans, plans for pets, medications and water. More information is available on the County’s website at

By Ethel Rasmussen, Baltimore County Department of Aging

Linda Blake first got involved after retiring from a 40 year career with the government. Her goal at the time was to open a daycare facility and she felt that volunteering would provide her with the necessary experience. She started as a volunteer in a kindergarten classroom assisting children with special needs and found this to be her calling. Her time in the classroom revealed that there is no greater joy than working with children.

Mrs. Blake volunteers five hours a day, three days a week, at Edmondson Heights Elementary School as part of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). Her job can entail focusing on the smallest of tasks such as tying a shoe, to working with a child on their developmental skills. Each day is filled with a new adventure and she is always excited to join the teacher in her daily activities.

Mrs. Blake describes the RSVP volunteer experience as both rewarding and fulfilling. Last school year she shared more than 100 hours of her time in the classroom and plans to continue volunteering for as long as she can.

Mrs. Blake encourages other seniors to get involved in shaping the educational experiences of the youth. Based on her observations, establishing a strong foundation with the children encourages them to believe that they can overcome the impossible.  Her motto is “There is no limit on what you can teach a child. The sky is the limit.”

Volunteers Wanted   

Baltimore County Public Schools, in partnership with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), is seeking volunteers over the age of 55 to assist in classrooms throughout Baltimore County. Volunteers support teachers with day to day tasks and encourage students to achieve.

If you are a caring and patient individual who is willing to give a few hours per week, consider joining a vibrant group of volunteers who mentor Baltimore County youth. All volunteers must pass a background screening and complete an online orientation.

Volunteer Information Sessions

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 10:30 -11:30 am 

White Oak School, Training Lab  8401 Leefield Rd, Baltimore 21234

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 2:30 - 3:30 pm

Essex Senior Center  600 Dorsey Ave., Essex 21221

Thursday, September 28, 2017 2:30 -3:30 pm

Liberty Senior Center 3525 Resource Dr., Randallstown 21133

To register for this special opportunity to serve, call the Retired Senior Volunteer Program at 410-887-3101 or email

RSVP is a federal grant program that is sponsored by the Baltimore County Department of Aging. RSVP engages volunteers over the age of 55 with volunteer opportunities that allow them to share a lifetime of skills and experiences. Currently, more than 50 registered volunteers serve in schools across Baltimore County.  

Revised September 11, 2017