Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Ticket Reserved For Them

HoCo PD, working with state officials, issued a dozen tickets this week to people who parked improperly in spaces reserved for the disabled, according to the Flier.

During the crackdown, an MVA representative approached drivers pulling into or leaving a handicapped space and checked to see if their placard was registered to someone in the car. If not, a police officer would issue a citation.

The citation fee for parking in a handicapped space without a placard is $350. Citations for using someone else’s placard carry a $130 fine, police said.

Placards are confiscated after a ticket is issued, police said.

“What’s most disappointing in these details ... the violators that we’ve been encountering are those who are improperly using a family member’s handicapped placard,” said police Maj. Gary Gardner, who oversees enforcement efforts.

“Of all people, those individuals should have a better understanding of the frustration disabled people have in locating parking close to a shopping center. If their conscience doesn’t stop them then we hope to by using our enforcement and issuing citations, so hopefully the pocketbook will have an impact.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


CA is delaying its new $2.7 million customer service system -- after working on it since 2006, and sending folks to Bangalore to consult -- because, well, it just doesn't work yet. (Remember this odd release about hand-crafted computing?)

From CA:

The Columbia Association (CA) is delaying the implementation of the new Customer Service System.

During the User Acceptance Testing phase major deficiencies in the software were discovered, primarily in financial accounting. To expedite resolution, the CA Board of Directors has approved staff’s recommendation to bring in an outside firm to assist staff with evaluating the software with regards to architecture, security and compliance with industry standards. The CA Board of Directors also approved staff’s recommendation to bring in an outside Project Manager to assist CA’s CSS development team with the final phase of the project. A new launch date is not being announced at this time.

CA will continue its efforts to encourage residents to come into CA’s Membership Service Center or our Sport and Fitness Facilities to have their pictures taken for new membership cards. CSS requires all members and residents to have new photos taken for their new cards. Those who have previously had their photos taken for CSS will not be required to have them retaken.

Here's what the Flier reported:

The new information management system, which cost CA $2.7 million and was developed by Bangalore, India-based ITC Inc., is designed to store member data and allow customers to sign up and pay for activities online.

Nelson said his decision to hire an outside firm to evaluate the software came after multiple attempts by ITC to correct the software.

“We tried to give them every opportunity to make this work. I just don’t think they have the accounting acumen.” he said. “This is a huge software project. It’s over 140,000 lines of code and they all have to fit together.”

According to Steven Sattler, CA’s director of communications and marketing, several of the software’s functions did not meet Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The outside firm’s review will serve as “reassurance” that the system is working properly.

Here's what CA says on its Web site about its due diligence of ITC:


* CA performs extensive reviews and conducts site visits and reference checks.
* ITC Infotech, a Bangalore India company, with US headquarters in New Jersey, is selected to custom-write CSS, and a contract is finalized in December with the company.
* ITC Infotech is a global IT services company that is a fully-owned subsidiary of ITC Limited, a $5 billion diversified conglomerate. ITC Limited is rated among the “World’s Most Reputable Companies” by Forbes, and among “India’s Most Valuable Companies” by Business Today. It is featured in the Leader Category for the “2008 Global Outsourcing 100” by the International Association Outsourcing Professionals, and it is “acknowledged as an excellent alternative for companies that are looking for flexibility and attention – almost like an extension of their internal IT organizations” by Forrester.

# Today, CSS has a motivated, dedicated, unyielding team behind it, and they are looking forward to successfully launching the new software system during CA's Fiscal Year 2011.

Here's a 2006 blurb in the Flier discussing the role of CA staff on the project:

CA board member Philip Marcus, of Kings Contrivance, proposed the ban on overseas contracting after two senior officials spent four months in Bangalore, India, helping a firm install the new Resident Service System customer service program.

Several CA board members became alarmed when they learned Donna Dupree, director of Communications and Marketing, and Rafia Siddiqui, vice president of Administrative Services, were in Bangalore for four months to work on the project.

CA hired New Jersey-based ITC Inc. to install the program that allows customers to pay their annual charges online and to sign up for memberships. ITC has conducted much of the work on the project at its Bangalore office.

Marcus believes a local company could have handled the contract. While many private companies are working with overseas companies, outsourcing is a more controversial issue for public and semi-public companies such as CA, he said.

Marcus is considering withdrawing his motion before the vote, he said.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

REI Coming to Town

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), a retail co-op providing quality outdoor gear and clothing, today announced plans to open a new store at Columbia Crossing in Columbia, Md. this fall.

“A new store in Columbia will allow us to better outfit cycling, paddling, camping and general outdoor enthusiasts in the area, and hopefully inspire others to adopt an outdoor lifestyle.”

The 24,000 square-foot store will equip customers and members with gear and apparel from the top brands for camping, climbing, cycling, fitness, hiking, paddling, snow sports and travel, including the award-winning REI brand and Novara bike products. The new store will feature a bike shop for quick assemblies or repairs, a gear rental department to explore new activities, and a community space for the co-op and its non-profit partners to host outdoor-related classes, events and presentations.

“REI is committed to increasing the number of people recreating in the outdoors, and we are excited to expand our resources in the Baltimore and DC areas,” said Anne Maleady, REI retail director for the Northeast district. “A new store in Columbia will allow us to better outfit cycling, paddling, camping and general outdoor enthusiasts in the area, and hopefully inspire others to adopt an outdoor lifestyle.”

The company supports local organizations dedicated to conserving natural resources or increasing outdoor access through education, volunteerism, gear donations and financial contributions. In the past year, REI has granted more than $90,000 to 11 outdoor and conservation non-profits in the Baltimore and DC areas, including the Alice Ferguson Foundation, Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts. The new store will expand upon these efforts by partnering with local organizations to coordinate outdoor classes and events, and volunteer opportunities.

REI currently operates 112 retail stores nationwide, including three other locations in Maryland in College Park, Rockville and Timonium. In addition to the Columbia store opening, the company will open a store in Norwalk, Conn. this fall.

Hiring for Columbia will occur approximately three months prior to the store’s opening, when REI will recruit 40 to 50 employees who share a passion for the outdoors and quality customer service. Once hired, each new team member will take part in REI’s comprehensive sales and product training program, deepening their ability to be a knowledgeable outdoor resource for customers and the community. More information about employment opportunities will be available at

While anyone may shop at REI, members pay a one-time $20 fee and receive a share in REI’s profits through an annual member refund based on their purchases. Earlier this year, more than $80 million was distributed to more than 3.9 million active members based on the co-op’s 2009 sales. Members also receive discounts on gear rentals, trips offered through REI Adventures and local REI Outdoor School classes, in addition to free standard shipping on their purchases of $75 or more through, and phone direct sales orders.

Never Mind

Two announcements, 15 minutes apart:

Dear River Hill Community,

It is with a great deal of appreciation and sadness that I write this letter. Today I informed the staff that I will be moving on to a new challenge as a principal on special assignment at the Board of Education. I feel very fortunate that for the past six years I have been given the privilege to work at the best high school in the Nation – River Hill. It is the best, not because of the awards, test scores or list of accomplishments, but because of the wonderful students who walk the halls, the incredible teachers who care so much about each student and the parents who have gone above and beyond to support their students and the school.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have made my time on the Hill such a positive experience. Thank you, students, for being the best of the best in everything you have done. I set high expectations for you and time and time again you lived up to and exceeded those expectations. Your efforts each day in the classroom, on the stage or field, or in whatever way you represented River Hill made me proud. Thank you, staff, for always making learning personal. You have been the wind beneath the wings of our students. Your passion for teaching and love for our students was evident each day. You truly have epitomized the term “team” in your actions in providing the best instructions for our students. Words cannot express the appreciation I have for how hard you have worked. It was rare for me to leave at the end of the day and not see many of your cars still in the parking lot – thank you for your incredible work ethic. Thank you, parents, for all of the ways you have supported River Hill. Whether it was volunteering in guidance or staying up all night at P3, you have given your time and energy to make our jobs easier and provide a great environment for our students. Your students have been exceptional and I know it is because of the expectations you have set and role models you have been for your child.

The River Hill community has been my family for the past six years and I feel fortunate to have been your principal. I will cherish the wonderful relationships I have made during my time on the Hill. I wish each one of you much success and know that with such a strong community family supporting River Hill it will continue to be preeminent.

I am proud to announce that the new River Hill High principal is Mr. Nick Novak who is currently at Glenelg High. Nick will be a wonderful principal and is excited about coming to such a supportive community. I am sure you will give him a great deal of support and welcome him to the community.

William Ryan

Dear Parents and Community Members,

Recently an email was sent out with information on personnel changes at River Hill. Unfortunately we were premature in making this announcement. All changes need to be approved by the HCPSS Board of Education before announcements can be made. We will let you know when changes to River Hill leadership are approved.

William Ryan

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cradlerock Splits In 2011

From HoCo schools:

Cradlerock School, Howard County's only prekindergarten to Grade 8 school, will be returned to an elementary and middle school configuration effective July 1, 2011, according to a report presented by Chief Academic Officer Linda Wise and approved by the Board of Education last Thursday. Phase 1 of the transition year begins immediately with the appointment of separate administrative teams to serve the lower and upper school grades.

Principal Jason McCoy will serve as administrator of the lower school and Jennifer Peduzzi, currently Principal of Patapsco Middle School, has been appointed as administrator of the upper school. Each administrative team will work with staff, students, and parents to plan for a smooth transition to two schools next summer.

This first phase also includes the establishment of transition teams, the development of a transition plan, the development of two school improvement plans, and the implementation of appropriate transition activities. During the transition year, official Maryland State Department of Education and Howard County Public School System documents will continue to list Cradlerock as one Prekindergarten - Grade 8 school.

Phase 2 begins July 1, 2011 with the separation of the lower and upper school components into two schools. The transition team will make decisions such as the names for the two schools, school mascots, and school colors. From July 1, 2011 forward, official state and HCPSS documents will identify what was formerly one school as two schools - an elementary and a middle school.

The school's current configuration presents several barriers to success, according to the report. The transition to two schools will remove those barriers and support efforts to improve student achievement and behavior.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Should Route 29 Be Widened?

Should the state get rid of the only remaining traffic signal on Route 29 in Howard County?

Let 'em know:

The State Highway Administration will offer an Informational Public Meeting and has invited community members to attend which will take place Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 6:30pm, Hammond High School, 8800 Guilford Road, Columbia, MD 21046.

Plan experts will be on hand to answer any questions that residents may have. We encourage all residents to attend and learn more about the project. There will be an opportunity to share your thoughts and suggestions with SHA through interaction with SHA staff or by completing a comment card.

For details on this proposed plan, please contact MarieFrance Guiteau, Project Engineer, Highway Design Office, at 410-545-8885.