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Our View: Thumbs up for a sunny outlook, restaurant relief, great Outdoor | COMMENTARY

THUMBS UP: Debate the climate change issue if you’d like, but there’s really no getting around the fact that the planet is running low on fossil fuels. One way to limit such consumption is to harness the power of the sun for energy, which is what Westminster resident and Sykesville native David Silverstein is trying to do through his roofing company ― with help from Tesla. Silverstein is vice president of American Home Contractors, which is a certified installer of Tesla solar roofs. The Liberty High School graduate in November went to Tesla solar tiles to cover his own house, giving his family a source of clean, reusable energy powered by the sun. The goal is to reduce carbon footprints, he said, and get away from tapping into the earth’s limited fossil fuel supply. “It’s really important that we transition people over to sustainable energy,” Silverstein told us. “This is obviously satisfying that mission. ... There’s no better time to go solar than when you’re replacing your roof.” The integrated roofing system is the first of its kind in Carroll, and Silverstein said American Home Contractors has installed several around the region. A project in Eldersburg is up next for Silverstein and his company, he said. The house is topped with custom-fit tiles that look like those from a traditional roof surface, instead of solar glass panels attached to the existing structure. The tiles soak up the sun’s rays and serve as solar cells, which are paired with batteries in Silverstein’s basement that provide zero-emissions energy throughout his home. When night falls, the batteries discharge the stored energy to wherever it’s needed. Installing the Tesla solar system can run upward of $50,000, Silverstein said, but he and his company are betting on the customer’s investment outweighing the cost. “I think a lot more people are going to be interested in this product as more and more people adopt it and it’s getting out in the market,” Silverstein told us. “There are going to be additional versions. They’re going to optimize this.”

THUMBS UP: The pandemic is still affecting local restaurants and food establishments around Carroll County, even with the most recent lifting of social distancing restrictions. But we’re glad to see county officials maintain an effort into helping those businesses stay afloat. The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously last week to approve the Maryland Relief Act of 2021 funding, which will award $612,281.26 to Carroll County food and beverage providers. The Restaurant and Caterers COVID Relief Grant Program is designed to support Carroll County food and beverage providers facing continued financial impacts from COVID-19, according to a county government. Director of Economic Development Jack Lyburn told the commissioners during the April 15 open session that 149 restaurants had applied for the last round of funding. Unlike some grants that direct money for specific purposes, there is flexibility with this funding. “You can use it for payroll, mortgage, rent, utilities, information technology, marketing, employee training, commercial cleaning, professional services, vehicle equipment expense … so this is wide open,” Lyburn said. The plan is for restaurants with 10 or more employees to receive $8,000, restaurants with fewer than 10 employees to receive $4,000 and food trucks to receive $3,000. All application information, including terms, eligibility, and qualification criteria, in addition, to fund uses, required documentation and grant dollar amounts are available on the Department of Economic Development’s website. To apply, businesses can submit a complete and accurate application with all required supporting documentation online through Friday, April 30 at 4 p.m.

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THUMBS UP: Attending Outdoor School is a cherished Carroll County Public Schools tradition, so it’s good to see some sixth-graders making a return to Hashawha Environmental Center. East and West middle school students were there this week in keeping with the longtime history of Outdoor School, which went on hold last spring amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, four outdoor teachers have 15 to 18 students each, or around 70 students on site each day. However, this school year the program was limited to only 21 students per day. Students and teachers are spaced out while eating in the cafeteria. Each student gets one day to learn in person, instead of the traditional week. And Wednesdays are virtual for everyone. “This entire school year, my teachers and I put together what I call an enhanced virtual curriculum,” Gina Felter, principal, teacher, and bus driver for Outdoor School, told us. The curriculum covered the Maryland environmental literacy standards. It included data collection, which required students to go outside even while learning from home. Felter said the West Middle School sixth graders are still attending the day programs. Each school usually gets one week, but with the school year close to an end, East Middle School, including those in special programs, is the only other school that will attend in person.

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