Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said Thursday that the county is still studying alternatives to demolishing structures on lower Main Street in Ellicott City to mitigate flooding, and will host a series of public meetings to present ideas and design options after costs have been analyzed.
At a press conference to update status of the flood mitigation and recovery process, Ball also said the county will also install two sirens as part of an alert system to warn residents when flooding is imminent.
The old mill town in 2016 and 2018 experienced deadly floods that pushed more than 8 feet of water onto lower Main Street.
A five-year plan announced by former Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman last summer would have razed 13 buildings on lower Main Street to mitigate flooding. Some of the buildings were deemed historic by the group, Preservation Maryland, which criticized the plan.
The plan was derived from studies that followed both the 2016 and 2018 floods, as well as feedback from residents and business owners.
Jim Irvin, the county’s director of the Department of Public Works, declined to say alternatives to demolition the county has ruled out. The county had previously considered boring a tunnel.
Irvin did say the county is still looking at more upstream projects to “further reduce the flood level and the velocity [of water] on lower Main Street.”
Regarding the sirens, officials said they will cost less than $100,000 and will be placed at the property of the historic Ellicott City Colored School on Upper Main Street and the visitors center on Main Street, officials said.
During the press conference, Ball also expressed support for measures filed in the by state lawmakers representing Howard County. Del. Courtney Watson, a Democrat who represents the historic community, filed a bill that would reboot the state’s Comprehensive Flood Management Grant Program, which could result in long-term funding to mitigate flooding in the town. Sen. Katie Fry Hester, a Democrat who represents Howard and Carroll counties, crossfiled a bill in the Senate.
Ball also unveiled a new county website — ecsafeandsound.org — that includes information about the county’s flood mitigation plans and information about the Community Development Corporation Exploration Committee.
Flanked by committee members, Ball signed an executive order to formally create the group that will help determine if a CDC — which generally promotes commerce and economic vitality — should be formed to benefit the mill town.
The committee consists of 17 members including Mike Smith, Executive Vice President Lantian Development Company, who will serve as chair. Nick Redding, president of Preservation Maryland, Angie Tersiguel, owner of Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant on Main Street, Leonardo McClarty President of Howard County’s Chamber of Commerce, President of the Elicott City Partnership Matt Fleming and Tom Coale, a partner at Talkin & Oh law firm in Ellicott City.
NOTE: An earlier version of this article erred in the cost of the sirens and the title of one of the committee members. Those have been corrected here.