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Howard executive hears requests to renew Ellicott City flood work group

Howard Executive Calvin Ball listens to community members in Ellicott City as they ask him to review the impact of county policies.
Howard Executive Calvin Ball listens to community members in Ellicott City as they ask him to review the impact of county policies. (Erin B. Logan)

A member of a flood mitigation work group formed by former County Executive Allan Kittleman expressed concern at a public forum this week that panel has not continued under new Howard Executive Calvin Ball.

Lori Lilly, a member of the group and a resident of Woodstock, spoke during one of Ball’s “listening sessions” — a series of gatherings Ball is holding around the county to gather feedback from residents on priorities for his administration.

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At the session Tuesday at Howard High School in Ellicott City, Lilly expressed concern that Ball’s transition team had not reached out to the group to seek its input on how to move forward with mitigation in Ellicott City.

“I was disheartened that the flood work group was suspended at the onset of this administration,” Lilly said. “I don’t believe that just because we supported the past administration’s flood mitigation plan that our voices should not be heard.”

A spokesman for Ball, a Democrat, said that since taking office, the new administration hasn’t made any decision in relation to the advisory group.

The group was formed in 2015 and was charged with evaluating the county’s flood mitigation priorities, finding potential funding sources and serving as a liaison with a community.

In response to Lilly at the public session, Ball said, “I think that we can definitely talk about… ways there can be interaction.” He also told Lilly he was “a little disappointed that you would suggest that somehow, there’s some retribution.”

Debbie Slack Katz, chair of the group, said that after Kittleman, a Republican, lost his bid for re-election in November, the group was told by his administration that the group would be suspended.

She said in an interview that she plans to ask Ball to reinstate the group in a more permanent way.

During the listening session, attended by about 60 people, Lilly told Ball that making the work group a “permanent entity” it might help “to take some of the politics out of this flooding issue — which we dearly need.”

Rebecca Aaron, a spokesman for Ball’s transition team, said in an email that the transition team welcomes “all relevant information… on any issue from any resident, group or organization.” She also noted that a representative of the Ball’s transition team was present at a recent presentation Lilly gave in Ellicott City.

Lilly said that meeting occurred in lieu of the work group’s monthly meetings, and was held to organize people who live in the Tiber watershed.

Ball in November said he wants to study the proposals for flood mitigation in Ellicott City. As councilman, he voted against three bills that partially funded a plan to acquire and raze 13 buildings in historic Ellicott City. Ball has said he would keep the timeline of upstream projects and acquire the buildings while still examining alternatives to demolition.

More listening

Additional listening sessions in the county executive’s series include:

Monday, Jan. 7, at Centennial High School, 4300 Centennial Lane, Ellicott City, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 10, at Glenelg High School, 14025 Burntwoods Road, Glenelg, 7 p.m.

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Monday, Jan. 14, at Hammond High School, 8800 Guilford Road, Columbia, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 16, at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia, 7 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 18, at Elkridge Library, 6540 Washington Blvd, Elkridge, 10:30 a.m.

Also, Ball will host a live Twitter chat from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, at @HoCoGovExec, #Futureofhoco.

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