Howard County Times

By Amanda Yeager

During the past year, Karsten Dahms has driven about 17,000 miles. His total gas bill over that period of time, however, stands at just $220.  Dahms drives a Chevrolet Volt, an electric car with a 38­mile battery range that can switch to gas when its electric power source is exhausted.

“The biggest beauty of an electric car is my ‘gas tank’ is full every morning,” says Dahms, who charges his car overnight “like you would a cell phone.”  In recent years, Howard County has been working to create an infrastructure for the growing number of electric vehicle owners like him.

There are 436 plug­in vehicles owned in Howard County as of September 2014, according to statistics from the Motor Vehicle Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation. That number breaks down to 107 all­electric vehicles, like the well­known, costly Tesla; and 329 plug­in hybrids, like Dahms’ Volt. To charge their cars on­the­go, electric car drivers currently have their pick of just shy of 40 public charging stations at 14 locations in the county.  That number has been steadily climbing since Howard’s first electric vehicle charging station was installed at the county’s Thomas Dorsey building in Columbia three years ago, in the fall of 2011.

A recent County Council bill, passed during a pre­election voting session in late October, will add two new charging stations to the parking lot of the George Howard building, the county’s headquarters in Ellicott City. The electric “pumps,” which will be powered by solar panels, will join four charging stations already on the property.  There are charging stations popping up on private property, as well.  Just last week, several stations opened in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s grocery store in Elkridge; and the new Whole Foods on the Columbia lakefront, which opened its doors this summer, also has a few for customers.

Another private sector­installed charging spot is at Maple Lawn, a residential, retail and office development in the southeastern county. One recent Saturday morning, a group of electric vehicle enthusiasts – those within the community shorten the term to EVs – met at Sidamo Coffee and Tea, a Maple Lawn cafe, to talk about cars.  Dahms was among the group, the MD VoltInc. Meetup, which has members across the state. Dahms lives in Rockville but works in Howard County as a computer programmer at Elite Spice on Route 1. He frequently powers up at a pump in the Supreme Sports parking lot in Columbia. “They love me” at the Starbucks next door, he jokes.


Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore Sun

By Luke Lavoie, 6:10 p.m. EST, January 18, 2014

Although Howard County is recognized as a state leader in health initiatives, there are some areas in the county that are lagging behind. “Not everything is fine and dandy in this area,” said Bibi Perotte-Fosten, a North Laurel resident and community advocate for southern Howard County. Dr. Maura Rossman, the county’s health officer, agrees, and cited county statistics that demonstrate the area has higher levels of chronic disease, such as diabetes, and stress than other portions of the county.

That’s why the department, along with nonprofit Healthy Howard, partnered Saturday to launch a regional health initiative aimed at decreasing the availability of sugary drinks while increasing the affordability of fruits and vegetables, physical activity and access to affordable health care. The initiative will create a Healthy Eating Active Living, or HEAL, Zone in the southern portion of the county, specifically North Laurel, Savage and Jessup. The HEAL Zone will be managed by Community Organizer Monica Lewis, who was hired using ounty council-approved funds. Rossman said approximately $100,000 was approved for the program.

“Healthy eating and active living is what the HEAL Zone stands for,” said Lewis at a sparsely attended launch at the North Laurel Community Center. “It’s an innovative effort to achieve a scientific and measurable impact on the health of a specific geographic area.” Lewis, who relocated from Wisconsin, where she employed a similar program, said her role is as an advocate working behind the scenes to affect habit changes in the region. Lewis’ first project is to create a community garden in the area, a request of residents.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who was not in attendance Saturday, said in a statement that the initiative is the latest in his administration’s efforts “to make Howard County a model public health community.” “This new HEAL Zone initiative is a great way to build on existing partnerships and target strategies where they will have the greatest impact,” Ulman said. “We are going to flood the zone in North Laurel, Savage and Jessup with information and programs on food, physical activity and access to health care, and research has shown that this approach can make a big difference.”

According to Rossman, the idea for a HEAL Zone originated in California and is akin to the state’s Health Enterprise Zone, or HEZ, initiative, which was part of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Health Disparities and Reduction Act of 2012. According to the state’s department of health website, a HEZ is “designed to reduce health disparities among Maryland’s racial and ethnic groups and between geographic areas, improve health care access and health outcomes, and reduce health care costs by providing a variety of incentives to defined geographic areas with high rates of disparities.”

Rossman said the region was selected for two reasons; need and community involvement. “There were a few geographic areas that fit the criteria of need. … And this specific area, the Laurel-Savage area, fit from having specific community-based support,” Rossman said. “Collectively, we know it takes a community to make these changes.”

District 3 county councilmember Jen Terrasa, who represents the region, praised the effort. “I’m thrilled that Healthy Howard has chosen to bring more resources to North Laurel, Savage, and Jessup so that residents in these communities have healthier lifestyle options through the HEAL Zone initiative,” Terrasa said in a statement.