Charles County government announced in a news release that it will be opening its buildings to the public beginning Monday, July 13. Face masks/coverings and a temperature check are required when entering county buildings and social distancing will be designated in corridors and waiting areas. These protocols are essential to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus and protect the public and employees’ health.

Residents are strongly encouraged to continue to do business by telephone or online and pay bills using the convenient drop box location. For in-person service options, visit www.CharlesCountyMD.gov to determine the operating status of each department and contact information for scheduling appointments.

Services may be limited and some locations, like recreation centers and senior centers, will remain closed at this time in accordance with state directives. View how the county is working to keep residents safe at youtu.be/qr_FPnk7rI8.

Maryland Buy Local Challenge begins July 18

The annual statewide Buy Local Challenge encourages all Marylanders to support their local farmers and pledge to enjoy at least one Maryland grown product every day during Buy Local Week, July 18 through July 26.

Buy Local Week takes place annually during the last full week of July when locally grown products are plentiful and farmers’ markets, grocery stores and other retail venues around the state are brimming with the bounty of Maryland’s fields and farms.

The new BLC resources are designed to inspire and entice consumer support for Maryland farms during BLC week and beyond. Promotional highlights kick-off with a weekly release of the “Follow Me To…” mini-video series, a novel compilation of fun snap-shot virtual tours of farms and businesses around the state, that showcases a wide range of locally made products including meat, fruits and veggies, wine, beer, distilled spirits, cut flowers, seafood, small grains, dairy, honey and other value-added industries.

The BLC website will also host virtual cookery classes through July; follow along with Annapolis Chef Craig Sewell and learn how to create delicious meals all year long. Other BLC promotional enticements include ‘Post Your Fun Finds Photo’ contests that invite consumers to take a photo of their Buy Local shopping spree to win great prizes, and the launch of a new Buy Local Challenge Celebration Recipe Book with original recipes that celebrate Maryland’s farms and food.

And look out for a free give-away; bright orange BLC shopping bags with clip-on hand sanitizers sporting the ‘Buy Local’ logo, appearing soon at participating Maryland farmers’ markets.

Visit the BLC website at www.buylocalchallenge.com to find the full inventory of Buy Local Challenge Week highlights and prizes, plus extensive statewide resources including farm guides, farmers’ market directories, downloadable pledge certificates, and the BLC Social Media Kit. Eat and ‘tweet’ local using the Buy Local Challenge twitter hashtag #buylocalchallenge, and visit the Maryland Buy Local Challenge Facebook page for the latest Buy Local Week happenings around the state.

The Buy Local Challenge is a statewide program created by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission a division of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland and is promoted in partnership with the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Mattawoman Creek Art Center Opens with New Show

Mattawoman Creek Art Center has announced the reopening of the art gallery on July 10 with a fabulous show you won’t want to miss. Art Impact International returns to MCAC with the timely show, Save Our Oceans, Save Our Seas. An outdoor reception will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 11 (rain date is Sunday, July 12) featuring DJ music with a Caribbean flavor. Light snacks and drinks will be served. Due to current conditions, this reception will take place on the MCAC lawn.

COVID-19 protocol will be observed with face masks and social distancing required. A limited number of guests will be allowed into the gallery at one time to comply with social distancing.

There will be chairs outside where you can sit with your friends while you wait your turn in the gallery.

Those who are not comfortable attending the reception, may come to MCAC on an alternate day to see this show. This show will run from July 10th through August 9. Bring a picnic lunch and take advantage of this lovely setting. Outdoor picnic tables are always available.

Check the MCAC website www.MattawomanArt.org or the MCAC Facebook Page for inclement weather updates. Mattawoman Creek Art Center is located in the General Smallwood State Park in Marbury, and is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, call 301-743-5159 or email MattawomanArt@aol.com.

State to launches new tax processing system

Despite challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) recently announced that the first phase of the agency’s new tax processing system, called Compass, will launch on time on July 6.

The $160 million Compass will upgrade the state’s tax processing system and create a program that will expand revenue-generating projects, provide enhanced reporting functionality and make it easier for taxpayers to view and manage their accounts online, according to a comptroller’s office press release.

The first phase of the system upgrade focuses on alcohol tax collection and license renewals. The process will be more automated and many forms have been condensed and streamlined to save taxpayers time and allow for quicker customer service.

The Compass integrated tax system will continue to be implemented over the next several years, with corporate taxes launching in the first quarter of 2021, followed by business taxes and individual income taxes in 2022.

When fully implemented, some of the benefits will be improved fraud detection and prevention programs, increased ability for taxpayers to manage their accounts via an online portal, and maximized audit, collection, reporting and estimating functionality.

MDOT wins awards for safety campaigns

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration has received three “Communicator Awards” for marketing campaigns to ensure safety on our roads and highways, according to an MDOT news release.

MDOT SHA received the “2020 Communicator Award for Excellence” in the category of “Individual-Public Service for Online Video” for a video encouraging young people to put down their phones and not text and drive. The video can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3daRdFQ. It depicts teenagers using their cell phones in preposterous situations – while accepting their diplomas, while performing ballet and practicing football – and asks that they apply lessons learned and not use their cell phones behind the wheels of their cars.

MDOT SHA also won two “2020 Communicator Awards of Distinction,” for its bicycle safety campaign aimed at bicyclists and motorists, and for a campaign to protect workers from being injured by drivers at highway work zones.

A full list of the 2020 winners can be found at www.communicatorawards.com/winners/.

State House dome is livestreamed

The Maryland Department of General Services has a new feature on its website: a livestream video of the Maryland State House dome. The service shows the U.S. and Maryland flags flying in real time atop the dome, allowing anyone to check that days flag status.

“Maryland has the most historic state house in the country, and the ability to livestream video of its most prominent architecture, the dome, brings Maryland into the 21st century,” DGS Secretary Ellington Churchill Jr. said in a press release. “Through technology, we allow both Marylanders and visitors to see the dome and the status of U.S. and Maryland flags from anywhere in the world, whether in Westminster, Maryland, Westminster, California, or Westminster, England.”

General Services’ Capitol Police is responsible for raising and lowering the flags on the State House dome. Flags may be ordered at half-staff by either the president or the governor. In 2019, General Services lowered and raised the U.S. and/or Maryland flags on 14 separate occasions.

In 2018, the department improved the illumination of the State House dome. The LED lighting package provides greater and brighter light spread across the dome, with a fixture capacity of approximately 30,000 lumens. The improved system allows the dome to be seen from more vantages around the Annapolis area.

The State House dome was fashioned by shipwrights using rot-resistant cypress logs and no metal nails. Instead, it is held together by wooden pegs reinforced by iron straps forged by an Annapolis ironmonger, according to the DGS. The exterior was completed in 1788 and the interior was completed in 1797, making this iconic Maryland symbol over 232 years old. Maryland State Archives records note the lightning rod at the top of the dome was constructed and grounded to Benjamin Franklin’s specifications. The flag system is incorporated into the lightning rod with a system of ropes and pulleys.

The public may access the live-stream images of the State House dome and flags by going to dgs.maryland.gov/Pages/Flag_videojs.html.

Past customers will be asked to change their password.

In 2019, Park Service customers made more than 100,000 reservations using the system, either online or by phone. Any customers with questions or concerns may contact Lora McCoy at 410-260-8156.

Historic St. Mary’s City to re-open

Historic St. Mary’s City has announced in a news release its plans to re-open their great outdoors (and indoors) to the public. Beginning on Wednesday, July 8 HSMC, an outdoor living history museum, will be open through the summer Wednesday trough Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased on the day of arrival at either the Shop at Farthing’s Ordinary or the Visitor Center. Paths walking through the reconstructed areas are included in the admission cost. The museum is located in St. Mary’s County, Maryland and offers visitors an opportunity to learn of Maryland’s diverse history, visit reconstructed buildings on their original locations, and learn of the connections between the past and the present, all while walking through roughly two-miles of scenic and serene paths.

Since the middle of March, a task force made up of directors of various departments at Historic St. Mary’s City has been working on guidelines for employees and guests to the museum, guided by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s Roadmap to Recovery.

HSMC staff are asking visitors of the museum to follow the guidelines developed by the group. It is important to maintain the state’s commitment to social distancing and adhere to these new guidelines so that we can work to ensure safety for both the staff and guests.

Guests will be given guidelines that will allow them to enjoy the museum while ensuring their health and safety.

The list includes, but is not limited to the following:

• Face masks will be required in all indoor spaces, as well as in marked “Face Mask Zones” on the outdoor grounds.

• Visitors are asked to maintain a safe distance of at least six feet between their group and employees and other visitors nearby while at HSMC

• Hand-washing stations have been placed throughout the museum and outdoor exhibits. Visitors are asked to use them frequently.

• The Maryland Dove and dock are limiting the number of guests allowed at one time; so please follow posted guidelines.

• St. John’s Site Museum and the Struggle for Freedom exhibit will be open by appointment only.

The museum will be following cleaning procedures, limiting the number of guests in tighter areas, and ongoing evaluation and implementation of best practices as we welcome guests to enjoy our great outdoors.

The HSMC task force will continue to evaluate new information as it becomes available and to make any necessary changes. HSMC would like to thank the community for their support and patience during this time.

General admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, students are $6, and children 5 and younger are free. Discounted admission is available through the IMLS program, Museums For All. To view all museums associated with the program, or to find out more information about Museums For All, visit Museums4All.org

Historic St. Mary’s City is a museum of living history and archaeology on the site of Maryland’s first capital in beautiful, tidewater Southern Maryland. For more information about the museum contact the Visitor Center at 240-895-4990, 800-SMC-1634, or info@DigsHistory.org.

Class registration workshops begin at CSM

Class Registration Workshops. 11 a.m., July 16, 21, 23, 30. Zoom. CSM designed virtual workshops that will walk credit students through how to register for classes identified in their Student Planning account. Participants should already have access to their my.CSMD account, as well as completion of placement test alternatives. RSVPs are required to access Zoom information. Free. Csmd.edu/workshops.

DNR names 30 new forest wardens

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources graduated a class of 30 new forest wardens last fall, a special commission that authorizes employees to perform educational and enforcement activities, according to a DNR press release. From Southern Maryland, Collin M. Sapp, a forest ranger in Charles County, and Ryan Galligan, a forest ranger in Calvert County, graduated from the program.

The warden training school was held at Wor-Wic Community College in Salisbury and attendees included current Maryland Forest Service employees ranging in years of service from four months to nine years. A graduation ceremony was held Oct. 3. The forest warden commission provides employees the authority to perform their job functions under Natural Resources Title 5 in program areas ranging from state forest management, wildfire prevention and suppression, urban and community forestry, and forest stewardship activities.

“Our forest wardens are usually the first point of contact for Maryland citizens regarding forest laws and regulations,” Maryland Forest Service Director Don VanHassent said in the press release. “The guidance they provide helps avoid violations and situations that could lead to enforcement actions.”

Since Maryland Forest Service was founded by the 1906 Forestry Conservation Act, forest wardens have been charged with education and enforcement of Maryland’s forest protection laws and regulations.

Prepare for the next emergency

The American Red Cross prepares all year for disasters and urges everyone to “Be Red Cross Ready,” too.

“Disasters can happen anywhere, at any time, even in your home,” Scott R. Salemme, Greater Chesapeake Region American Red Cross CEO, said in a press release. “During National Preparedness Month, we ask you to take three action steps — get an emergency kit, make an emergency plan and be informed — so you and your loved ones can react quickly if an emergency occurs.”

The Red Cross urges everyone to take three important action steps to get prepared:

• Build a kit: Build an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you if you must evacuate. Include items such as water, non-perishable food, a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-powered radio, first aid kit and medications.

• Make a plan: Talk with members of your household about what to do during emergencies. Plan what to do in case everyone is separated and choose two places to meet — one near your home in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire, and another outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.

• Be informed: Know what kinds of emergency situations may occur where you live, where you work, and where you go to school. Get trained in First Aid and CPR/AED so you’ll know what to do in an emergency if help is delayed. Don’t forget your pets, plan for them, too.

So. Md. American Red Cross elects new board members

The Southern Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross announced that Richard Tait of Arnold will serve as chairman of the chapter’s board of directors for a one-year term that began earlier this year. Tait and other board members were elected in proceedings at Anne Arundel Community College recently.

Tait is COO of Kaizen Approach Inc., a cybersecurity consulting firm, a University of Maryland University College graduate and a U.S. Navy veteran.

“I am truly honored to be elected the American Red Cross Board Chair of Southern Maryland,” Tait said. “I look forward to leading a dedicated team of volunteers in writing a new chapter for the Red Cross of Southern Maryland. Our long-term goal is to become a top performing chapter and be recognized as a diverse and inclusive board of choice for volunteers, donors, and employees, while offering the highest level of compassionate service to our clients.”

The highly visible role works cooperatively with the Southern Maryland Chapter’s executive director to ensure the American Red Cross’ goals and mission are achieved. The population served by the chapter ranges between 500,000 and one million that reside in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties.

The following were also elected as new members of the board of directors to serve a three-year term:

• Mary-Ann Burkhart, chief, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office.

• Joshua Burnett, business owner.

• Ignacio Goya, pastor and director of Chesapeake Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

• Whitney Harmel, director of Strategic Partnerships at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce

• Jeremy Tucker, emergency room physician.

The board of directors is composed of representatives from many different community sectors. The group develops the vision for the chapter and determines the policies that guide decisions. The board also ensures that the local Red Cross unit is an effective steward of our donors’ contributions. Board members are selected based on their individual expertise as well as their commitment to the American Red Cross humanitarian mission.

USDA helps ag businesses lower energy costs

Acting assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley is encouraging farmers, rural small businesses and agricultural producers to apply for financing in a key U.S. Department of Agriculture program that provides loan guarantees to help rural small businesses lower their energy costs, according to a USDA news release.

USDA accepts applications for REAP funding year-round. Potential applicants should contact their state USDA Rural Development office for additional information.

REAP funding can be used for renewable energy systems such as anaerobic digesters, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, wind and solar. It also can be used to make energy efficiency improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; and lighting and refrigeration. Below are some examples of USDA’s REAP investments.

Edgehill Farms, an ag tourism center in Oakland, Ky., received a $34,596 loan guarantee to install a 34.8-kilowatt photovoltaic array system on the roof of its ham processing facility. The system will generate approximately 45,000 kilowatt hours annually that will be sold directly to the local utility, earning $4,448 for the firm annually.

In Magnolia, N.C., Optima KV received a $6.5 million loan guarantee for an anaerobic digester that will help hog producers dispose of waste by converting it to energy. The project aggregates multiple biogas streams at a refinery. The resulting natural gas is then transported via pipeline to a power plant to generate electricity. The digester produces additional revenue for hog producers and a cleaner environment.

In April 2017, the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity was established to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, the task force’s findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Supporting the rural workforce was a cornerstone recommendation of the task force.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

Md. School for the Blind appoints new principal

The Maryland School for the Blind recently appointed Nicholas Pagani as its new principal of the General Academic Program, according to a press release from the school.

Pagani has been on the staff at the school for six years as a teacher of the visually impaired before being promoted to an assistant principal in 2015. He received a bachelor of science in special education from Northern University in Illinois in 2005 and a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Capella University in Minnesota in 2014.

In addition to holding teaching and administrative positions at MSB, Pagani has taught students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind and the Philip Rock Center and School and the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind in Illinois. He and his family currently reside in Parkville.

The Maryland School for the Blind is a private, statewide resource center providing outreach, education and residential programs to children and youth from infancy to age 21 who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities. Annually, the school serves 65% of the 2,000 students identified in Maryland who are blind or visually impaired from all 24 Maryland jurisdictions through its on-campus and outreach programs.

For more information, contact Dotty Raynor at 410-319-5722, dottyr@mdschblind.org, or visit www.marylandschoolfortheblind.org.

CSM Chautauqua series

Alice Paul. July 13–19, 2020. Online. Chautauqua stage goes virtual as Maryland Humanities raises the voices of four notable women who took action to secure their right to vote. The series will highlight the unique story of each of these historic figures as they fought for their rights. Author of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Alice Paul, will be portrayed in the second presentation of the series. Maryland Humanities website, Facebook page and YouTube channel will host a video of each performance that will be posted for one week. This series will also feature a performance and a live Q&A which will give attendees the chance to engage with the performers and ask questions about each of these remarkable women. Free. https://www.mdhumanities.org/programs/chautauqua/.

CSM Chautauqua series

Mary Church Terrell. July 20–26. Online. Chautauqua stage goes virtual as Maryland Humanities raises the voices of four notable women who took action to secure their right to vote. The series will highlight the unique story of each of these historic figures as they fought for their rights. The first president of the National Association for Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC), Mary Church Terrell, will be portrayed in the third presentation of the series. Maryland Humanities website, Facebook page and YouTube channel will host a video of each performance that will be posted for one week. This series will also feature a performance and a live Q&A which will give attendees the chance to engage with the performers and ask questions about each of these remarkable women. Free. https://www.mdhumanities.org/programs/chautauqua/.

CSM Chautauqua series

Fannie Lou Hamer. July 27–Aug. 1, 2020. Online. Chautauqua stage goes virtual as Maryland Humanities raises the voices of four notable women who took action to secure their right to vote. The series will highlight the unique story of each of these historic figures as they fought for their rights. The co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Party, Fannie Lou Hamer, will be portrayed in the fourth presentation of the series. Maryland Humanities website, Facebook page and YouTube channel will host a video of each performance that will be posted for one week. This series will also feature a performance and a live Q&A which will give attendees the chance to engage with the performers and ask questions about each of these remarkable women. Free. https://www.mdhumanities.org/programs/chautauqua/.