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This Week in Potomac

Budget Forums

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) will hold budget forums in January and February to solicit input from the public about the Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget priorities. Residents can attend the forums and provide input; predicted budget shortfalls are likely to result in cuts to county services.

Leggett is scheduled to propose his operating budget on March 15.

The County Council approves the FY 14 operating budget at the end of May.

Forums are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on the following dates:

• Jan. 28, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Service Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda

• Jan. 29, Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring

• Feb. 4, Eastern Montgomery Regional Services Center, 3300 Briggs Chaney Road, Silver Spring.

Call at least three days in advance to request sign language interpreter services or other adaptive aids at 240-777-6507, TTY 240-777-6505 or email a request to karen.falcon@montgomerycountymd.gov.

No Fee for Dog Parks

Dog owners no longer have to pay an annual $40 dog park permit fee to use county dog parks, including the one at Cabin John Regional Park.

To compensate for budget cuts, the fee was initiated in July 2010. However, the parks department has eliminated the fee after noticing a decline in the use of the dog parks.

“Dog parks are such an important resource to the residents of this county, and we regularly receive requests for more,” according to Mary Bradford, Director of Montgomery County Department of Parks. “Our parks have come to serve as ‘backyards’ for many residents as our county continues to urbanize. Dog owners should have a free, public place to play with and exercise their dogs.”

Montgomery Parks’ five fenced dog parks are located in Cabin John Regional Park, Black Hill Regional Park in Boyds, Olney Manor Recreational Park, Ridge Road Recreational Park in Germantown and Wheaton Regional Park. Dogs must be on leash in other Montgomery County public parks.

The Cabin John Dog Park, a half-acre park with a six-foot chain link fence, is located at 10900 Westlake Drive in Potomac. The facility is open for use sunrise to sunset, but is closed Tuesdays from 9-11 a.m. for maintenance. Dog-park users are encouraged to use the Westlake Drive parking lot.

A survey conducted as part of the 2012 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan indicated a need for more dog parks. Planning is currently underway to identify new sites for the dog parks — perhaps as many as 12 new ones — on park property.

For questions or comments related to the discontinuation of the dog park permit program, contact the Park Permits Office by email at MCP-ParkPermits@mncppc-mc.org or by phone at 301-495-2525.

On Firearms and Mental Illness

Maryland's Task Force to Study Access of Individuals with Mental Illness to Regulated Firearms sent its report to the Governor and the General Assembly on Jan. 2.

The Task Force made nine recommendations, including: further research and study of the link of mental illness, substance abuse and other risk factors to violence; mandatory reporting by certain professionals of threats made by a person against self or others; prompt investigation of such threats, and notice to Maryland State Police; a process that includes due process in

the courts to determine if someone making threats should be prohibited from possessing or having access to firearms; "Mental Health First Aid" and firearms law training for law teams statewide; and directing funding from firearms licensing and application fees to fund the Task Force's recommendations.

“Mass murders perpetrated with guns like those at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut have repeatedly shocked the conscience of the entire nation,” according to County Council documents.