Howard County installs free outdoor WiFi in Historic Ellicott City, announces other improvements

ELLICOTTY CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman today announced that Main Street in Ellicott City will become the first county community to be provided free outdoor WiFi. Using the name, FreeHoCoGovWiFi, the Ellicott City project is part of a larger plan to expand WiFi access in the county and is the first time such access is being offered outside government facilities. The Meadowbrook Athletic Complex and the outdoor fields at Troy Park in Elkridge recently have been brought online with free WiFi as well.

“Internet access is a key component of our daily lives, critical to our infrastructure and a necessary tool for our economic success,” said Kittleman. “I made this a priority after becoming County Executive because this enhanced reception allows individuals to stay connected, search for business and entertainment options and enhances the whole Main Street experience. Together, we can help preserve Ellicott City as a vibrant and accessible part of our history and our community while keeping it sustainable for the future.”

The Ellicott City WiFi project consists of 13 access points – the size of shoeboxes -mounted to existing poles or buildings. The WiFi coverage will serve Main Street between the Baltimore County Line and Fels Lane. Because of the amount of stone and brick construction in the historic district, WiFi signals will not be reliable indoors and will not replace other business and residential internet services.

“Ellicott City was chosen for this project because of its well-defined Main Street corridor,” said Chris Merdon, Director, Department of Technology and Communication Services. “With this connectivity, a visitor can research antiques, check dinner reservations, review the comedy show playing tonight or make credit card purchases at the farmer’s market.”

The site of today’s announcement is the newly completed stormwater management project, including a staircase and retaining wall, that now links parking Lot E off Main Street to an additional 197 parking spaces at the Circuit Court House. The staircase and wall address stormwater issues that had caused repeated flooding in Lot E and eventually led to the collapse of the previous wall in the steep hillside.

“This serious safety issue needed to be addressed before further damage or injury occurred,” said Kittleman. “Addressing the root of the stormwater problem to alleviate flooding was the logical approach. By incorporating an attractive staircase that better connects the courthouse to Main Street, we provide additional parking options, especially for peak times and large events.”

The staircase project is one of several stormwater and flooding mitigation initiatives for the historic district. Kittleman included $2.5 million for a first phase of flood mitigation projects in the Fiscal Year 2016 Capital Budget. Phase I includes the inspection, design and construction of retaining walls, a flood proofing study and the reformation of a channel under the Tiber Park Bridge.

Additional projects will be coordinated by the County Executive’s Flood Advisory Group announced in May. Going forward, the Flood Advisory Group will gather community feedback including through public hearings, assist the County with seeking additional funding sources, work with county staff toward possible FEMA insurance rate reductions and provide educational opportunities on reducing the impact of future flooding not mitigated directly through county-funded projects.

Debra Korb, Executive Director, Ellicott City Partnership, said, “All of these initiatives – technology, parking, stormwater – are so important to the ongoing success of Ellicott City. The improvements will benefit business owners, property owners and visitors to our unique town for years to come.”

Other ongoing projects to enhance Historic Ellicott City include pending streetscape improvements of new trash cans, planters and benches, as well as the availability of Façade Improvement Grants through the Maryland Community Legacy Funding and a 25 percent county tax credit for all pre-approved exterior restoration work to historic structures.

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