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Community Liaison Council Meeting Minutes — Thursday, September 19, 2019
Amy Blackburn, Office of Communications & Public Liaison (OCPL), Office of the Director (OD), NIH
Ms. Blackburn opened the meeting at 4:03 p.m. and presented the minutes from the previous meeting for approval. CLC members had no objections or changes to the minutes.
Ms. Blackburn introduced Shawna Lemonds, the community planning liaison officer with Naval Support Activity Bethesda, who will be partnering and sharing communications with NIH. Ms. Lemonds added that her background is in planning and her position entails working with the community on behalf of the U.S. Navy.
National Institute on Aging Temporary Building for Alzheimer’s Disease Research
Susan Roberts, RA, Branch Chief, Facilities Planning and Programming Branch, Office of Research Facilities (ORF), OD, NIH
Ms. Roberts explained that NIH will build a 24,000-square-foot temporary facility to house Alzheimer’s disease–related research. Congress appropriated $2 billion to NIH for research on Alzheimer’s and dementia, but the funding did not cover facilities, so funding for the building will come from NIA. Institute funding may not be used to build permanent facilities, so the new building will remain for no more than 10 years. It will house 130 intramural research scientists, administrative staff members, and visiting scientists. The Clinical Center will house research that has a clinical component.
NIH has prepared a design package that includes drawings with the facility’s basic layout and appearance, which will go to a builder. The building site is on the southwest side of the NIH campus, between the two new water tanks and inside the buffer zone. Currently, the site contains parking lots and some green space.
The new building will be a single story containing administrative space and standard laboratory space. It will have a small loading dock on the south edge, a few handicapped parking spaces, and a small patio. Building construction and the accompanying landscaping work will be a relatively simple project.
Ms. Roberts displayed the timeline for design and construction:
- January 2020: Design–build kickoff
- October 2020: 100% design submission
- November 2020: Construction mobilization
- April 2022: Inspections and commissioning
- July 2022: Occupancy
- Ms. Wade asked how close the building will be to the Whitehall Condominium. Ms. Roberts said that it will be between the two water tanks, and Whitehall residents will likely not be able to see it or will see only the roof.
Unchecked Growth and Control of Invasive Species on NIH Property
Brandon Hartz, Landscape Architect, ORF, OD, NIH
Mr. Hartz said that in the spring, a community member had emailed him with concerns about invasive species on NIH property. He explained NIH’s approach to invasive species, and he and the community member agreed that it would be a good topic to bring to the CLC.
Mr. Hartz explained that invasive plants fall into several categories. The law requires NIH to control or remove plants that the state of Maryland defines as noxious weeds. This group includes about six plants, most of which are thistles. They are dangerous because they grow and flower quickly and the wind carries their seeds for miles, so they can easily take over land where native plants would otherwise grow. NIH takes measures to control or eliminate these plants as soon as they are found. They are pulled out by hand when they are found in manicured planting beds; NIH generally avoids using sprayed herbicides.
Maryland also classifies some invasive plants as Tier 1 or Tier 2. These are not as aggressive as noxious weeds, and plant nurseries can sell them with a sign disclosing their status. NIH has some as ornamental ground cover, and it cannot remove all of them at once. However, NIH has changed its official policy on these plants and will incorporate their removal into other projects in areas where they appear.
Vining plants that grow on trees and shrubs are another type of invasive plant. The current grounds contract does not have a provision to remove these plants in forested areas. However, the contract will end in the spring, and Mr. Hartz hopes to add a provision in the next contract for controlling vining plants that prevent sunlight from reaching other plants in forest and meadow areas. Some other invasive plants, such as honeysuckle and garlic mustard, will be handled through task orders (TOs).
Mr. Hartz added that Montgomery County has a Weed Warrior program that trains volunteers to remove invasive plants. Many invasive plants look like native plants, so education is important. NIH plans to start a similar program on its campus.
Mr. Hartz also noted that NIH does not actively maintain grounds within a certain distance of the stream, because plants help stabilize the soil and keep it from eroding into the stream. They also filter water before it reaches the stream.
The community member who emailed Mr. Hartz had pointed out vines on trees in the northeast corner of campus, near Cedar Lane and Rockville Pike. NIH cut the vines, which have since died. NIH will not remove the dead vines from the trees, because doing so can damage the trees.
- Ms. Wilkerson asked whether Mr. Hartz was confident that the new contract would have a provision for controlling vines. Mr. Hartz said that he was, although the provision might be removed if the cost were too high. He felt strongly about it, and the contracting officer agreed.
- Ms. Wilkerson asked what the new provision would say, and Mr. Hartz said it would say that the grounds contractor would remove and control vining plants.
- Ms. Wilkerson also asked about the areas around the stream. Mr. Hartz said that NIH does not actively maintain or mow those areas but will remove invasive vines.
- Ms. Wilkerson asked whether other federal facilities collaborate or share ideas for handling invasive plants. Mr. Hartz said that he believed he is the only landscape architect in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; many agencies work without the expertise of a landscape architect.
- Ms. Wilkerson asked whether the Montgomery County Weed Warriors are allowed to operate on federal property. Mr. Hartz said that NIH plans to set up a pilot that will involve about 10 volunteers, all NIH employees. The ORF Division of Environmental Protection will purchase tools for the pilot group to use. If the pilot is successful, perhaps nonemployees could be involved in the future.
- Ms. Wilkerson asked whether the TOs for specific areas would go to the grounds contractor, and Mr. Hartz said yes. He explained that NIH will use TOs for tasks that it cannot quantify within the contract, which will be handled as funds become available. For example, a TO could cover planting flowers for an event at the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge.
Ms. Wade said that many Whitehall Condominium residents had received an announcement about the gas station. She asked when work would begin. Mr. Moss said that work was set to begin when the announcement went out, although he did not know whether ground has been broken. Mr. Fetchko added that the area is now surrounded by fencing.
Ms. Wade asked what types of vehicles will use the gas station. Ms. Roberts said that only NIH fleet vehicles, which are mostly cars, will use it. Contractor vehicles will not. Mr. Hartz said that grounds maintenance vehicles will not use the gas station, but other maintenance vehicles could. Ms. Wade asked whether the vehicles would have backup alarms. Mr. Moss said that some might, but vehicles will be able to pull through the gas station and will be unlikely to back up. Ms. Wade also asked about the gas station’s hours, and Ms. Roberts said that it will be accessible at all hours, but nighttime use will be rare. She added that residents should alert NIH if they experience disturbances.
Ms. Wade said that the streetlights on Woodmont Avenue between Wisconsin Avenue and Battery Lane have been out for a year and asked when they would work again. Ms. Roberts said that the issue could be related to county road work and that she would look into it.
Ms. Bok said that there is also a lighting problem in the corner of the South Lawn at Glenwood Road and Maple Ridge Road. It is very dark, and neighbors have seen suspicious activity and cars parked overnight. She is also contacting the city. Mr. Moss suggested contacting the NIH Police for any issues on NIH property and provided the nonemergency number: 301-496-5685.
Mr. Fetchko asked about construction and other debris along the south section of Lot 41. Ms. Roberts and Mr. Moss said that this is an ongoing problem, and ORS and ORF are brainstorming ways to address it. Mr. Moss said that in the past, NIH had tagged items with notices that it would remove them after a specified period of time, and the items generally were moved before the deadline. He confirmed that NIH employees or contractors likely leave most of the debris. Ms. Blackburn suggested providing an update at a future meeting, and Ms. Roberts agreed. Mr. Moss said that the Division of Amenities and Transportation Services is also concerned, since the problem involves a parking lot, and suggested contacting the division.
Ms. Blackburn adjourned the meeting at 4:46 p.m.
Next Meeting: TBD. It will be in December or January.
Karin Bok, Edgewood Glenwood Citizens Association
Jennette Wade, Whitehall Condominium Association
Maureen Wilkerson, Maplewood Citizens Association
Amy Blackburn, OCPL
Brandon Hartz, ORF/OD
Brad Moss, ORF/ORS/OD
Susan Roberts, ORF/OD
Michael Fetchko, NLM
Shawna Lemonds, Naval Support Activity Bethesda
This page last reviewed on April 21, 2021