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Community Liaison Council Meeting Minutes — Thursday, January 10, 2019
Amy Blackburn, Branch Chief, Visitor Center, NIH
Ms. Blackburn opened the meeting at 4:04 p.m. with the following announcements:
- NIH Community Liaison Council (CLC) meetings for 2019 will be held on March 21, June 20, and September 19. Additional meetings could be held if circumstances require.
- The minutes of the September 6, 2018, meeting were distributed. Participants should contact Ms. Blackburn with any comments or corrections, and the minutes will then be considered approved.
Fire Station Expansion Project
Susan M. Roberts, RA, Branch Chief, Facilities Planning and Program Branch (FPPB), Office of Research Facilities (ORF), Office of the Director (OD), NIH
Ms. Roberts said that the NIH Fire Department provides fire, emergency medical, hazardous materials, and specialized rescue services to the NIH campus. The NIH Fire Department also responds to fire and other emergencies at the National Naval Medical Center and in Montgomery County, Maryland. The NIH Fire Department currently occupies Building 51, located at the northwest end of the NIH campus adjacent to the NIH entrance at the intersection of Center Drive and Old Georgetown Road. Building 51 was constructed in 2001.
Ms. Roberts said this project involves expanding the existing 21,290-square-foot apparatus bay to address the need for additional vehicle storage. The project will add five bays. The expansion will extend from the existing west-facing façade of the apparatus bay, with the new exterior façade/doors aligning with the existing western corner of the building. The intent is to expand the facility capacity while retaining the original scale, design language, and materials and finishes. The project will also involve grading of the concrete apron so that it drains properly. Ms. Roberts provided a photograph of the existing building and a rendering of the proposed addition, noting that because the new addition looks very similar to the original building and is architecturally attractive, this project will have minimal impact on the community. Occupancy of the expanded facility is projected to be August 2020.
Mr. Clifford added that the need to be able to service equipment indoors in cold weather was another driver of this project. He noted that the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service Station 20, located just outside the NIH campus, receives about 1,400 calls per year and uses the NIH Fire Department as its main responder.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Bioinformatics Facility
Susan M. Roberts, RA, Branch Chief, FPPB, ORF, OD, NIH
Ms. Roberts said that NIAID needs more office space to support key programs of the Vaccine Research Center, including the Clinical Trials Program, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Program Management, and Administration. Because the capital budget cannot accommodate a new building right now, a 13,200-gross-square-foot temporary modular facility replacing the existing T40B modular building on South Drive near the campus entrance at South Drive and Old Georgetown Road is being set up to house the administrative bioinformatics staff. Once there is a permanent solution, this temporary building will be removed.
There is currently a construction trailer, which was left after a previous construction project and has continued to be used, on this site. The trailer will be removed and modules brought in for the temporary structure. The building will not disturb the convent or the convent wall, which are directly behind the building. Ms. Roberts showed a photograph of the existing building, which is in the direct sightline of the community store, and a rendering of the proposed new NIAID bioinformatics facility, which will have grayish metal panels and a masonry base. Occupancy of the proposed building is projected to be December 2019.
- Ms. Michaels asked whether the trailer was on a foundation, noting that filling the space with something more useful seemed like a good diea. Ms. Roberts said the trailer is only on a caisson foundation.
- Mr. Clifford said the authority to construct a temporary building immediately was very helpful because some of the current building was rotting.
- Dr. Kohn asked whether this new building was for new people coming to the campus or for those already here. Ms. Roberts said it would be for some of each.
- Ms. Miller asked how the building would affect parking and how many spaces would be needed. Mr. Moss said that because NIH is close to the Metro, people often use public transportation, so a new building does not necessarily equate to the need for significantly more parking. He said he would find out how many spaces were being added. Ms. Roberts noted that NIH must report any increase in parking to the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) when increasing population on the campus, so the number of additional parking spaces would be available. She added that the agreement with NCPC caps parking on the campus, but NIH is currently nowhere near that maximum.
Relocation of Gas Station
William K. Floyd, Director, Division of Environmental Protection (DEP), ORF, OD, NIH
Mr. Floyd said that the NIH Building 12 fueling station has three fuel dispensing underground storage tank systems, which dispense unleaded gasoline, ethanol 85%, and biodiesel fuel. The NIH fleet manager is responsible for operating the gas station. However, because of its proximity to the main information technology center for the entire campus and to the central utilities plant, the gas station’s location has become a security issue. The Division of Environmental Protection is proposing the construction of a new fueling station with three above ground storage tank (AST) fuel-dispensing systems at Lot 41 on the NIH campus. One benefit of an aboveground facility is the ability to immediately see if a leak has occurred and address it quickly. The ASTs will be encased in concrete. These types of tanks are used at airports and considered to be very safe. A canopy will cover a portion of the tanks to protect employees during fueling. There will also be a small kiosk for the fleet manager’s staff and for the fuel system gauging and electrical panels.
Ms. Roberts said that the new location is part of the 250-foot buffer in the 2013 NIH Bethesda Campus Comprehensive Master Plan, which calls for landscaping. It is a logical location for a gas station that serves only government vehicles. The structure will be a prefabricated unit, so most of the work will be site preparation, and construction should move quickly.
Mr. Floyd showed a rendering of the new gas station, noting that the fuel pumps are right on the tanks. The major part of the construction will be the pad and the canopy, which does not fully cover the tanks. A fence runs around the back of the structure, and the lights, which are in the canopy ceiling, point straight down. The new gas station is projected to be in use by October 2019.
- Ms. Witt asked whether people at the dog park would be able to see the tanks. Mr. Floyd said they would be able to see it from above.
- Ms. Miller asked whether the gas station would be in use 24 hours a day. Mr. Floyd said the NIH fleet numbers several hundred vehicles, which are filled whenever they need fuel. However, this is usually in the morning or at the end of a shift. The gas station is self-service and will be open 24 hours. However, NIH employees are not allowed to use the gas station. It can only be used by the fleet and requires a special security card. Moreover, NIH will track information such as how much fuel is used and how many miles are driven between fuelings.
- Ms. Miller asked whether the lights would be on all night. Mr. Floyd said NIH is looking to have lights go on when a vehicle pulls up, then go off when the vehicle leaves. The existing gas station is not lit at night, and fueling does not usually occur at night.
- Ms. Wilkerson asked whether the fleet uses electric power. Mr. Floyd said an increasing number of vehicles in the fleet are electric, and NIH is working to increase that number to reduce the amount of fuel used over time.
- Ms. Witt asked what would happen to the old tanks. Mr. Floyd said they would be removed. Once they are taken out of service, NIH has one year in which to remove them from the ground.
- Mr. Clifford observed that Lot 41 had been the site of abandoned construction material, and this relocation of the gas station provides an opportunity to clean that up and control who is leaving material there. Mr. Floyd noted that there are many contractors at NIH, and it is difficult to keep track of their materials. Contractors are required to go through a site selection request to store material, but that has not always been done for Lot 41. Now his office will clarify the requirements and institute better policing along with consequences if the rules are not followed. Security cameras are also being installed. This has been an ongoing problem, but it will be addressed.
Letter to the General Manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)
Anthony Clifford, Chief Engineer, ORF, NIH
Mr. Clifford distributed a letter he sent to Paul Wiedefeld, general manager and CEO of WMATA, on December 20, 2018, regarding a safety concern with the street lighting at the Medical Center Metro Station. The series of exterior brown streetlights owned and maintained by Metro that was installed to illuminate the bus drop-off and Kiss and Ride areas is not functioning and appears to be de-energized. These streetlights have been out of service for most of 2018, posing a danger to commuters, employees, patients, and visitors to NIH and neighboring hospitals. WMATA owns the fixtures, and NIH does not have access to their control circuits. Out of concern for pedestrian safety, particularly as it is getting dark earlier, NIH has located several portable generator-powered floodlights near the bus stop, but this represents a manpower and fuel cost to NIH and results in harsh lighting.
Mr. Clifford noted that although WMATA has not been responsive to this issue, there has been strong cooperation between WMATA and NIH in the past. He asked that Mr. Wiedefeld identify a contact to work with his office so that the lighting could be restored quickly.
- Ms. Abeles noted that the uneven pavement compounds the problem. She said she has had similar issues with WMATA’s lack of responsiveness. The WMATA general counsel did respond but would not acknowledge any liability, should someone get hurt.
- Ms. Connor said that WMATA receives government funding and she offered to help in the outreach to WMATA.
- Mr. Moss said that the NIH maintenance staff is not responsible for ice clearance but that they would take it over to ensure safety.
- Ms. Roberts said that she talks with the construction teams about these issues during weekly phone calls.
Ms. Miller asked whether there had been additional tours for the Sunrise Senior Living Center. Mr. Hartz said the tour in June was very successful. However, because of Sunrise’s busy schedule, the fall tour was postponed. Mr. Hartz noted that the residents often go on their own walks but usually stay within the southern portion of NIH because most cannot walk long distances.
Mr. Hartz reported that in response to a dog incident on the south lawn, he had custom signs fabricated that say, “NOTICE: Pets Must Be Kept on Leash,” to clarify this NIH policy. So far he has put up five signs near pedestrian trails that enter NIH and will put up additional signs when the streetscape improvement is completed. He said that all western and southern entrances have the signs.
Ms. Roberts reported the most of the work along Old Georgetown Road is complete. There had been one outstanding issue with the gravel on the side of the path, which was replaced with strips of grass that subsequently died. The question of what to use as a replacement along the path is being discussed. Work is also nearly complete along Cedar Lane and Old Georgetown Road. The major project is the road and sidewalk improvement and the Metro tunnel and elevator construction. That is continuing on schedule but will entail sidewalk closures.
Ms. Michaels said that the dynamic left turn lane at Route 355 and Jones Bridge Road is too short and should be in effect later than 6:00 p.m. to help ease traffic. Ms. Roberts said this would be brought up at the Metro tunnel meeting.
Ms. Michaels said the construction has been “a mess” for the community, with contractors leaving the old materials behind. Ms. Roberts said her office tries to put pressure on the contractors to do things quickly, and they have been relatively responsive.
Ms. Dittemore said that for pedestrians walking north on the east side of Rockville Pike, the walk sign cannot be seen unless the pedestrian stands in the street.
Mr. Moss reported that NIH does not have authority over the parking on West Cedar Lane: It is not NIH property and therefore cannot be policed by NIH. He noted that the same issue came up on the south side of the campus; it turned out that Walter Reed National Medical Military Center (WRNMMC) employees were using the parking more than NIH employees. He recalled that there had been a past effort to get zoned parking for residents but was not sure how that had been resolved.
In response to Ms. Dittemore’s questions about access to NIH for blood bank donors, Mr. Moss said a new blood and platelet donor badge would be issued on a one-year basis. Donors must be active participants, donating blood three times per year. As background, Mr. Moss explained that his office had been told to be more selective about visitor badges in general in response to security concerns. There had been abuse of the blood donor badges in the neighborhood, with some people obtaining the badge and then never or very rarely donating blood. Issuing these badges costs NIH money, because of the need for fingerprinting and criminal history checks. Mr. Moss said that NIH is well aware that some people want the badge so that they can cross the NIH campus to get to the Metro. Under the new system, the badge will be renewable for active blood donor participants. Granting the badge is not related to blood type. Mr. Moss offered to show the new blood donor applications to any interested CLC members.
Ms. Abeles asked whether NIH has a contract for off-campus shuttle buses, since buses are often seen parked on Rockville Pike. Mr. Moss said NIH has a shuttle bus contract for within-campus transport and for transport to the NIH Rockville facility. Ms. Michaels suggested the Montgomery County might run the buses, since the buses do park on Rockville Pike. Mr. Moss said it would be best to check with Montgomery County about this. He noted that WRNMMC had offered shuttle buses to employees living in common areas in order to affect the facility’s parking ratio, so that might be one explanation. The participants were concerned that this poses a traffic problem.
Participants had no other questions or items for discussion.
Ms. Blackburn adjourned the meeting at 4:56 p.m.
Next Meeting: March 21, 2019
Nancy Abeles, Bethesda Crest Homeowners’ Association
Margaret Dittemore, Huntington Terrace Citizens Association
Linda Kohn, Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board
Deborah Michaels, Glenbrook Village Homeowners Association
Ginny Miller, Wyngate Citizens Association
Maureen Wilkerson, Maplewood Citizens Association
Andrea Witt, Huntington Parkway Citizens Association
Amy Blackburn, OCPL/OD
Anthony Clifford, ORF/OD
William Floyd, ORF/OD
Brandon Hartz, ORF/OD
Brad Moss, Office of Research Services (ORS)/ORF/OD
Susan Roberts, ORF/OD
Sharon Robinson, OCPL/OD
Kathleen Connor, Director, District Office of U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin
This page last reviewed on August 16, 2019