DPIE Under Construction Newsletter, September 2020

DPIE Under Construction masthead with Permitting, Plan Review, Licensing, Inspections and Enforcement visuals, and DPIE logo

September 2020

Business Development Section (BDS) Assists Local Entrepreneurs

BDS officers during a presentation

It’s a Tuesday morning in early September, and Tanya Hedgepeth and Nicole Reece of the Business Development Section (BDS) are busy at their respective at-home work stations, taking calls, holding virtual meetings and doing research to help a bevy of entrepreneurs with questions.

By noon, Reece, who previously worked as a D.C. government lawyer, had held tele-meetings with representatives of an inside-the-Beltway shopping center undergoing renovation and a Laurel company opening a smoothie shop. Hedgepeth, who worked at D.C. Water and the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M–NCPPC) before joining the DPIE team, had assisted owners of a Bowie coffee shop and representatives for the Hampton Business Park in Capital Heights.

“Our mission is to support the growth of a thriving and diverse business community in the County by providing guidance and assistance to entrepreneurs,” Reece said. “Our goal is to help make the process easier, faster and less frustrating.”

Before the COVID-19 emergency led to the shutdown of government buildings and restricted face-to-face gatherings, the team traveled from Beltsville to Brandywine to meet with aspiring business owners.

Since the onset of the pandemic, they’ve expanded their virtual services. They offer instructional YouTube videos, webinars, a monthly newsletter and other informational tools. Besides helping to familiarize customers with DPIE’s programs, they also provide information about resources outside DPIE, such as the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). 

"One of DPIE's most important functions is to provide assistance to entrepreneurs interested in opening businesses in Prince George's County," said DPIE Director Melinda Bolling. “The faster businesses get the permits they need, the faster they can open and begin providing service to customers and contributing to the economic growth of the County.”

For example, Hedgepeth recently worked with Michael and Tyra Harris, owners of newly-opened PJ's Coffee of New Orleans, located in the Fairwood Shopping Center in Bowie, to prepare for their permit and plan submittals and inspections.

“We provide structure so the whole process doesn’t feel so overwhelming,” Hedgepeth said. “I think we have been successful because we have seen scores of businesses open due, in part, to our efforts.”

For more information about the BDS, visit DPIEBIZDEV@co.pg.md.us.

Fall 2020 Community Partners’ Presentation to Be Posted on September 24

Deputy Director Gary Cunningham (left) and PIO Avis Thomas-Lester chat with a citizen at last September’s Community Partners’ Meeting in Forestville.

Due to COVID-19 social distancing mandates, the Fall 2020 Community Partners’ Meeting has been canceled. Instead, DPIE, the Department of the Environment (DoE) and the Department of Public Works & Transportation (DPW&T) will present updates and information about the respective agencies in a PowerPoint presentation. The PowerPoint presentation will be posted on all three agencies’ websites on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020.

The presentation will include:

• The new Momentum online system for permitting, licensing and enforcement
• DPIE’s focus on illegal home-based businesses
• Unpermitted construction
• DoE’s waste collection services
• A DoE report on the straw ban
• The County Beautification Campaign
• DPW&T’s Vision Zero
• The County Snow Removal Program
• A DPW&T transportation report

For additional information, contact Tia Collins at tlcollins@co.pg.md.us or 301-456-6876.

Enforcement Team Sweeps through Neighborhoods on Education Campaign

Enforcement questions with pictures of tall weeds and grass and illegal home businesses like nail salons.

Questions such as these were among many fielded by inspectors from the Enforcement Division recently when they participated in a four-day “Education Sweep” in several neighborhoods in Laurel. The goal of the effort was to speak to residents about property maintenance requirements.

Inspector Ricardo Smith reviews strategy at the staging area.

Abiding by social distancing and wearing masks, Enforcement team members discussed frequently-committed code violations with citizens: tall grass and weeds; parking on unpaved surfaces in front and back yards; garbage and debris strewn about properties; illegal home-based businesses such as auto shops, beauty salons, barber shops and nail salons; storage and sales operations; hosting parties and events where fees are charged and crowds congregate; parking commercial vehicles over a certain size in driveways, etc.

Violations such as these can create hazards and negatively impact the aesthetic value of County neighborhoods.

“It was a great opportunity for our inspectors to speak directly to citizens while safely social distancing to explain some of the most frequently committed code violations,” said Enforcement Division Associate Director Val Cary. “People are spending more time closer to home now, so they are taking this opportunity to clean up their properties and make fixes such as repairing peeling paint, broken doors, busted windows and sagging downspouts.”

Inspector David McLaurin (right) and another County staffer leave information for residents.

Code Enforcement Officer Ronnie Twine said citizens asked a lot of questions during the sweep. “We find that people generally are eager to do the right things on their property,” Twine said. “We provided information and, in some cases, were able to point out problems that needed to be addressed.”

The Education Sweep was conducted in cooperation with the Department of Social Services (DSS), whose team provided information about that agency’s initiatives and services. DSS Director Gloria Brown-Burnett called the sweep “a great service to our residents via a non-traditional partnership.”

Inspector David McLaurin received positive feedback from a local HOA official. Inspector Rick Smith, whose work territory includes the area canvassed, received kudos on behalf of the team from several local residents.

“The residents who reached out indicated that they really appreciated the effort we made to meet them safely in their neighborhoods,” said Enforcement Inspector Supervisor Tony Best.

The team referred residents to a printable copy of the DPIE Homeowner and Community Code Enforcement brochure, which is available on the agency’s website. Several community groups use it to keep their neighbors informed about property regulations.

Report suspected property maintenance violations to 311. For more information, call the Enforcement Division at 301-883-6168.

Code Enforcement Officer Ronnie Twine (left) and Inspector Alexis Martin discuss code compliance after walking along several streets.

Momentum Online System Will Improve Permitting, Licensing, Inspections and Code Enforcement

Kevin Edwards (far right), DPIE’s chief technology advisor, stands with Marullus Williams, contractor, while presenting Momentum overview.

Launch Set for October 2020

DPIE is beginning its modernization initiative with the implementation of Momentum, the County’s new online system for permitting, licensing, inspections and code enforcement. The technology will help the County continue to stimulate economic development by expediting tasks related to business and construction.

Momentum will roll out in October with licensing. The new program will allow customers to submit applications, upload documentation, make payments online and print their licenses at their homes or offices.

“Momentum is a state-of-the-art system that will provide a faster, more organized and safe way for customers to do business with the County within the current COVID-19 social distancing mandates,” said DPIE Director Melinda Bolling.

Director Bolling said the initial installment of Momentum will focus on business, single-family rental and short-term rental licensing. DPIE will be able to handle twice the volume the current technology allows. Momentum also includes features to track customer compliance with licensing requirements.

For example, if a certificate of insurance expires for a building contractor’s license before the term of the license ends, the Momentum system will automatically place the license on hold until the license holder provides an updated certificate, according to DPIE Licensing Supervisor Heidi Stearlings.

“Currently, that information must be tracked manually,” she said.

The second phase of the Momentum roll out will include the DPIE Enforcement Division and the Health Department. Phase 3 will modernize functions in DPIE’s Inspections, Site/Road Plan Review and Building Plan Review Divisions and the Department of the Environment (DoE).

Teens Enriched by DPIE Experience During Summer Youth Program

The COVID-19 pandemic shortened this year’s Summer Youth Enrichment Program (SYEP) to two weeks and resulted in a reduction in the number of teens who worked in County agencies. However, two youths assigned to work at DPIE gained valuable knowledge working with agency staff.

DPIE hosted Trinity Hutchins (left) in theSite/Road Plan Review Division andSantana Abney in the Inspections Division.

Essay by Santana Abney about Her DPIE Experience:

Essay of appreciation by SYEP

The DPIE family wishes good luck and success to Santana and Trinity.  We may see them back as permanent members of the team someday!


New Additions banner

DPIE welcomes the following new hires and congratulates them on joining the team!  Each new staffer has shared some information to help us get to know them and their start date.

Alireza Farzampour

Alireza Farzampour, Building Plan Review Division – Engineer III, 8/3/2020

I am a structural and bridge consultant and excited to serve as a member of the DPIE team. I have two years of experience in infrastructure design in the private sector and served as an instructor at Virginia Tech, where I also earned my Ph.D. in Structural and Earthquake Engineering. I can’t wait to meet you all.

Amanda Gullickson

Amanda Gullickson, Director’s Office – Administrative Aide IV, 8/16/2020

I have worked with the Prince George’s County Government for 20 years in various sections of the Office of the Sheriff. I have lived in Prince George’s County all my life. I have four wonderful girls.

Terrence Dickens

Terrence Dickens, Enforcement Division – Property Standards Inspector I/II, 8/31/2020

I served as a Montgomery County firefighter for over 23 years, including a stint as a fire inspector. I graduated from High Point High School in Beltsville and attended Prince George’s Community College and the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Training Academy. I reside in Bowie and enjoy spending time with my children and fiancé.

Robert Agnew

Robert Agnew, Inspections Division – Construction Standards Inspector I/II, 8/31/2020

I previously worked in private engineering firms. I am a graduate of Continental Academy, where I majored in general knowledge. I currently live in Upper Marlboro with my family of six. When I’m not keeping busy with my job and kids, you will find me drawing in my art studio or going fishing.

Reginald Wright

Reginald Wright, Inspections Division – Construction Standards Inspector I/II, 8/31/2020

I attended the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa where I majored in Electrical Engineering. I am married and the father of one adult son. I previously worked as a compliance inspector and a construction inspector. I am a member of Rock Creek Baptist Church and am active on the usher board. My hobbies include fishing, hunting and biking.

Congratulations bannerwhite space

Employee of the Month

Aschalew Haile, Employee of the Month for September 2020

DPIE congratulates Aschalew Haile,
Employee of the Month for August 2020

Aschalew is an Engineer III with the Site/Road Plan Review Division. He is being recognized for his outstanding customer service and team player skills. Aschalew responds to customers, engineers and developer concerns in a timely and professional manner. Currently he is an ePlan captain for the Central District, working closely with applicants to resolve ePlan-related issues. He trains and works closely with new engineering staff and is always willing to assist his colleagues.

DPIE commends you for your exceptional
performance, Aschalew!

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