New Text Alert System

A new emergency text alert system has been activated in Montgomery County to notify residents about emergencies, severe weather, major transportation disruptions and changes in the threat level for terrorist attacks.

Those who sign up for the free service, called Alert Montgomery, can receive the text-message alerts by e-mail, cell phone, PDA or pager.

"Keeping our residents informed about what to do in an emergency is key to keeping them safe," Gordon Aoyagi, director of Montgomery County's Homeland Security Department, said in a statement. "I encourage everyone who has an electronic communication device to sign up for our emergency alerts so that they will know whether to shelter in place, leave the area or take some other action as needed when disaster strikes."

Residents can sign up for the service by visiting and clicking on "Alert Montgomery."

Deadline Extended

Montgomery County officials have extended the deadline for the Homeowners Property Tax Credit Program. Eligible residents now have until Oct. 31 to apply. Officials this year adjusted the eligibility requirements of the program and increased the average homeowner credit to $900. The program is geared toward seniors and others who are struggling to pay rising property tax bills.

For information on how and where to apply and to get additional information on the property tax credit program, visit and click on "Apply for a Property Tax Credit." Information also is available from the state Department of Assessments and Taxation at 800-944-7403.

Recreation Forum

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission will hold a forum to discuss the future of recreation facilities, community recreation centers, senior centers, aquatic facilities, agricultural preservation and stewardship of natural and cultural resources, from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday.

The planning staff has prepared a draft proposal, which is available to the public at the offices of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in Silver Spring.

The forum will be held at the Upcounty Regional Service Center, 12900 Middlebrook Rd., Germantown. For more information, call 301-650-4392.

Libraries Offer eBooks

Montgomery County public libraries now offer downloadable audio eBooks that can be listened to on a personal computer or MP3 player.

To borrow audio books, patrons can visit the libraries' Web site to create a free NetLibrary account. As many as 10 audio books can be checked out for up to three weeks. After three weeks, the borrowed audio files will no longer be accessible. For more information, call 240-777-0060 or visit

Housing Fair Oct. 1

The Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs will host its fifth annual housing fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Activity Center at Bohrer Park.

The free fair will feature consumer protection information, a workshop on the Medicare prescription drug plan and sessions in English and Spanish on avoiding consumer scams and managing money and credit.

Participants will be able to obtain free copies of their credit reports and attend a three-hour home-buying class that starts at 12:30 p.m. Registration is required. 506 S. Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg. For more information, call 301-590-2765.

Silver Spring Wins Award

Downtown Silver Spring won a silver medal in the 2005 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence competition. The award, which includes a $10,000 prize, was given to downtown Silver Spring for creating an improved mix of retail, commercial and residential development, channeling sprawl and improving transportation to create a revitalized "first-ring suburb" of Washington.

The award was created in 1986 by Simeon Bruner, an urban architect and president of the Cambridge Development Corp. in Massachusetts. The award is named for his late father.

-- Compiled by ARUNA JAIN