Multiple school supply giveaways assist local families in need

Multiple school supply giveaways assist local families in need
A Norwood Elementary School student smiled after receiving his new backpack and supplies to start the upcoming school year. Photo courtesy of United Way.
(Updated 8/30/18)

- By Marge Neal -


A popular television commercial that resurfaces each August declares this time period “the most wonderful time of the year,” with ecstatic parents doing back-to-school shopping while their obviously forlorn children mope in the background.

While the advertisement is funny, this time of year is financially stressful to families that already struggle with day-to-day needs. The extra demands of extensive school supply lists can push parents over the edge.

But thanks to many community organizations and businesses that recognize the issue, school supply time is considerably less stressful for many area families.

Last week, the Norwood Elementary School community was the beneficiary of a United Way of Central Maryland effort that provided supply-filled backpacks to children in need.

United Way partnered with a variety of businesses, including Under Armour, Miles and Stockbridge, T. Rowe Price and Johns Hopkins Medicine, to gather donated school  supplies, pack the backpacks and distribute them to students through area nonprofits and schools, according to a statement from United Way.

Volunteers gave supplies out at Norwood on Aug. 22, as well as at targeted schools in Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard counties and Baltimore city.

“Fighting for student success in every community throughout our region is an important part of our work,” Franklyn Baker, president and CEO of UW of Central Maryland, said in the statement. “Academic success is often predicated by the first few weeks of school. This is why we are in every county in central Maryland today, ensuring that our students are given the opportunity to get off to a strong start this school year.”

Under Armour donated 2,000 backpacks to the effort, and another 500 were acquired through a series of donation drives held at local businesses, according to the statement.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, Eastpoint Mall held its third annual backpack giveaway, according to mall General Manager Mark Seaman. Families had to register in advance to receive the supplies, which were all donated by mall merchants.

“We have 363 backpacks - what we don’t give away today we’ll donate them to Baltimore County Public Schools,” Seaman told the East County Times at the event. “Those wishing to receive a backpack had to pre-register, but sometimes you get no-shows. When that happens, the backpacks get donated directly to the school system.”

For the second consecutive year, the school supply giveaway was accompanied by a back-to-school fashion show featuring clothing available at mall stores.

“It’s a great event,” Seaman said. “As you can see, it brings the community out, and that’s what we want. We want the mall to be a community center, so this really just supports that ideal.”

Deep Creek Middle School on Saturday was the site for Love Fest, a community event sponsored by a local church, according to Assistant Principal Alain Chalmin.

“It was not a school-sponsored event,” Chalmin said. “A local church, new to the community, asked if they could use our property for an event to give out free school supplies.”

Instead of simply providing a table piled with school supplies, the event also offered a variety of family-friendly activities and games, according to Chalmin.

“They made it more of a community event,” Chalmin said. “They just wanted to reach out to the community and provide this service.”

A recent survey from the National Retail Federation found that families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $684.79 on back-to-school supplies this year, according to the United Way statement.

School supply giveaways such as these recent events help at-risk students stay in school, stay on track for graduation and be prepared to pursue a career or attend college or other post-secondary education program, officials believe.

Patrick Taylor contributed to this report. read more

Stranded summer: How the Bowleys Quarters VFD fared without their main vessel

Stranded summer: How the Bowleys Quarters VFD fared without their main vessel
Brian Schneider (left) of the the Baltimore County Volunteer Fireman's Association presented BQVFD Chief John Heinz with a check meant to help replace what was lost when thieves raided their marine unit boat. Courtesy photo.
(Updated 8/30/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -


Back in May, the Bowleys Quarters Volunteer Fire Department (BQVFD) found themselves in a lurch. Marine Unit 217, a 2002 23-foot Jones Brothers Center Console, had been burglarized to the tune of about $13,000 in electronic devices.

For a volunteer department that handles an average of 87 calls in the water each year, the loss of Unit 217 was a punch to the gut.

“It was difficult without that vessel,” said BQVFD Chief John Heinz. “It was out of service. You just can’t run it without electronics. And the way they cut the electronics, we weren’t sure what was shorted out, if there was power applied and they crossed positive and negative - what else got wiped out?”

By the beginning of August, Unit 217 was operable again. But operating without it from May through July proved to be difficult at times and impossible at other times.

According to Heinz, Unit 217 is the vessel BQVFD utilizes most. Because of its size, it is able to navigate under rail crossings and reach areas their larger vessel, a 30-foot Grady White, cannot reach.

“We had a couple of boat fires, one in the Bush River, one in the Gunpowder River, that we couldn’t get to because Unit 217 could not get up there,” said Heinz. “When you go up the Gunpowder into Bush River you have the Amtrak tracks. Our larger boat cannot fit under those railroad tracks.”

When BQVFD can’t respond to service, the onus falls on the North Point Edgemere Volunteer Fire Department to respond. But getting to the Middle River area from North Point can take about 20 minutes, and 20 minutes on the water in dire straights can be deadly.

“A lot can happen in that time. You can only tread water so long,” said Heinz.

Heinz also told the East County Times of an incident BQVFD responded to near Hart Miller Island. A man drunkenly jumped off of his boat earlier this year and ended up with pain in his neck. It ultimately ended up being a nerve-pinch, or “stinger,” but, as Heinz noted, that information isn’t always available when the rescue workers are responding.

Because of the depth of the water where the man was injured, the Grady White was not able to get to the him. So volunteers floated a backboard out about 50 or 60 feet, got the man strapped in and floated him back to the Grady White.

Eventually the man was taken to Rocky Point Park where he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital. The patient ultimately ended up fine, but without Unit 217 available it elongated the process and made things a bit trickier. And while they were able to make it to this call, the volunteer group ended up missing a few over the summer months. The damage went beyond an inability to respond to certain calls, too. It also inhibited training.

“There were some calls that were missed,” said Heinz. “It definitely hurt us. It hurt us on training, it hurt us on the emergency responses and just on the preparedness of what we have to do.”

Heinz explained how tricky handling fires on the water can be. The pressure from the hose can push the fire department’s boat away from the boat it’s trying to save, while also pushing the boat in danger away. So members of the BQVFD have to learn how to tie the boats together to prevent that from happening. But without Unit 217, the training was essentially sidelined.

175 miles of shoreline, 
83 square miles of open water
The area covered by BQVFD and North Point Edgemere is vast, essentially reaching Kent County. In total, the two volunteer companies cover 175 miles of shoreline and just over 83 square miles of open water.

And the Baltimore County Fire Department does not have a vessel.

Year round, marine response duties fall on the volunteers. From March to early November, BQVFD keeps its boats in the water. When winter hits, Unit 217 is kept at the station but is able to be put in the water at a moment’s notice.

“We have the equipment, the dry suits, cleats that can walk across the ice, everything pretty much,” said Heinz. “When we say ‘Marine Team’ people think it’s seasonal, but we’re a year-round team.”

Heinz said that comes in handy around November when boaters from up north begin to make their way down south. There’s an uptick of boats in the area as these boaters migrate south to Florida and other destinations, which keeps the BQVFD in the water a bit longer. They’re also out each year for the lighted boat parade on Middle River.

“All these snowbirds leave and head down to Florida,” said Heinz “They’re coming through Baltimore County. If they have a problem, we have to go out.”

One step forward, one step back
Heading into the season, things were looking up for BQVFD. Through a generous donation, they were able to upgrade their tools. Before the upgrade, the group was dealing with the oldest set of tools in the county.

A few months back, Heinz was also able to grab a Stewart and Stevenson 2.5 ton light medium tactical  vehicle (LMTV) via military surplus. That truck should be ready for use by mid-September, and will help with extricating people from precarious situations, like floods.

With all of these upgrades, Unit 217 getting burglarized was a step in the wrong direction.

A donation from the Marine Trades Association of Baltimore County covered the $1,000 insurance deductible for the electronic equipment that was stolen, but now BQVFD faces another tough challenge - replacing Unit 217. The hull is taking on water, and considering it’s a former fishing boat it’s not quite as good as it could be. But at a cost of $238,000, a new vessel could be a long way off. So far the fire company has raised $990 from 19 donors.

“The BQVFD has done a lot with consumer-grade fiberglass fishing boats,” said Heinz. “It’s time for our citizens to be properly treated with an all-hazards metal boat that’s going to hold up, a true work boat. We’ve got to get it somehow.”

Heinz said the group has applied for grants for the past four years, but each year they have been declined. He said they have strong justification, but they don’t have the experience with grant writing.

“There are certain phrases and words that those offering the grants look for that we don’t know. We haven’t figured it out, how to word it properly to get that funding,” said Heinz.

The military surplus is also an option, but those boats tend to get snatched up quickly. There’s also a lot more work that comes with refurbishing.

“It can be done, but we’d rather buy a brand new, with manufacturer’s warranties, true all-hazards boat that has medical, fire pump, underwater sonar and radars that can handle bad weather. Because we go out when everyone’s coming back in,” said Heinz.

To donate to BQVFD, visit www.marineteam21.org. read more

Trucking company buys Dreamers property in Dundalk

Trucking company buys Dreamers property in Dundalk
Jeff Cochran (left) secures a sign for his new snowball stand on the former Dreamers site as son-in-law Rob Sine assists. Photo by Virginia Terhune.
(Updated 8/30/18)

Liquor license transfers to marina site in Sparrows Point

- By Virginia Terhune -


The new owner of what once was the Dreamers adult entertainment bar in Dundalk is in the process of transforming the building into new offices for his trucking company.

“We hope to move by the end of September,” said Jeff Cochran, who will be relocating Cochran Trucking company and its five employees from his Essex office to the two-story building at 4000 Old North Point Road which he is currently renovating.

In the meantime, he and son-in-law, Robbie Sine, have opened an outdoor stand on the property called Tracy’s Snowballs, named for Cochran’s daughter, that is open daily from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., except on Saturdays when it opens at 11 a.m.

Egg custard is the most popular flavor so far, said Sine, who also sells packaged snacks, coffee, sodas and ice cream bars. The family is also working on opening a pit beef stand on the site to bring in revenue to help finance the renovations.

“It’s an easy spot to stop and get something to eat,” said Cochran, about the location at the intersection with Old Battle Grove Road on a route that truckers regularly use to reach North Point Boulevard and I-695.

Dreamers’ previous owners were forced to put the bar on the market in 2017 after the county Board of Liquor License Commissioners suspended their license and fined them $4,000 after reported drug overdoses on the premises.

The owners, who defaulted on their mortgage, were facing $106,000 in judgments against them, according to testimony before the liquor board.

“Considering what it used to be, I think the community is coming out ahead on this one,” said Rob Zacherl, president of the Wells McComas Citizens Improvement Association, which represents the surrounding community.
 
Cochran, who grew up in Edgemere, graduated from Sparrows Point High School in 1987 and married his wife Sharon in 1989. After working for a car dealer, he drove for Bauer Trucking in Edgemere, then worked as an automotive service manager and body shop manager before going back to trucking.

The Cochrans were driving to visit their son on Old Battle Grove Road when they happened to see the for-sale sign on the Dreamers site. They subsequently bought the property in June for $325,000, according to state property records.

The purchase includes a requirement until October 2019 to continue providing 30 parking spaces for use by the BD Health Services methadone clinic, located across from Dreamers on Old North Point Road.

Cochran said the first thing he did after buying the property was to take down the rooftop sign displaying a female dancer. A woman approached him and asked if she could have it.

“That was me,” she told Cochran, who plans to give her the sign.

Cochran said he really likes classic cars, and down the road he envisions hosting alcohol-free, family-friendly events on a grassy area behind the building that could include car shows and cruise nights.

“I’m hoping to grow down here,” Cochran said. “I can’t wait to see a good, positive thing here. When all is said and done, I hope it’s a nice community gathering place.”

Liquor license transfers to marina
The Dreamers liquor license was purchased by David Carey, who bought the former North Point Cove Marina at 4309 Shore Road, which is about three miles from the Dreamers site in Sparrows Point.

He paid $1,350,000 for the property in April and plans to open a 50-seat, casual dining restaurant and a 20-seat outdoor tiki bar called Tiki Lee’s, according to liquor board records.

Carey, whose father Lee was an ironworker, owns a home in Sparrows Point and operates two restaurants: Lee’s Landing Dock Bar on the Susquehanna River in Port Deposit and Lee’s Pint and Shell (formerly Saute) in Canton.

He plans to employ 30 people, provide 90 parking spaces and offer 90 transient boat slips for free to visiting restaurant customers only, with no slips available for lease to the general public, according to the records.

About 20 neighbors on Shore Road and nearby Wise Avenue Extended objected to the plan and hired a lawyer to represent them because of expected problems with traffic, parking, loud music and lack of control over patrons who have been drinking.

The liquor board initially denied the license transfer with a 2-to-1 vote in May, but Carey’s lawyer asked for reconsideration, and after Carey reached a settlement with neighbors, the board approved the license transfer on Aug. 6 with conditions.

Conditions include construction of a new road called Libs Lane that will link the marina directly to Morse Lane, diverting restaurant traffic and deliveries away from houses on Wise Avenue Extended and Shore Road.

The license will not be granted until the county issues a grading permit for the road.

Carey must also submit a landscaping plan when applying for a building permit, and no music can be played between 10 p.m. and closing. read more

School Resource Officers ready for challenges of new school year

School Resource Officers ready for challenges of new school year
Student Resource Officers for BCPS celebrated the beginning of a student outreach program at Parkville High School in 2016. Photo courtesy of Baltimore County.
(Updated 8/30/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -


Following highly publicized school shootings earlier this year in Florida and in St. Mary’s County, districts all over Maryland are gearing up for more extensive training and focusing on preventing school shootings and minimizing potential damage.

On Monday, a group of school resource officers (SROs) gathered in Hunt Valley to go over policy and response changes and discuss the year ahead.

Aside from adding SROs (Baltimore County Public Schools has 19 additional SROs this year), BCPS has done a lot more to quell fears by adding 50 psychologists, counselors and social workers, beefing up security and training teachers and administrators.

During the summer, 332 administrators, police officers, central office staff and teachers participated in a two-day certification course in active-shooter response training.

The 332 staffers took part in ALICE training, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. Over the course of the year, those who have already been trained will, in turn, train others.

“This is something that thankfully we have been preparing for over the last two years,” said April Lewis, the executive director of school safety for BCPS.

Lewis said the plan is to ultimately get everyone involved with BCPS trained to deal with active shooter situations, including substitute teachers and bus drivers.

Lewis said that by the end of September, all BCPS schools will have gone through training for lockdowns. To avoid confusion with the public, messages will be sent out by the school system before lockdown training takes place.

While publicity surrounding school shootings has grown, school shootings in and of themselves have not been on the rise in recent years. A study done by Northeastern University professor James Alan Fox found that while multiple-victim shootings are on the rise in general, that is not the case in schools, where the U.S. averages about one per year. Fox also contends that the number of gunshot victims at schools is down from the 1990s, dropping from 0.55 students per million in 1992-93 to 0.15 students per million in 2014-15.

Still, in Baltimore County, the push to make schools safer took on a different life after Robery Wayne Gladdon, 15, shot Daniel Borowy, a special needs student, at Perry Hall High School on the first day of classes in August of 2012. Borowy survived the shooting, but the way the school system viewed safety seems to have shifted on that day.

Since that time there has been a steady rise in the use of SROs, increased surveillance, key-card entry and more added to schools across the county. The addition of ALICE training is a natural progression, especially in the wake of events from earlier this year.

The ALICE Training Institute has worked with thousands of police and law enforcement agencies, school systems, government, businesses and more to prepare for the event of an active shooter. ALICE came about in the wake of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, which also saw the rise of School Resource Officers.

The ALICE program shows people what to do in a lockdown situation and how to evacuate safely in the case of an active shooter. It lays out a blueprint for how those caught in an active-shooter incident should respond until help arrives.

The ALICE program lays out the steps one needs to take in the event of an active shooter right in its name: Be alert to danger, lockdown the building, inform others, counter the danger and evacuate from trouble.

The training includes how to barricade entrances and how those without weapons can fight back.

While 332 staffers in BCPS have already received full training, 17,000 school system employees have already completed online training. Their training will continue once the school year begins with in-person instruction. Lewis told the SROs gathered in Hunt Valley that training for such an event could prove to be traumatic for some.

“We already had one person tell us they were traumatized from the online training,” Lewis said.

Lewis also told those gathered that the plan would soon be available online for parents to review.

In December of 2017, Delegate Ric Metzgar (R-7) held an active shooter training session at Eastern Assembly of God in Dundalk in the wake of a church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. With a panel comprised of Maryland State Police officials, private security personnel and others, they walked a group of pastors through different scenarios and showed and explained how to react.

The training undertaken that night was not ALICE training, but the message was similar - avoid danger, deny danger the ability to reach you via barricading and other means, and defend should the shooter break through. And in the wake of the mass shooting at Annapolis-based news outlet The Capital Gazette which took place at the end of June, more businesses are stepping up to offer similar training for their staffs. read more

Defenders Day celebration marks community role in Battle of North Point

Defenders Day celebration marks community role in Battle of North Point
(Updated 8/30/18)

- By Marge Neal -


Fort Howard Park will once again march back in time this weekend when it hosts Greater Dundalk’s annual Defenders Day celebration.

The county’s waterfront park at the end of North Point Road will take visitors back to the early 1800s with period demonstrations, exhibits, talks and reenactments of the Battle of North Point.

“Our basic aim is to educate the public about the War of 1812 and the role our community played,” said Buzz Chriest, a reenactor and member of the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society, which sponsors the annual event. “Every year, we have people come who have never heard of the Battle of North Point - they have no idea this happened in their back yard.”

Chriest is a long-time member of Aisquith’s Sharpshooteers, a Battle of North Point reenactment group well known in the Greater Dundalk community and beyond.

“We are named after the actual civilian militia group that defended the North Point peninsula during the battle,” Chriest said. “The two privates, Wells and McComas, who were credited with killing British General Ross, were members of Aisquith’s Sharpshooters.”

The free event at Fort Howard Park is set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, with a rain date of Monday, Sept. 3 (Labor Day).

The celebration will include crafts, games, community exhibits and information tables and displays set up by organizations specifically dedicated to the War of 1812 and the Battle of North Point, according to Chriest.

Two battle reenactments will be held, with groups from Western Maryland, Baltimore city and New Jersey joining the Sharpshooters.

“And we’ll sit around and talk a lot,” Chriest said with a laugh. “We like talking to people about the battle and the history of the day.”

Unfortunately, much of the “history” of the battle is more local lore, with not a lot of documentation, the reenactor believes.

“A lot of the battle’s history is really unknown and there are many conflicting versions,” he said. “But the longer we do this, the more we find out and the more we are able to confirm,” he said. “It’s an ongoing thing.”

In addition to activities and demonstrations that will appeal to a variety of ages, food will be sold and the historical society will sell souvenirs and resources relevant to the area and the battle, according to Chriest.

Fort Howard Park is located at 9500 North Point Road in Fort Howard (the park road forks to the left near the entrance to the former Fort Howard VA Medical Center campus). Admission and parking are free. read more

Chase UMC garden feeds the masses

Chase UMC garden feeds the masses
Rev. Walter Jackson celebrated the completion of an emergency structure to save the garden's tomatoes during a summer storm. Photo courtesy of Cheri Tester.
(Updated 8/30/18)

- By Marge Neal -


A popular proverb states that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

The folks at Chase United Methodist Church have put a new spin on that proverb with the planting of a summer garden that feeds the clients of its monthly food pantry. While the pantry depends on the donations of local businesses and individuals, the garden allows church members to contribute to the effort they ask others to sustain, even if just for a few months of the year.

A variety of church volunteers, from adults to vacation Bible school students, has taken on planting and nurturing the garden, making it an altruistic, multi-generational act of giving and learning.

“It’s just exploding now,” church volunteer Sherri Tester said last month of the bountiful garden. “The VBS kids went out and picked produce for us to give out Saturday - the refrigerator is full and I can’t pick any more until Saturday morning because I don’t have anywhere to put it.”

This is the second year for the church garden, according to Tester. Last year’s effort was smaller, and based upon its success this year’s is larger with more of a variety of vegetables.

Some members were at first concerned about the image of the church, with a garden growing on the lawn, according to Tester. But the idea grew on members and they embraced the idea, especially when they saw the good to come out of the effort, she said.

The church operates a small food pantry in cooperation with Piney Grove UMC in Bowleys Quarters. About 15 families regularly use the once-a-month community service, according to pantry volunteers. Piney Grove hosts the pantry because it has the space to do so, whereas Chase does not, according to volunteers.

While the pantry mainly distributes nonperishable foods, volunteers take advantage of opportunities to give out fresh produce, bread and bagels and fresh and frozen meat when those items are available. Volunteers work extra hard at drumming up donations around Thanksgiving and Christmas to procure frozen turkeys and other items for traditional holiday meals.

The Rev. Walter Jackson, pastor of Chase UMC, said he considers the garden a gift to the community.

“It really was a grassroots, from-the-ground-up effort,” he said of the garden, tongue firmly in cheek. “It’s one of Sherri’s goals to educate the kids that everything we need comes from God, and the garden helped support that belief.”

As of this week, the bountiful garden was still exploding, and volunteers picked about 200 pounds of fresh produce, including tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers, squash and green peppers, to give out at the pantry on Aug. 16, according to Tester.

The unusually wet summer has taken its toll on the effort, but some hard work and some emergency construction to support the tomato plants saved them, Tester said.

“We had so much rain, it pulled the tomato cages out of the ground and all the plants crashed to the ground,” she said. “I went to Home Depot and bought lumber to build a system that would support the plants and get the tomatoes up off the ground so they wouldn’t rot.”

The church volunteer spent about two hours out in the rain saving the plants.

“The pastor saw me out there in the rain and came out to help me,” she said with a chuckle, referring to Rev. Jackson. “The two of us, out there in the pouring rain, building away to save the tomatoes - it was a sight to see.”

In addition to providing fresh produce for pantry clients, the vegetables are also given out to church members, according to Jackson.

“We have some church members who, simply because of pride or humility, would never admit they can’t afford to buy fresh vegetables on a regular basis; they would never ask for help,” he said. “This way, we put the food out there for anyone to take and no one has to know their circumstances.”

Jackson said the gardeners have harvested the garden about four times so far and have used the bounty to feed between 13 and 25 families.

Again referring to the effort as a gift to the community, Jackson said the garden “is a result of listening to the voice of God through the people.”

While the garden may embody the proverb about fishing, Tester believes it also depicts a Biblical verse, but elevates the lesson.

“There’s a passage in the Bible that says the farm ‘seconds’ are left in the fields for the poor,” she said. “At Chase United Methodist, they get the firsts.” read more

Metzgar town hall addresses crime; local Democrats left out of discussion

Metzgar town hall addresses crime; local Democrats left out of discussion
Baltimore City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young (above, center) promised to work closely with county officials to help solve crime problems near border areas. Photo by Patrick Taylor.
(Updated 8/22/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

A crime forum held Monday night, Aug. 20, at the Essex Senior Center, hosted by Delegate Ric Metzgar, was meant to address crime in the area, but the forum left many local Democrats feeling slighted.

The panel for the forum consisted of Sixth District state Delegates Metzgar, Bob Long and Robin Grammer, as well as state Senator Johnny Ray Salling and Seventh District County Councilman Todd Crandell, all Republicans. Also present were Baltimore City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young, officers from the Essex Police Precinct, Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, three Republican candidates for local office - Al Redmer, who is vying for county executive, and Ryan Nawrocki, who is looking to unseat Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) and Republican Attorney General nominee Craig Wolff - and local activist Cliff O’Connell.

Invitations to the forum were not extended to Bevins, Redmer’s opponent, John Olszewski Jr., or any of the Democratic nominees for office in the Sixth Legislative District or Seventh Councilmanic District.

Some Democrats viewed this as a snub, saying it had more of a political feel rather than a forum dedicated to the issue of crime.

“Clearly it was a political forum since I wasn’t invited,” said Bevins. “I do share that police precinct with Councilman Crandell and they were talking about issues in areas that the police precinct oversees, and that would include where I represent in Middle River.”

Bevins and Nick D’Adamo, a Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates in the Sixth Legislative District, both expressed concern at the inclusion of Nawrocki. Both Democrats contended that if it had just been the incumbents then it would not have been an issue, but the inclusion of Nawrocki gave it more of a campaign feel.

“It just felt like a forum for the Republican party,” said D’Adamo, who noted that he considers Nawrocki to be a friend. “I was ok with it until I saw Nawrocki there.”

D’Adamo and fellow candidate Diane DeCarlo both attended the forum, but observed from the audience. Bevins opted not to attend the meeting but expressed similar sentiments as D’Adamo.

“Why wasn’t Johnny [Olszewski] invited? Why not Buddy Staigerwald, or Brian Weir? They’re candidates. They let Ryan sit up front like he was an elected official, and they didn’t let the other candidates in the audience do that,” said Bevins. “Why were they allowed to only be in the audience when they’re actually running in the sixth legislative?”

Metzgar began the forum by saying that it was an opportunity to “hear from both sides,” but without local Democratic representation it is unclear what he meant by that. A call to Metzgar went unreturned by press time, but he caught up with the East County Times early Wednesday morning.

“It wasn’t designed to be political,” said Metzgar. “I put these together because I’m transparent and I wanted the community to know what’s going on and we needed to hear from them.”

“If they were so concerned they could have had their own meeting,” Metzgar added.

Bevins told the Times that she also had ethical concerns about the meeting, considering it took place on county government property. She contended that by not inviting Democrats, it became a political forum that should have taken place elsewhere.

“If you want to have a political forum then call it a political forum,” said Bevins. “You can have a political forum anywhere. If you want to line your candidates up for eastern Baltimore County and have a political forum and invite people who are already elected and/or candidates or whatever, you can do that and call it a political forum. But don’t call it something that it’s not. That was not a town hall meeting.”

Damon Effingham, executive director for Common Cause Maryland, an nonpartisan ethics watchdog, said that he did not feel the forum crossed any ethical lines.

“My initial reaction is that I don’t believe there is a ‘fairness doctrine’ with regard to this event (i.e., there isn’t a requirement that opposing viewpoints or parties be allowed to be at this same event),” said Effingham. “ As long as candidates or people of differing political viewpoints also have access to the space to hold their own events at another time.”

Effingham also noted he did not think it would be an ethical violation for those who attended to mention their candidacy.

“Indivisible could hold an event in a public library meeting room where they discuss wanting to oppose [President] Trump, and support Democratic candidates, but they would not have to invite Trump/Republican supporters/candidates,” Effingham said.

While frustrated at the lack of inclusion for Democrats, Bevins added that, overall, the forum seems to have been a good thing.

“For me, at the end of the day, if those who attended came away from something productive, learning something they didn’t know before or being able to be proactive in a way they hadn’t thought of before, you’ve had a good meeting,” Bevins said. “And if that’s what happened last night, and it’s what sounds like what happened last night, then it’s ultimately a good thing.”

The meat of the forum focused on issues surrounding crime in the area. Shellenberger and officers from the Essex Precinct ran through the midyear crime stats (see our story on page 1), noting that crime was down from last year through the first six months of 2018. Shellenberger told that crowd that, as a whole, crime has remained relatively static in Baltimore County over the last 10 years with around 30 homicides per year and around 3,000 felonies charged each year.

Also at issue was the recent decision in Maryland to do away with the cash bail system, which the Sixth District Delegation opposed last year. The delegates representing the Sixth said they would likely try to reverse that decision in next year’s General Assembly, should they be reelected. Shellenberger also expressed his frustration with the decision to end cash bail, but added that there has been some good to come out of it.

“Before we would arrest drug dealers and their bail would be $250,000, and they could afford to pay it,” said Shellenberger. “Now they’re being held without bail, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Shellenberger also added that while that is a benefit, too often there are repeat offenders committing crimes in a short period of time. He told the audience that there should be some financial repercussions if that is the way it is going to be.

“There needs to be skin in the game,” said Shellenberger. read more

Despite early fireworks, first ECA meeting identifies action items

Despite early fireworks, first ECA meeting identifies action items
The Essex Community Association's area of influence extends along the north side of Eastern Boulevard from the Back River bridge to MD-702, and along Mace Avenue from Eastern Boulevard to Rossville Boulevard.
(Updated 8/22/18)

- By Devin Crum -

The first official meeting last Thursday, Aug. 16, of the newly re-formed Essex Community Association was meant to be non-political. But that did not stop many of the candidates for public offices representing the area from showing up.

Early in the meeting, Tim Fazenbaker, a write-in candidate for County Council stood up and introduced himself as such. He said he was merely going to offer a suggestion to help with an issue and it was not political, but ECA leadership quickly pounced and removed him from the meeting.

Fazenbaker then took to social media in the parking lot of the venue, posting a video in which he criticized incumbent Councilman Todd Crandell for not attending the meeting. He added that those who kicked him out were “the backers of Todd Crandell” and called for an ethics investigation into the incident.

However, meeting organizers and ECA officers said all elected officials and candidates were asked not to attend so they could hear from residents about their issues.

ECA President George Lang said the purpose of the meeting was to hear from residents about their issues so they can begin working on solutions.

The meeting was “just for everyone in this room; it’s nothing political,” said Lang, who has a business and a family in the community. “My whole role and intention is just to make sure it’s better for everybody.”

Community Outreach Officer Heavner, from the Baltimore County Police Department, kicked off the meeting by offering some crime statistics for the area of influence for the association, which encompasses all of the neighborhoods on the north side of Eastern Boulevard from the Back River bridge to Southeast Boulevard/MD-702 and on either side of Mace Avenue from Eastern Boulevard to Rossville Boulevard.

Heavner said there was only one reported first degree burglary - on Dorsey Avenue - one second degree burglary, no third degree burglaries and three fourth degree burglaries to go along with one reported unarmed robbery and one armed robbery - of the Metro PCS store on Eastern Boulevard.

He added that there were only one reported theft of an automobile that turned out to be simply an unauthorized use, and two thefts from vehicles, but he “knows” there have been more in that category. He did not know if the reason for that is because the victims were scared to report it or have become desensitized to it.

“Your numbers for that big of an area for a month of crime are phenomenal,” Heavner said. But he emphasized that residents need to call every crime in to 911. “We need to get the 911 calls. The more calls we get, the more police you’ll see in the area.”

Other major issues included the presence of transient or homeless individuals around the Alcoholics Anonymous location on Taylor Avenue, lack of police response when called, problems with rats, issues with stormwater runoff causing flooding, the presence of the newly opened methadone clinic on Eastern Boulevard and the big one - speeding traffic through the neighborhoods.

Ofc. Heavner was not shy about how he felt about opioid treatment clinics in general, stating they are just “baiting the problem.

“All you’re doing is prolonging [the addiction] and they’re giving them substances that are addictive also,” he said. “The clinics are just stretching it out.”

He said he would look into the numbers for the county and try to find out how many drug overdoses have been seen in the area.

Lang said he did not feel the Essex clinic’s location and proximity to Essex Elementary School was appropriate and would like to put pressure on them to move the operation to a location where it can be better managed.

“If everyone here applies pressure, we can get them out of there,” he said.

One resident mentioned that transient and/or homeless individuals are a problem, especially when they linger in the alley behind the AA clinic.

"That alley, from [Taylor] down to Mace Avenue, has been a transient problem of drugs, alcohol activity," for at least 15 years, he said, adding he would like to see more police patrols in the area.

Heavner, who is also part of a homeless/transient outreach unit that works with other outreach organizations, said the police's first step in that situation is to offer services to the individuals. But the ones in that area have not accepted those services.

"We offer so many resources, but unfortunately everybody in the area down here doesn't want to take those resources," he said.

After that, the next step is enforcement, he said. So police can tell them to move along or give them citations if they are breaking the law with drugs or alcohol.

Several residents expressed a desire to see more enforcement of code regulations to encourage people to clean up their yards and handle garbage appropriately to prevent the spread of rats. Some supported an extra day of trash pickup per week like what is seen with the county’s pilot program to address rats.

Speeding traffic may have been the most heated issue discussed with many saying they have been working to get speed humps installed but have been denied.

One resident said the county conducted a speed study and found traffic speeds too low to warrant them.

“They’re telling me the average speed on Riverside Road is 28 miles per hour,” she said. “So I cannot get past that speed study in order to move forward.”

Additionally, there are no sidewalks on many of the streets, which creates a safety hazard for anyone walking through the neighborhoods.

Ofc. Heavner said if the speed studies do not bear fruit, the only thing police can do is issue citations for the speeders they catch. But he cautioned them that traffic enforcement often results in more citations for people who live in the community than those who don’t.

“We could run radar,” he said. “The problem is, who are we stopping? Everybody in the neighborhood.”

Many attendees seemed satisfied with that.

Robin Grammer, a state delegate but who attended the meeting as a member of the community and secretary of the ECA, said the community association will be able to advocate on behalf of the residents to those who can address their issues, like state or local government representatives. He said things like stormwater runoff infrastructure or road resurfacing should be relatively simple to address, but issues with vacant or abandoned properties are more difficult to deal with.

"What we need now is volunteers, small groups of people who can help us out, we can put together a plan and make all these things actionable items," he said.

Lang, the ECA president, said they would begin working on their list of issues and hopefully have some progress by the next meeting, which was tentatively scheduled for December.

To keep up with the ECA and its activities or to learn more, visit Facebook.com/EssexCommunityAssociation, email essexcomassoc@yahoo.com or call Lang at 443-827-1323. read more

Violent crime down nearly 7 percent in Baltimore County

Violent crime down nearly 7 percent in Baltimore County
(Updated 8/22/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Violent crime is down in Baltimore County, according to the midyear crime statistics released by Baltimore County Police last week.

After 2017 saw a 14.5-percent increase in violent crime, the first six months of 2018 have seen a substantial decrease. Violent Crime, which includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and human trafficking, is down by 6.9 percent.

“We’re very pleased that violent crime is down. I think that shows that our partners in law enforcement are doing a great job and bringing us good cases,” said Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger. “And obviously if we put violent criminals away for a long time then they cannot re-offend. So I think that’s one of the most important features. When it comes to violent criminals we try to get the lengthiest sentence we can.”

Despite the decrease in violent crime, there are still some significant jumps when the statistics are compared with the five-year average. In the violent crime category, rape has jumped by just over 14 percent, with 186 rapes and attempted rapes reported on the year. Against the five-year average, rape is up by 30 percent.

However, it is important to note that laws and the way these statistics are compiled have changed. Over the last three years, there have been significant changes to the rape statute in Maryland, including broadening it to include men, lumping sexual assault and rape together in one category (rape) and striking language from the statute that required a victim to resist in order to be considered rape.

The latter change came about after Buzzfeed released a story in 2016 that found Baltimore County deemed 34 percent of rape accusations in 2014 to be “unfounded.” Lisae C. Jordan, director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, contended that 30 to 40 percent of cases from 2014 could have been prosecuted had the statute not included language about the necessity of resistance.

Taken together, the three changes to the statute to be more inclusive naturally led to a documented increase of incidents in the rape category.

“The definition of resistance, the need for resistance, was taken out,” Shellenberger said. “That was a couple years ago. More recently there was another change that added males. The distinction between a sex offense and a rape, it’s all lumped together now. Several years ago, if you forced someone to perform fellatio on you, that would have been a first degree sex offense. Now everything is called rape, everything is under the same definition.”

While law changes explain the increase in rape, they do not explain the increase in aggravated assaults over the last two years. Aggravated assault is down 2.2 percent from last year, but it is still significantly higher against the five-year average. From 2013 - 2016, Baltimore County averaged 1,228 aggravated assaults through the first six months of those respective years. In 2017, that number jumped to 1,571. Shellenberger described the jump over the last two years as “pretty significant” and added that there has not been a change made to the statute that would justify such an increase.

“That has not changed,” the state’s attorney said. “It could just be a function of there just being more of them.”

After seeing a significant jump in robberies in 2017, this year has seen those numbers fall by almost 19 percent. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that almost every subsection of the robbery category has seen significant decreases, including a 21-percent drop in street and highway robberies, a 21.3-percent decrease in convenience store robberies and a 23.3-percent decrease in residential robberies. Robberies committed with firearms are down 16 percent while robberies committed with knives fell by 20.2 percent. The only areas in the robbery subsection that saw increases were gas station or service station robberies and robberies committed by strong-arming, which increased by 12 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively.

And it is not just violent crime that is down in Baltimore County. Burglaries are down by 17.5 percent on the year, with 1,309 reported through the first six months of 2018. Those burglaries represent the lowest total through the first six months in the last five years.

Theft and motor vehicle theft are also down on the year, with a 6.7-percent drop in total thefts and an 8.8-percent drop in motor vehicle thefts. As a whole, crime is down in the county by 7.7 percent on the year.

“The men and woman of this department strive every day to do their best to keep Baltimore County safe,” said interim Baltimore County Police Chief Terrance Sheridan in a release sent out by the county. “It is vital that we team with our partners in local, state and federal government to provide an exemplary police service to our citizens. We have and will continue to work with the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office to ensure that we are not just closing cases, but assisting in successful prosecutions of these crimes.” read more

Amazon to hire more than 1,500 for Sparrows Point fulfillment center

Amazon to hire more than 1,500 for Sparrows Point fulfillment center
(Updated 8/22/18)

- By Virginia Terhune -


Starting next week, Amazon will begin hiring thousands of people for its new fulfillment center due to open in mid-September at Sparrows Point.

Expected to be fully operational by the holidays, the center will employ more than 1,600 full-time people and, at capacity, pack and ship up to 1 million items per day.

“That’s when the building will be fully humming,” said General Manager Tim Foley during a tour for visitors and journalists on Tuesday, Aug. 21.

Foley previously managed Amazon’s fulfillment center on Broening Highway in east Baltimore, a similar facility, which opened three years ago.

The new center covering 20 acres off Sparrows Point Boulevard will package and ship items the size of a micowave or smaller, mostly to customers in the region between Richmond, Va., and New York City, Foley said.

Most of the senior operations team has been hired, but hiring for the 1,500 hourly associates and additional 100 salaried jobs is due to start next week.

“At its core, this is a jobs story,” said County Executive Don Mohler, who attended the tour of the facility.

Amazon joins Fedex and Under Armour, which have built distribution warehouses on what was formerly the steel mill and is now being redeveloped by Tradepoint Atlantic into a major East Coast logistics hub.

Amazon job seekers are encouraged to apply online at www.amazondelivers.jobs/.

Job candidates will be invited to a hiring event and they will be able to schedule their interview at a time that best fits their schedule, said Amazon’s Rachael Lighty.

Amazon associates work 10-hour shifts, with four days on and three days off, and must be 18 to apply.

Available jobs involve picking, packing and shipping items such as books, toys, home goods and Amazon devices like Kindle and Echo.

The company offers on-the-job training, an on-site classroom and its Career Choice program, which prepays 95 percent of tuition for courses that need not necessarily be job related.

The chance to earn a nursing degree, for example, is a way of attracting motivated employees.

Benefits start the first day on the job and include health, vision, dental, maternity and parental leave programs, a 401k with a 50 percent company match, and company stock.

To accommodate what is expected to be a steadily growing workforce at Tradepoint Atlantic over the next five years, the Maryland Transit Administration started  daily bus service in February.

The new Local Link 63 route runs between Tradepoint and downtown Baltimore with stops along the way, including Center Place in Dundalk and Johns Hopkins Bayview in east Baltimore. read more

Middle River Depot owner charged $74,000 for property cleanup

Middle River Depot owner charged $74,000 for property cleanup
This aerial photo, courtesy of Google, shows several boats and piles of trash and debris at the Middle River Depot site next to the main building before the county removed them.
(Updated 8/22/18)

- By Devin Crum -

The owner of the former Federal Depot property in Middle River has been charged a total of $74,089.53, plus a $75 administrative fee, for Baltimore County’s cleanup of junk and debris from the property.

The lengthy cleanup involved removal by a county contractor of large piles of tires, as well as derelict boats and other debris stored outdoors on the 62-acre site, located at 2800 Eastern Blvd. and owned by Middle River Station Development LLC.

“The owner of the Depot must be held accountable for allowing this property to fall into a state of derelict,” said County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents the area, in a statement. “After hearing from community groups and residents about the poor state of the Depot, I took action to clean it up by initiating a code enforcement complaint against the property.”

Bevins’ office initiated the code complaint in July 2017 for the removal of the discarded tires and boats. The Baltimore County Office of Code Enforcement subsequently issued a citation and a $6,000 fine.

Following a code enforcement hearing on the matter held Sept. 20, 2017, county Administrative Law Judge Lawrence Stahl upheld the fine but suspended $5,250 of it, leaving only $750 left to pay and 60 days to clean up the site. When the Depot owner failed to comply, the remainder of the fine was again imposed and the county called in a contractor to complete the work.

“Due to the unique nature of this case and the logistical challenges presented, it took months for the contractors to remove the debris,” Bevins’ statement read.

The tires were meant to be used for a go-kart racing facility inside the massive Depot building, but were left behind when the tenant vacated its lease.

As a result of being prepped for use around the go-kart tracks, the nearly 6,000 tires had been chained and bolted together, according to Jim Almon, Bevins’ legislative aide. But the tire disposal facility would not take them in that condition, which created more work for the contractor to uncouple the tires.

Additionally, Almon said, the county had to hire a specific contractor with special equipment capable of breaking up and hauling the large junk boats and other trash and debris left by another tenant at the site.

In addition to the code enforcement fine, the county billed the entire cost of the cleanup to the site’s owner on July 17, and the $74,164.53 balance now exists as a lien on the property. If not paid within 30 days, the amount was set to accrue interest at a rate of 1 percent per month.

Bevins said a civil judgment against the property was also expected.

The code enforcement file for the site shows the $750 initial fine was paid on Oct. 24, 2017, followed by the $5,250 reissued fine on Feb. 13. However, the lien amount had not been paid as of Friday, Aug. 17, according to the county’s budget office.

“Property owners need to be held accountable for maintaining their property,” Bevins said. “It does not matter how much money you have; if your property is a blight on the surrounding community there will be consequences.” read more

Work to begin to rebuild bridges over Big, Little Gunpower rivers

Work to begin to rebuild bridges over Big, Little Gunpower rivers
This map shows the location of the bridges to be replaced. Image courtesy of SHA.
(Updated 8/22/18)

- By Devin Crum -

Work is slated to begin at the end of this month to rebuild four bridges along Pulaski Highway/US-40 that are nearing 100 years old.

The Maryland State Highway Administration announced Aug. 8 that they were ready to start a $26.4 million project to rehabilitate all four bridges which carry eastbound and westbound US-40 over the Big Gunpowder Falls and Little Gunpowder Falls between White Marsh and Joppatowne.

The agency last year estimated the cost of the project at between $13 million and $13.5 million. However, the scope of the project changed, according to SHA spokesperson Shanteé Felix, to include superstructure replacement and widening, additional widening to accommodate a safer maintenance of traffic scheme, utility relocations and construction of swales for stormwater management, which led to the increase in cost.

SHA assured that all four bridges, all built in 1934, are currently safe for travel, but they require rehabilitation work to ensure long-term reliability.

The two bridges over the Little Gunpowder which straddle the Baltimore/Harford County line were identified by Governor Larry Hogan’s administration as needing to be replaced. And since they were built at the same time, SHA decided to proactively replace the two bridges over the Big Gunpowder.

Felix said construction was expected to begin by the end of August and would wrap up in summer 2021.

The work will include replacing and widening the concrete bridge decks which constitute the driving surfaces, and replacing the concrete support beams. The new driving surface will provide 10-foot outside shoulders on the bridges, matching the width of the rest of Pulaski Highway. This will vastly improve safety for the 26,000 vehicles which travel through the corridor each day, according to SHA.

The shoulders will also improve safety and access for bicyclists, SHA said.

SHA spokesperson Charlie Gischlar said in a recorded statement that all four lanes of US-40 will remain open to traffic during peak travel hours through early 2020 in an effort to limit backups and delays for vehicle traffic. However, there will be temporary lane shifts and lane closures during off-peak daytime hours and at night.

“There may be occassional weekend work with lane closures on US-40 while concrete work is occurring,” Gischlar said in the statement.

As workers prepare to begin construction, Felix said commuters have not yet experienced any traffic delays due to the work.

“Other than some utility work that took place outside of traffic, there have not been delays,” she said.

SHA’s contractor for the project, Fallston-based Allan Myers of MD, will also install erosion and sediment control measures to protect the two rivers and relocate the utility lines.

The rehabilitation of the bridges on US-40 is part of the governor’s $2 billion effort, announced in 2015, to address 69 structurally deficient brides on the state’s highway system and invest in highway and bridge improvements across the state.

Another bridge in eastern Baltimore County being addressed by that program is the Putty Hill Avenue bridge over I-695, which is slated for rehabilitation. That project was advertised for bids last spring and major work should begin in 2019, Felix said.

SHA was also slated to begin work this week patching one-mile sections each along Philadelphia Road/MD-7 in Rosedale and Southeastern Boulevard/MD-702 in Essex.

Crews will patch MD-7 between Hospital Drive and King Avenue, and MD-702 between Old Eastern Avenue and the Hyde Park Road traffic circle. Those sections of road see approximately 21,200 and 10,800 vehicles per day, respectively.

Crews will work weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., using single-lane closures on MD-702 and a flagging operation on MD-7 since it is a one-lane highway. read more

To Cube or not to Cube: That is the question

To Cube or not to Cube: That is the question
Now nearly four decades old, the cube’s bright color has faded with time. And up close, what appear to be bullet holes can be seen piercing the structure. File photo.
(Updated 8/22/18)

- By Marge Neal -


Like it or not, “the cube” has been an icon of the Essex area for decades.

When it was first installed in the late 1970s, the bright red cube that welcomed visitors to Essex as they crossed the Back River Bridge on Eastern Boulevard was cutting-edge architecture.

It was a modern touch to an aging boulevard - a hip, new way of saying Essex was “with it,” a happening place that was looking forward to beefing up its business presence and its image as a new decade approached.

Today, many consider it an ugly eyesore taking up prime real estate at the gateway to the Essex and Middle River communities and think the space could be better and more accurately utilized.

“We hear a lot of complaints about that space, and questions like why do we have that cube,” said Sharon Kihn, executive director of the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce. “But we’re also sure there are many people who like the cube and want to keep it just because of its longtime presence in the community.”

While the exact history of the cube and the decision to select that shape seems to be largely lost, Paul M. Blitz shared a connection as to the “why” of the cube.

“Red and white were the colors of the Essex Development Corporation and the red cube was the logo on their letterhead,” Blitz, the historian of the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River, told the East County Times. “EDCO, as it was called, started in 1977 and I want to say the cube was installed in 1979.”

Joe DiCara, a longtime community volunteer known for singing the national anthem at many big area events, recalled community leaders and business owners reaching out to local residents for their ideas for a welcome plaza that would “really put a stamp on Essex.”

“The idea was to really put us on the map,” he told the Times. “This is Essex; it’s not Middle River, it’s not Essex-Middle River, it’s Essex.”

In keeping with the more current slogan that Essex and Middle River are the gateway communities to the Chesapeake Bay, many residents and chamber members believe the cube is not an accurate reflection of the nature of the area and would like a more water-oriented motif to be used in local signage, according to Kihn.

While the Essex garden at the Back River Bridge features the now dull and fading red cube, its counterpart at the Middle River end sports a much more water-oriented look, Kihn said.

“We’ll probably keep those because they fit in with the theme, but we’re open to suggestions there too,” she said.

Revitalizing the cube garden is just one of many local projects and initiatives being undertaken by the Eastern Baltimore County Task Force, a chamber committee charged with revitalizing the downtown Essex business district “from bridge to bridge,” according to Kihn. The group is addressing many quality-of-life elements, including vacant housing and storefronts and rodent infestations while looking to beautify the area with new streetscaping and landscaping, she said.

Task force members are soliciting community input regarding the future of the cube space and what residents might like to see there. Suggestions already submitted include a “giant anchor” and a lighthouse, according to Kihn.

The chamber plans to apply for grant funding to pay for the project and therefore does not yet have a time-frame for the project to be carried out, Kihn said. “It will depend on the funding we receive and when that would come through.”

In the meantime, the task force is collecting input and encourages residents to weigh in on one of the more visible welcome signs in Essex.

Ideas and suggestions, as well as comments for or against keeping the cube, can be sent via email to ebctf@chesapeakechamber.org. read more

New designation for Essex could help with grants, investment

New designation for Essex could help with grants, investment
The Essex Sustainable Community area, outlined in purple, includes approximately 4,233 acres, including a mix of residential communities and the Eastern Boulevard commercial corridor. Image courtesy of Baltimore County Department of Planning.
(Updated 8/15/18)

- By Devin Crum -

A new designation for Essex as a Maryland Sustainable Community by the state could lead to increased investment in and revitalization of the area.

The designation, approved by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and announced by Baltimore County on Monday, Aug. 13, means Essex is now eligible for state funding for projects to increase economic, transportation and housing choices, as well as to provide environmental improvements.

Eastern Baltimore County Task Force Co-chairman Cliff O’Connell said the designation will allow the task force to carry out extensive improvements in Essex’s commercial core along Eastern Boulevard, from the Back River bridge to about Marlyn Avenue, and eventually throughout the designated area.

“That’s where we want to concentrate first, especially right there in the business district where all the [vacant storefronts] are,” he said. “What we’re hoping is that people see the improvements there, even though some of them may be small, and that it will inspire the landlords, the tenants and the communities that surround there to get on board with us.”

The Maryland Sustainable Community program focuses on partnerships to support revitalization and reinvestment in older communities. The Sustainable Community designation, which lasts five years, opens eligibility for state programs and resources, such as Neighborhood BusinessWorks, Community Legacy and the Strategic Demolition Fund.

Working in collaboration with the task force, a committee of the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce, the county’s Department of Planning identified Essex as an area in need of revitalization and developed a comprehensive strategy to encourage and guide local investment. The new Sustainable Community will now refine those strategies and submit applications to the state requesting funding for improvement projects.

About two years ago, O’Connell and fellow task force co-chairman Sam Weaver - who where simply concerned residents and business owners at the time - walked through Essex and identified several issues plaguing its residents and businesses that they felt could be addressed relatively simply.

They noticed largely aesthetic things like trash piling up in front of or behind businesses (which leads to rat infestations), overgrown grass and brush around sidewalks or in alleys, the condition and visibility of storefronts, and the degradation of the flower boxes and benches along Eastern Boulevard.

Then a little over a year ago, O’Connell, Weaver and a few others partnered with the chamber to officially form the task force.

Sharon Kihn, the chamber’s executive director, said they first applied for a $10,000 grant from the county through its Commercial Revitalization Action program last fall since much of Eastern Boulevard and Back River Neck Road are already labeled by the county as a Commercial Revitalization District.

That grant was approved and the chamber has received 75 percent of the funds so far. The task force is now preparing to put those dollars toward eight new planters for flowers and shrubs in the 300, 400 and 500 blocks of the boulevard, as well as to replace the benches on the existing flower boxes and fix the broken and loose brick work around planters and bus stops.

“So basically we’re trying to improve the aesthetics of the commercial revitalization district,” Kihn said.

O’Connell said the community will see a lot of movement on those initiatives in the coming weeks since they were planning to purchase the large flower pots and the lumber for benches this week. Additionally, the Back River Restoration Committee, of which Weaver is president, will donate the money and labor to buy and plant the flowers and shrubs.

Following the county grant, even though the state designation had not yet been approved, state planners earlier this year encouraged the task force to apply for two other grants through DHCD. The first of those was a $150,000 Community Legacy grant request to be used for Essex streetscape projects.

“Basically it’s to really make more of a dent and be able to make more of a difference in that same downtown area,” Kihn said.

While she was clear the grant application has not been approved and the funds are not guaranteed, she said $50,000 would go toward a façade improvement program for businesses and the rest would be used for things like eight additional new planters along more of the boulevard, painting light poles, providing LED lighting, putting up new pole banners and placing new signage related to trash and helping people to be able to find public parking. The funds would also help to maintain the planters bought with the county grant.

The other grant the task force applied for was an Operating Assistance grant, requesting $25,000 in Technical Assistance funds to help in planning and designing improvements in Eastern Boulevard’s 400 and 500 blocks, along with $50,000 in Nonprofit Assistance funds to provide project management expertise and cover expenses related to deploying the Essex streetscape program.

“So if we get all of this funding - all of us are just volunteers,” Kihn said. “We’re going to need somebody with a background [in this] that can assist with planning and execution of all of this.”

If approved, “it should give us a chance to really make a difference, and we’re very excited about that,” she said, believing the state will announce this fall if their request is granted.

In the meantime, the task force has continued working on the quality-of-life issues in the area, according to O’Connell, getting new metal liners and top rings for the trash cans along the streetscape to decrease access by rats. At their request, county code enforcement has also had a presence in the area, pushing property owners to remove graffiti from their buildings.

Additionally, county crews have cut back the overgrown brush that had been obstructing many of the alleyways, “so you can drive up and down the alley without tearing your mirrors off,” O’Connell said.

Also on the schedule is resurfacing of alleys south of the 500 block of Eastern Boulevard between Margaret Avenue and Woodward Drive, as well as in the 100 block between Eugene and Goeller avenues, which he said should be done by the end of the summer.

O’Connell said it is important to know that the issues the task force initially identified are all “critical issues” in the Essex area and they are going to continue working to improve the situation in that regard.

“That being said, we also want to move into phase two of it to work on beautification and the streetscape improvement to entice businesses and residents to come back to the downtown Essex area,” he said. “We haven’t forgotten all of the issues that are here in Essex.

“And then as time goes on, as we get bigger grants, the bigger the things we can do,” he said, noting he would like to see the sidewalks along the boulevard eventually replaced. “Where it will go, who knows. But I can see only positive things coming out of this” Sustainable Community designation. read more

Bevins on White Marsh Mall blowback: ‘This was not my intent’

Bevins on White Marsh Mall blowback: ‘This was not my intent’
(Updated 8/15/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Last week saw Baltimore County Council members Cathy Bevins (D-6) and David Marks (R-5) come under fire from county and Baltimore City officials after media reports circulated suggesting Bevins and Marks were trying to cut late-night bus service around White Marsh Mall.

“I don’t know why the media keeps saying we wanted to stop service at the mall,” said Bevins. “We never said that; that’s not in the letter [sent to the Maryland Transit Administration]. The letter said we wanted to look at more frequent stops so kids aren’t hanging on the bus stop for 30 - 45 minutes, to see if the MTA could just keep the buses coming a little faster.”

The request to MTA from Bevins came about after an altercation at White Marsh Mall saw nine arrested, including seven juveniles, all from Baltimore City. According to Baltimore County Police, there were about 60 juveniles who were dispersed from the mall’s food court following a fight. Some of that group tried to reenter the mall and ended up in a confrontation with security and police before eventually being arrested.

In the wake of that incident, Bevins and Marks met with officials from General Growth Properties, who operates White Marsh Mall, as well as representatives from The Avenue and Baltimore County Police. The group discussed possible solutions, including the implementation of a curfew or parental supervision policy, though those suggestions were not met with enthusiasm. According to Bevins, persons at that meeting requested Bevins and Marks reach out to MTA to discuss a large gap in time in bus service near the area, which led to Bevins drafting a letter to the MTA.

“The only reason we asked about the 1:30 a.m. bus was because the last bus on that loop is at 11 p.m. and then there’s not another one until 1:30 a.m.,” said Bevins. “So we’re not sure why there’s that two-and-a-half-hour gap there and we wanted to know if it was necessary and if there’s actual ridership on it. And if it wasn’t, maybe it should be stopped to make sure everyone gets out of that area, like last call for alcohol.”

While Bevins maintains she was simply following a constituent request, there was quite a bit of blowback from county and city officials. Following news reports of Bevins’ request to MTA, County Executive Don Mohler released a statement saying he did not support efforts to limit light rail or bus services.

“While I understand the frustration that was caused by a recent disruption at White Marsh Mall, stigmatizing and creating hardship for city residents is not an acceptable response,” said Mohler in a statement. “It is 2018. Not 1950. We are neighbors with Baltimore City and stand with them. We cannot and should not put a moat around our city partners. We must continue to work together on complex issues for the good of the Baltimore region.”

Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott and City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young both pushed back on the suggestion of cutting late-night service from around White Marsh Mall. Both officials pointed to incidents of county residents causing trouble in Fells Point and at sporting events downtown, with Young adding that the request “sparks racism.”

While Bevins feels her intent was misconstrued, it certainly did spark racist responses. Shortly after Bevins sent the letter to MTA, a flyer began circulating online that compared bus riders to apes and called for the cutting of the “Ghetto Bus Line.”

“Inner City Youths Riot at White Marsh Mall,” the flyer reads. “Stop the Ghetto Bus Line! Keep the Uneducated, Loud, Rude, Wild Animals in the City where they belong.”

“Certainly I would never use a word like that to describe anyone of a different skin color or gender or nationality, and it’s hurtful,” Bevins said in response to the flyer. “It’s so hurtful. And I’m very disturbed that David Marks and I were trying to do something positive for the community and for those businesses and it’s turned into something so ugly.”

The flyer also drew swift criticism from General Growth Property officials, with senior spokesperson Lindsay Kahn telling The Sun that they were “disgusted.”

“That’s the only word I can come to think of,” said Kahn. We have absolutely nothing to do with the creation of that flyer. We are as outraged as everybody else.”

“We’re not trying to put a label on people,” said Bevins. “When these juveniles - unsupervised juveniles - are leaving the mall, whether they’re hanging between the mall and The Avenue, coming to The Avenue, reeking havoc, whatever they’re doing...they’re not always black. That night they were.”

Representatives from General Growth Properties and The Avenue were slated to meet again on Wednesday to discuss potential remedies. Bevins said that she will wait to see what they come up with before suggesting another sit down with Marks.

“We’ll see what comes out of that meeting, and if they’re not talking curfew or parental supervision, some kind of policy, then I think David and I go back in,” said Bevins.  read more

Planned self-storage building in White Marsh to accept boats, cars

Planned self-storage building in White Marsh to accept boats, cars
The site of the proposed new facility, outlined in yellow, sits just north of MD Route 43 and west of MD Route 7/Philadelphia Road. Image courtesy of Google.
(Updated 8/15/18)

- By Virginia Terhune -


Work is underway to develop a 25-acre wooded site off Philadelphia Road in White Marsh for a large and differently designed self-storage facility that will allow customers to store boats, cars and other vehicles in drive-up, indoor units.

“It’s a new type of self-storage - you can drive in,” said developer David Scheffenacker of Preston Scheffenacker Properties based in Towson.

Modeled on a similar Extra Space Storage facility in Severn, the layout is different than typical multi-story storage buildings with blocks of units separated by narrow and sometimes dimly lit corridors.

The large indoor units are likely to appeal to boat owners along Back River and Middle River who want to store their boats inside, Scheffenacker said.

“There’s no need for shrink wrap, there’s air conditioning, no mold and the battery charges when it’s not in use,” he said.

The new, more open design improves visibility for customers and will likely appeal to women, who make up 67 percent of the people who rent storage space, he said.

“[The design] opens things up. … It’s user friendly,” he said.

The site borders six houses on Philadelphia Road between the J. Gibson McIlvain lumber company and the ramp to westbound MD-43.

The county’s Development Review Committee granted the plan a limited exemption on July 31 which allows it to proceed subject to further county review.

Plans show a 303,151-square-foot building with a maximum height of 25 feet to be built in two phases. Access would be via a driveway off Philadelphia Road between the lumber company and the houses.

“It looks like a warehouse,” Scheffenacker said.

The building is surrounded by parking spaces and stormwater collection ponds, with retaining walls to be built on two sides of the facility, according to plans.

Scheffenacker and the operator of the Severn building did not return calls for comment about the building on Monday. read more

Swimmer Long writes book, returns to the pool - both are golden

Swimmer Long writes book, returns to the pool - both are golden
(Updated 8/15/18)

- By Marge Neal -


Jessica Long, the country’s second most decorated Paralympian, has established quite a reputation for success in the pool.

But now she has added another title to her extensive resume: author.

Long, who grew up in Middle River, has had a eventful summer, beginning with the publication of her book, “Unsinkable,” in June and continuing with her return to the world of competitive swimming when she won five medals at the 2018 Pan Pacific meet held in Cairns, Australia, from Aug. 9 - 13.

After months away from competition, Long, a double, below-the-knee amputee, claimed her first medal of the meet on Aug. 11, when she touched the wall first in the 200-meter S8 (disability classification) individual medley. Australian Lakeisha Patterson followed in second place and Canada’s Danielle Dorris finished third.

“That race was really exciting,” Long said in an interview published on the World Para Swimming website. “I’ve really enjoyed my summer and for me, since Rio, I needed to take a break from swimming and focus on the mental side of it and find that balance.”

After her successful start, she followed up with a gold medal in the 100m butterfly and silver medals in the 100m and 400m freestyle races and the 4x100 relay.

If her comments on Facebook are any indication, Long was especially excited about the Pan Pacs in Australia. With all the world traveling she has done during her 14 years of international competition, the 26-year-old swimmer had never been Down Under and let her fans know how excited she was to finally be traveling to the land of koalas and kangaroos.

Shortly after arriving in the country, Long posted on her Facebook page a photo of herself holding a koala.

“Spending koalaty time with Yogi the Koala,” she wrote as her status to accompany the image.

After competition ended Monday, Long announced on social media that she was extending her visit to include some vacation time in Brisbane and Sydney before heading back home to Maryland.

The five medals earned at Pan Pac will have a lot of company when they make it to Long’s home. The well-decorated athlete won six medals at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, bringing her Paralympic medal total since the 2004 Athens Games to 23 (13 gold, six silver and four bronze). She took the competitive swimming community by surprise when she won three gold medals in Greece as an unknown 12-year-old.

She also has 46 World Championships medals, with a whopping 35 of them gold; countless medals from national, regional and smaller events; is the proud owner of the 2007 James E. Sullivan Award, given annually to the nation’s best amateur athlete; is a three-time winner of the ESPY for the Best Female Athlete with a Disability; and was the 2007 recipient of the Juan Antonio Samaranch IOC President’s Disabled Athlete Award.

While Long has taken a break from the pool since 2016, she partnered with her sister, Hannah, to write her book which is an autobiography aimed at a pre-teen audience.

Long was born in Russia, with lower legs that were misshapen and missing bones. Her birth parents gave her up for adoption and she was adopted by Steve and Beth Long of Middle River. With good medical care available here, doctors recommended the amputation of the toddler’s lower legs so she could be fitted with prosthetic legs and be taught to walk.

The accomplished swimmer likes to joke that she has not stopped since.

“Unsinkable,” subtitled “From Russian Orphan to Paralympic World Swimming Champion,” tells the story of Long’s journey from the orphanage to the top of the world’s most competitive athletic medal podiums.

“This photographic memoir, filled with photographs, sidebars, quotes and more, will thrill her fans and inspire those who are hearing her story for the first time,” reads a description on Amazon.com.

The book is available at numerous online book outlets as well as many retail stores around Baltimore.

With a presence in book stores and swimming pools, and with hugging a koala checked off the bucket list, Long now turns her eyes and a more serious training regimen to Tokyo 2020, where she plans to add to her Paralympic medal collection. read more

In wake of White Marsh Mall brawl, property group, local officials plot path forward

In wake of White Marsh Mall brawl, property group, local officials plot path forward
(Updated 8/8/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

On Saturday night, Aug. 4, two adults and seven juveniles were arrested after an altercation at White Marsh Mall. On Monday morning, Baltimore County Council members Cathy Bevins (D-6) and David Marks (R-5) met with local police and representatives from General Growth Properties (GGP) and Federal Realty to plot a path forward.

Chicago-based GGP owns White Marsh Mall and Federal Realty owns the adjacent Avenue at White Marsh.

Bevins and Marks presented a unified front in calling for a curfew, much like the one put in place at the Towson Town Center, also owned by GGP. Following a slew of issues at the Towson mall two years ago, Marks, along with local business owners, pushed for a curfew for children under the age of 18. Now, on Fridays and Saturdays there, anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult after 5 p.m.

“I brought up the curfew,” said Bevins. “GGP didn’t talk about it. They didn’t bite. I said “look, David Marks lived through this at Towson Town...and he said it made a world of difference having a curfew and having children be accompanied by a parent.”

Bevins said everyone in attendance at Monday’s meeting was in agreement that there is, at times, an issue with conduct at the mall. But they did not necessarily agree on a path forward.

When asked about the meeting, GGP’s senior manager of public relations, Lindsay Kahn, issued a statement on behalf of the property group.

“There was an altercation between young adults at White Marsh Mall on Saturday evening,” the statement read. “While our security and the police acted swiftly to handle the situation, some individuals became verbally and physically aggressive with law enforcement in the parking lot which led to arrests. We are grateful for our partnership with the Baltimore County Police Department which helped to ensure that our guests were not impacted by this unfortunate incident. Nothing is more important to us than creating a safe environment for our guests, retailers and community.”

“We never publicly discuss the details of our security program because to do so would compromise its effectiveness,” the statement continues. “However, I can say that we are working closely with our partners at the Baltimore County Police Department as we evaluate our protocols to prevent future incidents.”

Aside from a potential curfew, Bevins also floated the idea of reaching out to the Maryland Transit Administration about late-night bus stops near the mall. White Marsh Mall closes at 9 p.m., but there is a bus line that operates until 1:30 a.m. nearby. Bevins said she is not sure whether that line picks up at the park-and-ride or on Honeygo, but if it is the latter she would like to see something changed.

“It seems like there’s this gap between the Avenue closing and the mall closing and that’s when the trouble happens,” said Bevins.

Bevins told The East County Times that she spoke with Towson area chamber of commerce members who spoke highly of the curfew at the Towson Town Center, saying it helped not just mall business but the surrounding businesses as well. And recognizing the efforts that management at The Avenue at White Marsh have undertaken over the last few years, she does not want to see a flourishing business community suffer.

“I have worked very closely with The Avenue over the last few years. I’m so proud of the way they have changed that venue and made it more family friendly,” said Bevins, citing the addition of the ice rink and concerts. “The mall could take a page out of their book. They’ve done nothing for 30 years.”

While other remedies are being sought, both Bevins and Marks view a curfew as the best way to help alleviate some of these issues.

“I agree with Councilwoman Bevins that the mall immediately needs to implement a youth policy,” said Marks. “I think it’s something [mall management] is definitely exploring. It won’t solve every incident, but it certainly helps the overall sense of security.”

Bevins also noted that she approached Baltimore County Police Captain Joseph Conger, who heads up the White Marsh precinct, back in February about conduct issues at the mall. Conger allegedly told her that the mall and White Marsh precinct have a good working relationship, but Bevins can’t help but wonder if anything is actually being done on that front.

“What happened between Feb. and now?” Bevins said.

The two adults arrested on Saturday night have been identified as Michael Jerard Forrester, 19, and Tyrell Davon Rigby, 19, both of whom reside in Baltimore. Seven juveniles were also arrested. All seven are 16 years old and live in Baltimore. No further information about the juveniles is available. read more

Health department forces closure of Geresbeck’s meat, dairy sections

Health department forces closure of Geresbeck’s meat, dairy sections
Photo from geresbecks.com.
(Updated 8/8/18) 

- By Devin Crum -

On Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 1, The Baltimore County Department of Health found during an inspection that some food items at Geresbeck’s Food Market in Middle River were not up to snuff.

According to customers who were in the store at the time of the inspection, large amounts of meat and dairy items were being pulled from the shelves after being found to not be at the proper temperatures.

Geresbeck’s had just begun their weekly sale that day, advertising lower prices on many items, several meat and dairy products among them.

Health department spokeswoman Elyn Garrett-Jones confirmed that refrigeration problems following inspection were the reason for their action in the store last week.

“As part of our regular inspections, our staff visited the establishment on Aug. 1 and determined that the refrigerated cases were not functioning optimally,” Garrett-Jones said. “As a result, Geresbeck’s staff were instructed to pull food items that were not at proper refrigeration temperatures.”

Some aisles in the store were temporarily closed while health department officials evaluated the food to determine if it should be saved or discarded, Garrett-Jones said, but they did not force closure of the store itself. Items that did not meet required temperatures were discarded while all others were moved to the walk-in units.

She said the inspection was one of three regularly scheduled inspections per year and was not the result of complaints.

Information was not immediately available regarding if Geresbeck’s has had any previous health violations.

The store’s general manager, John Stricker, also confirmed the refrigeration issues, but declined to comment further.

“We had a couple refrigeration problems that we worked on and that’s it,” he said.

He would not answer questions about what items were involved or how much had to be discarded.

But one customer in the store at the time said patrons were blocked from buying any of the meat products in the display case. Another said a lot of dairy items were being pulled from shelves as well. read more

Crandell introduces resolution for new Josenhans Corner PUD

Crandell introduces resolution for new Josenhans Corner PUD
The darkened area, located on Old Eastern Avenue in Essex between Back River Neck Road (right) and MD-702 and just north of Mars Estates Elementary School, is being eyed for an 84-unit senior apartment complex.
(Updated 8/8/18)

- By Devin Crum -


Seventh District Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell introduced a resolution to the County Council Monday, Aug. 6, to allow further review of a proposed new senior housing complex in Essex.

The project, dubbed “Sycamore Springs,” would consist of 84 rental apartments for seniors aged 62 and older in a planned unit development (PUD). They would be built on a roughly 4.5-acre site on Old Eastern Avenue between Back River Neck Road and MD-702/Southeastern Boulevard near what used to be known as Josenhans Corner.

Because the existing zoning on the site is a mix of residential, office and community business uses, the project is being pursued as a PUD to offer a better final product.

As a PUD, Crandell had leverage over the developer - Herman and Kittle Properties, Inc. - in the negotiating process.

Doug Anderson, legislative aide to Crandell, said at the Aug. 1 Essex-Middle River Civic Council meeting that the councilman asked for a covenant agreement right away to be sure the project remains senior housing after it is built.

“So the covenant will go on the PUD that it must remain senior housing for 40 years,” Anderson said.

The developer also initially proposed a $30,000 contribution as the community benefit which is required for PUDs, but that amount was eventually doubled through negotiation.

“We have settled at $60,000 for the community benefit,” he said. But they did not lock in whom or what would be the beneficiary of those funds.

“We kept it open-ended because there’s a lot of change coming in November,” he said. “We don’t know yet really where it’s going to be best used.”

EMRCC President Bob Bendler said he would like to make sure the East Baltimore County Task Force is involved with the use of the community benefit funds.

The task force, a committee of the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce, has worked over the last year to clean up and revitalize the Essex business core. EMRCC suggested at a meeting with the developer about the project in December 2017 that the task force and/or the Back River Restoration Committee should be the beneficiary since they have both worked extensively to clean up Essex and the surrounding areas.

Anderson said he does not foresee any problems passing the PUD resolution since Crandell’s office has received at least seven letters of support from community organizations, including the Rockaway Beach Improvement Association which had opposed a previous plan for workforce housing apartments at the site.

“It would be nice to finally see that corner blossom the way much of the area around it has,” Anderson said. read more

Hillshire residents give proposed Scarfield project the cold shoulder

Hillshire residents give proposed Scarfield project the cold shoulder
The proposed development would see 18 new single-family detached homes on a site at the end of Hillshire Road in Dundalk. Photo by Marge Neal.
(Updated 8/8/18)

- By Marge Neal -


The opinions, concerns and other general comments made at a community input meeting Aug. 1 left no question where Hillshire community residents stand on a new development being proposed by local developer and apartment complex owner Frank Scarfield.

They don’t want it.

Scarfield has long been the subject of complaints in the Greater Dundalk community because of the neglect and dilapidation of the former Seagram’s property while he owned it, as well as well-publicized complaints about apartment complex maintenance and other issues.

The developer bought a 4.4-acre tract of land off German Hill Road in Dundalk in September 2017 and announced his plan to build 18 individual homes on the property, to be known as Hillshire Overlook. He bought the land from Charlotte M. Diekmann for $150,000, according to online taxation and assessment records. The property had been in the Diekmann family since at least 1971, according to those records. The property is deeded in the name of Hillshire Road Property LLC, and the taxation records list Sacrfield’s son, Frank Scarfield Jr., as a contact for the group.

A community input meeting at the North Point library was packed with Hillshire residents and other interested individuals to hear the details of the project as proposed.

Scarfield Jr. attended the meeting but did not address the crowd, even when asked to answer a specific question by a resident.

The property in question is a wooded area at the end of Hillshire Road.

In spite of the land being privately owned for at least 47 years, the property has been used for dirt biking, trails have been built through the woods and neighbor children cut through the woods when they walk to school, many residents said at the meeting.

The developer is proposing 18, two-story homes that would be about 40 feet wide and 42 feet deep, according to Matt Bishop, a landscape architect who spoke on behalf of the project. Each house would have a front-loading, two-car garage.

Bishop also spoke of the preliminary plans for stormwater management, sidewalks and public water and sewer lines.

Residents were concerned about many aspects of the proposal, including the inconvenience during construction, but seemed most concerned about water run-off and potential flooding.

Dan Morrison, who lives on German Hill Road, spoke of water runoff and erosion that is causing him to lose six to 10 inches of his property per year.

“I can no longer use my driveway,” Morrison said at the meeting. “I have to use the common driveway that I have with my neighbor.”

Hillshire is a hill that runs up from German Hill, according to residents, and water from parts of the developed road run down to German Hill, while excess water near the top of the road tends to drain into the wooded area under consideration for development.

Hillshire Road resident Jessica Beswick said she is concerned about what will happen during construction and after the land is cleared of trees and root systems that currently absorb storm water.

Bishop said the land would be cleared before construction, and silt fences would be built to keep water contained to the construction site.

That explanation was met with derision from the crowd, who expressed doubt such a fence would keep their homes from being flooded or damaged should extreme storms occur during construction.

When residents lamented the loss of community open space that is heavily used by local residents, the attorney representing Scarfield reminded residents the property is and has been privately owned and such use was unauthorized.

“This is a piece of private property,” he told the crowd. “It isn’t a public park for your children.”

Discussion got heated on several occasions, including during the discussion of who would be responsible for maintaining the storm water management pond once the houses were all sold and the builder was out of the picture.

Bishop said the pond would be the responsibility of the homeowner’s association, which did not sit well with attendees.

“Boston Courts is supposed to be a homeowners association and it’s not,” one citizen said to loud applause.

Boston Courts is a Scarfield development on Boston Street, off Dundalk Avenue.

Mary McWilliams, a member of the family that owns Dundalk Florist on German Hill Road, said she “can’t see” Baltimore County taking care of the pond should problems arise.

When suggestions were made to have the project canned, or to have Baltimore County buy the land from Scarfield to make it open space for the community, Morrison, who said he works in the construction trades, took exception.

Despite the damage occurring to his property, Morrison said, “We’re not here opposing this project.”

Many in the crowd burst into loud and simultaneous responses of, “Yes, we are.”

“So because you don’t get your way, we can’t build anything - is that what you’re saying?” Morrison asked.

He reminded the crowd that the proposal is still in the concept stage, as Bishop had done several times. Morrison implored his neighbors to stay involved in the development process to express their concerns and to keep the pressure on for the project to “be done right.”

One attendee asked about the possibility of a “community benefit” being done for the affected area, and Bishop explained to him and the rest of the crowd that community benefits are required only if a developer files a Planned Unit Development, or PUD, which requests variances from the current zoning of a particular piece of land.

Scarfield has not filed a PUD and is working within the existing zoning allowances of the property, according to Bishop. Current zoning would permit the construction of 24 houses, while Scarfield is proposing only 18, Bishop said.

Residents are also concerned the project will not set aside any local open space within the development.

Baltimore County requires 1,000 feet of open space per housing unit, Bishop said, but also allows a developer to pay a fee in lieu of open space if the size would be small and a maintenance nuisance more than anything else.

Scarfield’s plan is proposing to pay that fee instead of creating a dedicated open space, Bishop said.

State Senator Johnny Ray Salling expressed his desire that the community’s concerns be heard and that the relevant studies be done properly.

“Everything below that, houses, businesses, everything is downhill from there,” Salling said of the proposed development. “The potential for flooding is there.”

Salling asked everyone in the room who is for the project to raise their hands, and not one arm went up.

Residents also expressed concerns about traffic, school overcrowding, access for emergency equipment on a road that is not wide enough for two cars to pass in opposing directions, and the loss of wildlife in the wooded area.

They were equally concerned about a developer who has a perceived negative reputation in the area.

“Scarfield has a history in Dundalk of not taking care of his properties,” one resident said to yelling and applause.

“We may not be able to stop your development,” Beswick said toward the end of the meeting, “but we will make it as hard as we can.”

Scarfield now has one year to incorporate county agency comments and any community input he chooses to create a development plan that would go to a development plan conference and be ruled upon by a hearing officer, according to Darryl Putty, the project manager assigned by the county’s Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections.

“The hearing officer can approve the plan, deny it if there are legal reasons to do so, or approve with conditions,” Putty said.

If community members are unhappy with the officer’s final ruling, they have the right to appeal, he said. read more

Community association to appeal townhouse project approval in White Marsh

Community association to appeal townhouse project approval in White Marsh
The subject site in the center, previously cleared and graded for a Carmax project, is almost completely surrounded by commercial uses and single-family detached housing. Image courtesy of Google.
(Updated 8/8/18)

- By Devin Crum -


After opposing the approval of a nearby townhouse project in White Marsh known as Pulaski Crossing and ultimately losing that battle, the Bowerman-Loreley Beach Community Association has decided to continue the fight at the next level.

The BLBCA filed their appeal to Administrative Law Judge John Beverungen’s decision to approve the project about two weeks after the decision came out in June, according to the group’s president, Courtney Gruber.

A hearing date before the Baltimore County Board of Appeals has not yet been set.

Pulaski Crossing would see 150 townhouses built on a 31.5-acre site along Pulaski Highway in White Marsh, in what residents have said is a heavily commercial area not fit for a residential community.

Gruber said they are appealing because they believe the ALJ’s initial decison to deny the project was the correct one.

“We were disappointed with the planning board’s decision” that the plan is not a master plan conflict, she said.

Beverungen inititally denied the plan citing a master plan conflict but was forced to stay his decision finding that master plan conflicts must be ruled on by the Baltimore County Planning Board.

The planning board voted 9-2 that the plan was not a master plan conflict, and as a result, the ALJ was forced to approve the project since his denial was based solely on the perceived conflict.

Gruber could not go into extensive detail because the case is ongoing, but she held that the development does conflict with the master plan.

“It doesn’t follow the master plan, and that’s actually exactly what Judge Beverungen said in his ruling,” she said. “We don’t think that 150 townhomes are compatible with that space.

“It’s just a matter of getting another set of eyes on it and hoping for the best,” Gruber said of the appeal.

The Essex-Middle River Civic Council, of which BLBCA is a member, took a stance against rezoning the subject site - which enabled the project to go forward - in 2016 because it involved changing land zoned for resource conservation to residential. EMRCC, like BLBCA, then opposed the Pulaski Crossing proposal because it would put a residential use within a heavily commercial corridor. read more

Education Foundation seeks school supply donations as new school year looms

Education Foundation seeks school supply donations as new school year looms
Teachers from across Baltimore County will descend on Boscov’s in the White Marsh Mall on Aug. 25 for the annual school supply giveaway, sponsored by the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools. File photo.
(Updated 8/8/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -


For the fourth consecutive year, the Education Foundation for Baltimore County Public Schools (EFBCPS) is holding a school supply drive to help educators prepare for the year ahead.

The supply drive runs until Aug. 19, with supplies being given away on Aug. 25 at Boscov’s in White Marsh Mall. The most needed school supplies, according to a release from BCPS, are: folders, composition books / notebooks, pencils, crayons, highlighters / markers, glue sticks, scissors, backpacks, binders, pens, Post-it Notes, and primary journals (composition books that include space for drawing).

“The Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools extends a grateful ‘thank you’ to the community and business partners for their continuous and growing support of the BCPS school supply drive, “Back to School Involves You, Too” Campaign,” said Deborah S. Phelps, executive director of EFBCPS. “The initiative is a reminder that all those who give - from retirees to elected officials to our community partners - have a stake in ensuring a successful start to the new school year.”

All Baltimore County Public Library branches will accept donations through Aug. 17, with a “Stuff a Truck” event taking place at the Cockeysville branch on Aug. 18, after which donations will be sent to Boscov’s.

Earlier this year, the National Center for Education Statistics released a study that found 94 percent of teachers pay for classroom supplies, spending an average of $479 per year, while about 7 percent of teachers spend more than $1,000 per year.

Abby Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said there have been times in the past where she spent around $1,000 for school supplies, while others frequently spend $500 or more on supplies. Even with the help of supply drives, teachers are frequently paying out of pocket for traditional supplies and other items that usually are not included in these drives but are more pertinent to classroom learning or a student’s general wellbeing.

“We are always looking for various supplies, but it is not always, paper, pens and pencils,” said Beytin. “Sometimes the items go with a specific unit, or even paying out money for students who don’t have enough money to buy their own lunches.”

Aside from the EFBCPS drive, it is not uncommon for schools to hold individual drives. Last year, Sussex Elementary teamed up with Cove Village to bring in supplies for students. This year, on Aug. 30, the school will team up with Cove Village yet again. With more than 80 percent of students receiving free and reduced-cost lunches, Sussex Elementary is one of the neediest schools in the county, which means supply drives play a big role in making sure the students have what they need.

Eric Thompson, a fifth grade teacher at Sussex, said last year’s partnership with Cove Village was a success, and he hopes that this year the partnership will result in every student being well-supplied.

But even with the supply drives, Thompson said it is not uncommon for teachers to spend a couple hundred dollars on supplies for students.

“I would say that from personal experience, teachers usually spend close to $150 - $200 a year on school supplies,” said Thompson.

At last year’s supply pickup at Boscov’s, multiple teachers expressed gratitude but wondered why they had to dip into their personal savings. That sentiment was echoed by Beytin on Monday afternoon.

“We know other businesses provide all the materials needed for their staffs,“ said Beytin. “Why don’t we provide it for our teachers which then helps our students?”

In 2002, Congress passed a measure that allowed teachers to receive a $250 tax deduction for classroom supply spending. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2002 and 2017, inflation rates have driven up prices by about 36 percent.

House Democrats, led by Maryland Representative Anthony Brown, have proposed upping the deduction to $500.

“In spite of tight classroom budgets, limited education resources and low pay, educators take hundreds of dollars out of their pockets to purchase supplies for their students to ensure every child has the resources they need to learn and succeed,” Brown said in a press release in May. “Increasing this deduction acknowledges the importance of their work, is a small ‘thank you’ for the counselors, principals and teachers who make financial sacrifices to benefit their students, and helps achieve the outcomes we want for all our kids.”

While Brown and other members of Congress look to provide relief via federal tax deductions, BCPS officials included a 2-percent salary increase, amounting to about $20 million, for teachers and staff in this year’s operating budget.

Aside from the Baltimore County Public Library branch locations, donations can be dropped off at Boscov’s in White Marsh Mall, the Education Foundation office in Towson, all First Financial Credit Union locations in Baltimore County, all Office Depot and Office Max locations in Baltimore County, The Pinder Plotkin Legal Team office in Parkville and both Slice Pizza locations in Towson and White Marsh.

“The last thing children should worry about on the first day of school is a lack of supplies,” said Baltimore County Public Library director Paula Miller, “and we’re happy to be able to help kids in need get started on a successful year.” read more

Nepali center in Glen Arm concludes week-long event

Nepali center in Glen Arm concludes week-long event
The Glen Arm estate, once belonging to a distant relative of Napoleon Bonaparte, sold in March 2017 for $661,000. Photo courtesy of Redfin.com.
(Updated 8/8/18)

- By Virginia Terhune -


A week-long cultural and fundraising event held outdoors at the Nepali American Cultural Center in Glen Arm ended Friday without serious incident despite worries about potential conflicts between visitors and neighbors who monitored the event from a distance.

Neighbors did not attend or walk onto the property but used video cameras to document the event from the outside, said Dewey Clark, a nearby resident and president of the recently formed Gunpowder Falls Watershed Association.

“No one tried to interfere in any way or express animus,” Clark said of the neighbors, who are among more than 100 residents of Long Green Valley who object to the county having allowed a religious institution to operate in an agriculturally zoned area.

The association has filed an appeal with the county Board of Appeals about the county’s award of a special exception to the center in January that allows a church or religious center to operate in a rurally zoned area subject to condtions.

The hearing started July 19, and a second day of testimony is scheduled for Sept. 6 in Towson.

The association has repeatedly stressed that its objections are based on the effects on local property owners of an institution that can draw crowds to an area zoned for agricultural use.

“This is all about competing rights,” Clark said. “It’s all about land use.”

Center leaders, however, say there is a church and school in the area that regularly draws traffic and that they also have a right to use their property, even though their religious observances may be unfamiliar to those around them.

Nepal is a small country bounded by the Himalayas and Tibet to the north and India to the south. Members of the Nepali American community bought the 31-acre site in Glen Arm once owned by a relative of Napoleon Bonaparte as a place to hold services and preserve the unique culture of Nepal.

Outdoor activities last week included the reading by a visiting priest of historic texts revered by Hindus and Buddhists, as well as songs, music and dancing by participants. A tent was erected with seating and outdoor portable toilets provided.

One condition of the special exception granted to the center requires that it install a new well and septic system before the house can be used for services.

Outdoor events cannot generate amplified noise or music, and state highway officials must grant an access permit for the entrance off Harford Road located a short distance south of the Mt. Vista Road roundabout.

Clark said he called the fire marshal’s office during the week, claiming that people were going inside the building and that amplified noise was coming from the property. But as of Monday, no citations had been issued by the county.

“We tried to file a complaint but got no response,” he said.

A spokesman for the center, Kris Ghimire, also said that he was not aware that any citations had been issued for violating the conditions attached to the special exception.

“We alerted police like in the past to help with the traffic and safety of our members,” Ghimire wrote in an email. “Parkville police has been very helpful. They were at the temple when we had an open house for the neighbors [in February].”

Baltimore County code enforcement officials had indicated in July that they could not stop the event but could cite the center for violating the special exception conditions if the event went forward. They did not return a request for comment on Monday.

Regarding traffic, Clark said there no accidents at the entrance but there were some “near misses” as visitors inched into the roadway to see if any cars were coming around the curve.

State Highway officials have recommended that a new entrance be created or that extra turning lanes be installed in front of the existing entrance before a permit is issued. Ghimire also suggested that a right-turn only exit might be a solution to worries about turning south on Harford Road near the curve. read more

Anna Renault, local writer, succumbs to breast cancer

Anna Renault, local writer, succumbs to breast cancer
(Updated 8/8/18)

Anna Renault, a life-long resident of the Back River Neck community who advocated for a variety of issues and concerns on behalf of her neighbors, died Aug. 1, of metastatic breast cancer. She was 68.

The former Anna Green was the daughter of Mary Louise Geckle and the late Frederick R. Green Sr.

Born and reared in the Cedar Beach community on the Back River peninsula, Ms. Renault attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel School before graduating from Kenwood High School in 1969.

She retired after working about 30 years as a secretary for the Maryland State Department of Education’s Department of Rehabilitative Services, according to her older sister, Mary Jean McCarter.

As involved in a variety of community organizations as Ms. Renault was, she was perhaps best known and remembered as a warrior and a cancer survivor, having battled the disease nine times since the age of 27.

“I have no idea how she handled all of that,” McCarter said of her sister’s illnesses. “It just boggles my mind.”

After her original diagnosis of uterine cancer in 1977 at the age of 27, Ms. Renault successfully fought off two rounds of skin cancer, two bouts each of colon cancer and ovarian cancer and then breast cancer before the 2015 diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer that would claim her life.

As a result of her many years as a cancer survivor, Ms. Renault was involved with a variety of cancer-associated organizations and projects, including the Dundalk and Essex Relay for Life gatherings.

Ms. Renault was also a prolific writer, having authored or compiled at least 15 books, some of which chronicled the journey of fighting her illnesses, according to her sister.

“And I have no idea where she got the inspiration to write all those books,” McCarter said.

Ms. Renault was a ubiquitous presence in the community, attending meetings and events, volunteering her services or offering a word of encouragement.

“She was so positive, so inspirational,” said Delegate Ric Metzgar, who lives in and represents Essex. “And how many people do you know who had nine lives - Anna had nine lives.”

Metzgar said he was happy he got to spend some time with Ms. Renault on July 27, when he visited her at her home.

“I’m very grateful for our last conversation and glad I could spend some time with her in prayer,” Metzgar said of the friend he has had since the early 1990s.

Kevin McDonough, vice president of the Rockaway Beach Improvement Association, said he got to know Anna after she was assigned to cover the dedication of a community entrance sign being dedicated in the memory of Jackie Nickel, a longtime community activist and local writer and journalist.

“I was just amazed at her tenacity, energy and love of life,” McDonough said. “And after each battle with cancer, to still have so much energy and willingness to battle again was an inspiration to so many others.”

Ms. Renault shared her time, gifts and talents with a variety of organizations, including the Baltimore County Commission for Women, MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center’s Cancer Care Center and the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Essex, and was involved in writers’ groups, according to Metzgar. She also was a regular contributing writer for The Avenue News.

As word of Ms. Renault’s death spread across social media outlets, including Facebook, many friends and acquaintances weighed in with their comments.

“She made such a positive difference and affected many lives, including mine,” wrote Wes Henson. “Her positive [spirit] and energy will be missed.”

“I didn’t know her,” wrote Kelly Trautwein Herring. “But I have about a zillion Facebook friends who are friends with her, from various parts of my life. She must have been something special.”

“If more people were like Anna, the world would be a better place,” wrote Dan Baldwin. “She will be deeply missed by many.”

In her community, people felt the same way.

“If I could live half the life Anna lived, I would be proud,” McDonough said. “Even in the midst of her personal struggles, she dedicated her life to helping others.”

“Anna will be sorely missed in my life,” Metzgar said. “Our loss is truly heaven’s gain.”

“Anna was a wonderful person who loved and enriched eastern Baltimore County,” said Fifth District County Councilman David Marks in a statement to the East County Times. “Her courage in fighting cancer will remain an inspiration to all who battle this disease.”

In addition to her sister and mother, Ms. Renault is survived by her daughter, Sue Ann Fryza (Joe); brother, James Green; three grandchildren; and many other loving relatives and friends. In addition to her father, she was preceded in death by brother Richard “Dickie” Green Jr.

A memorial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, at Our lady of Mount Carnel Church, 1706 Old Eastern Ave. in Essex, followed immediately by a reception at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 1707 Old Eastern Ave. Attendees are encouraged to bring a dish or dessert to share.

Donations in Ms. Renault’s name may be made to Mount Carmel Church or Back River United Methodist Church, 544 Back River Neck Road, Essex, MD 21221. read more

BRRC summer intern crew doing what ‘needs to be done’

BRRC summer intern crew doing what ‘needs to be done’
The Back River Restoration Committee's summer intern crew, consisting of Jake Ossie (left), Lauren Swensen, Raphealla Shin, Elias Sciarillo, Lorenzo Mack-Johnson, Evan Janis, Robert Carrigan and Nick Kobrick (not pictured), has used the barge they stand on to help them remove copious amounts of small trash and large debris in an effort to clean the river and learn about its ecosystem. Photo by Devin Crum.
(Updated 8/1/18)

- By Devin Crum -

This year’s Back River Restoration Committee summer intern crew has been working for nearly two months doing many of the same things the organization does year round - removing trash and large debris from the watershed and working toward the betterment of the river.

But all the interns agreed that this year’s larger-than-usual crew of eight has made the work much easier.

“It really is helpful with all these people” to be able to get as much trash as they do, said Robert Carrigan, a student at Goucher College in Towson.

Crew members said they commonly pull a lot of small trash such as glass bottles and polystyrene foam from the river and its tributaries.

“We also get a lot of plastic bottles, and little pieces of Styrofoam, lots of straws, cigarette butts, needles,” said Raphealla Shin, a Towson University student.

The crew has also gone upstream and inland within the watershed to clean up an area along Rolling Mill Road in Dundalk that is notorious for its trash accumulation, along with collecting bulk items like couches for proper disposal after being illegally dumped along roadsides.

“It’s pretty much a constant thing in the same areas,” said Evan Janis, also a Towson University student who is in his third summer participating in the internship.

The crew also drives around in a boat to haul out large trees and tree limbs from the waterway that have washed downstream and present a hazard for navigation. This year they retrieved a downed utility pole from the river.

Some of their more memorable activities, they said, include cleaning up the trash at the Baltimore County-funded and BRRC-maintained trash boom on the upper river and helping to build reef balls for oysters which the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) will deploy around the Chesapeake Bay.

The internship started for the students after classes ended at their respective schools, which for most was between Memorial Day and mid-June. It will last until classes resume at the end of August.

BRRC Executive Director Karen Wynn said that they have the option to come back sometimes during the winter months and work with the organization on special events or projects.

“Schedule permitting and if they have time, they’ll help out with getting ready for some of the fundraisers, or if we do a cleanup, or just odds and ends,” she said.

Wynn joked that the crew faces daily hazards of poison ivy and stings from various insects while carrying out their work.

“The crew has done a little better with it this year, other than Evan,” who had poison ivy, she said with a laugh.

“It’s something that needs to be done,” Janis said. “There’s a kind of purpose to it, beside the fact that it’s nice to be outside, even if you do get poison ivy. It’s good to be out here doing something productive.”

He said although they feel they are contributing to a marked improvement in the health of Back River and the bay, the causes of the problems are not getting better.

“Places we go get better, but I don’t think that people are changing enough that we can say we don’t need to be doing this,” he said.

Repeat intern Lorenzo Mack-Johnson, who is headed this fall to the University of Maryland Baltimore County after recently completing his studies at the Community College of Baltimore County, said he enjoys feeling like he is making a difference with each piece of trash he picks up. He noted he and his fellow interns have retrieved some 80 tires from river or its watershed so far this summer.

“That never comes to your mind when you’re in more of an urban area,” said Mack-Johnson, who lives in the Parkville area. “I enjoy ... that I’m doing something other than adding to the problem.”

Wynn said whether they realize it or not, some of the crew members have started naturally talking about what they are doing during the internship, even when they are away from the work.

“They leave here, they go wherever and they start talking about what they’re doing to make people aware,” she said. “They’re seeing it and they’re spreading that word.”

Carrigan said as a result of his experiences he briefly considered chasing down someone he recently saw throw something out of a car window while driving.

He said he returned to the internship for a second year because he enjoys being able to see the improvements to the river as a result of their work.

“For me, to come back it’s being able to see the change happen, driving along a specific bank of the river that last year or even a couple weeks or months ago was covered with bottles and trash and stuff,” he said.

Others were drawn in by a post about the internship on their school’s campus or a mention from a professor and thought it would be interesting or fun.

Towson University student Lauren Swensen said she loves animals and the Earth and wanted to do her part to help with environmental problems.

Eli Sciarillo said it aligned with his field of study at West Virginia University and he jumped at the opportunity for hands-on experience.

“I’m out here, I absolutely love it and it’s nice to go home and feel like you’ve done something other than give someone a burger or a drink,” he said.

Jake Ossie, a graduate of Towson University, said he knew that as a recent graduate in an environmental field, it could be a while before he starts earning a comfortable wage, but said it is still a great experience to be with BRRC and out on the water.

Ossie has been involved in some of the organization’s river sediment sampling in conjunction with the treatments being done to address the midge nuisance.

“It is important, and a lot of people, they like to see immediate results and being in this type of work it’s not immediately that you see it,” he said. “It takes a few years before you really see the progress and the success of what this organization and other environmental groups are doing.”

Shin said her love of scuba diving and awareness of problems from trash facing marine life are what drew her in.

“Hearing about this, I just thought about that and how helping out locally would tie in really nicely since I don’t live [where I dive],” she said.

On top of the good they are doing, Mack-Johnson sees the internship as a good way to network and make connections with people from other environmental organizations such as CCA.

Swensen agreed, hoping she will be able to start a career studying sharks in Ocean City through connections with CCA members.

However, Janis looked at his goals in the program through a somewhat forensic lens, enjoying to learn about and understand how things occur and are interconnected when it comes to Back River.

“For me, it gives a perspective on everything else you see everywhere else, seeing how stuff ends up like this and how it affects other places,” he said.

For more information about the BRRC internship, contact Wynn at karenw@savebackriver.org. read more

BCPS substitute teacher arrested for abusing minor

BCPS substitute teacher arrested for abusing minor
Scott Thomas McCruden. Photo courtesy of Baltimore County Police Department.
(Updated 8/1/18)

Administration slow to release information


- By Patrick Taylor -

On the morning of July 24, Scott Thomas McCruden, a substitute teacher in the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) system, was arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a minor and a slew of other charges. He is currently being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Facility.

According to a release sent out by Baltimore County Police, McCruden, 31, of Essex, worked as a babysitter and tutor for a 9-year-old girl from September 2017 through May of this year, when the family who employed his services became concerned after the young girl displayed “signs of anxiety and stress” when McCruden was set to come by.

McCruden worked in the school system for a short time, from September 2017 to June of this year, predominantly as a substitute teacher on the eastern side of the county in 21 different schools. Those schools are listed at the end of this article.

The list of schools McCruden worked at was released a week after McCruden’s arrest, after multiple inquiries made by The East County Times and at-large school board members Julie Henn, Ann Miller and District 3 member Kathleen Causey.

“I am glad that BCPS did the right thing and released this information,” said Henn. “Parents have the right to know when there is, or has been, any potential safety issue in their children’s schools so that they can take any necessary actions.”

Last Wednesday it looked as though BCPS was readying a release of the list of schools. The Times reached out to Brandon Oland, a spokesperson for BCPS, inquiring about a list. Oland responded to that inquiry saying, “I think that’s something we can provide soon. He substituted at multiple schools.”

But 20 minutes after that response from Oland came a statement that would be presented to the board of education. All of the information in that statement was included in the initial release sent out by the police.

Mr. Oland added that he “[did not] have a full list of schools.”

A follow-up email to Mr. Oland, highlighting the need for a list of schools to be released for parents to check with their children, went unanswered.

After a few days,  The Times sent an email to board chairman Ed Gilliss, pressing for the list of schools to be released. Gilliss in turn forwarded that email to Mychael Dickerson, Superintendent Verletta White’s chief of staff. Dickerson promptly responded and followed up a short while later with the requested information.

While Dickerson responded quickly to a media inquiry, school board members did not hear from him until Tuesday morning, July 31, when the list was released. The Times also obtained a copy of an email discussion between board members that shows they had been pressing for information to be released since July 26 with little response.

White sent her statement to the board shortly after noon on July 25. The following day, Miller responded to White’s email, thanking her for the information but asking that more information be released.

“As the alleged sexual misconduct occurred during the time he was a sub for BCPS, I ask that BCPS publicly release a list of the schools for which he subbed along with a timeframe, as other MD school districts have done in similar circumstances,” Miller said.

More than 24 hours after Miller’s response, Causey chimed in, asking if White “[intended] to supply [Miller’s] requested information to the public,” adding that “it would be the appropriate and legally responsible action.”

On the morning of July 30, four days after Miller’s initial request and three days after Causey’s follow-up, Henn questioned in an email when the information would be made public, citing “numerous inquiries.”

Shortly after Henn’s request, a statement from White was sent to the school board via Brenda Stiffler, a senior executive assistant to White: “Should parents have concerns about their child’s interaction with this former substitute, they are asked to contact the Baltimore County Police Department,” White said. “As always, we remain committed to student safety and will continue to work with schools, parents and community members to ensure a safe and orderly learning environment for all students.”

Henn responded to that statement from White by pressing for the list to be released, saying that parents would not be able to determine if there was inappropriate behavior without a list being released. With the list of schools now available, Henn hopes it will spark a conversation between parents and their children.

“My hope is that this information sparks conversations around appropriate, healthy relationships; these discussions really need to happen in all homes,” said Henn.

During his time as a substitute, McCruden worked at Colgate Elementary, Deep Creek Elementary, Dundalk Elementary, Edgemere Elementary, Eastern Technical High School, General John Stricker Middle School, Golden Ring Elementary, Halstead Academy, Hawthorne Elementary, Loch Raven Technical Academy, Logan Elementary, Mars Estates Elementary, Middleborough Elementary, Middlesex Elementary, Parkville Middle School, Patapsco High School, Red House Run Elementary, Sandy Plains Elementary, Seneca Elementary, Seven Oaks Elementary and Sussex Elementary schools. read more

Edgemere resident goes Dutch to further aviation career

Edgemere resident goes Dutch to further aviation career
Wyatt Hartman of Edgemere joined candidates from all over the world to further his aviation training and get a jumpstart on his career. Courtesy photo.
(Updated 8/1/18)

- By Marge Neal -


It seems as though Edgemere resident Wyatt Hartman received excellent advice last summer.

Hartman, a 2017 graduate of Eastern Technical High School, found himself pondering an enviable dilemma as he looked forward to graduation. The bright, driven, accomplished Eagle Scout had been accepted to two extremely competitive and prestigious programs. He was selected to be one of only 39 Civil Air Patrol cadets nationally to serve as CAP ambassadors in an international exchange program, and he was also offered a full, all-expenses-paid scholarship for a residential summer aviation course at Delaware State University that would lead to his private pilot’s license.

CAP advisors told Hartman that the aviation scholarship was a one-shot opportunity but that he could always apply for the ambassador program again.

So, last summer, Hartman took advantage of the aviation scholarship valued at about $16,000, with an eye on applying to be a member of this summer’s ambassador cohort.

That sage advice paid off when Hartman was again chosen for the highly selective program and found himself headed to the Netherlands as the sole American representative to visit that country.

“Thirty-nine cadets were chosen from the United States to participate in the exchange program, with them going to countries such as Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, China, the United Kingdom and Canada,” said Nadine Hartman, Wyatt’s mother and a longtime member of the Glenn L. Martin Composite Squadron in Middle River.

Each candidate was allowed to request their top two choices for assignment, and while the Netherlands was not among Hartman’s top choices, his selection for that assignment is a testament to his maturity and standing in the organization, according to Lt. Col. Christopher Roche, public affairs officer for the Middle River squadron.

“The Netherlands could host only one cadet from the U.S. so the candidate selected had to be comfortable and confident enough to be traveling alone, without American peers, and to be comfortable with being the sole representative of the U.S.,” Roche said. “The spotlight will really be on him while he’s there and he had to be OK with being in that spotlight.”

The ambassadors spent two days in D.C. before fanning out across the globe, according to Nadine. Cadets were scheduled to return to the U.S. on Aug. 1.

“Part of the responsibility of participating is to keep a journal of their experiences and to take pictures to share online,” she said.

Wyatt told the East County Times on Monday, July 30, that he was having an “absolutely excellent time” on his first trip to Europe.

“It really has been a wonderful experience,” he said by phone from the Netherlands. “They’ve split up the trip so we’ve been able to visit aerospace facilities, military bases with an emphasis on the air branches, and the cultural elements.”

The cadets stayed with host families on the weekends so they were able to experience the culture of “real” Dutch people, as opposed to the more commercial tourist attractions, he said.

Among the highlights of the trip were the opportunity to fly in a Royal Netherlands Air Force glider, complete with aerobatic abilities, which allowed the cadets to experience loops and G-turns performed by the pilot, Wyatt said.

“And I was able to fly a Piper Archer while I was here,” he said. “And they seemed to be impressed with my piloting abilities, which is good because that’s the same kind of plane I fly at home.”

Another highlight was being able to experience the KOM Royal Dutch Airline’s Boeing 737 pilot simulator.

“That was really something being able to be in that,” he said. “They use it for their pilot training.”

Wyatt said he was impressed with the European Space Agency, which he described as a “large scale operation” that’s able to do quite a bit in terms of space exploration and other scientific missions on a budget considerably smaller than NASA’s.

During the same time American cadets were visiting other nations, 36 cadets from six countries were hosted by the U.S., according to Roche, predominately in the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. region.

While here, the international cadets visited museums, air bases, monuments, battlefields and other points of interest, according to an online itinerary. On July 26, the cadets toured the Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River, home of the local CAP squadron.

The program, officially known as the International Air Cadet Exchange, strives to provide a worldwide exchange experience for aviation-minded young people from 18 countries each summer, according to the organization’s website. “Each year we give 500 young people the opportunity to expand their horizons, experience different cultures and make life-long friendships,” it reads.

Wyatt embodies that mission description. He said he was taken with the friendliness of the country and said everyone he met was very welcoming.

“And the majority of the students here start learning English in school at a young age and they were eager to have someone to practice their English with,” he said.

From the opportunity to live with host families and share traditional meals to being given an insider’s look at military installations, Wyatt said the experience was “awesome.”

That kind of evaluation is probably music to the ears of the organizers who hope for just such an experience for participants. read more

State licenses new medical marijuana dispensaries in Fullerton, Dundalk

State licenses new medical marijuana dispensaries in Fullerton, Dundalk
Operators received a state license last week to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the former Seifert’s Florist building on Ridge Road in Fullerton. Photo by Virginia Terhune.
(Updated 8/1/18)

- By Virginia Terhune -


Registered users of medical marijuana will soon have two more retail outlets in eastern Baltimore County to choose from when they shop for products to relieve chronic pain and other debilitating conditions.

The state’s Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission approved eight additional dispensaries on Thursday, July 26, including one in a former florist shop on Ridge Road in Fullerton south of White Marsh Mall, and another in a former Burger King restaurant off North Point Boulevard in Dundalk.

The two dispensaries currently being renovated are expected to open in early September, said Anne Donohoe, speaking for MPX Bioceuticals, a Canadian company that will be managing both locations under the Health for Life brand.

The dispensary at 4741 Ridge Road off Perry Hall Boulevard, which is licensed to investor group LMS Wellness, Benefit, will operate as Health for Life White Marsh, Donohoe said.

The dispensary at 6807 Rolling Road in Dundalk, licensed to GreenMart, will operate as Health for Life Baltimore.

Both cash and debit cards will be accepted, and additional information will also be posted soon on the https://healthforlifedispensaries.comwebsite, Donohoe said.

MPX has also purchased options to buy the two dispensaries from investors after at least a 90-day waiting period following license approval, according to the MPX website.

The commission’s latest license approvals are part of a statewide program that allows two licensed dispensaries in each state legislative district to sell cannabis-based oils, creams, flowers and other products to registered patients for treatment of chronic pain and conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Some investor groups have found sites in commercial or industrial areas, while others have located closer to residential neighborhoods, triggering opposition in some cases.

In Fullerton, LMS Wellness leased the former Seifert’s Florist property, which has been renovated inside and out with the parking lot repaved as of last week. The site borders a residential neighborhood represented by the South Perry Hall Boulevard Improvement Association, which initially raised some concerns.

The association has since signed a covenant with the LMS Wellness investors stating that the site will not dispense methadone or sell recreational marijuana if and when recreational marijuana becomes legal in Maryland, said association President Peggy Winchester.

Dispensary visitors are not to park in the surrounding neighborhood, and the parking lot must be expanded to accommodate more vehicles if necessary, she said. Conditions of the covenant also run with the land, which means they would still apply if the dispensary changes hands.

“We expect any new owners will respect the covenant,” Winchester said. “As long as the conditions are met, we don’t have a problem with this.”

In Dundalk, residents of the Colgate neighborhood did not object to GreenMart’s Health for Life site at North Point Boulevard and Rolling Mill Road in part because it is located away from residential areas on a major commercial roadway.

GreenMart initially planned to open a dispensary in a commercial building on German Hill Road in Dundalk but ran into opposition from residential groups bordering the area.

The first medical marijuana dispensary to open its doors in eastern Baltimore County was the Charm City Medicus dispensary at 717 North Point Boulevard in Dundalk, which opened in January.

In April, a Rise dispensary opened at 702 Pulaski Highway just across the Harford County line in Joppa. Rise dispensaries are managed by Green Thumb Industries based in Chicago.

Still waiting for final approvals is the partially renovated Oceans Dispensary at 102 Carroll Island Road in Middle River. Renovations are under way, but a representative could not be reached for comment about an expected opening date.

Also still pending is an application by Blue Ridge Wellness, LLC, for a dispensary at 4130 East Joppa Road in the Festival at Perry Hall shopping center. Kline Scott Visco, a commercial real estate company based in Frederick that owns the center, has repeatedly declined to comment about its plans.

For more about the emerging medical marijuana program in Maryland, visit mmcc.maryland.gov. read more

Essex medical clinic expanding to Dundalk

Essex medical clinic expanding to Dundalk
The former Dundalk Moose Lodge at 2800 Sollers Point Road, recently sold, will be the new location for Mace Medical clinic. Image courtesy of Google.
(Updated 8/1/18)

Primary care doctors rebuilding on vacant Moose site

- By Virginia Terhune -

A long-time medical clinic in Essex is expanding with plans to open a second clinic in Dundalk by late next year.

Mace Medical, an independent group of primary care doctors on Mace Avenue, purchased the vacant Moose lodge on three acres at 2800 Sollers Point Road for $825,000 last October, according to state property records.

Sparrows Point-Dundalk Lodge 1228 closed in August 2016 after membership dues, bar receipts and other income failed to keep up with the rising costs of maintaining the two-story clubhouse built in 1949.

Members have since relocated to other lodges in the area.

Mace Medical plans to raze the building and replace it with a one-story, 14,400-square-foot clinic with a possible future addition of 9,220 square feet, according to a site plan presented to the county’s Development Review Committee on July 17.

The clinic will hire doctors for the new facility, which will also include subleased space for a lab and private pharmacy.

“I think Dundalk is a little bit underserved, and there’s a shortage of primary care doctors generally,” said Dr. John Lee, who is a member of the practice started by Dr. John Loh more than 20 years ago that also serves visitors from outside Essex.

“We have patients from Dundalk who are already here who are willing to drive here,” Lee said.

Ready to physically expand, the doctors drove around the area last August looking for possible locations and spotted the for-sale sign in front of the Moose building, which is near the Dundalk Farms neighborhood and a variety of other businesses.

One of the site’s attractions was its proximity to the Community College of Baltimore County’s Dundalk campus, also on Sollers Point Road, with its potential pool of staff and students who may need shots or physicals required for jobs, Lee said.

Also nearby is the Dundalk Middle School, Dundalk fire station No. 6, the Iron Workers Union hall and the Knights of Columbus hall.

The Essex clinic stays open past 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and is open Saturday morning. It also accepts most insurances, including Medicaid.

“We’re accepting new patients, and we hope with the expansion we can accommodate more,” Lee said.

“It’s convenient for our patients, and I think it’ll be a boost to the area,” he said about the move to Dundalk, a community which lost thousands of jobs as Bethlehem Steel and other manufacturers dwindled and closed.

Tradepoint Atlantic is now redeveloping the 3,000-acre former steel mill site in Sparrows Point into a major commercial and industrial logistics hub that is expected to bring dozens of companies and generate thousands of new jobs.

In place to spark reinvestment in surrounding communities are the county’s Dundalk, North Point and Essex commercial revitalization districts.

The districts offer financial incentives such as tax credits, grants, loans and free architectural services to existing businesses and business that relocate to them.

The lodge is in the recently created Merritt-Sollers Point Commercial Revitalization District off Merritt Boulevard that includes Merritt Avenue and Eilers Avenue.

Smokin’ Joe’s Grill opened more than year ago in the former Tony’s Carry Out building on Merritt Avenue. But across the street in a row of businesses remain two long-standing vacancies.

Also long vacant is the former Harold’s bar at the corner of Merritt Boulevard and Merritt Avenue. Property records indicate the site is owned by the Salvation Army, which did not immediately return a call for comment Monday about the status of the property. read more