ECT stands in solidarity with Capital Gazette

ECT stands in solidarity with Capital Gazette
(Updated 7/11/18)

The East County Times is joining hands with newspapers across the country Thursday, July 12, in a show of solidarity with our colleagues at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis as well as our fellow journalists who strive to provide a voice for communities big and small, from coast to coast.

On June 28, after five Capital Gazette staffers were gunned down, allegedly by a man who harbored a longtime grudge against the company, surviving reporter Chase Cook issued a Tweet that has become a battle cry for community journalism: “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”

On Thursday, July 12, newspapers across the country will print that Tweet on their mastheads in a show of solidarity.

Journalists are used to covering the news and events of their communities; they are not used to being the story.

So Cook’s response resonated with all of us in this business: Of course the remaining staff would publish a paper the next day, no doubt about it. While we hope to never have to write a story about the violent deaths of people who used to sit in desks next to ours, we will if we have to.

Because, damn it, that’s what we do.

Find more information about the masthead Twitter post and the original editorial from The Poynter Institute's Nate McCullough here.

What follows is an editorial on the subject by Brian Karem, vice president of the Maryland | Delaware | DC Press Association (MDDC) and the executive editor of The Sentinels, re-hosted with permission. read more

Honor the fallen by doing our job

(Updated 7/11/18)

During the American Revolution community newspapers in the embryonic country bound citizens together with provocative editorials and news of the day as citizens rose up to break free of the tyranny of a King. Many newspapers published the Declaration of Independence and helped to popularize the founding principles of our nascent country.

The Tories saw the news as divisive and slanted.

The Patriots proclaimed freedom of speech against despotic rule.

During the Civil War community newspapers in a divisive country kept track of the dead, the battles and helped inform citizens with editorials and news often seen as opinionated and slanted.

During the Vietnam War community newspapers told of boys going to war and men coming home broken or in coffins. The nation fought over the value of the news. Some considered it anti-establishment. Some saw it as grassroots reporting.

Throughout our history community newspapers have been the backbone of journalism and a cornerstone to our republic even as some have assailed the reporting.

Sewer rates. PTA meetings. High School and community sports. Pictures of our kids playing those sports. County Fairs. State Legislatures. County Councils. Infrastructure. Taxes. All of those stories and more adorn the pages of your typical community newspaper as do the public notices letting you know when and where there is a government meeting to attend.

What proud parent, upon seeing their progeny on the page of a newspaper hasn’t cut that picture out and hung that photo with a magnet on a refrigerator or put it away in a photo album?

This work is brought to you by civic-minded individuals who toil away for longer and for far less money than their television reporting cousins.

As first television and then the Internet have inundated the consumer news market, the community newspaper has chugged along – adapting to the computer age while doing the job with fewer people and less money as advertisers have steadily abandoned these newspapers for online click-bait.

Though squeezed hard by market forces, the backbone still survives.

Thursday five people in Annapolis, working for the Capital Gazette, one of Maryland’s oldest and most venerated community newspapers, unwantedly gave the last full measure of their life trying to do their jobs.

Rebecca Smith worked to bring advertising and money into the paper. Wendi Winters, Robert Hiaasen, John McNamara and Gerald Fischman were senior members of the staff who wrote, edited, and mentored young talent and like everyone else involved in community newspapers, served any number of functions to help produce a newspaper to better inform members of their own community. They did not take this job lightly. They did not ask for accolades. They did their job. They are you and me. They were.

A disgruntled and apparently mentally troubled reader targeted the editors to die for perceived slights.

Each day community newspapers deal with those who don’t like coverage, or are upset with aspects often minor about the details of a story that has been reported.

All of this is part of the editorial process. Editors have to decide whether or not to issue corrections and sometimes they explain the editorial process to those who will listen. They are responsible to their conscience, their readers and the owners to keep things as accurate as possible and present the most accurate version of the story available by deadline. It is a universal mantra in community journalism.

Though questions always rise as to the veracity of the news reported in our community newspapers, the extreme arguments of bias raised at the national level have for the most part not touched this world.

This is because most of the reporters and editors not only work in the community but live in the community. They raise their children there. They shop, go to school, church and dine out in the same community they cover for their newspapers.

The high school coach knows them. The local council members have all seen the reporters toiling away long into the night at the same meetings in which the council members are trapped. Those reporters have eaten the same questionable finger foods at local political events as everyone else and washed it down with the same flat soda.

There used to be fewer cries of “Fake Media” or calling reporters the enemy of the people because at the local level it is all too observable that the reporters are people the same as everyone else. That has changed.

There is but one person responsible for taking the lives of our colleagues and friends at the Capital Gazette – the man who pulled the trigger. But the vitriol leveled at reporters everywhere cannot be ignored. It is inherently more dangerous to be a reporter at every level today. We will not shy away from our job.

Those who died in Annapolis deserve that much. They did their job. We will serve their memory best by continuing to do ours and remembering those we’ve lost.

All five of the dead worked hard to produce and keep alive an award winning, long standing community newspaper dedicated to producing facts to better inform and make better the citizens of its community.

In a very real way these people represent all of us in our extended journalistic community, from the smallest weekly newspaper to the largest daily; from the smallest radio station to the largest television network.

We are all in this together. We are the people.

Brian Karem is the vice-president of the Maryland | Delaware | DC Press Association (MDDC) and the executive editor of The Sentinels.

Marine Trades already looking to next year after successful fireworks show

Marine Trades already looking to next year after successful fireworks show
Fireworks again exploded in the skies over Middle River this year, just as they did in this file photo from the show in 2013.
(Updated 7/11/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

After a Middle River firework hiatus in 2017, the Marine Trades Association of Baltimore County (MTABC) pulled out all the stops at their June 30 show.

Thousands viewed the extravaganza from the shorelines of Middle River, with the roughly 17-minute show living up to expectations.

“I thought they went pretty good,” said Brian Schneider, a leader of MTABC. “I had one of my members so far tell me he thought they could have been better. I said ‘Man he told us everything he was going to do and gave us everything we asked for.’”

“There was one little lull - a 20-second spot. Otherwise it was one after the other, no lag time between shoots,” Schneider continued. “And it was one hell of a finale.”

The finale included a dedication to Raymond Porter, the owner of Porter’s Seneca Marina who passed away on June 5 of last year.

“The final shot was of these fireworks called ‘parachutes,’ which Raymond loved very much,” said Schneider. “So the final moment was these embers falling and extinguishing in the water. It was a very fitting end to the show.”

In the weeks leading up to the show, Schneider had been pushing for more donations. The cost to put on the show this year ran close to $50,000, with an additional $8,000 needed for a deposit on next year’s show. Schneider said in the final days leading up to the show he saw a decent amount of money come in to help the cause.

“That was the marinas that were holding off donating, coming to the rescue at the end,” said Schneider.

While Schneider heaped praise on marina owners for coming to the rescue, he also had kind words for Sharon Kehnemui and Karen Gouldmann, two residents of Bauernschmidt Manor in Essex. Kehnemui and Gouldmann, along with Kehnemui’s husband, Tony Schumacher, managed to raise $5,400 for the MTABC.

Kehnemui said she and Gouldmann discussed what they could do during last November’s boat parade. Ultimately, they decided to host a fireworks viewing party, with attendees paying a $25 donation, and held a raffle to drum up donations. After the fireworks were moved from last year’s location, Kehnemui realized it was the perfect opportunity to bring awareness to the cause.

“My husband and I are always looking for a good reason to throw a party,” said Kehnemui with a laugh.

Kehnemui works in marketing, so the work was right up her alley, and she described Gouldmann as a “party planner extraordinaire.”

In April, the first of six donations was sent to the MTABC. When they kept on coming, Schneider was left wondering who these mystery donors were.

“We never knew these people,” said Schneider. “They came out of the blue. So we owe a big thanks to them.”

While the efforts of Kehnemui might seem like the work of a lifelong resident, she has only been in the area since 2012. Before moving to Essex, she lived in Washington, D.C., but through “twists and turns” she ended up in Baltimore County. Eventually, she and her husband bought a house in Essex in 2013.

“Living in Essex was never part of my plan, but now that I am living here I feel like it’s such a hidden gem,” said Kehmenui. “It’s so underappreciated as a community.”

Despite the work she, her husband and Gouldmann did, Kehmenui downplayed the contribution.

“I felt like our contribution, you know the number of people it took, compared to some of the individual donors, it seems minimalist to me,” said Kehmenui.

But Schneider disagreed, saying the work they did is a template for other communities to follow. Schneider said that while he appreciated big donations from individuals, getting the whole community involved is the ultimate goal.

“We didn’t get that kind of money from Wilson Point. In fact we were snubbed for a couple non-monetary things,” said Schneider.

Leading up to the shoot, Schneider had been looking for someone to host the Baltimore County Fire Marshal. After striking out on Wilson Point, Kehnemui again stepped up to the plate.

“That’s community outreach there. All of Bauernschmidt Manor came through big time,” said Schneider. “For them to raise that money and exert all that effort is just amazing. People want a better show, well that’s what we need.” read more

Olszewski leads by nine in Dem county executive primary votes as recount looms

Olszewski leads by nine in Dem county executive primary votes as recount looms
John Olszewski Jr. remained calm but in high spirits throughout his campaign event on election night, June 28. Photo by Marge Neal.
(Updated 7/11/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

On Tuesday morning, former Delegate Johnny Olszewski Jr. was certified as the winner of the Democratic county executive primary.

State Senator Jim Brochin, the runner up in the race, filed a petition for a recount Tuesday, and The Baltimore Sun reported that the counting of ballots would begin Thursday, July 12.

Olszewski told The Times on Monday that a conference call with the campaigns and Board of Elections was set for Tuesday, where they would get more information about a potential recount. According to Brochin campaign attorney Tim Hodge, the recount would need to begin two days after the petition is filed, and the campaign plans to petition on either Wednesday or Thursday.

Board of Elections Director Katie Brown said that a recount effort could take up to five days to complete, depending on how the recount is done. The ballots could either be re-scanned or counted manually.

Despite things still being somewhat in limbo for the Democratic primary, Olszewski has been in high spirits.

“I’m still just so humbled and honored to be where we are today and incredibly grateful for the supporters and volunteers,” said Olszewski. He added that he has “the utmost trust and confidence” in the numbers put out by the Board of Elections.

The Democrats will likely need to get through a recount effort. And if the recount procedure is anything like the absentee and provisional ballot procedure, we could be in for some drama.

During absentee ballot tallying last Friday, there was a discrepancy. There were supposed to be 912 ballots counted for the Democratic primary for county executive, but the board fell short a few times.

Before the tallying began, Brown told the election board members present to take their time. But after the numbers did not match on first and second counts, Brown posited that canvassers who had been putting the ballots through scanners did not see that errors had occurred. Eventually, multiple scanners were moved to a separate room - with a window for viewing for observers - and the absentee ballots were counted again.

After the absentee ballots were counted, Olszewski held a seven-vote lead. Despite more than 1,000 provisional ballots being tallied the same day, the additional votes only boosted Olszewski by two, bringing his lead to nine.

While a team of lawyers and his campaign manager, Tucker Cavanaugh, are dealing with the likely recount effort, Olszewski has his sights set on the general election in November, where the Democratic nominee would take on Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer, who upended Delegate Pat McDonough in the Republican primary.

In politics, it is not uncommon to stake a claim either as a hard-right or hard-left candidate in the primary, then shift back to the center during the general election campaign. But Olszewski, who has built up an identity as a “progressive” candidate, does not exactly see it that way.

“I’d say better schools, 21st-century jobs and transparency in government are things that everyone can get behind, whether they are a Democrat, Republican, Independent, unaffiliated or whatever,” said Olszewski. “This is a campaign for all residents of Baltimore County. It’s about making a better Baltimore County for everyone.”

The general election is set for Nov. 6.

For additional updates on the recount process, follow ECT’s Facebook feed. read more

CBF sees good, bad news regarding local oyster projects

CBF sees good, bad news regarding local oyster projects
The oysters around Fort Carroll were found to be growing up vertically out of the silt alongside barnacles, crabs, anemone, grass shrimp and several other marine creatures. Photo by Michael Eversmier, courtesy of CBF.
(Updated 7/11/18)

- By Devin Crum -

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation announced some promising signs of bay health and oyster population recovery late last month with the news that a man-made oyster reef near the Francis Scott Key Bridge is thriving.

The organization also announced nearly two weeks earlier that a long-planned project to dredge Man O’War Shoal for oyster shell, which recently cleared a major regulatory hurdle, could be detrimental to that reef’s ecosystem while having uncertain benefits for the bay’s overall oyster population.

CBF announced on June 28 that an artificial oyster reef around Fort Carroll, the abandoned former military facility in the middle of the Patapsco River, is in excellent condition. Further, monitoring done between December 2017 and May this year found an average survivability rate of 75 percent on the reef, according to spokesman Tom Zolper, which is comparable to oysters grown in protected conditions.

In fact, despite the silt in the river which can smother the bivalves, divers found large clumps of oysters growing vertically above the silt. And although just a year old, the reef was already attracting at least 13 species of other marine life, such as anemone, barnacles, mussels, mud crabs and grass shrimp.

Construction of the 1.1-acre reef took about six months, Zolper said, and used chunks of granite for its base layer with oyster shell seeded with larvae, or “spat,” placed on top. Funding came through contributions from the Maryland Port Administration, Maryland Environmental Service and the Abell Foundation.

CBF has placed a total of 3 million young oysters on the reef, and Zolper said the oysters there are growing at a rate of about 0.1 millimeters per day, or nearly 1.5 inches per year.

CBF Maryland fisheries scientist Dr. Allison Colden said that rate is similar to oysters around the bay.

“Oysters are resilient creatures. If we give them the habitat they need they will settle down and form a community, begin filtering our water and provide a home for other marine life,” Colden said in a statement. “Baltimore is demonstrating it can be a flourishing home for underwater life.”

The Fort Carroll reef is part of the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance’s - of which CBF is a member - goal of adding 10 billion oysters to bay waters by 2025. But Zolper said they are not finished at the reef and plan to return next year to add 2 - 3 million new oysters.

“They want to keep building that reef, and at the same time the reef on the other side of the fort,” he said, referring to the older companion reef which has been built up and maintained by the Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership, the Living Classrooms Foundation and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources since 1995.

The Partnership adds about 150,000 oysters to that reef each year and aims to add at least 5 million to both reefs by 2020.

Alternatively, CBF Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost issued a statement June 18 reiterating the group’s opposition to dredging Man O’War Shoal following the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ granting of a permit on May 17 to carry out the work.

That permit allows DNR to dredge up to 5 million bushels of oyster shells over a five-year period from the shoal, located a few miles off the end of the North Point Peninsula, near the mouth of the Patapsco River. While the permit is provisional and covers the first five years, the plan could seek to dredge as much as 30 million bushels in the long term.

However, CBF and other groups, such as the Coastal Conservation Association, have opposed the plan believing it will damage important fish habitat and that harm will outweigh any benefits.

“There is no need to dredge this reef,” Prost’s statement read. “Granite, crushed concrete and other materials are viable alternatives to shell for building sanctuary reefs.”

Zolper said scientific research suggests artificial substrates like concrete or granite are as good if not better than oyster shells for growing oysters, and that is true, “certainly on restoration reefs and sometimes even in replenishment on harvest reefs,” according to research done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Harris Creek on the Eastern Shore. “There was four times more reproduction on some of the granite than there was on the actual shell that was used on the same reef,” he said.

Prost also expressed concern both that the permit does not specify how the dredged shell will be used, and that the project will drain the state’s oyster restoration budget.

“The general public has a great interest in the health of oysters in the bay. Yet the permit application does not say if the dredged shell will be used to help grow and harvest more oysters or to help grow oysters protected from harvest, or both,” Prost said.

And although some watermen have been pushing for the dredging project to benefit their harvests, Colden told the East County Times that even if DNR were permitted to dredge all 30 million bushels, it would not produce a significant or lasting benefit to the oyster population.

“If 100 percent of the shell were allocated to [harvest areas] and plantings were targeted to only the top harvest-producing areas, only 2 percent of the area in these regions could be planted one time,” she said. “Given the lifespan of oyster shell is three to six years and oysters do not reach market size until 3 years old, those areas could maybe be harvested twice before the shell is gone.”

“While the dredging will provide little benefit, it will cost taxpayers $20 to $25 million,” Prost stated. “Most of that money will come from the state’s oyster restoration budget... That means virtually all money set aside to help rebuild the oyster population in Maryland would be drained in order to destroy an historic oyster reef.”

She said more shell will be available for replenishing harvest areas if they use alternatives elsewhere.

The permit was also modified from the DNR application to say that they will not dredge in the portion of the shoal that is within the Gales/Lump sanctuary.

“There’s sort of good news and bad news” in that, Zolper said. “We’re happy that there won’t be any penetration of the sanctuary, but what it also means is that they will do more focused, intense dredging in a smaller area.”

Roughly one-third - 61 acres - of the shoal’s 214 acres are in the sanctuary.

Zolper said at least there will be monitoring of the reef habitat before and after dredging to see what the impact is, and the permit does include provisions that the work will cease if they determine it is having significant negative impacts.

“There doesn’t seem to be a harmless way to do this, but at least we’ll find out through the monitoring if it’s done right,” he said. read more

East side rats: There’s a new contract out on your heads

East side rats: There’s a new contract out on your heads
Residents from many of the rat-infested communities on the east side visited the County Council in Towson last spring to press for a solution to the issue. File photo.
(Updated 7/11/18)

- By Marge Neal -

Baltimore County’s rat eradication pilot program worked so well over the summer and fall of 2017 that officials have decided to expand the effort to 10 new neighborhoods, including five on the east side.

The assault on rodents will spread to St. Helena, Foxcroft, Country Ridge, Yorkway/Cornwall and Ballard Gardens, according to county officials.

“I am very pleased that communities in my district will be part of the county’s rat eradication program,” Sixth District Councilwoman Cathy Bevins said in a statement that announced the program expansion. “As I move around my district, there is nothing more important to my constituents than their quality of life, and ridding communities of rat infestation is a critical component of that effort.”

The program began in nine communities last year, with four more communities added midway through the effort based upon the success of the effort in the original areas.

The multi-pronged attack on rats included chemical treatment, a second weekly trash pick-up day and an intensive educational effort to teach residents how to eliminate habits that encourage infestation.

The original communities will move to the prevention stage of treatment, according to Ray Hauf, quality coordinator for Regional Pest Management, the company awarded the contract to treat the five new eastside neighborhoods.

The prevention stage will involve placing and monitoring tamper-proof bait traps at each alley light pole in the 13 pilot areas.

Treatment of the new communities will begin in St. Helena on July 16, Hauf said.

“We’re really hoping to get the word out to residents in these neighborhoods,” Hauf said. “Some of them have good HOAs and some don’t, so we’re trying to get word out before we start showing up in yards and alleys.”

The treatment strategy includes an inspection of front and back yards, Hauf said. Properties that are found to be without any signs of infestation will be marked with a bright green ribbon while those with active signs of rodent activity will be treated and marked with a red ribbon.

“In homes without pets, we’ll dust burrows with tracking powder,” Hauf said. “And in homes with pets, we’ll place a base station trap that pets can’t access.”

Tamper-proof traps will also be used to treat burrows that are under sheds and other areas that cannot be easily accessed.

The third element of the program is education, according to Hauf. Informational handouts will be distributed with tips on making yards less attractive to rats.

“We want people to make sure all of their trash is put in containers with tightly fitting lids,” he said. “And it’s important to keep all animal waste picked up.”

Many people are not aware that animal waste is a food source for rats, he said.

Residents will also be encouraged to keep all bushes and shrubbery neatly trimmed to eliminate hiding areas.

Community members with pets are asked to keep them indoors when the treatments are being administered, Hauf said. And when yards cannot be accessed on the first attempt, a door hanger with another inspection/treatment day will be left at the home.

“We want to do our best to let the residents of these added communities know of the program and that we will be on their property,” Hauf said. “Getting word out will help avoid conflicts between residents and our employees and will educate the residents about the process.”

Regional Pest employees will be identifiable by company uniforms when they are treating and inspecting properties.

In addition to the chemical treatment and additional trash pick-up day, the county’s Code Enforcement and Public Works offices will sponsor community clean-ups to reduce trash and other debris that can provide food and shelter to rats, according to  county officials. Public Works will provide Dumpsters during clean-ups. read more

New developer takes on stalled Essex townhouse plan

New developer takes on stalled Essex townhouse plan
Hendersen-Webb, the owners of the property, began clearing the site last year to make sure their plan was vested before its permit approvals expired. File photo.
(Updated 7/11/18)

Public hearing set for July 26

- By Virginia Terhune -

Still before the Baltimore County Board of Appeals after two years, a plan for 125 townhouses and four single-family houses off Back River Neck Road is again moving forward with a different developer.

Initiated in 2016 as Canterbury Crossing by Glen Burnie-based Craftsmen Developers, a nearly identical project is now seeking county approval as Hyde Park Overlook headed by Edward Gold, a developer based in Pikesville and affiliated with Riggs LLC.

The 22-acre, partially wooded site long owned by the Hendersen-Webb apartment company in Cockeysville is located between Back River Neck Road and Southeastern Boulevard/MD-702 next to the Hyde Park shopping center.

An initial proposal for stores, restaurants and office space was succeeded in 2007 by a county-approved plan for 180 apartments, followed in 2016 by Craftsmen’s alternative proposal for the three-story townhouses and four single-family homes.

While some local community associations and businesses welcomed the change from 180 rental apartments to the lower number of for-sale townhouses, several other groups objected to the county development process Craftsmen had chosen to seek county approval for the project.

Building projects can be approved in two ways, one of which requires a community input meeting early in the process that invites public comment. That is followed by a formal development plan hearing before an administrative law judge who has the latitude to impose legally binding conditions on a project.

Alternatively, projects can seek an administrative approval of a limited exemption, allowed by the county’s Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections after a public review by the county’s Development Review Committee. The DRC is made up of department representatives. If granted, plans are subject to further review, but no official community input meeting or public hearing is required.

Craftsmen was granted an approval through the administrative process, and the Rockaway Beach Improvement Association, the Bauernschmidt Manor Improvement Association and New Haven Woods Community Association jointly appealed in July 2016, arguing that the change in the plan was significant enough to warrant a hearing.

Craftsmen ultimately decided to drop the project, and Gold is now moving forward under the development plan hearing process, which is the approval path that requires more public input.

A county administrative law judge has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday, July 26, at 10 a.m. in Room 205 of the Jefferson Building at 105 W. Chesapeake Ave. in Towson. The developer has also asked for setback variances and approval of seven units instead of six in one of the townhouse groupings.

The Gold plan, which is nearly identical to the Craftsmen plan, shows two entrances off Back River Neck Road and one off Hyde Park Road across from the shopping center. Sidewalks are planned on the Hendersen-Webb site along both roads, and a traffic impact study is required.

The Rockaway Beach Improvement Association, which represents residents of Turkey Point and Cape May roads, emailed a statement about the current plan but declined to comment further before the hearing.

“Our appeal for the requested limited exemption filed in the fall of 2016 still remains active,” according to the RBIA email. “The case has been postponed, as the developer has opted to pursue an alternative method to seek county approvals for their proposal.

“Given the large scale of the proposed project, it’s likely that density would be a major concern for the residents of the nearby communities. Our organization is still actively reviewing the proposed development and does not wish to provide any [further] comment at this time.”

In addition to the problems with the development process, the associations also had questions about an expected increase in traffic and enrollments at local schools, one of which is overcrowded.

Deep Creek Elementary School was 135 students over capacity during the 2017-2018 school year, while Deep Creek Middle and Chesapeake High schools were 304 and 43 students under capacity, respectively, according to the Baltimore County Public Schools website. read more

Essex Day to celebrate 43rd birthday with a face-lift

Essex Day to celebrate 43rd birthday with a face-lift
Rob Baier (left) and his band Kanye Twitty performed at last year’s Rockin’ on the River. Baier has been a staple of the event, performing in each installment. File photo.
(Updated 7/11/18)

- By Marge Neal -

Essex Day will have a bright, shiny new face to show off when the 43rd annual community festival takes over Eastern Boulevard this fall.

For the first time in the event’s history, organizers believe, Essex Day will be held on a Saturday, with longer hours, more entertainment and a day of the week that is hopefully more attractive to vendors, sponsors and attendees, according to Essex Day volunteer Brian Marchetti.

“We’re very excited about the changes we’re making to Essex Day this year, and we’re very excited about our new partnership with Starleigh Entertainment,” Marchetti told the East County Times. “Starleigh has made a very generous sponsorship offer and what used to be known as the Main Stage will now be known as the Starleigh Entertainment Stage.”

The committee approached Rob Baier, president of Starleigh, to begin planning the entertainment.

Baier, who was born and raised in Middle River, made the sponsorship offer unsolicited, Marchetti said.

“We didn’t even have to ask; he made the offer. We couldn’t be more grateful that they’re doing this,” Marchetti said of Starleigh. “And I think that if Rob wasn’t a local guy, this doesn’t happen. They want to be part of the community and give back to Essex.”

“We are really excited to be a part of this,” Baier told the Times. “I played in Essex Day when I was about 19 and the old Midway Cafe was still there, so it’s pretty cool to be able to do this.”

Baier, now 47, has come full circle as a co-owner - along with Gary Hutson - of the entertainment booking company that he used as a young performer.

With Baier’s band, Kanye Twitty, already announced as a Starleigh Stage attraction, he shared with the Times the rest of the headliner bands for that stage: Red Dirt Revolution, Tripwire and Dean Crawford and the Dunn’s River Band.

“We think we have a great lineup so far,” Baier said. “The music side used to be such a great part of Essex Day and then it seemed to fall by the wayside a bit. We’re really hoping the live music moves forward in a positive manner and brings people back in.”

Baier said fair organizers approached him about booking his band and began a conversation that ended with the sponsorship offer.

“They were looking for sponsors and I was interested in being a sponsor so this worked out well,” Baier said. “It’s just a perfect fit for both of us.”

Marchetti estimates the value of the sponsorship to be in the $7,000 range. Starleigh, “the region’s most diversified provider of quality entertainment,” according to its website, is making a donation to Essex Day that will “essentially cover the costs of the bands, the sound system, the backline equipment and crew,” Marchetti said.

Past festivals have had three stages: the main stage, a Christian music stage and a karaoke spot. Organizers will add a “homegrown” stage this year, with the hope of featuring local talent just getting started. While in the early stages of planning, Marchetti said organizers think the new stage will add tremendously to the fair’s entertainment offerings.

The Saturday fair will have hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., as opposed to the noon to 5 p.m. hours of past Sunday events, according to Marchetti, which will mean additional bands and attractions on all four stages.

With the move to Saturday, Marchetti said the organizing committee is preparing to set up a fair infrastructure that will accommodate a significant increase in attendance.

“With the move from Sunday to Saturday we won’t be competing with the Ravens, and we just think Saturday will work better for more vendors and attendees and be more convenient for businesses along the boulevard,” Marchetti said.

The fair occupies Eastern Boulevard from Mace Avenue to Woodward Drive in the heart of downtown Essex. In addition to four stages of entertainment, the event will offer a kids’ area; costumed characters; arts and crafts; free tours of the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River; novelty, sports and food vendors; carnival rides; nonprofit organizations; and local businesses.

With just over two months until show time, organizers are busy recruiting sponsors, with a variety of financial levels available to suit both businesses and individuals, according to Marchetti.

For the first time, an Essex Day T-shirt will be produced. The logos of all multi-level sponsors will be printed on the back, and all individual sponsors who contribute $25 will receive a free shirt, according to festival sponsorship publicity.

All sponsorships are due by Aug. 15. For more information regarding sponsorship opportunities, call 443-579-4913 or

Marchetti said he and his five fellow committee members, led by President Paul Rufe, are looking forward to the new Essex Day and hope residents are pleased with the results. They hope the move to Saturday, the new partnership with Starleigh and expanded activities and fair-goer opportunities “bring new life to Essex Day” and put it on an upward trajectory for the future. read more

Rebecca Smith, Sparrows Point High grad, killed in newsroom shooting

Rebecca Smith, Sparrows Point High grad, killed in newsroom shooting
Rebecca Smith was a recently-hired sales assistant at the Capital Gazette and was one of five killed in the June 28 shooting at that paper’s Annapolis office. Courtesy photo.
(Updated 7/3/18)

- By Marge Neal 

Rebecca Smith loved the water and considered the beach her “happy place.”

The Edgemere native and Sparrows Point High School graduate had a sarcastic and witty sense of humor and was kind, thoughtful and considerate to her friends, family members and colleagues.

“She was my best friend and the love of my life,” her fiancé, DJay Poling, told the East County Times Friday, June 29. “I can’t believe she’s gone.”

Smith, 34, who started as a sales assistant  with the Capital Gazette in November, was one of five employees killed June 28 in a targeted mass shooting at the newspaper’s Annapolis office. Also killed in the attack were assistant managing editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, Op-Ed page editor Gerald Fischman, sports reporter John McNamara and writer and editor Wendi Winters.

The massacre was allegedly carried out by Jarrod W. Ramos, a 38-year-old Laurel man with a longstanding grudge against the paper.

Poling was gracious in his offer of an interview with the Times, in spite of losing the love of his life less than 24 hours prior.

He said he was not used to “putting our private business out there” and was avoiding his house to dodge the media trying to talk to him, but was willing to talk to the Times because he wanted “people to know who Rebecca was and how wonderful she was.”

The couple had been dating six or seven years, he said, and met through the usual channels: friends of friends.

“We hit it off instantly and started hanging out,” Poling said. “She was sarcastic, witty, funny, liked to pull pranks; her sense of humor was exactly like mine. We ‘got’ each other.”

Smith was open about her physical struggle with endometriosis, a reproductive organ disease that causes considerable pain and can be a leading cause of female infertility, according to information she had posted on her Facebook page.

But Smith continually rose above her pain to care for others, Poling said.

“No matter how much pain she was in, no matter how sore she was, no matter what her disease was handing out, she was always trying to make someone else’s day better,” he said.

Capital Gazette supervisors were “very good” to Smith and worked with her as she negotiated her way through the multiple doctors’ appointments necessary to treat a chronic disease, according to Poling.

Advertising director Marty Padden, Smith’s supervisor, referred to the new employee as “kind and considerate” and a “very thoughtful person” who was likable and had a good sense of humor, according to a Baltimore Sun article.

Poling said Smith also became a second mother to his daughter.

“My daughter adored her,” Poling said. “And there isn’t anything Becca wouldn’t have done for Rileigh - she planned family vacations, she set up play dates; she would spend her last dime on stuff for Rileigh’s bedroom.”

He said his daughter was “devastated” when he delivered the news Friday morning that Smith had died.

Poling was understandably emotional as he described how the events of June 28 played out. He said he heard about the shootings and immediately called Smith on her cell phone. When there was no answer, he got in his vehicle and headed to Annapolis.

“Family members were told to go to the Lord and Taylor at the mall near there for more information about people,” Poling said. “While I was on the way, something told me to call Shock Trauma so I did.”

Poling was told an unidentified woman from the Capital Gazette shooting was being treated there, and after offering a description of Smith, including the details of a couple of tattoos, he determined she was indeed that unidentified patient.

But throughout the profound shock of suddenly losing the love of his life, Poling said he has been lifted by the outpouring of the community and his friends and family members.

“It’s been a media nightmare but the community has been wonderful,” Poling said. “My softball family has started a softball tournament in her memory and my buddies are all looking out for me.”

A local horseshoes league has also established a memorial tournament to honor Smith.

A local account set up specifically for expenses related to Smith’s unexpected death had raised $10,320 (exceeding the original goal of $8,000) by early Monday morning.

The Capital Gazette Families Fund, an account set up by tronc (formerly known as The Tribune Co.) will provide financial assistance for the families, victims and survivors of the shooting, as well as create a scholarship memorial fund for journalism students, according to a Baltimore Sun article. The Michael and Jacky Ferro Family Foundation will match up to $1 million in donations, according to the Sun. As of Monday, the fund had already received a $100,000 donation from the Merrill Family Foundation, founded by the late Phillip Merrill, former owner and publisher of the Capital Gazette, according to the Sun.

Across the country, the names of the five victims are being remembered in many ways, including multiple poignant, touching editorial cartoons published in newspapers, magazines and websites. The Capital Gazette’s desk in the press box at Oriole Park at Camden Yards was decorated with a copy of Friday’s paper and five lilies, one for each person killed, according to a photograph posted on Facebook by the baseball team.

While Poling is grateful for the support from his community, as well as that from across a grieving nation, he wants to make sure people remember the Rebecca Smith he knew and loved.

“I just want people to know how wonderful she was, how caring she was,” he said. “She was loved by everyone and loved more by me.”

“While we did OK, we weren’t rich in money,” he said. “But in love, friendship and family, I don’t think I knew anyone richer than us.”

Funeral services for Rebecca Smith will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 8, at the Duda-Ruck Funeral Home of Dundalk, 7922 Wise Ave. Visitations will be held the same day from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. read more

Carroll Island power plant shuts down in preparation for conversion to natural gas

Carroll Island power plant shuts down in preparation for conversion to natural gas
This concept image shows the proposed layout of the new plant, with the turbines enclosed inside three box structures and the diesel fuel storage tanks behind the exhaust smokestacks. Photo by Devin Crum.
(Updated 7/3/18)

- By Devin Crum -

The owners of the Charles P. Crane Generating Station in Middle River have ceased all coal-fired operations as of June 1 and are now working toward converting the plant to use natural gas instead.

The plant’s owner, Avenue Captial Group, and operator, Middle River Power, began the process on May 31 when they filed their application with the Maryland Public Service Commission and continued it this week with a hearing Monday, July 2, before the PSC to establish a review and permitting schedule.

Dennis Corn, development director for Middle River Power, said at a June 28 meeting shutting down the plant’s coal operations was mainly due to economics.

“The marketplace has changed, plus these are very old units that utilize an older technology that was not as efficient as what is now available today,” he said.

The C.P. Crane plant, located off Carroll Island Road along Seneca Creek, was constructed in the 1950s and began operation in 1961.

Corn said the re-powering project for the plant is one that will be more efficient and more reliable than previous operations and will be able to use fuel other than coal.

In addition to burning natural gas, the upgraded facility will have the capability to burn diesel fuel as a backup when not enough gas is available.

“That should mean that it will be a cleaner facility and more reliable in the sense of it has less mechanical parts associated with it,” Corn said.

The new plant will be comprised of three aero-derivative combustion turbines which will burn the fuel to produce electricity.

“Basically what this is is a jet engine that’s been modified for a land-based application,” Corn said, noting that the size is similar to those seen on aircraft such as the Airbus A380 or Boeing 787. “Rather than sitting underneath a wing it’s been modified to sit on the ground and has a generator attached to it, and it’s what will combust the natural gas to make electricity.”

The new plant will also include two 500,000-gallon storage tanks for ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel which will hold enough fuel to power the plant as a backup for up to three days, according to Corn.

The diesel would be used in the event of shortages in availability of natural gas, such as in the winter when more people use it to heat their homes.

“So if there’s an event of an extended outage or natural gas not being available because of an extreme cold period of time, we’ll still be able to produce electricity for three days continuously,” he said.

One combustion turbine has existed on the site since the 1970s, Corn said, and although it is smaller than the new ones will be, it will be recommissioned for use with the new facility since it still meets the new criteria for being more efficient and/or less costly to run.

The C.P. Crane site is currently served by an eight-inch gas line which was previously used only to ignite the coal, according to plant manager Ken McGreevy.

That line will be used to supply the new plant and will not be upgraded because of the considerable investment required to do so, Corn said. However, the new plant is designed to make use of all the capacity afforded by the existing line, and gas compressors will be used since the pressure from the line is slightly lower than they need to run the turbines.

Although the new plant would likely be running continuously during an extended power outage, its normal operation would be only as a “peaking service.”

“It would typically only run during the peak times,” Corn explained. “So in the summertime that would be in the middle part of the day when all the air conditioning is running.”

In the winter, he said, there are two daily peaks caused when people are getting ready for work in the morning and when they come home in the evening to cook dinner and other such activities.

Overall, Corn estimated the plant would only run a maximum of about 30 percent of the time and may only use one or two of the turbines at any given time, depending on demand.

That compares to only about 10 percent of the time this year prior to June 1 when the coal plant was operational, according to McGreevy, and in 2017 when they were “lucky to be in the teens,” he said.

Corn said a “peaker” operation can be cost-efficient and profitable because there is demand for that type of power. And because of the peaks and valleys in power consumption, the grid needs equipment that can respond quickly to high demand.

When peak periods happen, facilities like the one planned can come up to full power in just 10 minutes, whereas the coal plant could take between 20 and 24 hours to become fully operational, McGreevy said.

Corn said they can also charge more for the power generated during peaks because of the high demand.

“That’s where we make our money is during the peak periods,” he said.

The new plant is also designed to be remote started and operate with a minimal staff of just five workers. It will sit on less than five acres of land whereas the current plant sits on more than 150 acres, much of which was used for storage of coal piles and other materials related to the operation.

The company estimates the traffic impact during peak construction of the new plant to be about on par with the highest periods the plant saw last year. The plant had about 55 employees at the site last year with as many as 75 coming in during major outages. That is compared to the 150 regular employees it had during its peak operation under BGE ownership and up to 300 during outages.

Likewise, Corn said the noise from the plant would be heavily managed with insulated enclosures around the turbines since Maryland regulations limit them to 55 decibels at the nearest residence.

“This will not sound like a jet engine taking off,” he said.

Should Middle River Power be granted all the necessary permits and approvals, Corn said the plant could potentially be operational by the end of 2019. They have asked for the permits to be granted by the end of this year and would then finalize equipment supply and construction contracts. After that they estimate 10 - 12 months for construction followed by testing.

In the meantime, workers at the site are currently carrying out the demolition needed to make way for the new facility and removing any remaining coal and fly ash - a byproduct of burning coal - from the site. To be demolished is a dust collector or “backhouse,” and potentially urea tanks, an air heater and an electrical controls and vacuum blower building.

Corn said it has not yet been decided whether they will remove the iconic 300-foot-high smokestacks that tower over the plant, though some residents joked that it would be a loss for boaters as a beacon if they did. read more

Just 42 votes separate Olszewski, Brochin after first absentee ballots counted

Just 42 votes separate Olszewski, Brochin after first absentee ballots counted
Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer declared victory at about 10:15 p.m. at his Election Day party at Columbus Gardens in Fullerton. Photo by Devin Crum.
(Updated 7/3/18)

- By Patrick Taylor, Marge Neal and Devin Crum -

Former Delegate Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for Baltimore County executive was cut to just 42 after the first round of absentee ballots were counted on Thursday, June 28. Olszewski entered Thursday leading State Senator Jim Brochin by 346 votes.

While Olszewski and Brochin are separated by just 42 votes, Councilwoman Vicki Almond remains in contention, though she trails Olszewski by 1,059 votes. On July 5, approximately 2,400 provisional ballots will be counted, with more absentee ballots being tallied on July 6.

A few dozen observers representing the three Democrats watched closely as the ballots were counted last Thursday, and despite the tight race, representatives for each candidate remained optimistic. Even with that optimism, Brochin campaign manager Marc Lazerow told the East County Times he expects the race is heading for a recount, regardless of the winner.

“It just seems like that’s the direction that this is heading,” said Lazerow.

The deadline to petition for a recount is July 12. The winner of the Democratic primary will go on to face Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer in the general election in November.

While Redmer secured the nomination last Tuesday, his opponent, Delegate Pat McDonough, refused to concede. After telling The Baltimore Sun that Redmer did not deserve his support, endorsement or concession, McDonough went a step further, sharing a post on his official Facebook page Thursday night that urged supporters to write in his name in November. Calls to McDonough for comment went unreturned by press time.

While the post has since been deleted, reception was relatively negative from both the public and elected Republican officials who view this election as the first real opportunity to flip the county executive seat to Republican for the first time since Roger Hayden held the office from 1990 - 1994.

Councilman David Marks (R-5) said that “Pat McDonough ran a spirited and strong campaign, but Al Redmer won and the party will line up behind him.”

Joining Marks was Delegate Robin Grammer (R-6), who told The East County Times that McDonough and Redmer needed to make amends, given that they are on the same side of the issues.

“I’ll tell you for me the primary is both a great and bad thing. It was very refreshing because you had both Pat and Al talking about the issues I’ve been trying to talk about for a long time - like Section 8 housing and community blight,” said Grammer. “Both spoke to those issues frequently - that was their platform - and I think they agreed on most of those issues.

“The bad thing is I have to see two people that have worked with me and people I liked duke it out,” Grammer continued. “I thought it was going to be much closer, thought Pat was going to take it and was a bit surprised. They both predominantly ran on the same platform and from here on I’ll definitely be supporting Al. He is speaking directly to the concerns I have for Baltimore County.”

In his victory speech last Tuesday night, Redmer tried bridging the divide between he and McDonough, telling the crowd at his election night party that he appreciated McDonough’s service during his time as a delegate in the Maryland General Assembly.

“His term ends at the end of this year, and we appreciate his service,” Redmer told a crowd of about 100 at Columbus Gardens. “Equally as important, he has for years been a strong conservative voice, and I hope that we will continue to have him fill that crucial role.”

In a video shared on his Facebook page on June 28, McDonough told his supporters that he intends to continue being that conservative voice by utilizing his radio show and starting a newsletter for his grassroots populist movement.

McDonough also reiterated that he has no plans to endorse or support Redmer, saying he didn’t respect the campaign Redmer ran.

“I put principle and people over party politics,” said McDonough.

Legislative District 6
In the Sixth Legislative District, incumbent Republican State Senator Johnny Ray Salling easily defeated challenger Janice L. Dymowski by a 75.3-percent to 24.7-percent margin. Before provisional and absentee ballots were counted, Salling had 3,168 votes, compared to 1,038 for Dymowski.

On the Democratic side of the Senate race, Buddy Staigerwald, with 2,988 votes, maintained a 420-vote lead over Russ Mirabile (2,568 votes) before provisional and absentee ballots were counted.

In the House of Delegates race, Republican incumbents Robin L. Grammer (2,890 votes), Bob Long (3,296 votes) and Ric Metzgar (3,267 votes) all secured spots in November's general election, easily handling a challenge from former delegate and new Republican Jake Mohorovic (1,302 votes).

Five Democratic candidates filed to challenge the incumbents, with the top three of Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., a former Baltimore City Councilman; Diane DeCarlo, a former delegate and state senator; and Megan Mioduszewski, a Democratic State Central Committee member, advancing to November's general election.

Legislative District 7
In the Seventh District, incumbent delegate and House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga earned a commanding victory in the crowded race for Del. Pat McDonough’s open seat. Szeliga was the top vote-getter in the field of 13 Republican candidates running for the district’s three seats. She garnered 7,002 votes, topping the next highest - fellow incumbent Rick Impallaria - by about 2,600 votes.

Szeliga had typically been the second-highest performing of the incumbents in that district, taking a back seat to McDonough who gave up his seat to run for Baltimore County Executive.

The third finisher in that race was Harford County Resident and community organizer Lauren Arikan.

The deep-red Seventh does not traditionally elect Democrats, and only two blue candidates - Allison Berkowitz and Gordon Koerner - even filed to run for the three seats.

Legislative District 8
While there were some competitive races in Baltimore County, the Republican and Democratic races for District 8 House of Delegates went exactly as expected, with the "All Joe" ticket of Delegate Joe Cluster, former delegate Joe Boteler and Joe Norman securing the Republican nominations. Cluster was the top vote getter for the Republican trio, pulling in just over 25 percent of the vote, while Boteler received 21 percent of the vote. Norman pulled in just under 18.5 percent of the vote, edging out Norma Secoura by just over 800 votes.

Early in the night, Norman told The East County Times that he was looking forward to the general election and campaigning with his colleagues. He said that the three meshed well personality-wise, with all three focused on the whole rather than their individual campaigns.

"We don't have any grandstanders or anything like that," he said.

 For the Democrats, Del. Eric Bromwell was the top vote getter, with the incumbent receiving 31.2 percent of the vote. Bromwell was trailed by Harry Bhandari with 28.2 percent, and Carl Jackson, who finished with 24.75 percent.

With the primary election now in the past, the main focus in District 8 will shift to the state Senate race which has incumbent Kathy Klausmeier going up against Hogan-endorsed Delegate Christian Miele. With Hogan cabinet member Redmer taking the county executive nomination and Baltimore County crucial to Hogan's reelection campaign, it is expected that Hogan will be spending a decent amount of time in Baltimore County over the next few months. Hogan's popularity across the aisle could prove to be a big boost for Miele and down-ticket Republicans in the district.

As it stands, Klausmeier has far outraised Miele financially, but that could shift once Hogan starts throwing the weight of his office around. And with District 8 seen as one of the more purple districts in the state, the race between Klausmeier and Miele is expected to be one of the closer races in November.

County Council District 5
Incumbent Councilman David Marks easily fought off a primary challenge from Jay Payne, securing the Republican nomination with just under 83 percent of the vote. Marks, a highly popular figure in his district, was never really in jeopardy in the primary, but he did face an onslaught of attacks over the last year or so from the Libertarian group Baltimore County Campaign for Liberty (BCCL). Despite the attack effort, Marks glided to victory, setting up a race against Alex Foley, who took the Democratic nomination with almost 70 percent of the vote in the primary.

"We advance to the general election with support from Democrats, Republicans and voters of all political backgrounds who believe in bipartisan, independent leadership for Baltimore County," said Marks in a statement.

While Marks has enjoyed bipartisan support in his district, he did not face a primary or general election challenger in 2014, making his race against Foley a bit of an intriguing affair.

County Council District 6
The council’s Sixth District was another race that saw a crowded field of Republicans vying for the nomination. However, the field of five candidates looked more competitive than it was.

Frontrunners Ryan Nawrocki and Deb Sullivan far outpaced Erik Lofstad, Allen Robertson and Glen Geelhaar, and Nawrocki held a strong lead over Sullivan by the end of the night with just over 50 percent of the total vote and 2,366 votes to her 1,467.

Democratic incumbent Cathy Bevins was unchallenged in her primary.

County Council District 7
Incumbent Republican County Councilman Todd Crandell easily held off a challenge from Dave Rader, winning the primary contest by an 80.3-percent to 19.7-percent margin.

Democrat Brian Weir gathered 70.8 percent of the votes cast to defeat Richard Davis, 3,684 to 1,520. Weir will challenge Crandell in November.

District 7 Board of Education
For the first time in Baltimore County history, the Board of Education will have the majority of its members elected by citizens.
The board that gets seated in December will have seven popularly elected members - one from each of seven councilmanic districts - and four at-large members appointed by the governor.

On the county's east side, only voters in the 7th District had a primary decision to make for the school board. Only districts with three or more candidates faced a primary runoff, with the top two advancing to November's general election. The two candidates from each of the 5th and 6th districts automatically advance to the final.

In the 7th District race, Rod McMillion, a Baltimore County Public Schools educator, and Will Feuer, a Baltimore County Department of Aging employee, finished first and second and will advance to the general election. Community College of Baltimore County employee Eric Washington finished third, despite an endorsement from the Teachers Association of Baltimore County. read more

Homeowners, volunteers benefit from mission effort

Homeowners, volunteers benefit from mission effort
Members of the Ellington Congregational Church youth group prepare a counter top for installation in a Dundalk home. Courtesy photo.
(Updated 7/3/18)

- By Marge Neal 

Many school students count down to the last day of school, looking forward to the carefree days of summer vacation, with trips to the beach, mountain camping or just chilling at the neighborhood pool on the agenda.

But for the youth group TELOS of the Ellington Congregational Church in the Connecticut town of the same name, the heralded countdown to the first week after school ends refers to a week of community service, complete with the sweat, toil and occasional blood that comes from doing repair work on the homes of people they do not know.

Thirty young church members - 23 high school students and seven youth leaders - spent the week of June 25 in Dundalk, partnering with Rebuilding Together Baltimore to provide some much needed repairs to eight homes in the community.

While the mission trip itself lasts just seven days, the project is a labor of love that plays out over most of a year, according to the volunteers.

It costs the group about $15,000 each year to take the trip, according to group leader Eric Romeo. The group pays for its travel, lodging, food and any other incidental expenses.

And while the volunteers do not directly buy building and renovation materials for the project, they do contribute to projects, according to RTB Executive Director Bonnie Bessor.

“They made a very generous donation to Rebuilding Together Baltimore out of the money they raised,” Bessor said.

Over the course of the week, the church volunteers installed cabinets and countertops, new flooring, insulation and fire safety equipment; performed ceiling, wall and door repairs; painted home exteriors and fixed minor plumbing and electrical problems, according to Bessor.

Several youth leaders spoke with the East County Times during a lunch break June 28. Seated at red, white and blue picnic tables at Dundalk’s American Legion Post 38 - the work of a recent Rebuilding Together blitz - they talked about looking forward to being old enough to join the mission trips and the benefits they get from helping others.

“Many of the homeowners we’ve helped this week are veterans and they have interesting stories,” Jaimee DelPiano, 16, said. “They’re so grateful that we’re doing this hard work for them and they’re very appreciative.”

Even the daily crew assignments are made so that youth group members get to interact with as many different people as possible.

“We switch up each day so kids can work with different kids and hang out with kids they don’t know as well,” youth leader Leah Cawthorn said.

The Ellington congregation is a “relatively small congregation where we know everyone,” Ryan McKiernan, 18, said. “But still, we are encouraged to greet church members and encourage them to support our project, and this trip allows us to get to know each other better.”

In story after story about the week’s work and unexpected challenges, the leaders bragged about how their teams worked together, problem-solved, brainstormed and came up with creative approaches to get each task done.

“In one of the houses we worked on, we were replacing some flooring and the kids kept cutting one last piece of wood wrong,” Cawthorn said. “They were getting frustrated but they thought about it, and worked through it - they worked as a team to figure it out.”

Courtney Binkowski told of a house where several people were living in the attic space, which was filled with several beds, lots of toys and other personal effects, with little room to maneuver.

“We were painting and we tore up the carpet, and it was great to see everyone work together - three people would lift up a bed while another would yank back the carpet,” she said. “It was great to see them work together and figure it out.”

The attic project turned out to take more than one day, and the crew “begged” to return the second day because the volunteers wanted to finish what they started, according to Binkowski.

If there was a down side to the trip, it was that there was not enough to do, according to McKiernan.

“There sometimes wasn’t enough for us to do, because we have a strong work ethic and marched through the projects,” he said. “We work hard the entire day and we could have done more than was on the list. We’re only here for a week and we just want to make the biggest impact we can make.”

The leaders said they are grateful to finally experience the mission trip that many heard older siblings talk about.

“I had older sisters who always talked about this trip and how amazing it was, what a life-changing experience it was,” DelPiano said. “And I thought she was exaggerating; how could something like that possibly be life-changing? And then I went on my first trip and she was more than right - it is life-changing.”

While the church youth members consider the trip a privilege and a life-changing experience, Bessor sees the altruistic event as just as life-changing for the beneficiaries of the volunteers’ hard work.

“These repairs help keep older residents in their homes as they age, and helps us meet our goal of having people live in safe and healthy homes,” Bessor said. “And it’s very meaningful to us to have these kids who don’t know us or Baltimore give of themselves in this manner - to provide community service while also getting a learning experience.”

“And to have 30 energetic, strong, young people spending a week with us helps us leverage our dollars by using volunteer help,” she said. “We get more out of our dollars and are able to provide more services.” read more

In Dundalk, all’s fair for Independence Day

In Dundalk, all’s fair for Independence Day
Crowds return to pack the areas around the fair’s stages year after year. Courtesy photo.
(Updated 6/27/18)

- By Marge Neal -

Volunteers are busy putting the finishing touches on the work that annually transforms Dundalk’s Heritage Park into the temporary village known as Heritage Fair.

The three-day celebration of the nation’s birthday kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday, with a packed agenda of entertainment, vendors, arts and crafts, carnival rides and other attractions for children and adults of all ages.

In what could be the oldest “temporary” event in the area, the three-day community gathering from June 29 to July 1 is the 43rd annual edition of the festival that started as a one-time celebration of the country’s bicentennial in 1976. The event proved to be so popular that the organizing committee vowed to make the festival an annual affair.

“The weather is supposed to be great and we’re looking forward to a wonderful weekend,” fair volunteer Angel Ball told the East County Times on Tuesday. “I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone.”

Ball, who serves as the event’s promotional director, said she is excited about the entire entertainment lineup.

“I think the entire community is excited about Vince Neil, and I understand Get the Led Out is outstanding,” she said. “And then, of course, we have several local favorites, like Dean Crawford, that we’re thrilled to have back.”

About 100 volunteers have been working for a week or more to set up the village that Heritage Park becomes for the Independence Day celebration, according to fair chairman Joe Falbo.

“The fencing is up, picnic tables have been moved, the electric is installed, the grass is cut,” Falbo said Tuesday. “Anything and everything that needs to be done, our volunteers do.”

Falbo said this year’s fair-goers should expect a more crowded environment, given the condensed festival area caused by the new Dundalk Elementary School construction.

Ball said the construction posed some challenges, but it was nothing that could not be overcome.

“The new school construction set us back a little bit, but we strategized and worked around it,” she said. “We had to shift some things around but we made it work.”

The fair grounds might be a little tighter than usual but organizers promise the same great quality of past editions.

Daily admission to the fair, which includes all musical acts, is $8 per person. Operating hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Two stages - one on the Dunmanway side of the grounds and the other on the Shipway side - will offer musical acts from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Crack the Sky will headline the Shipway stage at 8 p.m. Friday, with Dean Crawford and The Dunn’s Street Band on the Dunmanway stage at 7 o’clock the same evening.

The Gigs, another local favorite, will play at 6:30 p.m. on Dunmanway on Saturday, while Vince Neil, former lead singer of Mötley Crüe, will perform on the Shipway stage at  8 p.m.

Sunday’s musical entertainment will close out with Gene Vincentt and The Cruisers (with Dave Smooth’s Motown Revue and a Linda Ronstadt tribute featuring Jill Doyle) at 7 p.m. on the Dunmanway stage and Get the Led Out (The American Led Zeppelin, a tribute band) at 8 p.m. on the Shipway stage.

Sparrows Point High School pride will be on display with a performance by the Pointers’ steel drum band at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on the Shipway stage. Mahoney Brothers fans can catch their act at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the same stage.

The karaoke stage in the beer garden will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Aside from formal entertainment, the fair grounds will be packed with a variety of other attractions, vendors, exhibits, demonstrations and strolling performers, including a magician and Phineus T. Waggs and his monkey pal, Django.

Kids’ Row will include a rock climbing wall, pony rides and a Home Depot station with kids’ construction kits, according to Ball.

“And the Dundalk Elementary PTA will be set up on Kids’ Row with displays of what the new school will look like,” Ball said.

While Heritage Fair is designed to provide a family-friendly event for the community, it does have several rules and policies to keep it safe for everyone. Attendees should expect to have their bags checked at the entrance gate. No bottles, cans, coolers, thermoses or similar vessels are allowed on fair grounds, according to the group’s website. No outside alcoholic beverages are allowed. No one under the age of 21 will be admitted to the beer garden and photo IDs will be required for entry. No pets, bikes, skateboards or any wheeled, motorized devices other than certified handicapped assistance vehicles will be allowed. Baby strollers are allowed.

The complete entertainment schedule, as well as all fairground rules, can be viewed at

While Heritage Fair traditionally takes place on the weekend closest to and including July 4, the annual parade and fireworks are held on July 4 most years. The parade that forms at Logan Village Shopping Center and marches down Dundalk Avenue before winding through Old Dundalk kicks off at 8 a.m. Wednesday, July 4. This year’s procession is under the new leadership of co-chairmen Mike Mioduszewski and Will Feuer.

The fireworks display, which is produced from the grounds of North Point Government Center and Grange Elementary School, will start at dusk Wednesday night, according to Ball.

All three elements of Dundalk’s Independence Day celebration are sponsored and coordinated by the Heritage Association of Dundalk.

Heritage Fair is a gift that a committee of dedicated volunteers offers to the community each year. But Ball said the committee is grateful that the community supports and appreciates the annual offering.

“It really takes a mountain of dedicated volunteers to do this each year,” Ball said. “And we’re really grateful for our sponsors - Weis Markets, Tradepoint Atlantic, Ports America, the Port of Baltimore and all of our individual citizens who donate each year - because without them we can’t do this. And if the community didn’t support and embrace this effort, there would be no reason to do it.” read more

Planning Board votes White Marsh townhome project is not master plan conflict

Planning Board votes White Marsh townhome project is not master plan conflict
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 6/27/18)

- By Devin Crum -

The Baltimore County Planning Board voted last Thursday, June 21, to recommend that a plan for 150 new townhomes along Pulaski Highway in White Marsh does not constitute a conflict with the county’s master plan, setting up an expected approval from an administrative law judge.

In a 9 - 2 vote, the board effectively reversed judge John Beverungen’s May 1 decision to deny the project, dubbed Pulaski Crossing, approval based on a perceived conflict with Master Plan 2020. The conflict he saw centered on the 31.5-acre site’s T-2R transect designation in the master plan which calls for rural uses such as single-family detached housing on two- to five-acre lots.

In a letter to the board members just two days before the vote, attorney for opponents of the project Michael McCann renewed his arguments of why he believed the plan conflicts with the transect designation.

“Rather than one dwelling for every 2 to 5 acres … as required by the T-2R transect, the density of the proposed development is 4.5 dwellings for every acre, which is 9 to 20 times greater than the T-2R transect allows,” he wrote. “There is nothing consistent about this development with the T-2R transect.”

Although not addressed by the ALJ, in his letter, McCann also took issue with the development as it relates to the site’s designation as an “employment center.”

Attorneys for the developer contended the project is appropriate within the Employment Center land management area of the master plan because the designation allows housing.

But McCann argued that the master plan intended Employment Centers to have housing only as part of a commercial use, such as a mixed-use development, and not standalone townhomes or other solely residential uses.

“The proposed development is not a commercial use, not employment-oriented, not heavy industrial, not strip commercial and does not preserve family-supporting wage employment,” McCann wrote. “There is nothing consistent about this development with the ‘Employment Center’ land management area.”

However, Jennifer Nugent, chief of Development Review for the county’s Department of Planning, disagreed. She summarized the department’s position for board members by reiterating arguments made previously at the board’s June 7 meeting. She highlighted bullet points from that report, chiefly that the site was rezoned through the county’s 2016 rezoning cycle to allow for the development and the intent to put townhomes on the site was clear at that time.

“The Department of Planning supported the request, the planning board recommended the change and the County Council acted to rezone the [resource conservation] and a sliver of [light manufacturing] portions of the site to DR 5.5,” which allows 5.5 homes per acre, she said.

Nugent said Master Plan 2020 used its transect model to allow the delineation of degrees of development intensity from rural to urban without associating specific land uses with each land parcel.

“The purpose of this reframing of the proposed land-use map was to strengthen the concept of guiding land-use decisions in a general manner rather than for specific properties,” she said.

She argued that the transect designations in the master plan are conceptual - not mandatory - and are not binding on each specific property. She called the transects “inclusive, and not exclusive,” and said the standards defining one transect may be seen in another.

Specifically, Nugent called the use of the T-2R transect an “anomaly” as it exists on the subject site. She cited that the property is located within the Urban-Rural Demarcation Line (URDL) and housing atypical to the transect’s standard already exists within the designation in the form of a mobile home park adjacent to the site.

Board member Cathy Wolfson, who ultimately voted against the board’s recommendation, was skeptical of using the mobile home park next door as justification because the county typically taxes such facilities as commercial uses.

McCann and the opponents made that argument as well, adding that the department’s and developer’s argument is invalid since that property’s frontage on Pulaski Highway is also a commercial use.

Board member Wayne McGinnis also voted in the minority and board Chairman N. Scott Phillips abstained from the vote. Members Lori Graf and Richard Yaffe did not attend the meeting.

Member Jonathan Herbst commented that the transect model is relatively new, being first used in the county in Master Plan 2020, which was approved in 2010. And with a lack of case law dealing specifically with the concept, there is nothing to say whether transect designations are advisory or binding. As a result, he was leaning toward siding with the department’s recommendation.

“I do think that this transect concept has to be merely advisory because it’s such a broad brush, and if you’re looking at the individual properties that are in that project it can’t possibly apply to every single parcel that’s in that transect,” he said. “Otherwise there’s conflict; there’s properties that are in more than one transect, so in that case you wouldn’t be able to develop it at all.”

Chairman Phillips said in situations like this, policy suggests that the board take direction from the planning staff as far as what is valid.

“Our staff has given us some direction on this and has come out on the side of this is not a conflict,” he said before the vote.

After reconsidering his original decision, judge Beverungen wrote on May 24 that the Planning Board must decide on master plan conflicts. And since he denied the plan solely on the basis of the master plan conflict, should the board say there is no conflict he said he would issue a new decision approving the plan.

McCann told the East County Times that he and his client had not yet made a decision on whether or not to appeal the decision. read more

The kids aren’t alright: Community tries to curtail mayhem outside Krauszer’s

The kids aren’t alright: Community tries to curtail mayhem outside Krauszer’s
The Krauszer's convenience store at 321 Stemmers Run Road in Essex has been the site of many neighborhood disturbances, several of which were caused by large groups of Kenwood High School students. Photo by Devin Crum.
(Updated 6/27/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Before last school year began, Baltimore County Police officials met with Baltimore County Public School officials, Councilman Todd Crandell, a few community leaders and Nick Patel, the owner of Krauszer’s Food Store located at the corner of Stemmer’s Run Road and Marlyn Avenue in Essex. The meeting centered around ways to help solve the issue of students run amok around Krauszer’s and the community at large.

Before and after school at Kenwood - and oftentimes during school hours - it is not uncommon to see scores of teens hanging around Krauszer’s. It is also not uncommon to see fights break out, smell marijuana hanging in the air, see public urination, littering and more.

Captain Doug Irwin of the Essex precinct told a large group of community members last week at a meeting that after that meeting, he had patrols stepped up around the area, which helped to alleviate some of the issues - albeit temporarily. As the school year wound down weeks ago, trouble began to reemerge.

Irwin told the crowd gathered at Tabernacle Baptist Church last Tuesday, June 19, that heat maps are used to determine areas that are more heavily patrolled. The more calls the police receive from a certain area, the more likely they are to see an increase in patrol after Irwin studies his heat map, which he does frequently. Eventually, patrol units that had been posted near Krauszer’s at the beginning of the year were moved elsewhere, based off of the data.

And when the patrol units moved, it was back to square one.

Irwin, along with BCPS leadership, Kenwood principal Brian Powell and Stemmer’s Run Middle School principal Bryan Thanner, are trying to figure out a way to solve the problem while keeping all parties involved happy - a tall order given the circumstances.

There are times when arrests are made, but even when there are repercussions, they often do not have the deterring effect one would hope.

When Irwin was asked by attendees at the meeting about what they could do to help, his response was simple - “You’re doing it right now.”

But Irwin also took a very grounded approach, telling the attendees that the juvenile justice system has very glaring flaws.

“The Essex precinct is not light on arrests,” said Irwin, telling the crowd that as of that morning they had registered 866 arrests on the year. “We’ll arrest them if they need arresting.”

Identifying the issues is easy, but finding a solution has proved to be difficult. At last year’s meeting with school officials, a few potential fixes were proposed. Suggestions included using a high-pitched frequency that can only be heard by young ears to drive off students, as well as more drastic measures like closing down the store. Eventually, Patel was asked if it was possible to close his store for an hour as Kenwood’s day was beginning, and for an hour at the end of the school day. Patel told the East County Times that even if he did close down as had been suggested, there would still be trouble.

“They can come at any time,” said Patel. “A lot of students are just wandering around during the school day, not just the beginning and end. They just go where they want to, sometimes 50 or 100 of them at a time.”

Community members at last week’s meeting empathized with Patel, saying that he was a typical business owner trying to make a living who has to deal with a problem he did not create.

“If you go and talk to the owner, you’ll see that these issues are bad for him too,” said one attendee.

Patel, who has owned Krauszer’s for 16 years, said he feels that it is up to Kenwood to control the issue.

“When we ask [Kenwood] to control it, we’re told that school isn’t in the store so they can’t do much.”

But Powell is hamstrung as well. When students are off school grounds, there is very little he can do. Truancy is taken very seriously at Kenwood, with Powell sometimes checking the areas surrounding Kenwood himself. But, as he told the crowd, it is a small percentage of students that are engaging in untoward behavior, and he has well over a thousand other students to look after.

“We have 1,630 kids in the building. We’re talking about 30 - 40 that sometimes aren’t making the best choices,” said Powell. “I can’t neglect the 1,550 other students that are in the building... but I share your frustration.”

A regular at Krauszer’s, who requested anonymity, told the East County Times that he sees the problems as widespread.

“It just seems like a generation out of control to me,” said the former Kenwood graduate. He went on to note that it is not uncommon for him to see physical altercations and kids harassing each other. “You got to respect people. I don’t even think they have respect for each other.” read more

BRRC golf tournament rained out, but still a great time for a great cause

BRRC golf tournament rained out, but still a great time for a great cause
Tim Crumrine (left) of Annapolis, George Hilton from Dunkirk, and Martin Bentz and Chris DeBoy from Pasadena ended up taking second place in the tournament. They all expressed excitement to be playing the Rocky Point course right on the waterfront, despite the threat of rain.
(Updated 6/27/18)

- By Devin Crum -

Spirits were high Friday morning, June 22, for the start of one of the Back River Restoration Committee’s annual fundraisers, despite the threat of inclement weather.

Although it would have been hard to beat - or even match - last year’s explosion of registrants for the BRRC’s annual golf tournament at Rocky Point Golf Course in Essex, this year still saw nearly 100 golfers descend on the public course to raise money toward the health of Back River and the Chesapeake Bay. And come tee time, participants were eager to get out onto the course.

The event, which had 61 sponsors in total, enjoyed another morning of breakfast donated by Sharon Porter - who is related to BRRC President Sam Weaver - and the Porter family.

Brewer’s Landing in Essex also donated all of the day’s beverages for another consecutive year and sponsored the Master’s Beverage Cart which delivered cold and delicious refreshment to golfers on the course.

Finally, Herb’s Catering donated their time to cook all the food for lunch after the tournament was over.

Coming in third in the tournament standings was the foursome of Brandon Vaughn, Shawn Stotler, Matt Libber and Sean Mallonee. They followed the second-place team of Tim Crumrine, George Hilton, Chris DeBoy and Martin Bentz.

And the first-place foursome for this year’s tournament included Art Comer, Dave Corak, Ben Phelps and Tyler White.

Taking home other accolades from the day were Trish Re for the Ladies Longest Drive, Ben Phelps with the Mens Longest Drive, Art Comer with the Seniors Longest Drive, Tom Kersch winning Mens Closest to the Pin, and Karla Kavanagh with Ladies Closest to the Pin.

Weather has been a tricky obstacle throughout the event’s six-year history, with several of the events seeing rain or the threat of it.

Weaver, the BRRC president, said they could have attracted more golfers to register, and raise more funds, if the spring and summer so far had not been so wet and if the forecast was not calling for rain.

“We probably would have had half a dozen more foursomes if they were calling for better weather,” he said.

Although the rain picked up in earnest around the time golfers were on their 13th holes, both Weaver and Executive Director Karen Wynn considered the event a success.

A total of 93 golfers helped to raise between $9,000 and $9,500 in commitments for the organization which will go toward continuing its mission of cleaning up Back River and its 55-square-mile watershed, according to Wynn.

“Despite the rain, it was still a great day,” she said. “Everybody I spoke to said they had a great time.”

She said some golfers even played through the rain and finished the course.

The weather even cleared up around lunch time, according to Wynn, and she heard only positive remarks from all involved. read more

Lafarge site future uncertain, but residents know what they don’t want to see there

Lafarge site future uncertain, but residents know what they don’t want to see there
Surrounding communities are concerned about what could be done with the massive Lafarge site in Middle River. Image courtesy of Google.
(Updated 6/27/18)

- By Devin Crum -

The owners of the nearly 400-acre Lafarge quarry site, located at 633 Earls Road in Middle River, have been mum about what will happen with the property when they finish with it, but certain community leaders have been paying close attention for any news on the subject.

Hearing rumors about major development plans proposed for the site but no feedback or reassurance from Lafarge prompted the Essex-Middle River Civic Council to send a letter to a company representative back in April outlining what they would like to see done with the property.

To date, the council, an umbrella group which represents 20 separate community organizations, had not received any response from Lafarge, according to EMRCC President Bob Bendler.

The letter noted that area communities have endured substantial truck traffic from the quarrying operation, and they are now experiencing the same traffic associated with dumping of fill material to fill the quarry in.

“Given the local road system’s limitations and having experienced the negative impact of the traffic generated by the quarry’s past operations, we have serious concerns about the impact of future development of the property,” Bendler wrote in the letter. “Stopping the existing truck traffic will be a welcome relief, but it should not be replaced with unwarranted traffic from future development.”

Richard Freedman, regional manager of Environment and Land Services for Aggregate Industries, a subsidiary of Lafarge, to whom EMRCC’s letter was sent, told the East County Times that the company does not currently have plans for the site’s future since it is still being mined for sand and gravel.

“There are still mineral reserves to be removed,” he said. He could not give solid numbers for how much material is still being mined from the site, but said that part of the operation will still be in progress for at least a couple of years. “It depends on what material we find and on market demand.”

Freedman confirmed, though, that the site is approaching the end of its life as a quarry, and as it does so they have begun filling it back in with clean dirt.

“But I can’t tell you [how long that would take], because we don’t know,” he said, only stating that it would be “a number of years.

“There were many years of mining and the site should be brought back to grade,” he said, noting that the roughly 385-acre property will be filled back in with “not more than” the same volume of material as was mined out.

While he confirmed the company has received “unsolicited” offers for the property, Freedman said it is not listed for sale, and they are not currently considering any of the offers.

Two developers also confirmed to the Times that they proposed development concepts to Lafarge in order to buy the property.

Conor Gilligan of Glen Burnie-based Craftsmen Developers said he offered more than the asking price - reportedly anywhere between $10 million and $40 million - with a “pretty reasonable” closing schedule, hoping to spark the company’s interest and get him to the front of the line for consideration.

Gilligan said his plan would be “kind of like another Greenleigh,” referring to the massive mixed-use development currently underway nearby on MD Route 43 which includes about 1,800 homes.

“The only thing different for my project is [there would be] a lot more environmental preservation,” he said, adding that he would also set aside land for public purposes, such as recreational fields or a school, and they had a traffic plan to address five troubled or failing intersections in the area.

“But again, it’s all from 100,000 feet,” he said.

Athan Sunderland, a partner with Towson-based Huntley Sports Group, said he also submitted a plan to purchase and develop the quarry site in a way that largely mirrored what they looked to build on MD Route 43, “but with more community park space.”

The Route 43 project would have seen a sports complex built including several artificial turf fields for the purpose of hosting special events such as club soccer and lacrosse tournaments. However, financing for that project fell through before it came to fruition.

“We were looking at creating a reforestation and wetlands preserve of about 150 acres, a passive park for the community of about 50 to 100 acres and then the recreational component of about 50 to 100 acres,” Sunderland explained.

A joint report from Baltimore County’s departments of Planning, Economic and Workforce Development, Public Works, and Environmental Protection and Sustainability looked at the Lafarge site’s ultimate development potential, noting that it is located within a growing area with a stable housing market, offers opportunity for higher-wage and manufacturing jobs, has access to public water and sewer, is not within a deficient traffic shed, and is mostly outside the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area with few environmental constraints.

The report also noted, though, that any future development would need to be carefully planned and designed to remain compatible with the area, it would take time to reclaim and redevelop the site, the county roads surrounding the site are overburdened, providing sewer service could be costly and difficult because the soil is not stable, and the large size of the site would likely require substantial forest conservation planting.

However, the EMRCC letter expressed concerns about other infrastructure impacts from overdevelopment of the site and recommended any development there be “severely” limited and exclude any residential.

“The abundance of residential, commercial and industrial construction in process along Route 43, plus development in the pipeline at Lockheed Martin, the Federal Depot site, the mini-storage facility on Eastern Boulevard and others in close proximity, is more than enough to meet current and foreseeable demand,” Bendler wrote. “In essence, we feel that no additional substantial development is needed or desired here.

“We wish to have as much of the area returned to its original pre-excavation condition,” the letter continued. “Returning a substantial portion of the property to a forested and/or wetlands area, with as much as possible placed in environmental conservation, would seem to be a reasonable return to nature for all that Lafarge has reaped from the land for many years.”

Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents Middle River, said she was aware of the two development proposals but had not held any meetings with the developers about them.

She said she also does not want to see residential development of the site, but stopped short of saying she would not allow it.

The Lafarge site is mostly zoned for industrial uses which do not allow residential, so a residential development would require rezoning or a planned unit development (PUD), either of which would need approval from the councilwoman.

“I don’t really think residential is a good fit for there,” Bevins said in the context of Greenleigh. “I think it’s too close and I really would like to either see jobs there or some nice green space. I think we have enough housing.”

Going further, Bendler said EMRCC has discussed requesting a rezoning of the property for more environmentally friendly uses or even requesting movement of the Urban-Rural Demarcation Line inward to fully exclude the site from the urban district. read more

Marine Trades Association set to host fireworks after five-year absence

Marine Trades Association set to host fireworks after five-year absence
Fireworks again exploded in the skies over Middle River this year, just as they did in this file photo from the show in 2013.
(Updated 6/27/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Five years ago the Marine Trades Association of Baltimore County (MTABC) stopped hosting their annual Fourth of July fireworks show. But after that brief hiatus, the MTABC is back, with their celebration set for Saturday, June 30.

The fireworks will be set off from Middle River, just east of Wilson Point. While there is not a public viewing area, MTABC leader Brian Schneider said that the fireworks will be visible for thousands, particularly for those watching from around Hogpen, Norman, Hopkins, Dark Head, Stansbury and Frog Mortar Creeks.

“Almost every home owner on the water will be able to watch,” said Schneider. “Not every owner but almost.”

The fireworks are set to go off at about 9:17 p.m., and the show will last approximately 17 minutes with fireworks being shot nonstop from start to finish, which Schneider described as “intense.”

“There’ll be no lag time. We’re shooting for 17 minutes,” said Schneider.

Fireworks Extravaganza is handling the shoot, and Schneider said he has been told that the MTABC will “have one of the best shoots in the state.”

“These guys won a big shoot in China, so these guys are good,” Schneider added.

Last year the Middle River community was left without a fireworks display for  the first time in at least two decades, prompting outcry from the community. As they have in many endeavours, the MTABC stepped up to the plate. And while they are happy to lead the charge once again, Schneider emphasized that the community needs to step up as well.

The cost to put on the show is pretty hefty. Schneider said that the cost could approach $50,000, and with a downpayment needed to secure the shooter for next year’s display, the MTABC is hoping that community members - especially those in the viewing area - step up with donations.

“This is an extremely expensive undertaking. We’ve committed that whatever we don’t collect via donations we pull out of our pocket,” said Schneider. “We’re willing to do that for the community, but the community needs to step up.”

If the MTABC does not get a strong donor response, next year’s display could already be in jeopardy. But there are also broader implications. The MTABC donates a lot of money to community groups throughout the year, including the Back River Restoration Committee, Stembridge baseball, the Wounded Warrior Project and more. They also provide environmental scholarships for students.

“Some of these people count on this money year after year,” said Schneider.

Despite uncertainty for the future, this year promises to be special. On Thursday afternoon, the barge from which the show is launched will arrive in Middle River. In the past, Jack Deckelman towed the barge into the river. Deckelman passed away in 2016, but his son, Jeff, is carrying on the tradition.

According to Schneider there will be a little parade to honor Deckelman and his contributions to the event and community as a whole. The barge is slated to arrive around 4 p.m.

Donations can be sent to: MTABC, P.O. Box 18137, Middle River, MD 21220. read more

Preservation grant pays for window restoration at Todd’s Inheritance

Preservation grant pays for window restoration at Todd’s Inheritance
A total of 12 panes were replaced in the Todd house’s second-story windows before being professionally reglazed. Courtesy photo.
(Updated 6/27/18)

- By Marge Neal -

Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site in Edgemere is the proud recipient of 12 newly replaced window panes in second-story windows thanks to a grant from the Preservation Alliance of Baltimore County.

The gift of $1,000 from the preservation group enabled Todd’s Inheritance volunteers to fix the windows that had been previously boarded up, according to Board of Directors member Fran Taylor.

Todd volunteers accepted the gift at the Preservation Alliance’s annual reception, held this year at the historic Emory Grove Hotel in Glyndon on June 21.

Taylor said his group was grateful to County Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7) for spreading the word about the grant program.

“And of course we were very happy to be named a grant recipient,” he said.

While the group formally accepted the money at last week’s reception, the work on the historic homestead has been completed, Taylor said.

Three second-story windows, each with nine panes of glass, needed a total of 12 panes replaced and reglazed, according to Taylor.

“We were fortunate to be able to replace the glass with historic glass from Foulke’s Farm,” he said of a neighboring piece of property. “He had a box of old glass and let us use it for our replacement panes.”

The find of old glass kept the cost of the project down, Taylor said: “All we had to pay for was a glazer to do the work.”

The Preservation Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services to individuals, organizations and communities interested in historic preservation and restoration, according to its website.

Executive Director Patricia Bentz and organization volunteers help interested parties to research and document the historic significance of buildings, sites and neighborhoods; plan intervention and rescue strategies when historic buildings are threatened; award annual grants for research, preservation, planning and restoration projects; offer public workshops on preservation and restoration; and help property owners prepare and submit nominations to the National Register of Historic Places and Baltimore County Landmarks List, according to the site.

The grant allowed Todd’s Inheritance to check off one more needed repair on the historic homestead that played a vital role in the Battle of North Point during the War of 1812.

“We have a lot of irons in the fire,” Taylor said of the dedicated group of Todd volunteers. “We have Scouts working on projects to restore the porch and gardens, for one.”

Volunteers are also raising funds to complete the restoration of the second floor (now closed to the public) and also to replace the heating system.

Taylor invited the public to the site’s next open house, set for July 14 and 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Our theme is ‘Parks and Trails,’ and we’ve invited DNR police and other guest speakers for the weekend,” he said.

Admission is $10 for adults 16 and older; $7 for senior adults 60 and older and free for children 15 and under. Annual family memberships, which allow unlimited visits, cost $30. read more

Early voting sets the stage for nail-biter elections

Early voting sets the stage for nail-biter elections
Early voters flocked to the Honeygo Run Community Center over the last week to cast their vote for the primary election. While a large contingent of voters remain undecided, thousands have already made their voices heard at the booths. Photo by Patrick Taylor.
(Updated 6/20/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

With primary elections set for Tuesday, June 26, thousands of Baltimore County residents have cast their votes early.

The Honeygo Run Community Center and the Randallstown early voting location have seen the highest turnouts, with voters from all across the county converging on the early voting site.

“Getting people to know we have new sites up around the county is a bit difficult,” said Ruie Lavoie, who acts as administrator at the Honeygo site.

Lavoie said that through the first five days of early voting things had gone relatively smoothly, with no real issues to speak of.

“Really I just make sure that things flow as they should, and every now and then I have to make sure there aren’t volunteers electioneering” in prohibited areas, Lavoie said before turning to a volunteer for Pat McDonough, a Republican candidate for county executive, and telling her that she needs to stay behind the line.

“I’m just going to the bathroom,” the volunteer replied.

“You still need to stay out of this area,” Lavoie replied before pointing out the appropriate route.

Lavoie said that the weekend had been slow at Honeygo, which seemed to be the sentiment at other polling locations in Dundalk and Middle River. Even neglecting the expected Father’s Day weekend downturn, turnout was low at the Victory Villa Community Center polling location in Middle River.

“It’s hard to reach people here,” said Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who was campaigning outside of Victory Villa during the morning hours of June 18 along with Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive. Aside from turnout being relatively slow in Middle River, the layout is not exactly conducive to reaching the voters as a candidate, they said.

After spending a couple of hours in Middle River, the two Democrats were off to Honeygo where turnout was higher and the layout allows for more interaction.

“At Honeygo we actually get to communicate with people as they make their way into the polling center,” Bevins said. “I always run like I’m losing, so I’ll be [at the polling locations] everyday. We get to remind them one last time.”

Almond told the East County Times that she was feeling confident heading into the home stretch of a tight race. The last poll conducted byThe Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore showed State Senator Jim Brochin leading Almond by eight points and former delegate Johnny Olszewski, Jr. by 16 points.

“Our momentum has really picked up recently,” said Almond, giving credit to a media blitz and picking up key endorsements from the local police and teachers unions. “We didn’t peak too soon.”

While the numbers are good news for Brochin, both Almond and Olszewski have reason to be optimistic. A large portion of Brochin supporters had made up their mind about their vote long ago, while Almond has seen an uptick in recently decided voters. The Sun/UB poll showed about 30 percent of Democratic voters remained undecided, which was good news for Almond as she looked to increase her numbers. Since the poll was released two weeks ago, Olszewski picked up the endorsement of The Baltimore Sun editorial board, which could prove to be the boost the Dundalk native needs to make it out of the primary.

“That endorsement really got [the campaign] pumped up,” Olszewski said as he courted voters outside of Honeygo. “It’s a real game changer and over the last few days we’ve seen that it’s helped solidify some previously undecided voters.”

Olszewski said with so many voters still undecided and with the last polling taking place on June 9, The Sun/UB poll was likely outdated. He said his team of volunteers - about 50 or 60 people - have been working tirelessly to bridge the gap. Olszewski also added that he and his campaign staff have spoken to many who have changed their allegiances over the past couple of weeks.

“I think it’ll be a close race,” he said. “And when you can pull votes from your opponents it’s especially good.”

On the Republican side, McDonough and Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer are locked in a virtual dead heat in the race the party’s nomination for county executive. McDonough enjoyed about a five-point lead, but the numbers were essentially within the margin of error. And even moreso than Brochin on the Democratic side, a staggering number of Republicans who support McDonough made up their minds long ago. Of McDonough’s supporters, 61 percent said their decision had been made weeks or even months before.

Redmer, on the other hand, has enjoyed a surge much like Almond’s, with 63 percent of his supporters deciding on the Governor Larry Hogan-endorsed candidate in the last few weeks.

During Maryland’s last gubernatorial election in 2014, early voting accounted for over 20,000 ballots cast, or a fifth of the total votes cast in the 2014 primary. On the first day of early voting this year, the early voting rose by 53 percent across the state. Since early voting was enacted in 2010, more Marylanders have been using it to cast their vote each election cycle. Most cite the convenience and ability to avoid lengthy lines on election day.

“It went very quickly, very easily,” said Marion Souljak. “I hope it goes that smoothly in the fall.”

The primary election is set for Tuesday, June 26. The winners will face off in the Nov. 6 general election. read more

More housing under construction at busy White Marsh intersection

More housing under construction at busy White Marsh intersection
Traffic at the intersection of MD-7/Philadelphia Road and Cowenton Avenue backs up heavily in the evenings, particularly in the eastbound direction on Philadelphia Road. SHA says light cycle adjustments and an added through lane could help solve the problem. File photo.
(Updated 6/20/18)

Pending signal changes expected to ease traffic backups

 - By Virginia Terhune -

With development continuing unabated in White Marsh, officials hope that upgrades to traffic signals at Philadelphia Road/MD-7 and Cowenton Avenue/Ebenezer Road, set to take effect this month, will ease the chronic backups caused by commuters.

Meanwhile, local business owners and residents fear things could get worse with construction now under way for the Cowenton South apartment complex and an addition to the An-Nur Foundation mosque on opposite corners of the intersection. Also under construction is the nearby Chapel Knoll Estates development of single-family houses off Cowenton.

Traffic routinely backs up at the intersection during the evening rush hour, in part because there is no right-turn lane onto Ebenezer Road toward Pulaski Highway/US-40, Chase and Middle River. That means a driver waiting to turn right has to wait for the light to change if they are behind someone heading east through the intersection.

Adding to routine congestion are occasions when traffic backs up on Ebenezer due to the CSX train crossing or worshippers leaving the mosque after services on Fridays and religious holidays.

On Friday morning, June 15, for example, county police and members of the mosque were on hand to direct traffic out of the parking lot following the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, a month-long period of religious fasting.

The previous Friday, a traffic accident on nearby Interstate 95 diverted traffic to Philadelphia Road, according to Sarah Halford, owner of Global Substation Services, an industrial electrical services company located on the northeast corner of the intersection.

“There were tons of near misses, horns honking and people being rude,” said Halford, who sat through three signal changes to make it through the intersection to the White Marsh post office on Ebenezer Road. The drive took 12 minutes, about the same amount of time it takes to walk there, she said.

Meanwhile, commercial projects are proceeding nearby on Philadelphia Road on the other side of White Marsh Boulevard/MD-43.

Rising on the Nottingham Ridge site is a Nissan car dealership, Royal Farms store, four retail buildings totaling 23,448 square feet and a 118-room hotel, according to the MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate webpage.

Another developer is also planning a hotel adjacent to the TIC Gums company next to MD-43, according to county records.

In addition to signal upgrades, the Maryland State Highway Administration proposes to take land on the south side of Philadelphia Road to create another lane at the intersection that would allow through traffic and right turns at the same time, but there is presently no money allocated for the project which could take years.

A better solution, some say, is to build the planned eastbound ramp off Philadelphia Road to White Marsh Boulevard which would have been done in conjunction with the Paragon Outlets project that never materialized.

“The ramp would improve conditions at the intersection,” said Michael Connelly, vice president of the White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company located on Ebenezer Road across from the mosque. “It would assist the fire department by reducing response times.”

The White Marsh station will relocate to a new site on Philadelphia Road across from Nottingham Ridge this fall, a decision that was made assuming the eastbound ramp would be built.

“When we first picked the site, the ramp was scheduled to go in,” Connelly said.

Until a ramp is built, the only way to respond to a call from Middle River will be to go through the Cowenton/Ebenezer intersection or go down Philadelphia Road to Middle River Road.

“Years ago, this area was designated a growth area, and [developers] are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, but we need to keep up the infrastructure,” Connelly said.

County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, whose district includes the troubled intersection, said she is still pushing for the eastbound ramp onto White Marsh Boulevard, which would also serve the rapidly developing Greenleigh at Crossroads site of office and retail space and about 1,800 homes.

Roughly 10,000 jobs are expected along MD-43, but there has to be the infrastructure in place to accommodate the growth, she said.

In the meantime, the signal upgrades coming by June 30 are expected to get five to six more cars through the intersection with each light change, said Bevins, who has also met with Keelty Homes about building the Cowenton South apartments in two phases instead of building them all at once.

“They were supposed to be for sale condos targeted to people [aged] 55 plus, but now they’re for rent [potentially drawing] families with students,” Bevins said. “Hopefully we’ll get the funding [for the through lane] before phase two,” she said.

Earlier developers of the 57-acre site had originally planned to build flex office/commercial buildings, but that was replaced with the condo plan and the present plan for apartments.

Keelty’s Chapel Knoll Estates on the north side of Cowenton is a subdivision of 48 new single-family houses that borders the existing Fields at Perry Hall subdivision. A representative from Keelty did not respond to several requests for comment, but a sales packet shows prices starting at $502,400.

Work has begun at the north end of the company’s Cowenton South complex of 311 apartments in 11 buildings ranging in height from three to five stories that will include a community center and swimming pool.

Additionally, plans show a retail corner at Cowenton and Philadelphia Road with access off Cowenton and space for two buildings totaling 12,860 square feet of retail and restaurant space, plus 129 parking spaces.

As required by the state, Keelty has already built at its own expense a right-turn lane from Cowenton onto Philadelphia Road, which is complete and operational.

Halford questioned whether improvements would be made to the intersection to make it easier for residents from the apartments, for example, to walk to the post office or to the Royal Farms store on Pulaski Highway.

Mosque addition
Members of the An-Nur Foundation mosque also did not respond to several requests for comment, but a plan flled with the county shows a 15,558-square-foot addition to an existing 8,400-square-foot building. Planned uses are not specified, and Halford questioned whether the mosque plans to open a Monday-through-Friday school.

The plan notes space for 404 worshippers and 118 parking spaces, as well as improvements that the county is requiring along Ebenezer Road, such as new curb and gutter, a sidewalk and landscaping.

When the Foundation bought the five-acre property from the bankrupt Schaefer & Strohminger car dealership in 2010, there were three buildings on-site. The former auto repair shop was leased to Lords Collison Experts, but the building burned down in January 2016, leaving the showroom where prayers are currently held and the auto body shop, where the addition will be built.

A public hearing scheduled for May 31 in Towson was continued to make time for a suggested informational meeting between the mosque and members of the White Marsh-Cowenton Community Association and the Bird River Restoration Campaign who attended the hearing.

As of Friday, a date had not been set yet and association members had not returned requests for comment.

Both Halford and Connelly said the mosque draws traffic to the area on Fridays, but the main problem continues to be the current design of the intersection, which does not have the capacity to handle the evening rush hour traffic heading east.

“[The mosque] could be farmland and the intersection would still be a problem,” Connelly said. read more

Summer lunch program encourages library engagement, staves off youth hunger

Summer lunch program encourages library engagement, staves off youth hunger
(Updated 6/20/18)

- By Marge Neal -

In an effort to minimize child hunger and to familiarize residents with programs and services offered by Baltimore County Public Libraries, several local branches are offering free lunches Monday through Friday through Aug. 24.

Summer slide, or summer learning loss, is a well-documented phenomenon in which children - especially those in lower-income families - tend to lose some of the academic achievement gains they made in the previous school year.

Some studies suggest vulnerable students lose an average of one month of learning, which costs considerable instruction time at the start of each new school year to bring students back up to the academic levels they were at in June.

Offering summer lunches in neighborhood libraries is a “great opportunity to engage these kids, and to find out what they’re interested in so we can offer programs that would be relevant to them,” according to BCPL spokeswoman Erica Palmisano.

Lunches will be offered Monday through Friday at 10 branches, including Essex (1 p.m.), North Point (noon), Rosedale (12:30 p.m.) and White Marsh (noon) on the east side. Children and teenagers 18 and younger are eligible for the meals free of charge and without applications or registration.

It is the hope of library officials that children taking advantage of the free meals will spend time at the library reading, working on computers and taking advantage of other library offerings to keep their brains limber and ready for a new school year.

“We are part of the Baltimore County Food Coalition and our primary goal is to not have kids going hungry over the summer,” said Marisa Conner, the library system’s manager of youth and family engagement. “But another goal is to prevent summer slide, so we have a lot of casual programming taking place before and after lunch.”

Lunch participants are encouraged to participate in the Summer Reading Club and can also take advantage of a variety of STEM, literacy and arts programming, according to Conner.

“Our librarians really do a great job putting together a total package of lunch and activities for the children,” Conner said. “We triple our programs during the summer because many children and their families don’t have free options.”

Because many studies show the direct connection between good nutrition and successful student achievement, it is important to fight childhood hunger when schools are closed, according to state education officials.

In many lower-income communities, the free school meals might be the only meals children get, or may be the most nutritionally balanced meals they eat throughout the week.

“The summer meals program fills the hunger gap with healthy meals during the summer,” said Bruce Schnenkel, a program specialist with the Maryland State Department of Education’s school and community nutrition program. “Well-fed students are better prepared to start the new school year ready to learn.”

The free meals also play a critical role in households where parents are struggling financially to feed their children, according to Schnenkel and Conner. When children are eating two of three daily meals in school, the family’s food budget is more manageable. If those two meals go away in the summer, a family’s food budget is stressed beyond capacity, they said.
The summer meal program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is funneled through the MSDE, which provides oversight of the effort.

“Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation and we need all the help we can get to help spread the word that these meals are available,” said Sarah Kilby, also a program specialist with the state’s school and community nutrition programs.

While Maryland’s meal programs are in the top 10 in the nation for numbers served, the program is “historically under-utilized,” according to Schnenkel.

“We could be serving many more children,” he said. “The challenge in the summer is, ‘where are these kids?’ During the school year, we know where they are; in the summer, they could be staying with relatives or be at home with instructions from parents not to leave the house.”

In addition to libraries and schools, the state education officials coordinate with community organizations, recreation centers, summer camps and other organizations to distribute food.

“We even have mobile programs that take food into communities where residents might not have the ability to get to where free meals are being offered,” Schnenkel said.

A study released June 13 by the Food Research and Action Center highlights concern that recent decreased participation in summer meal programs puts more low-income children at risk of food insecurity.

The study shows that after significant program growth from 2011-2015, the summer of 2016 saw a drop of 153,000 in children served while 14,000 fewer students were served in 2017.

While 20 million students nationally participate in free or reduced-cost meals during the school year, only three million children received a nutritious meal on an average weekday in July 2017, according to FRAC.

“It’s time to redouble efforts to ensure more low-income children have access to summer meals sites where they can eat healthy foods, learn and play in a safe environment,” FRAC President Jim Weill said in a summary of the study.

FRAC’s “ambitious but achievable” goal is to reach 40 children through the summer nutrition program for every 100 children who received free or reduced-cost meals during the 2016-17 school year.

During the summer of 2016, Maryland reached 23.6 children for every 100 who received subsidized meals during the previous school year, according to FRAC statistics. The program served 68,767 children during July 2016, and would need to serve another 48,974 students to achieve the ratio goal of 40 percent, according to the study.

Forty-seven sponsors served meals at 1,455 sites in Maryland during the summer of 2016, at a total federal cost of $8.5 million, according to FRAC.

County library staffers served 9,140 lunches during the summer of 2017, according to Palmisano.

In addition to library sites, breakfast and lunch will be served at 27 county public schools, including 12 in the East County Times’ coverage area, from July 9 through Aug. 3. read more

Perry Hall Town Fair aims to bring businesses, residents together

Perry Hall Town Fair aims to bring businesses, residents together
Visitors patronize businesses and other vendors at the Perry Hall/White Marsh Town Fair, enjoying the event's street-fair atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Lynn Richardson.
(Updated 6/20/18)

- By Marge Neal -

If you are looking for some family fun this weekend, Perry Hall is the place to be.

Back for the 22nd year, The Perry Hall/White Marsh Town Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 23, along Ebenezer Road near Perry Hall High School (4601 Ebenezer Road).

“While the fair has changed a lot over the years to stay current, our original mission was to have a community event that brought businesses and the community together,” organizer Lynn Richardson said. “And that remains our mission.”

The fair is a blend of local business vendors, government agencies and community organizations, entertainment and attractions like carnival games and laser tag, live animal exhibits and clowns. Richardson estimates that as much as 70 percent of vendor participation comes from locally owned and operated businesses.

After 22 years, Richardson has a lot of good stories to tell, including the tale of Scrapple the pig escaping from an animal enclosure and having to be chased down and tackled to return him to the pen.

Bureaucratic changes have made it harder to procure permits and fair space, and weather has wreaked havoc on an event or two, but the fair has persevered and a lot of money from fair proceeds have been channeled to various community efforts, programs and scholarships, according to Richardson.

Since the Perry Hall/White Marsh Business Association became the event’s primary presenter in 2003, Richardson estimates that $120,000 has gone to community organizations and efforts. In 2017, the business association created a partnering community foundation through which it funnels profits and awards grants to community organizations, including the White Marsh Volunteer Fire Department, local Scout troops and churches, Civil Air Patrol and an annual scholarship now named for Richardson.

The fair will be held along Ebenezer Road, with some activities, including parking, entertainment and the food court, on the Perry Hall High School campus. Ebenezer Road is blocked off by county police and is closed to traffic so residents can enjoy the street festival atmosphere the fair provides, Richardson said.

While admission to the fair is free, there is a charge for some activities, including carnival rides, according to Richardson. Food and beverages will be sold.

“It really is a great way to bring the community together,” Richardson said. “Because we are a business association, we want our businesses to actually make money. Our vendor fees are very reasonable and the costs for the few activities we charge for are very reasonable. It’s a great, fun, family-friendly community event.” read more

Rosedale brewery celebrates 20 years in business

Rosedale brewery celebrates 20 years in business
RavenBeer founder Stephen Demczuk explained their process of brewing beer during a tour of the facility at the anniversary event. Photo by Devin Crum.
(Updated 6/13/18)

- By Devin Crum -

RavenBeer, a well-known name in some craft beer circles, celebrated two full decades in business last Thursday, June 7, with the release of a special 20th Anniversary version of their namesake beer variety at their Rosedale headquarters.

Many craft beer drinkers may be familiar with the RavenBeer brand - and its flagship Raven Special Lager - which has been based in the Baltimore area since 1998. But for its birthday, founder Stephen Demczuk decided to re-create the brew into the 20th Anniversary Raven Special Lager Premium Edition.

Demczuk, a Dundalk native, described the new lager in a statement about the release as “... a bit fruity, a little more hoppy with a 6.5 percent ABV [alcohol by volume], more than our 5.3 percent Raven.”

The premium edition was brewed by adding German noble and Columbus hops, which provide a spicy or herbal aroma, and removing much of the darker malts which provide color, flavor and body. The end result is a blonder, yet still exceptionally smooth lager that tastes reminiscent of a Belgian blonde ale, according to the statement.

RavenBeer, by way of Demczuk and his partner, Brian Funk, has strong eastern Baltimore County connections, but only recently moved to the area.

Although originally produced in the Black Forest region of Germany, RavenBeer unveiled The Raven in the U.S. in 1998, brewing out of the Clipper City (now Heavy Seas) brewery in Baltimore. The brand helped build the Peabody Heights brewery in northern Baltimore and relocated there in 2012 before moving into DuClaw’s brewery in Rosedale late last year.

Demczuk, who grew up living in Turner Station and then West Inverness and graduted from Patapsco High School, told the East County Times that he has always liked beer. He cultivated his fondness for the drink in college while he polished his education in biochemistry and microbiology.

He went to Europe after graduate school and, “To make a long story short, I just fell in love with the beer over there,” he said.

He began writing about beer and eventually made several forays into brewing his own in different locations between the U.S. and Europe before being approached by someone asking him to brew beer in Germany but market it with an American theme.

Playing on his Baltimore heritage and being a fan of Edgar Allen Poe, Demczuk wanted to call the first beer The Raven after Poe’s famous literary work. The beer was a success, and after a few years he brought it to the U.S. and established RavenBeer in Baltimore.

The total brewing capacity of the Rosedale brewery is about 80,000 barrels - or 160,000 kegs - of beer per year, but RavenBeer only produces a fraction of that, putting out what Demczuk hopes will be around 4,000 barrels this year.

The partners each described an overwhelmingly positive experience since moving in with DuClaw.

Funk, also a Dundalk native who is an environmental engineer by trade but got his start in beer as a home brewer, said when they separated the brand from Peabody Heights they were looking for stabilized production and expansion capabilities.

“That’s how we came to look at DuClaw,” he said. “We looked at perhaps building our own brewery again, but we had a good relationship with DuClaw and they had the capacity and the quality of their production system that matched very nicely to what we were trying to do.”

“They are very open in making beer and open to try new things, and the quality of the beer is very good,” Demczuk added. “They actually encourage [us] to brew beer and get beer in the tank and sell beer which is very interesting,” he said, considering they are technically competition.

But he said there is room to grow at the current location. And regarding that future growth, the partners are thinking local.

“Everything is local now,” Demczuk said. “Those who have spread far and wide and are shipping to other states have seen some decline in sales because [of local competition].”

As an example, he said there are more than 200 breweries in North Carolina.

“You have a lot of choices down there. So buying a beer from Baltimore, Philly or New York, it’s going to be difficult to sell,” he said.

Demczuk added that the “buy local,” farm-to-table movement happening in the U.S. also carries over into supporting your local brewery.

“So our focus is to really hammer on the local sales in Baltimore, Maryland in general and D.C., because that’s where the growth should be,” he said.

Funk echoed that, noting that they now feel they have the support needed to look progressively at marketing in areas they might have been hesitant to pursue in the past. He said they want to solidify their presence in Maryland and the region.

“This is our home, this is where we’ve been, the obvious Poe connection, [Demczuk] and I are both from Dundalk, we love the Baltimore area,” Funk said.

He said they have done well over the years, “but there are still people that haven’t heard of us because we haven’t been as aggressive as some other breweries in our marketing and our outreach.”

Demczuk said they are looking to release more new beer varieties in the near future as well, including a series of cask-style beers with one released each quarter.

“It’s no longer like our fathers’ beers in the past where they drank one beer and ... they were dedicated to a single brand,” he said. “These days people jump to whatever they feel. They could drink a pale ale one day, an Oktoberfest the next and a stout another day.”

The two partners had some mixed feelings about the state of Maryland’s brewing industry, but were optimistic overall about the future of their company.

Demczuk, who has served on the board of the Brewers Association of Maryland, said while the 2017 session of the General Assembly was productive because they were able to raise taproom sales limits to 2,000 barrels per year, the 2018 session was less so.

“We tried to level the playing field between us and the states around us, and that didn’t happen,” he said. “That’s the sad thing about Maryland’s beer industry; it’s entrenched from the laws established decades ago and changing them is going to be difficult.”

He said the country and state are seeing increasing numbers of craft brewers - nearly 7,000 in the U.S. and approaching 100 in Maryland - while Americans are actually drinking less beer by volume each year.

“So every time a new brewery comes out, they take a little slice of the pie. And you’re getting smaller and smaller and it’s getting harder and harder,” Demczuk said. “If Maryland does not come around and help us out it’s going to be pretty rough for a lot of the smaller guys.”

Funk, though, feels that RavenBeer is okay in many ways because they have been around long enough that they are grandfathered from some regulations.

“We just want a good playing field to compete,” he said. “We just want to stick to our quality and keep the beer good and just keep doing what we’ve always done.” read more

Every day is Flag Day for Edgemere vexillologist

Every day is Flag Day for Edgemere vexillologist
Dale Grimes (left) talks with interested perusers during the Memorial Day event at Fort Howard Veterans Park. Photo by Marge Neal.
(Updated 6/13/18)

- By Marge Neal -

The nation celebrates and honors the American flag each year on June 14.

But for one local man, every day is Flag Day.

Edgemere resident and vexillologist (someone who collects and studies flags) Dale Grimes Jr. takes the history and evolution of the Stars and Stripes seriously. He has been a student of flags for years, ever since his curiosity was piqued by a 49-star U.S. flag on display at the old Fort Howard Recreation Center when he was young.

He recalls being fascinated with discovering the flag dated to 1959, after Alaska was admitted to the union that January but before Hawaii became the 50th and final state of the union the following August.

That discovery became the seed of a lifelong interest in flags, and Grimes now has a collection of flags, banners and flag-related ephemera that consumes the better part of a guest bedroom in his home. While the collection is stored in multiple plastic storage bins, Grimes jumps at any chance to display parts of the collection and share his love and knowledge of flags at local events.

His presence at the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Fort Howard Veterans Park has become a tradition, and he is also the go-to “Flag Guy” when open houses and other special events are held at Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site in Edgemere.

Grimes also provided a flag display when the Wells-McComas community commemorated the bicentennial of the Aquila Randall Monument in July 2017, and is willing to share his flag knowledge with community groups.

His most recent display on Memorial Day featured items from the World War I era, in keeping with the ceremony that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of the conflict that was supposed to end all wars.

“These were welcome-home banners that were put in the windows of homes of soldiers returning from battle,” Grimes told observers of his display two weeks ago. “They are just paper, and they’re fragile because they are 100 years old, so I framed them to preserve them.”

As proud and excited as Grimes is to share his collection and his knowledge, he is equally frustrated over the amount of vandalism done to flags that he installs for public enjoyment.

“I’ve had more than 17 flags stolen from poles where I’ve installed them around the community,” he said while manning his booth of flag memorabilia on Memorial Day. “I buy flags and people in the community donate toward the purchase of flags for public display and then other people steal them - I just don’t get it.”

In the couple of years leading up to the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the 1814 Battle of North Point, Grimes displayed 15-star flags on chain-link fences that lined overpasses above North Point Boulevard. The expensive, high-quality flags were padlocked to the fences, which did not deter thieves, who cut off the corners of each flag, leaving the grommets and locks attached and taking the flags.

But the flag aficionado will not let the actions of a few deter him from his mission.

He takes a lot of pride in the flag he considers the most beautiful in the world and he will not stop taking his flag show on the road. read more

Planning Board hears arguments on Pulaski Crossing master plan conflict

Planning Board hears arguments on Pulaski Crossing master plan conflict
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 6/13/18)

- By Devin Crum -

Shortly after a Baltimore County Administrative Law Judge denied a plan for 150 new townhomes on a 31-acre site in White Marsh - dubbed Pulaski Crossing - citing a master plan conflict, attorneys for the developer filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision.

In their motion, the attorneys argued that the ALJ did not have the authority to rule on a master plan conflict and that the county’s Planning Board must make that judgement. On May 24, ALJ John Beverungen agreed and struck down his May 1 denial of the project pending Planning Board decision on the matter.

“The plan in this case was denied solely because of the master plan conflict... As such, if the Planning Board issues a decision finding a master plan conflict, that finding will then be incorporated into an amended final order denying the plan,” Beverungen wrote in his order. “On the other hand, if the Planning Board determines there is no master plan conflict an amended order will then be issued by the ALJ approving the plan.”

The Planning Board heard introductory arguments on the matter last Thursday, June 7, from the county Department of Planning, as well as attorneys for both the developer and opponents of the project.

Jennifer Nugent, chief of Development Review for the Department of Planning, outlined her office’s stance on the matter by noting her belief that the project conforms with the goals of the county’s Master Plan 2020 and does not present a master plan a conflict.

She pointed out that the back portion of the subject property - about 7.5 acres - was rezoned during the 2016 quadrennial rezoning process from a Resource Conservation zoning to a residential one allowing 5.5 homes per acre. That same back portion was designated with a T-2R transect under the master plan calling for the land use there to be Rural Residential.

However, Nugent noted that the T-2R designation does not conform with the master plan’s other designations on the property by way of its Proposed Land Use map, the Urban-Rural Demarcation Line (URDL), the Growth Tier map and the site’s zoning.

“The majority of the zoning for the development proposal at the time of the adoption of Master Plan 2020 was and still is Business Roadside,” she said, which is the most intensive commercial zoning in the county and permits uses associated with an urban setting.

Nugent added that the Proposed Land Use map for the site under the master plan is conceptual and general and “is intended to reflect land use patterns rather than identify the land use for individual properties or parcels.”

“It is the Department of Planning’s recommendation to the Baltimore County Planning Board that the Pulaski Crossing development is not a master plan conflict and that the Planning Board approve the townhouse plan,” she said.

“Based on the zoning along Pulaski Highway and the corner of Baker Avenue and Stevens Road, it is the department’s determination that this Rural Residential transect appears to be mislabeled,” she added.

Director of Planning Andrea Van Arsdale said at the hearing that because the back portion of the site which has the T-2R transect designation is so small, its “mistaken” use on that parcel was likely overlooked in developing the master plan.

“When the ALJ looked at [the site] he looked at the transect, and the transect said Rural Residential, large lot,” she told the board. “But everything else in the master plan - inside the URDL, the zoning and the tiers - said it really should be more intense development as is to be inside the URDL.”

Land use attorney Adam Rosenblatt, of Venable LLP, concurred with the planning department’s findings, adding that the master plan also designates the site as within an Employment Center which calls for a mix of commercial and residential uses in the same area to allow people to live close to their job.

But opposition attorney Michael McCann argued that the purpose of the Employment Center is to have commercial and residential uses on the same site, which the townhouse project would not have.

He added that the T-2R designation actually fits better with the types of residential housing existing in the area and is not a mistake. And the only reason residential uses are even allowed on the subject site is because the undevelopable back portion was rezoned, allowing the commercial portion upfront to take on that allowable residential density.

A public hearing before the board was tentatively scheduled for June 21 at 4 p.m. in Room 104 of the Jefferson Building, 105 W. Chesapeake Ave. in Towson. read more

Original Trotten gravestones now on display at Todd’s Inheritance

Original Trotten gravestones now on display at Todd’s Inheritance
The stone engraved with "ST" will be retrieved and delivered to the Todd house once the ground is dry enough to get it. Photo courtesy of Fran Taylor.
(Updated 6/13/18)

- By Marge Neal -

The earthly remains of the Trotten family of Sparrows Point have been laid to rest at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cemetery in a move that treats their memories with more respect and dignity than was afforded by their original resting places in the center of what is now an industrial center, according to Tradepoint Atlantic officials.

And now those officials are one step closer to completing the task of relocating the graves with the delivery of the original headstones - or what is left of them - to the Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site for display.

The Trotten family members were originally interred from 1804 to 1838 in a family plot on farmland that at the time overlooked the pristine waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Two hundred years later, the graves were in a neglected, overgrown, swampy piece of land in the middle of a site that had manufactured steel for more than 100 years.

Tradepoint officials decided to move the graves to a reputable cemetery to preserve the memories of the family members and to make their graves more accessible to descendants.

The only two remaining original stones are now preserved in display cases that are on exhibit at the historic Todd homestead in Edgemere, according to Fran Taylor, a member of the Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site Board of Directors.

“One stone has S.T. at the top,” Taylor said of the markers. “All the rest is smooth and worn and nothing is readable.”

In addition to being worn smooth, the stones are broken, with chunks missing. Displaying the markers at Todd’s Inheritance will ensure the preservation of what is left of the early-1800s memorials, Taylor said.

“We’re very glad to have the stones at Todd’s Inheritance,” group President Carolyn Mroz said. “We were very anxious to get them because of the connection between the Todds and Trottens.

At least two Trottens married into the Todd family, and Mary Trotten Todd is buried in the Todd family plot on the grounds of the house, according to Mroz.

“They’re pretty fragile, with no inscriptions left, if they were ever inscribed to begin with,” Mroz said of the original grave markers. “We will probably keep them as indoor exhibits to preserve what is left.

She noted the memorials are limestone, which is porous and “very susceptible” to deterioration.

One last task needs to be completed to bring the project to a close, according to Aaron Tomarchio, Tradepoint’s senior vice president of corporate affairs. A large rock, inscribed with the initials S.T., was unearthed during the exhumation at Sparrows Point.

When the original plot is dry enough to retrieve the rock, Tradepoint plans to donate that to Todd’s Inheritance as well, Tomarchio said.

“As part of our ongoing partnership with the community, TPA donated the original gravestones to Todd’s Inheritance at the request of Fran Taylor,” he wrote in an email to the East County Times. “Our site maintenance crew carefully removed the headstones, had them cleaned and crated them so they can be displayed at the Todd’s Inheritance historical museum.”

Pat Trotton Carter, a Perry Hall resident who is a descendant of the Sparrows Point Trottens, said she is “very pleased” the stones are at Todd’s.

“It certainly seems appropriate because the families are connected,” she told the Times. “We would like to have had the remains go to Todd’s as well, but we’re very pleased the stones are there. We understand the cemetery there is small.”

Carter visited Todd’s Inheritance on May 28 and was able to watch a PowerPoint presentation of the exhumation and reinterrment that Taylor created.

“It was beautiful and I was very pleased with the way it was all handled with dignity and respect,” Carter said. “And Tradepoint didn’t spare any expense in doing it right; the family is very grateful for their sensitive and generous handling of this project.”

Todd’s Inheritance is open one weekend a month for open houses, with exhibits and themes that change regularly to keep the experience fresh for visitors, according to Mroz.

The next chance to tour the house and grounds is the weekend of July 14 and 15, with a theme of “Parks and Trails.” The house at 9000 North Point Road in Edgemere will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. read more

Middlesex community pleads with police for help dealing with illegal drugs

Middlesex community pleads with police for help dealing with illegal drugs
Essex precinct Captain Doug Irwin speaks to the crowd of residents at the Essex Police Community Relations Council meeting Monday, June 11. Photo courtesy of Cliff O'Connell.
(Updated 6/13/18)

- By Patrick Taylor 

Drugs have seemingly always been an issue at 1007 Middlesex Road in Essex, but in the past it was predominantly drug addicts looking to feed their dependency. Now, local residents are concerned that the current occupants - squatters in a residence that was in pre-foreclosure for years and failed to sell at auction this past January - have become major players in keeping heroin and other drugs flowing in the eastern Baltimore County.

Things have already gotten ugly. On Monday night, about three dozen local residents, predominantly from the Middlesex community, voiced their concerns to Captain Dennis Irwin, the commanding officer at the Essex police precinct. Residents described multiple incidents of people overdosing in the alley behind the residence and in the street out front. Some residents have even seen people who have overdosed inside the residence get carried out of the house and dumped outside. Last November a stabbing occurred behind the residence. One neighbor described hearing people getting beat inside.

“I’ve heard it happen,” the resident said. “People who show up to that house and don’t have the money that’s owed have gotten the [expletive] beaten out of them.”

Due to concerns for safety, we are withholding the names of local residents who expressed concern at Monday night’s meeting. Some residents who did not give their name at the meeting were asked if they would be comfortable going on the record - all declined out of fear of retribution.

Irwin, who used to work in narcotics for Baltimore County Police, empathized with the residents and said he was very familiar with the residence, but that dealing with the issues is tricky. Police are limited in what they can do without hard evidence and without witnesses. They are even more limited when they do not receive calls.

Residents contended that for years they had called about the occupants of 1007 Middlesex Road, but with no real recourse, discouragement built and those calls to 911 slowed down. One officer at Monday night’s meeting noted that only one call had been made to 911 about the residence last month.

One resident turned over two bundles of photos they had taken monitoring the residence. Multiple other area residents promised to turn over security camera footage from their properties. Irwin said that this is exactly the type of community cooperation needed to handle an issue like this. He also said that officers working in the narcotics unit have been taking note of what is going on at the residence.

“People who are giving information and taking photographs and things like that, please keep that up,” said Irwin. “That’s vital for us. If you see cars, keep giving us that information.”

Over the last six to eight months, activity at the subject address has gone from bad to worse, neighbors said.

“You’ll see foot traffic through that house all day long,” said one resident. “Every couple days you see a car pull up, and shortly after you have people with backpacks going in and walking out shortly after. They’re not addicts. These guys are organized and it’s only a matter of time before it turns into someone getting shot.”

“They’ve got a man guarding the door, and when someone’s going in he opens the door and shuts the door,” said another resident. “They know when cars are showing up - nice expensive cars - and when their supply is coming in. You know what cars are coming. The door does not stop.”

Longtime residents stressed that what is happening is not run-of-the-mill marijuana sales. It is heroin, crack, bath salts and others. There is a ringleader of the crew who is easily identifiable, said locals, many of whom have lived in the area for upwards of decades.

“This isn’t your usual Essex activity,” said another resident. “It’s much more organized and it’s not the junkies running things anymore.”

Trash litters the yard, with tents occupying space out back, made all the more worrisome considering the abundance of rats drawn to the area. Community members lamented that their grandchildren were no longer able to visit them at their house due to the activity at 1007 Middlesex.

A while back, a neighbor explained, officers visited the home, and when they knocked on the front door the current occupants dumped a lot of their drugs out back. A neighborhood dog returned home shortly after with a fully loaded heroin needle clutched in its mouth like a stick.

The exasperation was palpable at Monday’s meeting. The home’s owner, they believe, is too terrified to return home. One resident at the meeting said he even considered buying the house to get them out.

But with an owner too scared to go back and a bank seemingly turning a blind eye, options are limited.

“That’s the difficult position we’re in. Squatting is a huge thing with foreclosed houses, because without that owner or that bank asking me to get those people out of there, I’m just ‘Doug’ at that point,” said Capt. Irwin. “I have no authority to go in there and say ‘get out.’”

Those in attendance questioned whether the property could be taken over under nuisance laws. Irwin said they had just successfully done so in Dundalk, but that the threshold for proving a property is a nuisance is high and requires neighbors to constantly report what they see.

One resident asked whether the owner would be willing to sign over the property, but that was largely seen as unlikely. Irwin repeated that he and his men “will not be deterred.”

Irwin said that he understood the frustration and noted that in the Essex precinct alone he has complaints about 52 houses with suspected of narcotics operations. In Dundalk, there are 54 such houses.

“We do have a finite amount of personel, so I’m not going to sit here and say we have a wand that can change all this,” said Irwin. “It didn’t get like this overnight, and we’re not going to be able to fix this overnight. But I’m damn sure listening to you folks and I hear the frustration.”

Residents pointed out that some who enter the house do so carrying small children and babies. A few residents said that one of the four squatters moved his octogenarian relative into the house, and that she has not been seen in months, leading them to fear that there is more brewing beneath the surface.

Irwin stressed that drug investigators are aware of the issues at 1007 Middlesex and the other 51 residences suspects of narcotics trafficking. He said it is no stretch to think those operations could have a large impact on the disproportionate rate of overdoses on the east side as compared to the west side.

To date, there have been 180 overdoses in the Essex precinct and 210 in the Dundalk precinct. On the west side in the Franklin precinct, that number drops significantly to below 30.

At this point, residents are stuck in limbo. Moving out of the neighborhood is difficult due to the problems caused by drug activity. With a seemingly absentee owner and bank not putting their foot down on the squatters at 1007 Middlesex, the hope is that police can catch a break.

“I know you guys are limited in what you can do, and it sucks. It really sucks,” said one resident. “But we’re frustrated parents and residents of this neighborhood and we feel like there’s nothing we can do.” read more

Boehl looks to take advantage of experience, promises to hit the ground running if elected

Boehl looks to take advantage of experience, promises to hit the ground running if elected
(Updated 6/13/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

When Delegate Christian Miele (R-8) decided he was going to challenge Kathy Klausmeier for her State Senate seat, a House of Delegates seat opened up the district that covers much of northeastern Baltimore County.

At the time, Perry Hall resident Ben Boehl was working as chief of staff to Delegate Bob Long (R-6). While he had never previously considered running for office, he was hit with the urge to make a run at it.

“I never planned on running,” said Boehl. “It just kind of happened.”

Before working for Long, Boehl worked as a political reporter for The Dundalk Eagle, and The East County Times before that. Between his years spent as a local journalist and chief of staff in Annapolis, Boehl believes he is in a good position. For most newcomers to Annapolis there is a bit of a learning curve which can sometimes take years for politicians to overcome.

“That gives me a bit of an advantage, being down there for two years. It’s very cordial down there. Republicans and Democrats get along well. With that said, there are differences on the floor, and you have to show respect but still stand your ground,” Boehl said. He added that a lot of political hopefuls like to put on a brash persona when it comes to dealing with politicians in Annapolis, but stated that cooperation is important.

“When you feel like something’s not right you need to stand up and say something. If it’s a bad bill you need to vote against it. It’s about making rational decisions, not emotional decisions. And sometimes that means voting for Democratic legislation as a Republican, or vice versa,” said Boehl.

Boehl noted that while working for Long, he helped shape legislation. He worked on a revitalization bill that gave folks in low-income areas who fixed up their homes a five-year waiver if their property tax assessment increased due to home repairs. He also helped design a bill that would have seen property taxes in Baltimore County cut from four percent to three percent. Ultimately, he believes that lowering property taxes will help fill some vacant properties in Baltimore County and increase revenue streams. While that bill failed in the House of Delegates’ Baltimore County Delegation, it is something Boehl would like to pursue again, albeit tweaked, if elected.

“Maybe an across-the-board cut is a bit much, but a lot of seniors are on a fixed income,” Boehl said. “You can go for the Homeowner’s Tax Credit and things like that, but some people just aren’t aware of that, so I at least want to see some kind of relief for seniors.”

Over the last few months, Boehl has been door knocking in basically every part of District 8. Through his conversations with constituents of the district, he has found that crime, education spending and the opioid epidemic are the hot-button issues seemingly on everyone’s mind.

On education spending, he stated he would like to see more money spent on school construction. He said that while he was working as a journalist, he covered multiple 50-year anniversary celebrations, and that new buildings will need to be built in the next 10 - 15 years. Boehl, who has children in Perry Hall schools, praised the fact that a new middle school is on the way, along with Honeygo Elementary, but noted that relief at the high school level is still a necessity.

“We still need another high school in the northeast area. Whether it’s in Perry Hall or Parkville or somewhere in between, we need to deal with this issue,” he said. He also added that he would like to see a shift in focus to vocational training, saying that college is not for everyone.

He cited rising crime in the area as a cause for concern, especially considering the types of crimes being committed. He pointed to the recent killing of Officer Amy Caprio, carjackings of an elderly Overlea man who was run over with his own vehicle and a pregnant Villa Cresta Elementary School teacher in the middle of the day, and replica gun incidents at Perry Hall and Loch Raven high schools as cause for concern. Boehl promised he would do what he could to both increase funding for more police personnel in general and also for more school resource officers (SROs).

“Some of these schools have only one or two SROs, maybe they need a third. The elementary schools have none. We need to address these things. We need more patrol units,” said Boehl. “Obviously we don’t want an officer with a gun on every corner like a militarized area, but we need more of a presence. There’s just not enough resources.”

Boehl said that, if elected, he would immediately take a look at the budget and see where funding could be moved. He pointed to state retirees losing prescription coverage as an unacceptable lapse, saying that “they paid their time and they worked all those years, to take away their prescription coverage is unfair to them.”

With the primary set for June 26, Boehl is confident. If he makes it through the primary, he feels that his message and experience will stick will voters across the board. Whether or not it works out for him, it has certainly been a learning experience for Boehl.

“I feel pretty confident heading into the home stretch. And it’s certainly been a great experience to say the least,” he said. read more

PAR Fund donations on the rise in wake of Officer Caprio’s death

PAR Fund donations on the rise in wake of Officer Caprio’s death
(Updated 6/6/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

After Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio was killed on May 21 responding to a call in Perry Hall, the Baltimore County community has worked to make sure her memory is honored.

More than 1,000 people attended her funeral services, while vigils and other events have been held around the county. Over the weekend a bike ride was organized through Gunpowder Falls State Park in Kingsville, with proceeds being donated to the Harford County Humane Society,  where Caprio and her husband, Tim, had adopted their rescued pit bull. Since Caprio’s death, the Harford County Humane Society, which was the designated charity for contributions for Caprio, has received over $15,000 in donations.

While the Harford County Humane Society has seen an influx of donations, another group has also seen a recent surge - the Police Assistance Relief (PAR) Fund of Baltimore County.

The PAR Fund, set up in 1985, exists to help sworn officers and civilian officers in their times of need.

“We really try to focus on people who have found themselves in a situation, not through bad financial decisions but through circumstances of personal injury or a death in the family,” said Ann Ansel, a PAR Fund board member. “We’ve paid funeral expenses in the past, we installed chairlifts in an officer’s home for his son who’s growing and becoming heavier to carry up and down steps.”

Since Caprio’s death, the PAR Fund has received almost $5,000 donated in her name. A large portion of that total came from By The Docks restaurant in Middle River, which donated $2,500 to the fund on May 31. Ansel described the donation by John Kanellopoulos, owner of By The Docks, as “extremely generous,” but Kanellopoulos sees it as doing his duty as a community member and local business owner.

“Everything that happened with Officer Amy just hit close to home,” said Kanellopoulos. “It just means so much to us everything the police do everyday. We have to support them.”

Kanellopoulos decided that his restaurant would donate 25 percent of sales from May 30. When the day came, the response exceeded his expectations.

“The community came out and strongly supported the effort. Everybody who came in that day was donating,” Kanellopoulos said. “We had a lot of police and other community people. And as a community we have to sit together. The police are the reason we’re able to sleep at night. Maybe someday we’ll need help from the police. Hopefully not, but you never know.”

Kanellopoulos added that he plans on doing more community-oriented events in the future.

“We hope the $2,500 goes a long way,” he said.

According to Ansel, it will. On average, the PAR Fund distributes six to eight grants per year, though she did note that some years the number fluctuates. With a lot of officers working secondary employment, the additional financial strain of an injury, death or some other type of catastrophe can take its toll on an officer. Even with Baltimore County providing strong benefits to its police force, there are still unforeseen costs.

“Some of these needs arise through catastrophic injury or something like that, which is very difficult to plan for. If there’s a death involved, then yes, there’s life insurance that’s paid. But if there’s injury you still have to live. You still have to go to work. You still have to provide for your family,” said Ansel.

The goal of the PAR Fund is to take that excess weight off the shoulders of those officers to allow them to do their job.

“If they have something catastrophic financially happen in their life it puts a pretty heavy burden on them,” Ansel said. “The whole purpose of the fund is to allow them to have a breath. Give them a moment of reprieve from their financial worries.”

While most of the donations pouring into the PAR Fund of late have been from individual donors, Ansel noted that she has been in communication with multiple other businesses who plan on making donations. They have received consistently strong support from organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 4, along with businesses like Mission BBQ in Owings Mills and The Greene Turtle in Hunt Valley.

Ansel said that one of the businesses that reached out about donating in Caprio’s name was located in Southwest Baltimore County. She did not see that as unusual, citing the fact that officers live and serve in different areas of the county. As the mother of two Baltimore County Police lieutenants she knows that from firsthand experience, with one son currently working out of the Essex precinct while her other son works out of Pikesville.

“There are police officers that serve all nooks and crannies of our county. The blue family is pretty large and extensive,” she said.

While the PAR Fund has been operating since 1985, it is still relatively unknown outside of police circles. Because their stated mission is to help officers and their families, a very small percentage of funding goes toward marketing. The PAR Fund usually has one large fundraiser each year and then a few smaller events. Recently they held a golf outing at Greystone Golf Course in White Hall, while in the past they have held 5k races. They have also printed brochures and put out an end-of-year mailer. Ansel told the East County Times that the PAR Fund “honors [their] fiduciary responsibility.”

Caprio’s death has put them in the spotlight, which Ansel sees as a somewhat macabre blessing.

“We never wanted this awareness through a tragedy like this,” Ansel said. “But I told our board members if this allows us to help other officers down the road in the future it’s a great thing.”

According to Ansel, the way the board evaluates requests is stringent. Because there are retired officers and FOP members on the board - as well as people like Ansel who have direct ties to police through family - they only evaluate the facts. Personal information is redacted so personal feelings do not factor into the decision.

“I don’t ever want any person to make a decision based on a particular bias, or have to recuse themselves because of conflict of interest,” Ansel said.

There will be a few upcoming fundraising events, including Chik-Fil-A Day on Wednesday, July 18, in Parkville and Reisterstown. Donations can also be made by visiting the PAR Fund’s website at read more

BQIA preparing to celebrate 80 years of service to community

BQIA preparing to celebrate 80 years of service to community
The BQIA is one of the few community associations in Maryland that owns its own building. Photo by Devin Crum.
(Updated 6/6/18)

- By Devin Crum -

This Saturday, June 9, the Bowleys Quarters Improvement Association will hit an impressive milestone: 80 years in existence, all the while bringing people together to benefit the community.

From noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, the BQIA will celebrate its 80th birthday with food, fun, information and activities for Bowleys Quarters residents at the organization’s hall at 1124 Bowleys Quarters Road in Middle River.

The organization will also make the official dedication of Baynes Cove, a formerly unnamed cove along Seneca Creek, in honor of the Baynes family which has lived in the area since the 1930s. A Baltimore County Council resolution earlier this year recognized the naming of the cove and the request was subsequently approved by he U.S. Board of Geographic Names to ensure that all future maps of the area identify it by name.

Although modern Bowleys Quarters started as a strictly seasonal residence for most of its population, as houses were upgraded, many began to reside there yearround. And in 1938, out of concern over the growing yearround population and increasing development in the area, a group of 20 property owners formed the BQIA.

Its hope was “to promote and assure consented activity in all matters pertaining to the proper development, improvement and maintenance” in Bowleys Quarters and the surrounding area, according to a history booklet assembled by the organization.

“Since 1938, it has been active in the community, addressing water and sewerage issues, population growth, zoning, development, watershed protection, airport traffic, road and drainage maintenance, public services, air and water quality, and any issues that may impact the integrity of the area,” the booklet reads.

Jim Hock, who has been involved with the BQIA for 31 years and president of it for the last four, said he first got involved with the organization - at the direction of his wife - in helping to set up and take down the pit beef stand at the carnival that used to be held at the Carroll Island Shopping Center.

“It’s been interesting,” Hock said of his involvement. “From there it has blossomed into how it is now. And my kids are involved; we just want to make our community better and we love our community.”

Listed among BQIA’s accomplishments in its history booklet is a fundraising effort and petition in 1953 to bring city water to area residents.

“This remains the [BQIA]’s biggest accomplishment,” the booklet reads.

However, it also lists a failed 1957 effort to fight construction of a power plant on Carroll Island Road, opposition to the dredge material placement at Hart-Miller Island and addressing air traffic noise associated with Martin State Airport during the 1970s.

The organization also began its focus during that time on zoning issues, the need for city sewerage, development and maintaining the rural integrity of the area. The booklet touts the BQIA’s involvment in defeating the proposed Worldbridge theme park in the 1980s and, later, the NASCAR raceway plan which were to be built in the area now bisected by the MD Route 43 extension.

From then until now, BQIA membership has maintained a focus on land use and infrastructure issues that might affect its residents.

But more recently, Hock said, the group has turned to making life better, and more fun, within the community itself.

Some members started the “BQuz” group with the mantra, “Just BQuz we care,” in early 2016. Their aim was to find ways to better utilize the association’s community building and its property by offering a variety of fun community events, as well as generate interest in community programs and support various efforts.

Hock said the group is not gender-specific, but “it has become more of the ladies do more of it and the men support it, and they bring the fun into this community.”

Some events the group has organized include Heart Healthy dinner and physician question-and-answer discussions, mid-year school supply drives for students at Seneca Elementary School, and partnering with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for their Water Wise even and cardboard boat race at Miami Beach Park.

The Water Wise event uses fun, family-friendly activities to educate people and raise awareness of water safety and the number of people - children and adults - who drown in local waterways each year. The event takes place each June.

Another effort Hock was particularly proud of is BQIA’s donations to the Perry Point veterans hospital.

“That was an eye-opening experience” to tour the facility three years ago, he said. “We went into the building and it looks normal. But when we went over, the coffee container was empty, sitting there to look like they had coffee.”

He said the veterans housed there have to specifically request coffee if they want it with their breakfast or dinner. “And if there’s extra coffee, they can ask, but they may not get it with lunch.”

After that, the organization held a fundraiser which raised about $900 to buy coffee for the veterans.

“The thing that’s really cool is the outpouring from this community has been keeping them supplied with coffee,” he said, noting that they still have about $800 from that original fundraiser because members continue to either buy coffee to donate or give money to replenish the fund.

BQIA’s hall, built in “the latter half of the 1900s,” was recently renovated to spruce up the place, adding things like a new stove for their kitchen, as well as WiFi internet access and a projector and screen, which help with hall rentals and the presentations from speakers at meetings, according to Hock.

In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003, the hall became a meeting place for those with issues related to the storm, Hock said, noting that he was one of the people who lost their homes.

It has remained a place for community outreach and education, featuring speakers about locally significant issues such as the nearby power plant, the marijuana dispensary coming to the Carroll Island Shopping Center or national weather agencies and groups to give information about severe weather preparedness, which has become important in the community.

BQIA general meetings are held the second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. in their hall. Visit their website at for more information. read more

Residents fear Geresbeck’s closure will create a food desert

Residents fear Geresbeck’s closure will create a food desert
The Logan Village shopping center Geresbeck's location began offering 25 percent off all merchandise Wednesday until the shelves are cleared. Photo by Devin Crum.
(Updated 6/6/18)

- By Marge Neal -

The communities of Dunlogan, Watersedge and Turner Station will find themselves in the heart of a food desert soon as Geresbeck’s grocery store in the Logan Village Shopping Center prepares to clear its shelves and close.

“We have no way to determine a closing date,” store manager Brett Arthur told the East County Times on Tuesday, June 5. “Starting tomorrow, everything in the store will be 25 percent off and we will run out what’s on the shelves.”

Arthur said the store had not had a delivery in about 10 days and the shelves “are pretty thin already.”

Asked why the store was closing, the manager would only say “economical changes.”

Pressed on the possibilities of an increase in rent or a loss of shoppers, Arthur said he had been instructed to respond only with “economical changes.”

The store employs about 65 workers, according to Arthur. Company managers were meeting Tuesday to discuss the possibility of placing some of the affected workers at one of the two other Geresbeck’s locations - one in the Hawthorne Shopping Center in Middle River and one in the Sun Valley Shopping Center in Glen Burnie.

Logan Village resident Rhonda Crisp said the store closure will have a “devastating effect” on her and her neighbors. The 25-year resident said she has shopped at the grocery store in that center as long as she has lived there.

“I think it’s going to be a huge loss for our community,” Crisp told the Times. “I’m not speaking for myself because I have a car and can get to other stores, but many of our residents are elderly and don’t have the transportation to get to stores farther away.”

Geresbeck’s was the go-to store for many residents of the Logan Village area, including the fairly new senior community known as The Greens at Logan Field; Watersedge and Turner Station.

“The seniors at the Greens depend on that shopping center,” Crisp said. “I always see electric scooters out on Dundalk Avenue and they’re going to that grocery store.”

Dundalk Renaissance Corp. Executive Director Amy Menzer said Tuesday she had just heard of the closure and was unaware of any effort to recruit another grocery store into the center.

“I don’t know how viable a new grocery store will be in that space,” Menzer said. “But it’s definitely something we will be exploring with the community.”

With the store closure imminent - some residents say the store has announced it would close June 8 - Menzer said she would help residents look at temporary, stop-gap measures to fill the need, such as grocery deliveries.

“And we’d have to look at the cost of deliveries and to see if we could find some help to defray those costs,” Menzer said.

Menzer said the loss of a grocery store in that community would create a food desert and added the DRC will help where and when it can to attract a new store.

“We’d be willing to work with the local community associations,” she said. “The more of us that work on it together, the better it will be.”

The USDA defines a food desert, or a “low-access community,” as an area where at least 500 people and/or 33 percent of the census tract’s population reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.

“I am very concerned that, without that grocery store, our seniors and young children will not get the nutritional food they need,” Crisp said. “They will be going to convenience stores and getting lower quality foods, and that will affect the community’s health.”

Community residents would have to get to Merritt Boulevard for the closest grocery store, Crisp said. “Dundalk Avenue has no other grocery stores; only convenience stores.”

Crisp is also concerned about the “domino effect” the closure will have on the community. Many people will lose their jobs, which will imperil their personal lives, and the loss of the foot traffic of Gerebeck’s shoppers will have a negative impact on the shopping center’s remaining tenants, she believes.

“Geresbeck’s is the anchor of that shopping center and its closure will be bad for the other stores,” she said.

Crisp said she was told by store employees that they were told the main reason for the closure is the coming state hike in the minimum wage. Effective July 1, minimum wage increases to $10. 10 per hour from its current $9.25. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

“The employees said that the store’s profit margin is so thin that it cannot absorb the cost of increased wages,” Crisp said. “And no hard feelings for the gentleman who owns the store - he has to do what he needs to do - but the closing of that store is going to have a detrimental impact on many, many people.”

Geresbeck’s has been an important neighbor to the community, Crisp said.

“Shopping at that store was like being at Cheers,” she said. “You knew everyone there, the employees knew all their customers; they were lovely people who gave lovely service.”

Crisp raved about the store’s deli, which she said “had the best, freshest meats at very reasonable prices,” and always had a good  selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Even the Dundalk Farmers Market, which operates on weekends from July through November in the Dundalk Village Shopping Center, is not readily accessible to residents without transportation.

“And it’s only on the weekends; what are people supposed to do the rest of the week,” Crisp said of the outdoor market. “Our community needs a regular grocery store and we certainly hope that’s what happens with the Logan Village space.”

Representatives from Ruppert Management, listed in online tax records as the contact for the shopping center, did not respond to a request for an interview by press time Tuesday. read more

Thirteenth annual Edgestock festival features music and ’shoes with waterfront vista

Thirteenth annual Edgestock festival features music and ’shoes with waterfront vista
A file photo from the Edgestock event in 2015.
(Updated 6/6/18)

- By Marge Neal -

Fort Howard Park will transform into the local version of Woodstock this weekend when the 13th annual Edgestock Music Festival takes the stage.

The concert that started in 2006 as the brain child of local musician and business owner Kurt Baumgart has become a “must-attend” Dundalk/Edgemere event that raises money for the Edgemere-Sparrows Point Recreation Council, according to festival chairman Dave Darr.

“I was always looking for new ways to raise money for the kids,” Darr told the East County Times. “Kurt brought the idea to me and we went with it.”

Darr, who has held every imaginable position with the recreation council over the course of more than 30 years, gathered up some of his favorite volunteers and got to work.

Twelve years later, the 13th event is set for Saturday, June 9. Park gates will open at 12:30 p.m. and music will run from 1 - 10 p.m., according to Darr.

Asked what musical acts he was particularly excited about, the diplomat said, “All of them.”

“You know what’s so cool about this? That so many of the musicians are Dundalk guys,” Darr said. “We have Rob Fahey of Rob Fahey and The Pieces who’s a Dundalk guy and also Ronnie Peterson of Ghost of War.”

Fahey is scheduled to open the festival at 1 p.m., followed by Gravity at 3 p.m., Ghost of War/Iron Priest at 5 p.m. and the Kelly Bell Band at 8 p.m.

In addition to nine hours of music, the event will offer pit beef and ham, hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries for sale, as well as beer, Twisted Tea and Bud-Ritas at reasonable prices according to Darr.

All money raised benefits the council’s athletic field fund. Darr said he hopes to raise “a couple thousand dollars each year,” but the amount depends on the weather and the crowd.

“Some years are better than others,” he said.

Many other activities are included to make the affair family-friendly. Activities for children will be held, as well as a double-elimination horseshoe tournament that costs $10 to enter. Registration will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

No coolers, bags or pets will be allowed in the park, and no outside food or beverages are allowed. Spectators are not allowed to display motorcycle club colors and no refunds will be given, according to Darr.

Tickets cost $10 for ages 6 through adult and admission is free for children under 6. Advance tickets are available now at the Full House Saloon, 2311 Sparrows Point Road, and Ben’s Edgemere Liquors, 7000 North Point Road. Tickets will also be available at the gate.

Spectators are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets for seating. Picnic tables and a covered pavilion area will also be available.

Fort Howard Park is at 9500 North Point Road in Fort Howard, adjacent to the former Veterans Administration hospital grounds.

For more information, call 410-477-5565 or visit Edgestock Music Festival on Facebook. read more

Council passes bill to extend vesting schedule for waterfront developments

Council passes bill to extend vesting schedule for waterfront developments
Todd Crandell sponsored the legislation, which passed by a unanimous vote of the County Council. File photo.
(Updated 6/6/18)

- By Devin Crum -

The Baltimore County Council unanimously passed a bill Monday, June 4, that gives developers more time to begin construction on their projects if they have received a Growth Area allocation as part of their approvals.

Growth Area allocations, used for developments within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area, allow for more intensive development of waterfront areas in exchange for certain water quality benefits. But a limited amount of the allocation was given to each county by the state.

Bill 51-18, sponsored by Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), grants properties a maximum of 15 years carry out enough construction to vest their projects if they have been granted a growth allocation, but the councilman said the new law’s effect is limited.

Crandell said the measure only affects two properties in his district - one at the end of Vandermast Road and another at the end of Holly Neck Road, both in Essex - and no others in the county.

The latter parcel is known as the Berger property, and Crandell said that was the main reason for his bill.

“The community, years ago, went through kind of a grueling process negotiating with the property owner on what would be an acceptable development and what wouldn’t,” he said. “From what I’ve heard from members of the community, they don’t want to start all over again. They got to the point of something everybody could live with and they don’t want to go back to zero on it.”

The plan, approved in the mid-2000s, calls for approximately 100 homes but is spread out across several different streets and parcels of land, according to Crandell.

The councilman said he received letters of support for his bill from the Holly Neck Conservation Association and the Back River Peninsula Community Association, as well as support from others in the area.

He said another reason he saw for the legislation was that, at least for the Berger property, the owner has already completed significant water quality improvements.

“The owner has put millions of dollars into shoreline rehabilitation down there,” Crandell said, adding that the owner also followed through on a commitment to donate hundreds of acres of the site to the county for preservation as part of the original negotiations with the community.

But those improvements, while beneficial, were not enough for the county to consider the development vested. Under county law, the project would have been required to abide by the newest environmental and other development regulations if it was not vested by August of this year since the plan was approved nearly nine years ago. That could have meant redesigning the development plan - requiring new approvals - or scrapping it altogether for something else.

“I was concerned because we’re always concerned about waterfront development and if it’s the right thing for the communities that already exist,” Crandell said. “And in talking with the folks down there and getting the support of the two main associations on the Holly Neck Peninsula, they have firsthand knowledge of the process that this all went through and they’re supportive of the development.”

Crandell said he did not know specifics of the project on Vandermast Road and had not spoken to that property owner since the bill was geared more toward the Holly Neck Road property. But simply because of the provisions in the bill, that property would also fall under the legislation and receive that benefit.

“I don’t know what those owners’ plans are to move forward with whatever that approved plan is there,” he said.

The bill limits the extension to 15 years from the latter of final, non-appealable plan approval or the effective date of Bill 58-09 for qualifying plans. That bill established the county’s limits on development plan vesting and went into effect on Aug. 17, 2009.

“In my conversations with Permits, Approvals and Inspections, this legislation would only affect these two properties and nowhere else in Baltimore County,” Crandell said. “There are some plans that were approved in the [1990s] that have not vested, so this could not do anything to those properties.”

The legislation could have implications for at least one future project, however.

One nearby project, the Water’s Landing at Middle River planned unit development, has not yet been fully approved but is seeking to use most of the county’s remaining Growth Area allocation. That project would see nearly 200 new homes built on a site just a few miles from the Berger property. If the project gains full approval with the allocation, it would also be granted 15 years to begin construction rather than the typical nine years, according to Crandell. read more

Bevins celebrates students with Maker Faire ceremony

Bevins celebrates students with Maker Faire ceremony
Councilwoman Bevins poses with honored students from around her district. Photo by Patrick Taylor.
(Updated 6/6/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Since taking office eight years ago, Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) has hosted a recognition ceremony for the fourth and fifth grade who placed first or second in the annual Maker Faire.

When Bevins started the tradition, the fair was known as the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Fair. Now, students participate in the Maker Faire. While there are similarities, the STEM Fair predominantly focused on proposing a hypothetical problem and figuring out a solution, while the Maker Faire is more reality based.

“The Maker Fair is about real problems and having real solutions, real world stuff. So you have to wrap your head around something and try to come up with a resolution,” said Bevins.

Dozens of students from schools all around her district showed up to Parkville High School on May 30 to receive their honors, as well as get a glimpse of the options available at magnet high schools like Parkville.

“I always like to remind everybody you don’t have to go to the high school that’s in your neighborhood. If it’s a magnet school and they have special programs, you should check your schools out,” Bevins told the group of students and their parents. “And certainly I would want you to come check Parkville High School out.”

Parkville High School principal Maureen Astarita referred to the event as “special and unique” to the district, and applauded the young students for showing initiative and engaging at an early age.

“You are the young people that are one step ahead because you’re already putting yourself out there,” she said.

Those honored include:

Chase Elementary 
Fourth Grade Winners, First place: Jalen Burgess, Savannah Jones, Breana Marbry and Gerrell Rainey.

Second Place: D’Wan Morris, Ty’airy Sharps, Nikos Sarris and Gene Humphreys.

Fifth Grade Winners, First Place: Devan Snyder, Lily Dennis, Keara Harris-Creek and Emily Galvez.

Second Place: Hollyn Jones, Camryn Dix, Brianna Johnson and Gavin Jacobs.

Elmwood Elementary
Fourth Grade Winners, First Place: Kenton Sellars and Devin Butler.

Second Place: Logan Conner, Sophia Reyna, Juliet Gichuhi and Maulanna Bubba.

Fifth Grade Winners, First Place: Colin Whetstone, Simon DiStefano, Marcus Nole and Aden Brady.

Second Place: Jadian Davis, Jada Pittman, Semaj Moyd and Carmen Winchester.

Fullerton Elementary 
Fourth Grade Winners, First Place:  Orion Kasper,  Jonah Scott, Leonah Sansuck and Nyla Behram

Fifth Grade, First Place: Samantha Schmidt, Marcella Bell and Morgan Blevins.

Glenmar Elementary
Fourth Grade Winners, First Place: Ca’Niyah Buckner, Kayla Thompson, Nakaylah Gardner and Hailey Whitehead.

Second Place: Robert Abbott, Jon Cernechez and Denia Kwenah.

Fifth Grade Winners, First Place: Aaliyan Ahmad, Chike Mbanefo, Dashawn Handy and Christian Woodson.

Halstead Academy
Fourth Grade Winners: Shakima Mutegi, Simone Thomas, Naomi Majibola and Eva Maouyo.

Fifth Grade Winners: Ajon Braxton, Morgan Hairston and Javaris Moses.

Hawthorne Elementary
Fourth Grade Winners: Destiny Anderson. Miguel Herrera and Kaleyah Rushing.

Fifth Grade Winners: My’Kelle Carter, Destani Patton, Trinity Kindle and Azriel Frierson.

Martin Boulevard Elementary
Fourth Grade Winners: Maliyah Spencer, Douae Bourouis, Alvia Brown and Saniya Johnson.

Fifth Grade Winners: Dylan Davis, Issac Ngacha, Kevin Centento and Amya Jebifer.

McCormick Elementary
Fourth Grade Winners, First Place: Zyionna Wilson.

Second Place: Williams Nwaneri and Charles Feagin.

Fifth Grade Winners, First Place: Alesha Garcia, Brianna Rivera and Kaelyn Wheeler.

Second Place: Corinne Windisch, Aniyah Taylor, Sayra Rodrigues and Aubree Jones.

Oliver Beach Elementary School 
Fifth Grade Winners Team “Code 4”: Evelyn Baker, Julianna Earll, Payton Harris, Ava Libby, Dylan Lewis,  Seth Luca, Evan Janack and Cohen Paugh.

Fourth Grade: Ayarilis Pineyro, Tyler Sandridge, Cooper Anuszewski, Abby Evans, Cara Szczpaniak, Julia Rock, Kilian Lane, Alonna Cox and Bridget Dively.

Orems Elementary 
Fourth Grade Winners, First Place: Keegan Winkler, Hayden Brown, Olivia Carvey and Brennan Soyke.

Second Place: Addison Lingenfelder, Abby Breach, Brendan Oppenheim and Luisa Martinez-Beltran.

Fifth Grade Winners, First Place: Nora Karsche, Alexis Bullinger and Timmy Stivers.

Second Place: Johnny Regaldo, Sydney Szczpaniak, George Czyzia and Gracie Addair.

Pleasant Plains Elementary
Fourth Grade Winners: Preston Atkinson, Seiji Davidson, Charles Lawyer and Eugene Chaffin.

Fifth Grade Winners: Hina Saboor, Yousef Nader, Maya Barr and Chloe Wroten.

Red House Run Elementary 
Fifth Grade Winners: Tony Truong, Nathaniel McGinley,  Olivia Schmidt and Kaylin Jones.

Seneca Elementary
Fourth Grade Winners, First Place: Jaelyn Bates, Gabriella Galoni, Greatness Aregbesola and Camden Matthews.

Second Place Winners: Eliza Hawkes, Nicole Mays and Gabriella Buscemi.

Fifth Grade Winners, First Place: Olivia Messercola and Josie Torsani.

Second Place Winners: Chosen Conner, Morgan Burford, Aiden London and La’Daysha Taylor.

Villa Cresta Elementary 
Fifth Grade Winners: Ireland Moore, Dalton Ludwig, Jasmine Smith, Rosalie Graver, Colin Cuddy, Alexis Robinson, Mustafa Said and Caedence Patrick.

Vincent Farm Elementary 
Fifth Grade Winners: Autumn Shifflett, Taylor Fitch, Frankie Badrina and Olivia Shumaker.

Fourth Grade Winners: Morgan Frankos, Raven Bruton, Christopher Miller and Adrian Pefianco. read more

Crowds remember the sacrifices of local military members

Crowds remember the sacrifices of local military members
Maurica Marcum (left) plays “Taps” during a Memorial Day service in Fort Howard as Odd Fellows North Point Lodge 4 member and Master of Ceremonies Dennis Brown shows his respect for community members killed in battle. Photo by Marge Neal.
(Updated 5/30/18)

- By Marge Neal and Devin Crum -

There are many significant numbers related to this year’s Memorial Day ceremonies held in many communities across Maryland, including those in Fort Howard and Middle River.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first official observation of Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day when it was proclaimed in 1868 by General John Logan to commemorate Union soldiers killed in the Civil War.

The nation also is observing the centennial of the end of World War I, then touted as “the war to end all wars.”

Maryland has lost many of its sons and daughters to battle over the years, according to Dana Hendrickson, director of outreach and advocacy for the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.

Hendrickson, who spoke at Monday’s Memorial Day service at Fort Howard Veterans Park, said 1,752 Marylanders died in WWI; 6,628 in WWII; 531 in Korea; 1,046 in Vietnam; and 142 in the global war on terrorism.

There are 151 names of all the local residents who served in the armed forces listed on the WWII monument that serves as the centerpiece of the annual Fort Howard ceremony.

But perhaps the most important number to those gathered in the tiny waterfront community was nine. Two founding members of Odd Fellows North Point Lodge 4 - Leopold J.H. Rogers and Joseph B. Beyers - lost their lives in WWI while seven area residents did not return home to their families from WWII.

In a poignant segment of the ceremony, Odd Fellows Lodge 4 Grand Noble Don Chaney tolled a bell for each name read out by Master of Ceremonies and fellow lodge member Dennis Brown: Sgt. Melvin Fryer; 2nd Lt. Kauko Leino; Pvt. Ernest V. Kessler; Pvt. Joseph M. Darchicourt; Pvt. Joseph Dudek; Sgt. William A. Weis Jr.; and Pvt. James H. Hubbard.

Many speakers reminded those in attendance that Memorial Day is much more than the now-commercialized weekend that unofficially kicks off summer, inspires retail sales and gives people a day off from work and an excuse to throw a party.

“We gather here today because we know the true reason for Memorial Day,” Hendrickson said in her remarks.

She encouraged the audience to maintain the faith, honor the lessons and remember the dead.

“These are real people with real stories with real families,” Delegate Robin Grammer said of the names etched on the WWII monument. “We will always remember them.”

Will Feuer, a candidate for Board of Education who represented Delegate Ric Metzgar, spoke of everyone loving freedom but “not everyone is willing to sacrifice their lives for that freedom.”

Wars end lives and leave broken families in the wake of those deaths, he said.

“We don’t know them all but we owe them all,” Feuer said of the war dead.

Penwood Christian Church pastor Don Warner took a minute to recognize his father, Donald E. Warner Sr., whose name is on the monument.

“We call him the last man standing,” he said, choked with emotion as he talked about the sacrifices of community members. “He’ll be 92 in three months.”

Fran Taylor, who is a member of the Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site - a volunteer group that oversees the operations of the historic Todd homestead, spoke of the historical significance of North Point Road, which saw the deaths of many local militia members during the War of 1812’s Battle of North Point.

North Point Road is “a road that has witnessed celebration and a road that has witnessed sorrow; a road that has witnessed victory and, thank God, in 1814 witnessed defeat,” Taylor said. “It is a road to nowhere and a road to everywhere. It is our Star-Spangled Banner Historic Trail.”

The Odd Fellows have been holding the annual remembrance ceremony for 73 years, ever since a door-to-door collection campaign raised enough money to have the monument erected in front of the land that once was home to Fort Howard School.

The current veterans park was created when the school was torn down.

A few miles away in Middle River, Holly Hill Memorial Gardens was packed with hundreds of visitors in attendance at the annual Memorial Day ceremony surrounding the Lamky Luther Whitehead Veterans Memorial.

“This is the way to celebrate Memorial Day,” said LLWVM foundation President Tony DeRuggiero, “to give honor to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, their life, for our country.”

A light mist fell during the somber ceremony, which consisted of prayers for those lost and their families, and recognition of the fallen.

The veterans monument lists the names of some 150 soldiers from eastern Baltimore County who have perished during the course of their service in conflicts including WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq/Afghanistan. As each name was called aloud, a bell tolled and women from the Charles Evering VFW Post 6506 Auxiliary placed a white carnation on the monument in their memory.

The monument’s outer circle of stones also lists approximately 625 names of those from the area who have honorably served, according to DeRuggiero, and seven names were recently added to those stones. Those names were called as well and those individuals recognized.

LLWVM foundation member Shirley Robinson also recognized local Gold Star Mothers - those who have lost a son or daughter in combat - through the reading of a statement from local veteran Delmar Dixon.

The statement described how veterans often try to forget the horrors of war after they return home.

“But there is one person who will never forget that veteran, and that is a Gold Star Mother,” the statement read. “She will always remember the day when she received the telegram from the war department, when she received the knock of the chaplain on her door. That dreadful moment will remain in her heart for all the days of her life.”

Robinson also took a moment to pay respect to Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio, who a week prior had become the first ever female officer to be killed in the line of duty in Baltimore County, and just the 10th in BCoPD’s 144-year history.

“It was a different kind of uniform, it was a different pair of boots, it was a different gun strapped on the side of her hip,” Robinson said. “But she swore to do her duty to God, country and her community. She swore to serve and she swore to protect, and she swore to do those things with her very life.”

As musical instruments and folding chairs were packed up and as thoughts inevitably went to the remainder of the day and countless family outings planned for those many traditional Memorial Day picnics and cookouts, the words of one speaker came to mind - a reminder from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, given on the occasion of the Nov. 19, 1863, dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” read more

Hundreds gather to pay tribute to slain officer Amy Caprio

Hundreds gather to pay tribute to slain officer Amy Caprio
The wind caused some problems for those looking to honor Officer Caprio, so many turned to using their cell phones. Photo by Patrick Taylor.
(Updated 5/30/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Sunday would have been Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio’s 30th birthday. She and her husband, Tim Caprio, had also been planning a Memorial Day weekend trip to celebrate their third wedding anniversary.

But instead of celebrating their love and looking forward to the years to come, the weekend was spent mourning the death of Caprio, whose life was tragically cut short on May 21 as she responded to a call for a suspicious vehicle in a Perry Hall neighborhood.

On Friday morning, Caprio was laid to rest. On Friday night, hundreds converged on Parkville High School for a candlelight vigil to honor her life.

While many are left questioning the senseless act of violence that ended a life too soon, Caprio’s mother, Debbie Sorrells, pushed a message of love and service.

“Amy chose to go into this field. She wanted to be a police officer. It was her passion, her love, her dream,” said Sorrells, fighting back tears. “She loved her work and she loved her network of family, friends and relatives, and the second family she had of police officers and firefighters.”

“I don’t even know how to begin to thank each and every one of you for all of your love, all of your support,” Sorrells added.

As the sun went down, hundreds of people at Parkville High School lit candles and held up cell phone lights. A prayer was read and the Maryland 9/11 Rolling Memorial, a 500 pound bronze bell, was struck, its echo piercing the solemn silence.

Delegates Christian Miele and Joe Cluster, both representatives of the Perry Hall and Parkville areas, offered words of solace for the community at large. Miele gave thanks to the hundreds who attended, saying “our community is strong,” while Cluster, the son of a former Baltimore County Police officer, expressed heartfelt empathy.

Residents of the Parkville and Perry Hall communities expressed their sorrow and respect for Caprio.

“I never got a chance to meet [Officer Caprio], but I’m thankful for her service,” said Jacqueline Miller, a Parkville resident. “It’s just tough to process that something like this could happen in our community.”

A nearly four-year veteran, Caprio is the 10th Baltimore County Police Department member, and first woman, to be killed in the line of duty in the department’s 144-year history.

On Friday, more than 1,000 people attended Caprio’s funeral service. Along the way on I-95, crowds gathered on overpasses, draping blue and black cloth over the fences and hanging balloons in a show of respect. The procession to the funeral home stretched more than five miles.

“While her death is absolutely sickening, it’s nice to see this type of response,” said Nottingham resident Charles Herman. “We’re stronger than this one act of violence. But you can’t help but feel for the family and what could have been. So many lives were ruined and changed in an instant.”

Four teens were arrested in connection with the killing of Caprio. Dawnta Anthony Harris, 16, was the first of the four arrested. He has been charged with first degree murder. Harris told investigators he hit Caprio with his car after she responded to Linwen Way in Perry Hall.

Eugene Robert Genius, 17, Derrick Eugene Matthews, 16, and Darrell Jaymar Ward, 15, have all been charged with first degree murder per the felony murder law. All are being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Baltimore County Chief of Police Terrence Sheridan said that Caprio was “the type of officer that you want to hire” and that she had a bright career ahead of her.

“She was the kind of officer that was going to go up in this organization,” Sheridan told reporters at Franklin Square Medical Center.

Sheridan’s words were backed up by Caprio’s record on the job. In January, Caprio helped end a series of holiday package thefts, identifying and arresting two suspects who had stolen from more than 40 individuals. Included in the spree was the theft of a handmade quilt a Middle River grandmother had stitched for her granddaughter. Caprio’s work earned her Officer of the Month for the Parkville precinct. read more

County passes FY19 budget, but Republicans’ attempts at cuts rejected

County passes FY19 budget, but Republicans’ attempts at cuts rejected
While Republicans Todd Crandell and David Marks voted to cut some items from the budget, Cathy Bevins, a Democrat, voted with the majority to kill the measures. File photo.
(Updated 5/30/18)

- By Devin Crum -

The Baltimore County Council last Thursday, May 24, passed the Fiscal Year 2019 budget after using the meeting to also appoint Don Mohler, the longtime chief of staff under the late County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, as the new county executive.

The nearly $3.3 billion budget, as it has done now for more than 25 years, managed to again hold the line on property and income tax rates.

“This means though, that once again, we are striving to provide our residents with the services they need and deserve, but with limited financial resources,” said Council Chairman Julian Jones in his Budget Message. “Fortunately, the county has maintained its Triple-A bond rating, which will allow us to borrow funds at the lowest interest rates for projects that are necessary to improve facilities and infrastructure, and enhance the quality of life for our residents.”

Jones continued that one area where the county has been able to leverage its bond rating and financial might to its advantage is in public education.

Indeed, the FY19 budget focuses heavily on education with roughly half of the county’s total spending going to the school system. And while none will be spent in this fiscal year, the budget anticipates another $835.5 million to be spent on capital projects in schools over the next six years.

Included in those capital projects on the east side of Baltimore County are a combined $44.6 million for an addition at Red House Run Elementary School in Rosedale and the new elementary school to be built on Ridge Road in Fullerton; $98.8 million for full rebuilds of Dundalk, Berkshire and Colgate elementary schools in Dundalk; and $103.6 million for a planned new Nottingham middle school at Nottingham Park and an addition to Pine Grove Middle School in Parkville.

In addition, Orems Elementary in Middle River will get $746,000 for a roof replacement and McCormick Elementary will get $517,000 for a chiller replacement as part of that spending.

Outside of school-related spending, Councilman David Marks said his Fifth District did not receive much capital funding in this year’s budget. However, he explained it by stating that his district has been “very fortunate” over the last seven years receiving extensive funding for things like many new parks and schools.

In District 6, Councilwoman Cathy Bevins’ aide, Jim Almon, said the budget provides funding for several projects such as $800,000 for turf fields at Overlea High School and $4.3 million for construction of the remaining planned extension of Campbell Boulevard in Middle River.

The budget also shows $5.035 million in state aid for construction of capital renovations and additions to buildings at CCBC Essex.

“The county has program funded $12,318,000 in FY2020 [for that project] and there was a prior authorization of $23,601,661 for miscellaneous capital renovations,” Almon said.

Councilman Todd Crandell’s Seventh District fared similarly to Marks’ district in that it will see a lot of school-related funding, but little else of note in the next year’s budget.

But not all was as jovial in the passage of the budget as it has been in years past.

Before the budget’s final passage, the three Republicans on the council - Marks, Crandell and Wade Kach (District 3) - attempted to cut several items from the budget by introducing amendments.

First, the minority group tried to cut $14 million from the STAT program in county schools which seeks to supply each county school student with technological devices like laptops and tablets.

Marks questioned the efficacy of the STAT program while stating that “$14 million is roughly the cost of half of a small elementary school.”

Next, the Republicans sought to cut a $4 million increase in the county’s funding of its Section 8 housing program.

“Buried in the Fiscal Year 2019 county budget was a line item for over $4 million in increased Section 8 funding,” Crandell said in a statement. “While the reasoning for the increase was explained as being necessary to stave off higher rent costs, it could also be used to expand the program.”

Both attempted cuts failed with 3-4 votes along party lines and the funds remained in the budget.

“Additionally, during budget deliberations, I motioned for a $3 million cut in the fund that pays the $30 million commitment to create more affordable housing in Baltimore County,” Crandell said. “This too failed along party lines.”

Crandell stated that the high amount of Section 8 housing in his district when he took office was a major concern for the communities he represents, and it remains so, leading him to vote against the county’s HOME Act in 2016 which would have forced landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers.

Due to a legal settlement between the late county executive and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, that bill is required to be submitted again in the future, “and I will vote against it every single time,” Crandell said.

“I cannot allow this issue to threaten our progress,” he continued. “I will always vote against the expansion of this program and its detrimental effects to our communities.”

Marks agreed, stating that the legal settlement with HUD targets communities like Perry Hall, which he represents, and he believes an influx of Section 8 residents could destabilize the communities.

“I will continue to fight any oversaturation of Perry Hall’s neighborhoods with Section 8 housing,” he said.

In recent months, the council’s three Republicans have expressed concern that agreements and initiatives pushed by Kamenetz would push the county to - and potentially beyond - its financial limits.

Marks said this budget is balanced and maintains the fiscal solvency of the county.

“But the council is going to have to make some important and difficult decisions in the next few years” to keep it that way, he said.

He added though that the county government is still running with a budget surplus, and if a favorable county executive is elected and works well with Gov. Larry Hogan, that could mean more financial contributions for the county from the state.

More than just holding the line on taxes, Councilman Kach also proposed a one-cent decrease in the county’s property tax rate, which was similarly rejected by the Democrat majority.

The proposed decrease would have amounted to about $7 million less in annual revenue for the county, according to Marks. However, he said the cuts they proposed previously, which had amounted to nearly $30 million, would have covered the loss.

“So anyone who thinks [Republicans] are being fiscally irresponsible is mistaken,” he said. read more

Patapsco HS student helps create winning ice cream recipe

Patapsco HS student helps create winning ice cream recipe
Trey Wooten, a student at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, was part of the team that came up with the winning flavor. Courtesy photo.
(Updated 5/30/18)

- By Marge Neal -

A new ice cream flavor is about to hit the menu at Harford County’s Broom’s Bloom Dairy: Farmer’s Flight.

The mixed berry and green tea ice cream with honey crunches was created by Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts junior Trey Wooten and his TIC Gums Ice Cream University teammates, Jonathon Parks of Fallston High and Anthony Sulinksi of Bel Air High.

The three students were among 16 selected to participate in the program modeled after Cornell University’s Food Science 101 course, according to a statement from Baltimore County Public Schools. Classes were held at TIC Gums’ Texture Innovation Center in White Marsh.

TIC Gums sponsors the program’s $500 fee for each participant and also gave a home ice cream maker to each student who completed the five-week course.

“Year over year, this program has meant so much to TIC Gums and our mission to educate the public about food science,” Tim Andon, TIC business development manager and a Cornell graduate, said in the statement. “We want to make kids excited about the food industry and inspire them to ask more questions and discover a potentially unknown passion.”

Wooten is already familiar with his own passion for the food industry. He is enrolled in the culinary arts program at Sollers Point Technical High School, in addition to his regular academic program at Patapsco.

He found out about Ice Cream University by way of a flier distributed at Sollers Point, and with straight A’s and a keen interest in the culinary arts, decided to apply.

“It was originally only open to Harford County students and then when not enough students applied, they opened it to Baltimore County,” Wooten told the East County Times. “I was excited to go.”

The first few weeks of the program were dedicated to scientific principles of foods, such as “emulsions,

overrun calculations, ice crystal formation and statistical know-how for tracking and maintaining quality,” according to the statement. Subsequent classes concentrated on flavor selection and inclusions such as nuts, chocolate and fruit and the program ended with students presenting their flavors and marketing/branding plans.

“Every week, we experimented with two different recipes,” Wooten said. “My team worked on a spicy chocolate recipe and the berry and green tea recipe but we dropped the chocolate idea when we couldn’t get the spices right.”

The three-man team tweaked the berry/green tea concoction each week until it was “just right.”

A panel of judges, which included a pastry chef, TIC Gums and Broom’s Bloom employees and other food specialists sampled each contending ice cream and judged the branding plans before declaring the winner on May 5, according to Wooten.

“I was very surprised that we won,” the student admitted. “I have anxiety and I was so nervous after the competition that I left the room for a little while and came back to find out we had won.”

Sandy Skordalas, chairperson of Patapsco’s social studies department and the school’s debate team coach, said she wasn’t surprised to hear that Wooten was on the winning team.

“I’m not familiar with his culinary skills but I can tell you he’s a great young man and very responsible,” she told the Times. “He was a great debate team member known for his ability to defend an argument; he was always well-prepared.”

Besides bragging rights (and the personal ice cream maker), the students will get to see their winning recipe mass produced and offered on the menu at the Bel Air dairy.

The winning ice cream makers are scheduled to visit Broom’s Bloom to make the first batch of the award-winning concoction on June 4, according to Janey Wolff, who oversees ice cream production at the dairy and served as a judge in the contest.

Asked if she voted for the winning entry, she said yes.

“All the judges voted for the winner, it was unanimous,” she said. “We also take in to consideration their Power Point presentations and this was the sure winner.”

The three students will make the first 2.5 gallon box of the frozen treat and then dairy workers will make several more boxes to ensure enough is available to the general public, according to Wolff.

“If everything goes according to schedule, we expect to debut the ice cream that weekend after June 4,” Wolff said. “It’s a good ice cream, you can taste each flavor and it’s just a really good combination.”

Broom’s Bloom Dairy is at 1700 S. Fountain Green Road in Bel Air. Call 410-339-2697 to check on the availability of Farmer’s Flight.

For his part, Wooten said he plans to continue experimenting with original ice cream recipes and expects to get good use out of his new ice cream maker.

“I guess my family will come to expect homemade ice cream,” he said with a chuckle. read more

Rockin’ on the River set for seventh installment

Rockin’ on the River set for seventh installment
Rob Baier (left) and his band Kanye Twitty performed at last year’s Rockin’ on the River. Baier has been a staple of the event, performing in each installment. File photo.
(Updated 5/30/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

The seventh installment of Rockin’ on the River, the east side’s biggest concert event of the year, is set for this Sunday, June 3.

Once again being held at Conrad’s Ruth Villa in Middle River, this year’s event promises to be the best one yet, according to Don Crockett, who heads up the event each year.

“This is the best slate of bands we have put together over the last seven years,” said Crockett. “Of course everyone knows Kanye Twitty, The New Romance and Awaken by now, but this year we added two newcomers with Damn Connellys and Red Dirt Revolution. And those guys will blow your mind.”

While Damn Connellys and Red Dirt Revolution may be new to Rockin’ on the River, they certainly won’t be new to many in attendance. These two bands have been building up hype over the last few years, and Crockett is excited to bring them to Rockin’ on the River for the first time.

“The energy that the guys from Damn Connellys bring is just contagious. These guys are just wild,” said Crockett. “And Red Dirt Revolution is one of, if not the best country acts going in Maryland.”

Crockett promised that there will be music there for everyone, from pop and country to classic rock, folk and more.

This year saw the sold-out event raise ticket prices for the first time, jumping from $10 to $15 after a few sponsors dropped out. But according to Crockett, the minor price hike did not deter sales in the least.

“I had people telling me I should jack the price up to $20, but we want to keep it reasonable,” said Crockett. “We’re not trying to gouge anyone. We’re just trying to put on a fun show and raise some money for good causes in the area.”

The bulk of the donations have historically gone to organizations that work on the water, like the Back River Restoration Committee, while the remainder is divvied out to different charities throughout the rest of the year. In years past, donations have been made to Shop with a Cop and to provide books for children at Franklin Square Medical Center.

“We do like to keep things focused on the water, because without that we wouldn’t even have a Rockin’ on the River,” said Crockett. “If we spend so much time enjoying everything our waterways have to offer, it only makes sense to give back and make sure they are healthy.”

Gates for Rockin’ on the River open at 11 a.m. and things kick off at noon, running until 5:30 p.m. The event will be emceed by DJ Jon Boesche, and DJ Big George will also be in attendance.

This year, 2,700 people bought tickets for Rockin’ on the River, with tickets selling out in less than two weeks. No tickets will be sold at the door.

“These things fly fast,” said Crockett. “It’s amazing, you talk to people and they view this weekend as a holiday.”

As always, food and alcoholic beverages will be offered for sale. No outside alcoholic beverages, food, pets or coolers are allowed on the premises. This applies also to those entering the premises from boats.

While politicians have almost always attended, Crockett wanted to emphasize that no campaign literature is allowed to be given out at Rockin’ on the River. “Everyone needs to leave their R’s, D’s and I’s at the door,” Crockett said.

This year there will also be a table set aside for the Marine Trades Association to raise funds for their annual fireworks display.

Crockett said he is looking forward to this year’s installment, offering thanks to those who have made the event the juggernaut it is.

“I just want to say thank you to Rob Baier, Sam Weaver and Fred Conrad, all of whom make this event possible,” said Crockett. “And the same goes for our wonderful group of sponsors and the fans who buy the tickets each year.” read more

New Light Lutheran to offer street-side prayer to busy commuters

New Light Lutheran to offer street-side prayer to busy commuters
Rev. Kristi King (left) joined other participants for the first drive-thru prayer event on May 3. Courtesy photo.
(Updated 5/30/18)

- By Marge Neal -

Taking a page from the “Ashes to Go” book, a Dundalk minister has decided to break down the physical walls of the church a little more by offering “drive-through” prayer during the months of June and July.

Ashes to Go is a national movement that provides the disposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday on street corners and in parking lots in an effort to provide church services to an increasingly busy population.

“We didn’t know what to expect the first time we offered Ashes to Go,” the Rev. Kristi King, pastor of Dundalk’s New Light Lutheran Church, told the East County Times. “In addition to offering ashes, we asked people if there was anything we could pray for.”

King said those private moments with local residents who opened up and asked for prayer were “holy moments” that made her question why such an outreach service was offered only once a year.

The pastor and church members put their heads together and came up with the idea of offering drive-through prayer services during the summer months when vacation plans and other family commitments can mean a drop in church attendance.

But while formal church attendance decreases, the need for spiritual guidance and advice remains constant, King believes.

The first drive-through offering was held May 3, to coincide with National Day of Prayer, according to King, and about 25 people stopped for a few minutes of prayer and spiritual contemplation.

Local residents and commuters can next avail themselves to mobile prayer on June 7, with sessions from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Church members will stand at the corner of  Dundalk and Pine avenues with signs directing drivers to the church’s parking lot at that corner.

“We encourage people to pull into the parking lot as opposed to just pulling off to the side of the road so we can spend a few minutes with them without being hurried or worried about traffic behind them,” King said. “The prayer encounters are not long, but we want people to get as much time as they feel they need.”

King said she is humbled with people trusting her by opening up with some of the most intimate or painful things going on in their lives.

“Life tends to stay on the surface and people say they’re OK when asked,” King said. “But when you dig a little and people begin to trust you, they’ll share the things that are causing them concern.”

A five-minute encounter during a mobile prayer service might be just the thing to get someone over an emotional hump, and King said she and New Light members are honored to provide that service.

“We’re all carrying around so much inside of us, and we want to tell people, ‘You are not alone, we’re here for you if you need us,’” King said. “God is present here in the midst and we’re all here in this together, so let’s pray together.”

For more information about the mobile prayer ministry or any other New Light program, call King at 410-284-6840. read more

Rebuilding Together gives peace of mind to homeowners

Rebuilding Together gives peace of mind to homeowners
Inside John Kaiser’s home on Dunbar Road, Rebuilding Together volunteers prepare to install a new section of ceiling while outside, other volunteers replace a porch landing. Photo by Marge Neal.
(Updated 5/23/18)

- By Marge Neal -

Vietnam veteran John Kaiser is struggling to keep up with repairs needed on his Dundalk home that has been in the family for at least three generations.

The problems in the house just kept piling up: a clogged drain that had all but put a stop to water use, a porch roof that was tilted and in danger of collapse, plumbing leaks in the kitchen and a back porch that was in bad need of replacement.

On Saturday, May 19, Kaiser looked on in amazement as a crew of Rebuilding Together Baltimore volunteers swept through his Dunbar Road home, making quick work of repairs he would not otherwise have been able to afford.

“It really means a lot to me,” the humble, soft-spoken man said as workers cut a hole in a piece of drywall to fit over a light fixture in a ceiling. “This is really something.”

Workers from Improvement Zone were among the volunteers whipping Kaiser’s house into shape. Owner Nick Neboshynsky described his company as a disabled veteran business and said he always likes to request the assignment of a veteran’s home.

“It makes it more special to me,” he said. “It gives me that connection.”

Noting that the clogged drain was the most vital and urgent need, a contractor was hired to fix the problem the week before the Rebuilding Together blitz, according to Bonnie Bessor, executive director of Baltimore’s chapter of the national organization.

“John essentially couldn’t use the water; couldn’t flush the toilet,” Bessor said of the plumbing problem. “So we had a contractor come in last week and that’s all taken care of.”

Kaiser, who served in the Army from 1971-74 and was deployed to Vietnam, just smiled at the work taking place in his home.

“It really means the world to me,” he said. “I was thinking I was going to have to find someplace else to stay and this changes everything.”

On Fairgreen Road, Shirley Chavis had the same look of appreciation on her face as a crew of volunteers from Booz Allen Hamilton was busy preparing her living room floor for a new covering.

Chavis, the co-owner of the house, along with her significant other, Mark Phoebus, said the crew had already put down a new wood laminate floor in the dining room and other volunteers were busy repairing a roof leak and fixing the ceiling that had been damaged as a result of the leak.

Three generations live in the home, with Chavis’ granddaughter and her two children completing the extended family.

Chavis has several health issues, including diabetes and balance issues, and Phoebus has been disabled since 2001. As a result, money is tight and they cannot do any heavy work themselves, according to Phoebus, also a military veteran.

“This is a big, big relief,” Chavis said. “So much came off my mind - these guys are awesome.”

Before the end of the day, the house would also have all new window screens, new smoke detectors and a new bathroom fan.

In addition to the “deep dive” repairs on four homes in the Dun-Logan community, all homeowners, regardless of income, were invited to take advantage of smaller offerings, including front and rear address markers, downspout extensions, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and energy-efficient light bulbs for porch lights, according to Bessor.

“We’re a ‘safe and healthy housing’ organization,” Bessor said. “Installing items that help keep residents safe and healthy in their homes is a big part of our mission.”

Hand railings and safety bars in bathrooms are among the staples provided by the organization.

Dundalk’s American Legion Post 38, of which Phoebus and Kaiser are members, offered its covered patio to the group to use as its headquarters for the day. The shelter came in handy as volunteers faced a rainy day to perform their benevolent tasks.

As a result, the Post received some volunteer help. Crews cleaned and replanted flower beds around the building, while other volunteers transformed a group of mismatched picnic tables into a uniform collection of red, white and blue gathering spots.

“We’re going to have to come back and do another coat because the paint didn’t dry fast enough in the rain,” Bessor said. “But that’s no big deal, and we’re also going to paint the stage.”

Baltimore County government provided dump trucks which picked up not only construction debris but also clutter, old furniture and other items the homeowners wanted to get rid of, Bessor said.

Over a short lunch break, Bessor pointed out various volunteers who return year after year because the mission means so much to them.

“We even have a former intern who came back to volunteer ,” Bessor said. “She just graduated yesterday with her master’s degree in social work and she could have slept in, but instead she’s here at 8 in the morning, in the pouring rain, ready to work.”

She mentioned another volunteer who first got involved because there was “strong encouragement” at work to participate, and 30 years later, she’s still volunteering on her own simply because she enjoys it.

Each year, Rebuilding Together completes about 10,000 home rebuild projects across the country, according to organization literature. Two out of every three projects help keep older adults in their homes. The repairs give homeowners peace of mind, enable them to age in place and create safer living environments with safety equipment that reduces the number of debilitating falls.

And Chavis considers herself lucky to be the beneficiary of those efforts.

“This sure has made my life a lot happier,” she said as she sat at her dining room table, surrounded by a new wood floor and space opened up by the purging of some clutter. “It’s just taken a lot off my mind and it means the world to us.” read more

Library system recognizes ETHS students for constructing Little Free Libraries

Library system recognizes ETHS students for constructing Little Free Libraries
This prototype LFL design was conceived and built by ETHS senior Teddy Ziolkowski. However, the final design was slightly modified, having an A-frame roof and painted with BCPL colors. Photo by Devin Crum.
(Updated 5/23/18)

- By Devin Crum -

The Baltimore County Public Library system recognized 31 Eastern Technical High School students Tuesday, May 22, for their hard work in building eight Little Free Libraries for county residents to participate in book sharing.

The LFLs have been installed at ETHS in Essex and various public parks around the county, including, on the east side, Double Rock Park in Parkville, Eastern Regional Park in Middle River and Heritage Park in Dundalk.

BCPL financed the cost of the materials for the project to the tune of about $400, according to John Eagan, construction management instructor at the school. And since students carried out the construction, the labor cost was free, he said.

Eagan surmised that each LFL could house about 14 books at a time, depending on the size of the books.

The instructor said the project began with a design competition between last year’s students, and the construction was picked up by this year’s seniors.

“Basically what they did is they created a path for the Little Free Library project,” Eagan said, pointing to the prototype, built by senior Teddy Ziolkowski, which was on display. “It created a path for the smaller version that’s going to be put at many locations in Baltimore County.”

He said students used materials such as a single sheet of plywood from which to cut the pieces they needed, and they divvied up the available roof shingles for all of the library boxes.

“That was part of the parameters and they had to make it work with the materials they had,” he said.

Eagan added that the students applied the building techniques they have learned to construct the LFLs before painting them with BCPL colors.

“It gave the students the opportunity to learn new skills and apply them directly to the project,” he said. “The students worked really hard on this project from start to finish, and they were able to manage it, design and build and see it through to the end. They did a great job.”

Ziolkowski, whose design was chosen from the competition, said he decided on a shed-style roof design because it had a simple, yet modern look.

Assistant Director of BCPL Natalie Edington praised the LFL project noting that they will serve the community for years to come.

She said BCPL and Baltimore County Public Schools share many of the same values and priorities, such as the importance of learning, reading, literacy and education.

“The Little Free Library project is all of those things on the surface,” she said. “And if you look a little deeper, you see the added value of connecting the community.”

Edington said while people often share books with friends and family, the LFLs allow people to also share them with neighbors and the broader community.

“Little Free Libraries are creativity, discussion and even friendship,” she said. “They create a more connected and inclusive community.”

She saw the effort as connecting with a partner in the community on a project that would create more connections in the community.

ETHS Assistant Principal Stephen Stevens said the LFLs are an opportunity to create a totally new environment in public parks and other spaces.

“We know that books have the ability to take us anywhere that our imaginations can also take us,” he said.

Each LFL location has a designated library branch nearest it which will monitor and initially stock it with books that have been donated to the library system, according to BCPL spokeswoman Erica Palmisano. She noted that since actual library books were purchased with taxpayer money, they will not be used to stock the LFLs.

Additionally, the boxes will be checked on at least twice per month by a library employee from the parent branches.

“I know this is sort of a pet project for some people so maybe they will do more,” Palmisano said. read more

Two solar-panel projects moving forward near Kingsville

Two solar-panel projects moving forward near Kingsville
An existing solar array currently sits along Pfeffers Road in Kingsville near the proposed sites for new arrays. Photo by Virginia Terhune.
(Updated 5/23/18)

Hearing on possible changes to solar regs set for June 7 

- By Virginia Terhune -

More than a dozen businesses have applied to install solar panels on about 170 acres of farmland in scattered areas of Baltimore County, which they say will reduce the burning of fossil fuels and create jobs in a growing industry.

But neighbors living near the projects argue that the fenced solar arrays will interfere with scenic views, lower property values and take farmland out of production.

The county’s Planning Board is currently evaluating the effect of Bill 37-17, which the County Council passed into law nearly a year ago to govern the siting of solar facilities.

“Currently there have been no facilities constructed since passage of Bill 37-17, as projects have been appealed or are currently still in the development process,” according to a draft report issued by the county’s Office of Planning on May 17.

The planning office held meetings on March 26 and April 17 to solicit input about possible changes to the law.

Also scheduled is a public hearing on Thursday, June 7, at 5 p.m. in the county’s Jefferson Building in Towson before the board sends its final report to the County Council by the end of June.

Based on input so far, some solar companies want to raise the current cap of 10 projects per council district, according to the draft report.

Other companies want to speed up the process by replacing a public hearing from the approval process with an administrative review before the county’s Development Review Committee. Most of the projects are facing first-year deadlines imposed by participation in BGE’s three-year Community Solar Pilot program, according to the draft report.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, some land preservation and community groups want to see more restrictions on where facilities can be located, as well as incentives to create habitats for wildlife on land used for solar arrays.

Some also want more support for alternatives to leasing farm land, such as installing solar panels on capped landfills or contaminated industrial “brownfield” sites.

A county spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request Monday for an up-to-date list of solar projects in the county. However, the planning office’s draft report included a list compiled as of late March.

Eight of the 14 solar projects on the list were in Council District 3, which covers rural northern Baltimore County. Most of the projects have been granted a required special exception by a county administrative law judge, but some are facing appeals before the county’s Board of Appeals.

An additional four projects are located in District 4 in western Baltimore County, and two more are in northeastern Baltimore County in the Kingsville/Bradshaw area.

One project at 11956 Philadelphia Road on the northeast corner of the intersection of Philadelphia and Raphel roads in District 6 was granted a special exception on Dec. 29.

A second project located on the south side of the same intersection, at 10790 Raphel Road in District 5, was granted a special exception on May 11.

In both cases the Greater Kingsville Civic Association asked that additional landscaping be done along Raphel Road and at the intersection, which is considered a gateway to Kingsville. A representative for the association did not return a request for comment Monday.

Regarding industrial sites, the Chesapeake Bay Journal reported in April that 54,000 solar panels are being installed at a closed municipal landfill west of Annapolis.

The Maryland Department of Commerce offers grants to companies that buy qualified brownfield sites, and Baltimore County also offers tax credits for state-qualified brownfield sites that have gone through the Maryland Voluntary Cleanup Program.

The planning office’s draft report, entitled “Bill 37-17 Solar Facilities - Evaluation of the Impacts of Solar Facilities in Baltimore County,” is expected to be posted at on the Planning Board web page under June 2018 meetings. read more

Fullerton fireworks group still looking for infusion of cash, fresh volunteers

Fullerton fireworks group still looking for infusion of cash, fresh volunteers
Photo courtesy of the Fullerton Fireworks Foundation Facebook page.
(Updated 5/23/18)

There is good news and bad news about the Fullerton community fireworks display.

The popular Independence Day production will happen again this year, but Fullerton Fireworks Foundation Vice President Rick Swinder said he just does not know how long the tradition can continue without an infusion of new volunteer help.

“We have a handful of volunteers and I mean literally a handful,” Swinder told the East County Times. “We have the same five or six volunteers who are attempting to do it all, and quite frankly, we are burning out.”

The fireworks display and accompanying music festival costs about $30,000 a year to produce, according to Swinder. Much of the business community is still struggling in an economy that has not completely rebounded from the recession of 2008, and the quantity and size of donations to the group has shrunk considerably, Swinder said.

The production is 100-percent privately funded, with no assistance from Baltimore County aside from the use of Fullerton Field and a county-owned stage.

“We struggle every year and we’re browbeating the same people to donate,” he said. “It’s the same people making the donations and the same people doing all of the work and we’re just getting burned out.”

In its effort to create new fundraisers, the foundation is running its second annual golf tournament Saturday, June 9, at the Wetlands Golf Club in Aberdeen. The inaugural event raised about $5,000 with 80 golfers, and Swinder said organizers hope to attract at least 100 participants this year.

The fee is $100 per person and includes an 18-hole round of golf, cart, range balls and lunch, which will include BBQ pork, bourbon chicken, burgers and an assortment of side dishes, as well as unlimited domestic beer, soda, Gatorade and water.

In addition to the golf competition, the event will offer raffles, a Chinese auction and putting, closest-to-the-pin and longest-drive contests. A Toyota Highlander awaits the golfer who can shoot a hole-in-one on a specifically designated hole, according to Swinder.

“It’s a really tough hole, and getting a hole-in-one would be like being struck by lightning three times, but you never know,” he said with a laugh.

After May 27, the registration fee goes up to $125. To register in advance, or to volunteer to help, call Dominic Costello at 443-739-2445 or Swinder at 410-977-7829.

Checks made payable to the Fullerton Fireworks Foundation can be sent to the group via P.O. Box 19535, Baltimore, MD 21206.

Volunteers are needed as badly as donations, if not more so, according to Swinder.

“We really need people to pitch in and help,” he said. “The fireworks would be a lot less stressful if more people were involved to make them happen.”

The group meets every two weeks in the few months leading up to the tournament and fireworks, and volunteers are needed to help with tasks before the event as well as the day of, according to Swinder.

“Everybody wants something to happen, but nobody wants to do anything for it,” he said of the popularity of the event. “There’s certainly no shortage of a crowd but we have the same old, tired people doing all the work - that has to change.” read more

Hogan signs school board transparency bill into law

Hogan signs school board transparency bill into law
HB 76 was sponsored by Del. Robin Grammer, a Republican who represents the Sixth legislative district (Dundalk, Essex and parts of Rosedale).
(Updated 5/23/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

The 2018 legislative session in Maryland saw Baltimore County Public Schools under heavy scrutiny from lawmakers. While Delegate Robin Grammer (R-6) failed to get his legislative audit bill for the beleaguered school system passed, he succeeded in getting more transparency from the school board with the passing of House Bill 76: Baltimore County Board of Education - Education Transparency Act.

The bill, which Governor Larry Hogan signed into law two weeks ago, was crafted by Grammer to help constituents keep up with school board activities. The board currently uploads videos of their sessions to their website, but sessions often run three to four hours long, making finding pertinent information a slog.

“Frankly, that’s just asinine,” Grammer told the East County Times in an interview. “No average person, no parent, has three or four hours to watch through a video to know how their representative is voting.”

Grammer said that he has consistently been approached by constituents wishing to see policy changes in the school system. But since policy is directed by the board of education, there has not been much he could do.

With the current makeup of the board being political appointees, and information difficult to find online, Grammer hopes this bill will both keep the public informed and the board honest.

The Education Transparency Act requires that any action of the county board be recorded by a voice vote or a roll call vote and that the results of any vote or action be posted online within 72 hours, along with video and an explanation of what the vote was.

The bill does not stipulate where on the website the information has to be posted, which could potentially be an issue further down the line. However, Grammer was confident that visibility would not be an issue.

“I think some of those details are yet to be ironed out but I think there is enough language there to hold their feet to the fire when posting it online,” he said.

While the bill ended up making it out of the Baltimore County House Delegation, it almost failed. The bill was originally killed in the education subcommittee, which is comprised largely of Democrats, despite no real pushback from the board of education.

“This is completely supported. I don’t think I heard one person say this is a bad idea,” said Grammer. “They even had a board of education representative down there at most [House Delegation] meetings during session, and she didn’t even speak against the bill. The only criticism we had was from other elected officials, that the board of education didn’t have the staff to make this work.”

Eventually, criticism mounted and the bill found its way out of the subcommittee, gaining the full backing of the Baltimore County House Delegation. Whether or not it changes how the board operates remains to be seen, but Grammer sees this bill as a good starting point to re-engaging the public with the school board while letting the board know they will be held accountable.

“I see this bill as kind of a first step in transparency and connecting people in the county with their board of education representative,” said Grammer. “And I think that is a big part of the problem, why we have a board who’s acting in disregard of the concern of the people.” read more

McMillion, Washington square off in school board race debate

McMillion, Washington square off in school board race debate
Washington (standing) spoke about how he has "skin in this game" with the BOE race since his children attend BCPS. Photo by Patrick Taylor.
(Updated 5/23/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

This year marks the first year for school board elections in Baltimore County, and last Thursday, May 17, two of the three candidates vying for the seat in District 7 squared off at the Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Company in Dundalk.

Rod McMillion and Eric Washington spent just over an hour answering questions from the League of Women Voters and a handful of audience members ranging from the role of the board in oversight of the superintendent to policy issues like discipline.

Not present at the debate was Will Feuer, who is also running for the Seventh District seat.

“I had a prior commitment scheduled and had informed the League of Women Voters on April 19 that I could not attend,” Feuer said in a statement. “I had communicated with another candidate who stated he could also not attend and was told the LWV would reschedule if two of the three candidates could not attend. I intended to participate and was waiting for the rescheduled date.”

Washington was not originally expected to make the debate, as he had been out of the state. When he arrived, name placards for McMillion and Feuer adorned the table where the men were supposed to be seated.

Despite the early confusion, the event went on with just McMillion and Washington. McMillion got the ball rolling, opening the debate by highlighting his 35 years working in the school system as a substitute teacher, full time teacher, department chair and athletic director.

“I teach everyday. I’m in a school everyday. I’ve got two years sick time,” said McMillion. “I’m the kind of guy who goes to work. I go to work and I do my job. I’ve seen the school system run from the inside and I have a lot of opinions about the way it’s run. I’m a firm believer in an elected school board. For years I’ve said this system wasn’t working, people weren’t being held accountable.”

Like McMillion, Washington also touted his decades of work in education. The Dundalk resident has been in education for 25 years, working as an administrator for the Community College of Baltimore County for the past 16 years handling conduct issues at the Essex campus. He also has children in the school system and feels that gives him an advantage.

“I have skin in this game,” said Washington. “[To be a board member] you should have children in the system, you should be an educator. Most importantly you should have skin in this game.”

Both McMillion and Washington expressed concern about the current board’s transparency, with McMillion noting that more could be done to keep people updated on policy issues. He also stressed the need for public input on the appointing of a new superintendent.

“Over 50 percent of the budget is all about the school system and we need to be accountable,” said McMillion. He added that although there may be a large contingent of people who are not informed on the school system, “they’re still taxpayers.”

“Their money is going out of their pocket to pay taxes and run BCPS,” said McMillion. “We need to get the public back in this process and re-establish trust.”

Washington agreed with McMillion on transparency, saying the school board needs to “open the books and lay it bare,” but spent a good portion of time lamenting the lack of oversight from the board with both former superintendent Dallas Dance and interim superintendent Verletta White.

“I think at some level they may have failed in doing their task,” said Washington. “If they had kept better hold on the superintendent in terms of his activity, a lot of things that have come about now would have never happened ... Now it’s on the board to make sure that all of the records are open to everyone and an audit is done that is transparent.”

For Washington, the biggest issues are school safety, teacher salaries and school construction, saying that “we in this part of the county have been shortchanged for quite a long time” regarding equitable disbursement of construction funding.

McMillion said the biggest issue for the board is appointing a superintendent and oversight.

“To me it starts with the superintendent and works its way down,” he said, highlighting White’s role in changing the school system’s grading policy. He also hit on increasing school safety, including adding student resource officers at elementary schools, and issuing a comprehensive audit.

The Essex resident lashed out on the STAT program as well, saying the focus needs to be on teaching reading and writing, skills McMillion says graduating students are lacking.

That sentiment was shared by Washington who added, “it’s a shame” the way the school system has shifted so much to using technology in the classroom.

“I am not saying we don’t need technology, but we must use technology wisely to enhance our lives, not turn away from the basic simple things that made our students great,” said Washington.

Because there are more than two candidates in this race, all three names will appear on the primary ballot on June 26, with the top two vote getters advancing to the general election on Nov. 6. read more

Tradepoint Atlantic buys Sparrows Point shipyard for $33.5 million

Tradepoint Atlantic buys Sparrows Point shipyard for $33.5 million
The former Bethlehem Steel shipyard, then operating as BB Metals, won a naval ship-breaking contract to dismantle the USNS Range Sentinel at the shipyard in 2012. In its prime, the Sentinel saw action in World War II. Photo by Marge Neal.
(Updated 5/16/18)

- By Marge Neal -

Tradepoint Atlantic officials have recently acquired another piece of the Sparrows Point puzzle that will afford them total control over the modalities available at the more than 3,000-acre property that is the former site of Bethlehem Steel Corp. and its many successors.

Tradepoint has acquired the Point’s shipyard, which has changed hands several times and operated under many different names since Bethlehem Steel sold the property in the late 1990s, according to online taxation and property records.

Aaron Tomarchio, Tradepoint’s vice president of corporate affairs, confirmed to the East County Times on May 8 that the property transfer had been settled “a couple of weeks ago.”

Online Maryland property tax records updated earlier this week show the property legally changed hands April 30. SPS Limited Partnership LLLP sold the 226-acre parcel to TPA Properties 9 LLC for $33.5 million.

Asked for more detail about the acquisition and how it fit into the industrial and distribution complex’s plans for the future, Tomarchio declined to elaborate.

“We plan to put out an official statement in the next week or two, and we’ll have more details and background for you when we release that statement,” he told the Times.

The marketing of Tradepoint as a full-modality transportation and distribution center has centered on the property’s deep channel shipping access, an in-house railroad and close proximity to interstate highways and commercial freight rail lines.

It is unclear whether Tradepoint will operate the shipyard or lease it to a contractor, but the sale ensures that the company will control the facility that provides drydocking and manufacturing capabilities for vessel repairs, shipbuilding and ship-breaking.

The shipyard property has a storied past. Steelmaking and shipbuilding began at The Point in 1887 when Maryland Steel set up shop on what was previously waterfront farmland. The entire property was acquired by Bethlehem Steel in 1916, according to online histories of the land. The shipyard parcel was sold in 1997 to Veritas Capital Fund, which operated the facility under the name of Baltimore Marine Industries Inc. Veritas subsequently sold it to Barletta Industries. Barletta operated under the name of Sparrows Point Shipyard and Industrial Complex.

The land continued to lose value as the shipbuilding market faltered. BMI/Veritas sold the property in 2004 for $9.25 million, and subsequent sales were for $4.8 million and $2 million before the sale to Tradepoint for $33.5 million, according to taxation and assessment records. read more

Chesapeake Realty Partners proposes luxury apartments in White Marsh

Chesapeake Realty Partners proposes luxury apartments in White Marsh
As proposed, the project would consist of one- and two-bedroom units and "high-end" amenities such as a club house, recreational open space in the center of the site and some covered parking. Image courtesy of Chesapeak Realty Partners.
(Updated 5/16/18)

- By Devin Crum -

Eastside TRF, LLC, which is affiliated with Chesapeake Realty Partners, is proposing to build 324 “high-end” apartments, called “Avenue Grand,” on a nearly 13-acre, undeveloped site within the White Marsh business community.

The property, located at 8120 and 8130 Corporate Drive, backs up to Sandpiper Circle and is “the last piece of property on [the west] side of I-95 that’s available in the business community,” according to Jim Matis, engineer for the project.

The adjoining property has two existing three-story office buildings. The subject site was initially planned as part of that office complex, Matis said at a May 9 community input meeting for the project, but a former owner re-envisioned it for apartments.

“Finally, Chesapeake is taking it to that next step,” he said, “which makes sense with the proximity to the mall and the proximity to services relative to the business center.”

The land is currently zoned for light industrial use, but the Baltimore County Council passed legislation last year to allow residential uses at the site due to its proximity to the White Marsh Town Center district.

The project plan calls for four buildings, each with 81 units and five stories tall, Matis said. The complex would consist of about 60 percent one-bedroom units and 40 percent two-bedroom units. Primary access to the site would be from Sandpiper Circle, and it would likely have secondary access through the office complex.

CRP, according to its president, Jon Mayers, has built such projects as Bay Country and The Woods at Bay Country in Chase, as well as the Honeygo Town Center in Perry Hall and more recently the Winthrop in Towson which he called “highly successful.”

“It’s got the highest rent in Baltimore County,” Mayers said. “It is without a doubt a high-end, Class-A product for the county.”

The vision for Avenue Grand is similar to the Winthrop, he said, albeit with a different building type, set of amenities and a slightly different target demographic. But it would have the same design features, such as high-end kitchen and bathroom finishes, wide hallways, high ceilings, abundant light, a washer and dryer in every unit and other such perks - and they expect to get slightly higher rents there than at the Winthrop.

He added they do not skimp on bedroom sizes. “So they’re really luxurious.”

The target demographics for the project, Mayers explained, are millennials who do not yet have children, who want a variety of things to do and who want an urban-like lifestyle without living downtown, as well as empty nesters who want to stay near their families and who want amenities to fit their active lifestyles.

“There aren’t a lot of options, if you look at the apartments in the area, for the people who can afford it; they would not rent those apartments,” he said. “A lot of those people are going downtown now.”

In addressing concerns from residents about “affordable housing,” the CRP president assured “this is not that.”

“This is not Section 8, we don’t get government financing, we won’t have a HUD loan, we won’t have anything like that,” Mayers said. “This is our money.”

Ryan Nawrocki, a candidate for County Council who attended the meeting, pointed out that any rental property owner can accept government housing vouchers and expressed concern that CRP could do that with this project, particularly if the County Council passes legislation requiring rental owners to accept the vouchers or set aside a certain percentage of their units for affordable housing.

But Mayers noted those rules are not in effect now, so they are not what will govern the design or scope of this project.

“We’re not taking Section 8; we never have,” he said. “We can’t get the highest rent in the county and have the quality of project that we want and have the residents we want move there and stay there if we move Section 8 people in. It would be completely against everything we’re trying to do.”

Nawrocki, who arrived late to the meeting, also posted on social media afterward that the developer would seek to have “zero open space for the development.”

However, before the candidate arrived, Mayers explained to attendees that the majority of the project would be centered around a “really large, gracious green space” with things like pavillions, fire pits and hammock gardens, plus a pool and a 9,500-square-foot club center.

He did say, though, that CRP would seek to pay a waiver fee for the remainder of the required open space they could not supply on the site.

Regarding children living in the new development and attending area schools, Nawrocki pointed out that enrollment at Fullerton Elementary School, for which the project would be zoned, is currently at 132 percent of capacity.

Baltimore County Public Schools enrollment projections also show enrollment at the school continuing to rise in the coming years. But those projections do not take into account the planned new 700-seat elementary school on nearby Ridge Road, slated to open in August 2020, according to BCPS spokeswoman Dolores Pierorazio.

Mayers said his project would likely not start construction until late 2019 or early 2020, leaving time for the new school to open before adding any new students.

“The additional seats at the Ridge Road site are anticipated to provide significant relief to the area when they are added,” Pierorazio said. “The project was specifically identified to provide capacity relief to the [northeast] area.”

Patricia Malone, land use attorney for the project, said there is also available capacity in adjacent school districts, “which is a proper way to have a development project approved.”

Per the county’s calculation for children from the project attending area schools, they assume 11 elementary school-aged children would live there. But because of the product type and demographics, they have experienced lower numbers.

“We follow the county calculation,” Mayers said, “but in a project like this we typically have less than what the calculation says.”

He said market studies have shown that there are plenty of families who want three or four bedrooms, “but they don’t pay the rent we want, and they’re not going to create the lifestyle for the other folks that we want.”

He could not guarantee some families wouldn’t move in, but added only three school-aged children live in the Winthrop out of 292 units.

Nawrocki also raised concerns about traffic, noting that the nearby intersection of MD-43/White Marsh Boulevard at Honeygo Boulevard is heavily congested and is currently rated at a level of service (LOS) D, meaning drivers can experience delays during peak hours.

But Baltimore County and the Maryland Department of Transportation consider an LOS D “acceptable” on roadways.

Matis, the project engineer, said the new housing would not change the intersection’s rating.

Additionally, there is significant other major traffic infrastructure in the area, including MD-43 at Perry Hall Boulevard - the closest major intersection to the site - which functions at a LOS A during both morning and evening peak hours, according to state data.

Other community members expressed excitement about the project for what they saw as the potential to breathe new life into some of the area’s older businesses.

“I’m excited about it because I think White Marsh Mall is dying,” said White Marsh resident Mark Thompson. “Something like this is a step toward maybe turning that mall around.”

He added that his community, which he said is the closest neighborhood to the site, wants to see the it happen because they see it as positive growth.

Sandra Lombardo, branch manager at the White Marsh library, said she supported the project because the targeted demographic groups are some of the heaviest users of libraries. read more

Education, crime, small business are District 8 candidate priorities

Education, crime, small business are District 8 candidate priorities
Norma Secoura (left) addresses the crowd while Carl Jackson, Kevin Leary, Joe Cluster, Ben Boehl, Christian Miele and Eric Bromwell wait for their turn. Photo by Marge Neal.
(Updated 5/16/18)

- By Marge Neal -

The dais at the Parkville Senior Center was packed last Thursday, May 10, as the Greater Parkville Community Council hosted a forum for local House of Delegate and State Senate candidates.

Challengers and incumbents running in districts 8, 42A and 42B were invited to share their vision with and take questions from Parkville, Carney, Cub Hill and Towson residents.

Before yielding the floor to the candidates, GPCC President Ruth Baisden spoke of the accomplishments of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who died suddenly early that morning, and asked for a moment of silence in his memory.

Candidates were given three minutes each to introduce themselves and to share their visions and priorities for their respective districts. For the purposes of this article, only District 8 candidates are covered.

Many candidates bragged about being lifelong or long-term residents of the district and spoke of attending local public schools, colleges and universities. Across party lines, candidates spoke of the need to improve the school system - including academics, the physical condition of buildings and the need for more transparency in the day-to-day governance of the school system. Other priority items discussed included lowering crime rates, attracting new businesses to the “Main Street” area of Parkville, health care, the opioid crisis and improving the general quality of life in the district.

Current Eighth District Delegate Christian Miele is giving up that seat to run against Democrat Kathy Klausmeier for the district’s State Senate seat.

He spoke of his record while in the House of Delegates and pointed to causes he had championed, including a tax credit program designed to “incentivize businesses to come to Parkville’s Main Street,” and a program to hire unemployed military veterans.

“It’s time to vote for change because change is necessary to move Maryland forward,” Miele said.

House of Delegates Republican challenger Joe Norman, who introduced himself as a small business owner and recreation council coach, did not pull any punches when explaining why he is running for office.

“I’m sick and tired of being treated like a bottomless piggy bank by our state government,” he said. “I’m tired of business as usual.”

Jared Wineberg introduced himself as a Republican but said that is not his identity; he is a man with Christ, family and country/state as his priorities.

The new Parkville resident moved to the area about three years ago after being drawn to its small-town feel. He said he would like to see “a really cool downtown;” he is happy to see an elected, accountable-to-the-people school board get seated this year; and said he is concerned about the state of education and the crime rate.

“Police are professionals and we need to support them with the resources they need,” he said.

Republican Norma Secoura told the crowd that her “bread and butter” has been community work. She cited her many years of community involvement, including membership and participation with the Overlea Community Association and Fullerton Fireworks Committee efforts.

“I want to be in the House of Delegates because I care,” she said. “It’s a natural progression of my work.”

The lifelong district resident told the crowd that she has a “665” phone number she has had her entire life.

Carl Jackson, a Democrat, works at the University of Maryland at Baltimore in its School of Social Work. He told the crowd of starting at the bottom, in the mail room, and working his way up to administration while also earning a master’s degree in business.

“Education is everything for me,” he said. “I am the first of my family to receive a higher education degree and I am a graduate of Overlea High School.”

He said he believes new elected leaders are needed because leaders who spend too much time in Annapolis “tend to do what they want instead of what the community wants.”

Republican Kevin Leary is a military veteran, a former cop and a small business owner, he told the crowd. He is concerned about the school system, which he said is teaching students “how to take a test” and little else.

He also expressed concern about the amount of student misbehavior and how it is addressed.

“There has to be discipline,” he said. “I don’t want to keep everyone out,” but he believes that after interventions fail, students need to face consequences for their bad behavior.

He said he would like to see efforts to attract more small businesses to the area and believes Maryland’s regulations “crush” small business owners.

Republican incumbent Delegate Joe Cluster is in the second and final year in the term he was appointed to finish after his father was appointed as the state’s parole commissioner by Gov. Larry Hogan.

He said Parkville is “very important” to him and cited putting up with long commutes while working in the District of Columbia and Annapolis because he did not want to move out of his Parkville community.

He told the crowd his top priority is getting Hogan reelected.

“A divided government works for you; a monopoly government doesn’t work for you,” he told the crowd. He believes more Republicans need to get elected so Hogan’s projects and initiatives stand a better chance of being enacted.

Republican challenger Ben Boehl, a “lifelong district resident,” said the current Democrat-controlled state government is “pro-criminal and anti-business” and he would like to see that changed.

He said he is tired of criminals being given “four, five and six chances” by the criminal justice system and also expressed concern about school budget money being spent on digital devices while “school buildings are crumbling.”

Incumbent Delegate Eric Bromwell, a Democrat, said businesses are under-represented in Annapolis because it is “very difficult for business owners to go to Annapolis for 90 days each year.”

He expressed concern about the widespread problem of opioid abuse and lauded Perry Hall resident Toni Torsch for her involvement in spurring laws to address the problem.

Citing the easier access to Narcan, an antidote for opioid overdoses, and the creation of a standing order that lets any pharmacist sell Narcan to anyone who requests it, Bromwell said, “Toni Torsch is the reason Maryland is a national leader in this effort.”

Bromwell also said he is not happy with overdevelopment, with a CVS or other chain pharmacy on seemingly every street corner.

Maryland’s primary election will be held Tuesday, June 26. The top three vote getters in each major party will advance to the general election, set for Nov. 6.

Those desiring more detailed information on candidates can visit their websites and social media pages. read more

Bhandari positions himself as the education candidate in District 8

Bhandari positions himself as the education candidate in District 8
Supporters, fellow candidates and elected officials joined Bhandari to cut the ribbon on his campaign headquarters in Perry Hall. Photo courtesy of Harry Bhandari.
(Updated 5/16/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

In 2014, Harry Bhandari just missed out on the Democratic nomination for the District 8 House of Delegates race, losing by less than three percent of the vote. While it is easy to get discouraged and take time for oneself after such a close loss, the ever-affable Bhandari did the opposite.

Bhandari called Delegate Eric Bromwell - a man who had just beaten Bhandari in the primary - and invited him to his house for dinner. The two discussed the future and what Bhandari should do in the meantime.

“He ran an extremely efficient and positive campaign four years ago, and when he decided to run again it was an easy decision to team up,” said Bromwell.

Since then, Bhandari has been quite visible. He served as president of the Linover Community Association, was appointed by District 6 County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins to serve as a member of the Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee and, in 2017, was awarded the Baltimore County Asian American Excellence Award.

A Nepalese immigrant, Bhandari knows firsthand the struggle of the American dream. In his homeland, he was one of the youngest principals in Kathmandu. When he arrived in America, he found himself working at a gas station trying to make ends meet.

“It was very terrible,” Bhandari told the East County Times. “I was working 12- to 16-hour shifts. But I came here with a dream, and I’m living that now. I willingly became a U.S. citizen, and this country has given me a tremendous opportunity. Everybody wants to run to win elections, but I ran because I felt it was a community service to the country that gave me so much.”

Since then, Bhandari has had schooling at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He has worked as an adjunct professor at the Community College of Baltimore County and worked in Baltimore City schools. With his background steeped in education, it should come as no surprise that education is his top priority.

“I will always advocate for better schools. As a teacher, I have firsthand experience with the issues facing the education system,” said Bhandari.

He cited overcrowding and old infrastructure in the county’s school system as two of the biggest issues for his constituents. Bhandari stressed that teaching 30 students might be fine in a lecture setting, but noted that “engaging students in a productive struggle” requires smaller class sizes. He also questioned how funds are currently disbursed.

“We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, no doubt. But we have students in schools with brown drinking water. Overlea High School got $800,000 for artificial turf, but the rooftop is leaking. It shouldn’t be like that,” said Bhandari.

Bhandari applauded the General Assembly for putting a measure on the November ballot that will see a lockbox set up for casino revenue earmarked for education but said he would like to see more done to help fund education initiatives. He proposed potentially taking a cue from Colorado and legalizing recreational marijuana to generate tax funds that would go into funding education initiatives, such as universal pre-kindergarten.

“Good schools create good jobs in the long run,” Bhandari said.

Bhandari, a Nottingham resident, also advocated for more vocational training, which he believes would have a great economic benefit for many reasons. Besides limiting potential student debt, Bhandari contends that vocational training would help keep jobs in America.

“Sometimes I’m disheartened when you call a business at midnight for anything, and who picks up the phone? Someone in Korea, India or the Philippines,” said Bhandari. “It’s so disheartening. The opportunity should belong to our kids first, and we have to invest in them.”

Besides education, Bhandari also wants to focus on protecting health care, especially for the elderly, and improving transportation by creating and connecting bike trails, like the Northeast Branch Trail.

The Democratic  hopeful also wants to see an  increase in small businesses in his district, but acknowledged that it comes back to education and vocational training.

Bhandari has built up a strong level of excitement around his campaign. At a recent ribbon cutting for his campaign headquarters in Perry Hall, about 70 people showed up to lend their support, including Bromwell, State Senator Kathy Klausmeier and Johnny Olszewski, Jr. Bromwell told the Times that he hopes Bhandari can pull off a win to provide extra support in the General Assembly.

“It’s always good to have another ally in Annapolis, especially if it’s a high-character guy like Harry,” said Bromwell. read more

East County Times brings home three awards from MDDC contest

East County Times brings home three awards from MDDC contest
ECT Editor Devin Crum brought home first- and second-place awards for Growth and Land Use and State Government reporting, respectively.
(Updated 5/16/18)

- By ECT staff -

At the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association’s News With Integrity 2017 editorial and design conference, the East County Times brought home three awards for editorial submissions.

The contest recognized exemplary work published during the 2017 calendar year and was held Friday, May 11, in Annapolis.

Times Editor Devin Crum won first place in the Growth and Land Use reporting category for Division D. He also took second place in the State Government reporting category for Division D.

Reporter Marge Neal earned an award in the division for coming up with a creative headline for an article. Her headline, “Fullerton fireworks organizers hope display doesn’t go up in smoke,” took second place.

Ms. Neal’s article explored concern that the Fullerton Fourth of July fireworks display might not have enough money to continue the show, and their pleas for more support from the community. Look for an update in the Times on how that event is shaping up for this year in the coming weeks.

Mr. Crum’s second-place article talked about the issue of abandoned boats in local waterways and legislation passed in the state legislature, then signed by Governor Larry Hogan, which sought to simplify the course of action authorities could take to remove them.

However, environmental stewardship organizations such as the Back River Restoration Committee have still struggled with unclear regulations for addressing the issue.

And Mr. Crum’s first-place article brought to light a White Marsh community’s concerns over a proposal for 150 new townhomes in their area as part of a project called Pulaski Crossing.

The neighbors felt the project did not fit with the surrounding area, which is mostly commercial or industrial. Additionally, what other homes are found in the area are single-family detached structures, not townhomes.

As recently reported in the Times, the community association fought approval of the development through the county’s judicial approval process and ultimately prevailed.

It remains to be seen whether or not the developer for the project will appeal the decision.

ECT congratulates both writers for their hard work, and we look forward to seeing many more awards in their futures. read more
For more local news coverage over the past six months, visit our Past Coverage page.