Junior Olympics regatta enjoys unique, well-suited venue at Rocky Point

Jenn giving tow
Jenn Chamberlin, a US Sailing representative and coach for the regatta, towed a Green Fleet straggler back to the start line following a race. Chamberlin noted that the younger sailors "love to get towed."
(Updated 7/18/18)

- By Devin Crum -

Two beautiful, sunny days last Thursday, July 12, and Friday, July 13, contributed to yet another successful youth sailing regatta put on by the Baltimore County Sailing Center at Rocky Point Park in Essex.

This year’s event was in conjunction with the Junior Olympics, so in many cases the performances by the competitors had national implications.

Around 160 competitors aged 8 - 18 competed across three fleets during the event, according to BCSC Event Chair George Good, and participants traveled from all over the eastern seaboard to take part in the event.

Good said there were more than 25 different yacht clubs represented in the regatta and one participant traveled from as far away as Tanzania to sail for the Annapolis Yacht Club.

BCSC started with the intention of running at least four races Thursday and three Friday for a total of seven during the event. Good said favorable wind conditions allowed them to get in five races Thursday, but only one Friday since the wind died down shortly after the day started. However, the total of six races for most fleets still allowed competitors to drop their lowest score.

“That’s the whole reasoning behind a two-day event, so that if someone has one bad race but five pretty good ones they can drop that bad one,” he said.

BCSC Executive Director Rob Dean told participants in his opening remarks that coming to the Junior Olympics is a big deal.

“We hope to see fierce competition on the water. But as important is you’re meeting a lot of new people here,” he said, kicking off a common theme repeated throughout the event - camaraderie.

“You’re going to meet these people and sail with them forever,” he said, noting that some of the parents of competitors at the event were people he sailed with and competed against when he was young.

Competitors were broken up into three fleets according to their type of vessel: Lasers, 420s and Optimists (or Optis). And while the more competitive sailors were in the Red, White and Blue Opti fleet, there was also a less competitive group sailing Optis for beginners, known as the Green Fleet.

Event coach and US Sailing representative Jenn Chamberlin helped to oversee the Green Fleet during the regatta. And although she is originally from the Eastern Shore, she travels around the country coaching for such events and running clinics to help teach the youngest sailors how to sail competitively.

The Green Fleet participants all practiced together during a clinic the day before the event began, which Chamberlin said is a fun way for the beginners to meet kids from other clubs.

“You know your buddies from your yacht club or your hometown, but being able to get into a clinic you get more time with the other competitors,” she said. This helps them develop more camaraderie and sportsmanship, and it is a good opportunity for them to get to know who they’re racing against.

“These kids, if they continue to sail, they’ll know their friends for the rest of their lives,” she said. “That’s just kind of how this sport is and it’s really cool.”

The US Sailing representative described her role during the races as a combination of fixing problems, helping with issues sailors have and sometimes just talking to them to make them feel comfortable.

“I find anybody who just needs help getting back with the group,” she said.

In practice, Chamberlin said, they are doing a lot of isolated skills. “And then in competition you’re kind of putting it all together. Especially for the younger kids that can be a little nerve-racking, and I’m there to help encourage that learning environment for having them complete a whole race.”

She touted competitive sailing for its ability to teach, especially children, about preparation, both mentally and physically. For instance, they have to pack all the gear they need, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, a watch and all the pieces of their boat.

“And you’re also on a schedule with the race course, so it really teaches you about planning and preparation and how to balance that.”

Chamberlin also called the venue at Rocky Point was unique and nearly ideal for a youth regatta, noting its abundant open water, not much outside boat traffic and a near-constant breeze Thursday. She said many venues like Annapolis or on the Eastern Shore either don’t have open water so close or have a lot of other boat traffic that participants have to avoid.

“We think this place is a gem,” Good said of the venue where BCSC has operated since 1992. “With our recent director, our programs have expanded dramatically, we’ve got fantastic high school and collegiate sailing programs in place now, and we are looking forward to another 26 years.” read more

Bar Louie, specialty cocktails coming to The Avenue at White Marsh

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Bar Louie plans to open soon in The Avenue at White Marsh in a space previously occupied by the Tilted Kilt. Photo by Virginia Terhune.
(Updated 7/18/18)

Sale pending for neighboring White Marsh Mall

- By Virginia Terhune -

Known for its unusual mix of cocktails and a relaxed atmosphere, Bar Louie will soon open a third location in Baltimore County at The Avenue retail and restaurant center in White Marsh.

“We’ll be opening in early September,” said CEO Tom Fricke after winning approval for a license from the county’s Board of Liquor License Commissioners on Monday, July 16.

Based in Texas, the company expects to hire up to 55 people for the Avenue location off Honeygo Boulevard. It is currently renovating the space previously occupied by the Tilted Kilt, which closed in March after St. Patrick’s Day.

Bar Louie operates more than 130 locations nationwide, including restaurants in the Hunt Valley Towne Centre and Foundry Row in Owings Mills.

The new White Marsh location borders the recently renovated main plaza across from the AMC movie theater. It will feature the same drink menu but a different and slightly smaller restaurant menu, featuring new foods and flavors that are currently being tested at six other Bar Louie locations, Fricke said.

Bar Louie decided to open at The Avenue when a space became available because it is an outdoor “lifestyle center” like Foundry Row where Bar Louie has done very well, and because data about the local market indicates the potential for revenue and customers, he said.

Also planned nearby is the Avenue Grande project of 324 apartments off Honeygo Boulevard near the White Marsh library. And less than five miles away off White Marsh Boulevard/MD-43 in Middle River is the Greenleigh at Crossroads mixed-use project now under construction with about 1,800 housing units and dozens of new businesses as part of Baltimore Crossroads @ 95.

Dundalk resident Amy Louden, age 26, said she cannot wait for Bar Louie to open. She is already a fan of the one in Hunt Valley because of its service and atmosphere - and also its drink specials during happy hours.

“You can’t beat a $5 martini!” she said with a laugh.

Middle River resident Chelsea Golliday, who works part time at Red Brick Station on the opposite side of the plaza, said she did not think the arrival of Bar Louie would hurt other restaurants.

In business for two decades, Red Brick Station is a restaurant and  craft brewery with a loyal customer base that also draws travelers off Interstate 95 who stop at local hotels, she said.

Bar Louie is likely to broaden the choices now bordering the plaza that include the MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza Company, which opened at The Avenue last November and offers wine and Italian spirits.

Renovations to finish in November
The Avenue opened in 1997 and was designed to resemble an outdoor Main Street with angle parking in front of stores located on either side of the street.

In 2007, Towson-based Nottingham Properties sold The Avenue to Rockville-based Federal Realty Investment Trust, which announced in 2016 that it would be undertaking a multi-million dollar renovation.

Phase I included the creation of a plaza used as a dual purpose ice rink in the winter and an artificial turf green in warmer weather that serves as a gathering place for outdoor activities, including its “eat to the beat” concerts on Friday and Saturday nights.

“Spring through fall, the turf area provides the perfect space for blanket seating to enjoy live entertainment and to-go from our eateries,” said Avenue Senior Marketing Manager Lisa Geiger.

Both Golliday and Louden said the revamped plaza and related activities have fostered a lively and fun atmosphere that is enjoyed not only by visitors but also The Avenue’s shops and restaurants.

“The renovations have drawn business like crazy,” said Golliday about the visitors that flock to the Avenue, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

Phase II included upgrades to store façades, and now in progress is Phase III which includes the reworking of several intersections at both ends of The Avenue into roundabouts to ease traffic flow.

All stores remain open during construction, which is expected to finish by mid-November, Geiger said.

“No parking is being eliminated and the drive lanes will reopen as we complete each section,” she said. “Tables and chairs will be located along The Avenue for visitors patronizing the eateries at the center.”

Work is going on now for the first roundabout near the Staples and A.C. Moore stores and work on the second is expected to begin in the fall near the Ulta Beauty store and salon.

Sale pending for mall
Built before The Avenue on the opposite side of Honeygo Boulevard is the much larger and enclosed White Marsh Mall, also developed by Nottingham Properties and currently owned by Chicago-based General Growth Properties.

GGP owns malls around the country, including Towson Town Center, the Columbia mall and the Mondawmin mall and the Gallery in Baltimore.

Brookfield Property Partners, a global commercial real estate company based in Toronto which already owns 34 percent of GGP, reached an agreement with GGP in March to buy its remaining shares, subject to a shareholders meeting scheduled for July 26.

A representative for GGP did not return a request for comment Monday about what an acquisition might mean for tenants and employees of White Marsh Mall, which appears to be almost fully leased despite competition from The Avenue and other outdoor shopping venues, as well as online retailers.

The GGP website and signs in the mall also indicate the pending arrival of two new tenants. One is Salontra Select Suites, a company that provides leased spaces and services to hair stylists and beauty specialists that is also planning a location in the developing Metro Centre in Owings Mills.

Coming to the mall food court is Just Good Food, a Baltimore-based catering company that provides soul-food carryout and desserts. read more

Residents will get another chance to view country club project, make comments

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This plan showing 312 total new residences on the Sparrows Point Country Club property has been modified to 307 units after eliminating five of the single-family houses and making adjustments to the proposed tree buffer along Wise Avenue. Image courtesy of Craftsmen Developers.
(Updated 7/18/18)

- By Marge Neal -

Country Club Estates, a housing development proposed for the grounds of Sparrows Point Country Club, is one step closer to fruition, having moved out of the county’s Planned Unit Development process and into the regular development protocol.

The proposed Dundalk development of 307 homes will be the subject of a community input meeting set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, at the country club, 919 Wise Ave.

“With the PUD process complete and approved, the project now moves to Phase I of the county’s development process,” Conor Gilligan of Craftsmen Developers told the East County Times. “This community input meeting is a requirement of that process, where we submit a concept plan, which is basically the PUD plan that has been adjusted with county agency input and community input along the way.”

The PUD was originally approved for 312 homes but that number is down by five after adjustments were made to the Wise Avenue setback to accommodate a request from homeowners across the street from the club property. At a previous community meeting, residents expressed concern that too many, if not all, of the tall pine trees along Wise Avenue would be cut down. They said they would like to see that buffer remain.

Gilligan agreed to leave the trees and moved the setback farther back than originally planned. Noting that the trees are older, with few branches close to the ground, Gilligan also offered to plant lower trees and shrubbery within the tree line to create more of a curtain for local residents. That move caused a reconfiguration of housing units and the loss of five single detached houses.

“Five fewer houses will result in a loss of probably more than $1 million in sales, but we really want to work with the community,” Gilligan said.

The purpose of the input meeting is two-fold, according to Darryl Putty, a project manager with the Development Management division of the county’s Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections.

“This meeting allows the developer to say to the community, ‘this is my concept, this is what I want to do,’” Putty said. “And it allows the community at large to see how they will be affected by the development and gives them the opportunity to ask questions, offer suggestions and voice concerns.”

While the meeting will not be recorded, county employees will take detailed notes and an official record will be made of the meeting, according to Putty. All residents in attendance will receive a copy of those minutes.

After the input meeting, Craftsmen will have 12 months to submit the next plan - a development plan that will be much more detailed - after including requirements from county agencies and any additional community input the developer would choose to include, according to Putty.

“After the development plan is accepted, arrangements would be made to hold a public hearing on the project,” Putty said. “And it’s important to note that units cannot be added to the plan at this point.”

Gilligan said he believes he and his partners have been “very accommodating” to community requests so far, with many changes made to satisfy community concerns while also committing $150,000 to various neighborhood projects as part of the PUD requirement of providing “community benefits” in exchange for being able to essentially change the property’s zoning.

With many community concerns already addressed, Gilligan said he fully expects residents to again bring up concerns about additional traffic and the development’s potential impact on local schools.

“Craftsmen Developers will do its traffic study; it’s in the process now,” Gilligan said. “After this meeting, we will take all the county and community comments, create a development plan with a tremendous amount of additional detail and prepare for the public development hearing.” read more

Beilensen withdraws from District 5 school board race; Henn focuses on discipline

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Julie Henn, now unchallenged in her school board race, intends to focus on her discipline policy reform initiatives. Courtesy photo.
(Updated 7/18/18)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Last week, Dr. Peter Beilensen announced he was withdrawing from the race for school board in District 5, leaving current at-large board member Julie Henn as the only candidate.

Beilensen, a former Baltimore City and Howard County health commissioner, announced his decision last Tuesday, telling The Baltimore Sun he was moving to California to take a job in Sacramento.

“I really appreciate the way Dr. Beilensen ran a very positive campaign throughout, and first and foremost wish him the best of luck with his move to California and his new position,” Henn told The East County Times. “It certainly relieves a lot of my stress and will allow me to focus on doing the work of the board, which has been my priority all along.”

Henn’s focus is now on revising Baltimore County Public Schools’ (BCPS) discipline policy, which has been an issue she has championed for years. While she has always had a focus on that issue, without an opponent in November she is able to devote more time to finding solutions to an issue that has been plaguing BCPS.

At the June 10 school board meeting, Henn submitted a resolution to create an advisory committee focused on remedying discipline policy issues and place the issue directly before the board in October. The board ultimately voted to pass the resolution.

“It’s absolutely perfect timing,” said Henn. “My focus is now on the logistics of getting the citizens advisory committee up and running.”

The committee will consist of Baltimore County citizens, and Henn hopes the committee will be up and running before the board reviews the current discipline policy in October.

Similar to other advisory committees, like the Special Education Citizens Action Committee, the committe on discipline policy will be allotted three minutes to address the board at the beginning of each board meeting. On top of that, they will have the opportunity to present findings at different times throughout the year.

“There will be plenty of opportunities to hear from this group, and I intend to work with them very closely,” said Henn.

Henn said she plans to attend the committee’s meetings throughout the year, and she will be the one taking the lead on getting the committee set up. An application process will be put in place, though the logistics are still being worked out.

“It’s a huge win. These are conversations that I’ve wanted to have even prior to joining the board. I’ve wanted BCPS to acknowledge that we have major safety issues in our schools and that the discipline policies are not working,” Henn said. “This step acknowledges that we need to take action.”

In the resolution Henn submitted to the board, she included statistics taken from the annual BCPS stakeholders’ survey, as well as an internal study presented to the board.

According to the stakeholder survey, 15 percent of elementary school students do not feel safe at school. At the middle and high school levels, that number jumps to 35 percent and 34 percent, respectively. On bullying, almost 50 percent of elementary school students felt it was a problem, with 54 percent of middle school students and 41 percent of high school students in agreement. BCPS staff is also in agreement, with 42 percent of school-based staff saying bullying is a problem.

“These are alarming statistics that show that the stories we hear are not one off, they’re not the exceptions,” said Henn. “So this is a big win. It acknowledges we have an issue, it starts the conversations about how we’re going to fix it, and it puts channels in place to hear from stakeholders regularly about it and what we need to do to address it.”

Henn said a big issue is consistency with discipline measures. She noted that language in the current policy reads that students “may” face certain consequences, leaving the door open to administrators to decide what the punishment is.

“I’d like to see our policies revised so we can more fairly and consistently administer discipline in our schools,” said Henn, “[while still giving administrators] options. But at the same time requiring that there be consequences for their actions. That’s how kids learn, and we’re failing our kids if there are none. And we’re not protecting our teachers and their peers.” read more

Former Paragon site purchased by commercial real estate partnership

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The 52-acre site is sandwiched between a major interstate highway and two busy state roads. Image courtesy of Atapco and Chesapeake Real Estate Group.
(Updated 7/18/18)

- By Devin Crum -

Baltimore-based commercial real estate firms Atapco Properties and Chesapeake Real Estate Group, LLC, have partnered to buy the site in White Marsh formerly owned by Paragon Outlets Baltimore and slated for a 100-store outlet mall.

Paragon purchased the 52-acre property for $18.6 million from Corporate Office Properties Trust in January 2015, according to state property transfer records, and the new partnership bought it for about $15 million.

A statement announcing the acquisition noted that the new owners intend to develop a mixed-use business community, potentially including industrial, retail and office uses. And CREG founder and owner Jim Lighthizer said they plan to invest $60 million into the project.

However, Lighthizer told the East County Times Monday, July 16, that after closing on the property about a week prior they “haven’t really decided” exactly how they plan to use the site.

“We’re just still wrapping our arms around the office/warehouse uses,” he said. “Maybe a little retail, but definitely some sort of an office/warehouse project.”

In the statement, Atapco’s director of acquisitions, Brian Conklin, touted the site as “high-profile” and having 2,000 feet of frontage along Interstate 95.

Lighthizer said the site has “outstanding highway visibility” and access from I-95, with proximity to major ports such as Baltimore, Wilmington and Philadelphia and access to about a third of the U.S. population within a day’s truck drive.

“This site is shovel-ready and we intend to leverage the existing pent-up demand for strategically located office/warehouse and e-commerce space along the Interstate 95 corridor,” he said in the statement.

While Lighthizer could not say specifically what types of businesses they expect to see locate to the site, he said they would be those that fit with what it offers.

“We think the companies that will be attracted to the White Marsh area are companies that like the access, like the amenities, they like the visibility, they like the labor pool, they like the location,” he told the Times. “All the things that White Marsh has to offer are the things that we think companies are going to like about the site.”

The CREG founder said the new project would not mirror what is currently underway at Tradepoint Atlantic in Sparrows Point or the nearby Baltimore Crossroads @95 in Middle River.

“It will be very different than both,” Lighthizer said, because TPA has “big box” warehouse buildings of up to 1 million square feet each, and Crosssroads will have a lot of residential with its Greenleigh neighborhood component.

“There are parts of it that will be like the Baltimore Crossroads project, but there will be no residential,” he said.

CREG built 1.5 million square feet of industrial and office/warehouse space as part of Crossroads’ commercial areas closer to Eastern Boulevard, and Lighthizer said he thinks the new project would be similar to what they did there.

“There will be some components that are consistent,” he said.

Regarding having enough demand for their project with Crossroads building millions of square feet of office and flex space so close, Lighthizer distinguished the new plan from what is being built along MD-43.

“We envision a very different product than most of what’s being built at Baltimore Crossroads,” he said. “St. John Properties has a lot of office and flex buildings; ours tend to be a little more office/warehouse or industrial in nature.

“Our buildings tend to be taller ceilings, they’re concrete, tilt-wall construction, they’re a little different than the smaller brick buildings that St. John builds.”

During Paragon’s ownership, the site was the subject of a lawsuit between that owner and General Growth Properties - the owner of nearby White Marsh Mall - as well as a group of residents. Paragon eventually settled out of court with GGP, but the details of that settlement were not made public.

Lighthizer did not know the details of the settlement but said he does not believe the terms of that deal will affect their use of the site.

Meanwhile, GGP is preparing for a potential total buyout from an investor, Brookfield Property Partners, which already owns one-third of the company.

Heather Patti, a White Marsh resident and party to the citizen lawsuit against Paragon, said her only concern for the new project is stormwater management.

“Hopefully this development will be governed by the most recent stormwater management guidelines,” she said.

Although Patti believes the best use of the site would be for a new school, she said, “I’m pleased with this recent development since the industrial mixed-use plan seems more compatible with the surrounding area.” read more

ECT stands in solidarity with Capital Gazette

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(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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 emailessexdayfestival@gmail.com.

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

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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 gofundme.com 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

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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

Redmer happy 1
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

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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