In Dundalk, all’s fair for Independence Day

Fair crowd
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

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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 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

Golfers 4some
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

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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

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

Todd's windows
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
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

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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

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(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

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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

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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

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(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

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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

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(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

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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

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(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

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(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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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