Here you will find all of the East County Times' major news coverage over the past six months.
Older news articles are continually added to our Archives section.

Essex community tree lights up the night

Essex community tree lights up the night
A large crowd braved the snowy and cold evening to enjoy the Essex community Christmas tree’s first lighting on Dec. 9. The tree was donated by Sam Weaver, owner of Weaver’s Marine Service, and decorated by Cliff O’Connell of Cliff’s Hi-Tech/Direct Effect and others. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 12/13/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Community leaders, elected officials and residents of Essex and Middle River gathered Saturday, Dec. 9, for what has become a grand event in recent years - the lighting of the community tree at the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River in Essex.

Feelings of warmth and community were evident as the tree was lit even though the weather was snowy and cold. And many in attendance agreed that the tree looked even more beautiful with its dusting of snow.

Sam Weaver, owner of Weaver’s Marine Service, again donated this year’s tree, a 27-foot spruce which is three feet taller than last year’s.

Weaver, Cliff O’Connell of Cliff’s Hi-Tech and Cliff’s Direct Effect, and workers from Baltimore County combined their efforts to deliver and install the tree at the Heritage Society museum at 516 Eastern Blvd. And O’Connell, Back River Restoration Committee volunteers and others all helped to decorate the giant tree.

Joining the crowd on behalf of Governor Larry Hogan was Maryland’s deputy secretary of state and Essex resident, Luis Borunda, who remarked that the Heritage Society’s tree lighting is an excellent community tradition that helps - along with the snow - to put all into the holiday spirit.

Also in attendance were State Delegates Robin Grammer, Bob Long and Ric Metzgar and County Councilman Todd Crandell - all of whom represent Essex - as well as Del. Pat McDonough, who is running for Baltimore County Executive.

Crandell noted his awe at the size and beauty of the tree, along with the size and energy of the crowd gathered. He said although he is from Dundalk, “Essex is doing it better” when it comes to community Christmas trees.

Guests were also treated to cookies, tours and visits with Santa.

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Eastern Regional Park could get four new artificial turf fields

Eastern Regional Park could get four new artificial turf fields
The new turf fields would replace existing grass fields on the eastern side of the park near the parking lots and the one existing turf field. Image courtesy of Huntley Sports Group.

(Updated 12/13/17)

- By Devin Crum -

A new proposal is at the forefront to improve both the facilities and event scheduling at Eastern Regional Park in Middle River as part of a public-private partnership between Baltimore County and a developer.

Under the proposal, the Huntley Sports Group would partner with the county to replace natural grass fields at ERP with four new, lighted artificial turf fields, bringing the park’s total number of turf fields to five.

ERP would then be the only public facility in the county - possibly the state - with five turf fields, according to Athan Sunderland, executive vice president of Pinkard Properties, which is a partner with HSG.

The project would not involve any of the baseball/softball fields in the park.

The county would split the project’s estimated $3.5 million cost roughly down the middle with HSG.

If approved, HSG would then be put in charge of scheduling and operation of the fields to optimize the use of the fields. But Sunderland assured that Baltimore County will still own, manage and maintain the park.

“It’s no different than the people cutting the grass,” he said. “The county doesn’t buy their tractors and they’re not responsible for cutting the grass.

“In this instance, the county isn’t paying for all of the turf, we are. And so we’re going to manage the turf. We are simply helping them solve a gap for the capitalization of something that we all want, which is turf fields,” he said.

Sunderland added that the county will put a contract in place to ensure that HSG operates in the park like any other contractor - and can be fired if they fail to fulfill their obligations.

Sunderland said HSG - which is a partnership between “lacrosse legend” David Huntley, Pinkard Properties and MFS Partners as the capital advisors - has studied the utilization of the fields at ERP in their current state and for the past several years and found that there is a lot of time when the fields are not in use.

“What we were able to determine was that there was an exorbitant amount of wasted time because of unused permits or permits that were put back into the general public for availability because they were held off for reserve,” he said. “Our job is to be sure that there isn’t wasted time there for this particular park.”

Sunderland explained that HSG would handle the scheduling for all sporting events seeking to use the fields. The recreation councils listed as priority users - Bengies-Chase, Middle River, Essex-Stembridge, Rosedale and Kingsville - would be guaranteed the same utilization rates, at the same cost, they have now.

In return, HSG would be allowed to sell unused time on the fields to other groups for profit.

“In other words, if we take the four or five priority users and we aggregate it... there’s more than enough time for these fields to be used by the rec. councils, as turf fields, just as they were in the past, and not even including the other fields out in the community,” Sunderland said.

“Our job is to be sure that when it’s not being used by the priority users, we drive additional consumption either by other people within our county, other counties or out of state through events and tournaments to generate localized revenue,” he said. “We’ll use those revenues to pay for our investment in the turf, and what is left over is ours for the operating company.”

In that leased-out time, HSG is hoping to bring in soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and football events, all while allotting space for the priority users to grow their programs and use of the fields.

And if the priority users’ programs grow to use up all of the allotted time, “we’ll build another park,” Sunderland laughed. “That would be a great thing.”

He said it is important for people to know, though, that the proposal is not expected to be “tremendously profitable.”

“It pays for the debt, and it pays for a little bit of the expense to run it,” he said.

HSG’s real objective through the venture is to prove that the model can work, “that it is replicable and scalable throughout the county,” Sunderland said.

“Because we only have nine municipally owned turf fields in the county,” he said. “This is adding almost a 50-percent increase in our current inventory.”

Charles Munzert, vice chairman of the county’s Board of Recreation and Parks and the Council District 6 representative on the board, clarified that recently installed turf fields in some areas, such as Perry Hall, were paid for by the recreation councils themselves, and use of such fields at schools is handled differently than at parks.

“And so if we can do it here and we can make it work, we have the opportunity to continue to expand,” Sunderland said.

He acknowledged that other parts of the county, such as Catonsville, Owings Mills and Towson, need more access to turf fields too. Therefore, this project could be a model for replication in those areas.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to demonstrate how we can use private capital to create a public benefit,” Sunderland said.

The project at ERP was originially proposed roughly two years ago as an adjunct to the 43 Fields project, which sought to develop an athletic field complex along the MD-43 extension in Middle River. It was a development project spearheaded by Pinkard Sports Development and Pinkard Properties.

That complex would have hosted sporting events and tournaments for profit, similar to what is proposed at ERP.

The 43 Fields project folded this summer, but Sunderland stressed that it was not a failure.

“It just was determined that its parts would be better off differently,” he said, “and that put Eastern Regional Park at the forefront” with HSG as the operator for programming and events.

“The 43 Fields project, while it did not come to fruition, its components were so important to getting us where we are today,” Sunderland commented. “And it gave birth to what could be a great road map to these public-private partnerships.”

Under the current proposal, HSG would have a 10-year lease to operate the fields, and all scheduling and permitting for field use would go through them, according to Sunderland.

He admitted that this would mean the recreation councils will have to cede control over that scheduling to HSG. But the group believes they can optimize field use simply by using a website to publish the available time slots for each field and having an online mechanism for interested groups to request time, potentially years in advance for large events.

“On [the website] will be a published schedule of all activities for each day on those fields,” Sunderland said. “So members of the community will be able to see what is being used, by whom and when.”

Regarding access to the fields by the general public, he said they will be open to anyone provided they are not booked.

“I never understand why we put fences around turf fields and you get chased off of there,” he said, adding that they want people, especially kids, to be able to use the fields.

“My approach to this entire park is that if you can go play and there’s no one on that field... whatever it is [you want to do], go for it,” Sunderland said. “If somebody’s got it booked, we’re going to come say you’ve got to move.”

County leadership has expressed support for the project, so long as the recreation councils are on board and in agreement, Sunderland said. And if they get approval, barring any hang-ups, HSG could have the new fields in place by Sept. 1, 2018.

Sunderland and Munzert both said the feedback they have heard from the priority user recreation councils has been positive and supportive.

“At this point, I basically feel comfortable saying the rec. councils approved it with some questions,” Munzert said.

He noted that those questions involved how parking would be handled at the facility and how it would work with the councils getting their field permits from HSG rather than the county.

“But I’m sure that’s going to be laid out [in the operator’s contract], he said. “The county’s going to put that together.”

Munzert said the Board of Recreation and Parks was scheduled to discuss the proposal at its meeting Wednesday, Dec. 13. However, he did not know if they would vote on anything related to it.

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BOE candidate Henn wants to continue the work she’s started

BOE candidate Henn wants to continue the work she’s started
Julie Henn has been a member of the Baltimore County Board of Education since being appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2016. She is now running for popular election to the post. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 12/13/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Perry Hall resident Julie Henn has carved out a piece of Baltimore County electoral history for herself.

By filing her paperwork on Nov. 2, Henn became the first official candidate for Baltimore County Board of Education in that body’s first election that will result in a hybrid board of popularly-elected and politically-appointed members.

Appointed to an at-large opening on the school board in December 2016 by Gov. Larry Hogan, the passionate and energetic public education advocate hopes to retain her seat so she can continue the “important work” being carried out by the 12-member group.

Henn, 43, has lived in the Carney/Perry Hall area most of her life. She attended Harford Hills Elementary and Perry Hall Middle schools before graduating from Mercy High School.

She received her bachelor’s degree in communications from Marquette University and earned an executive MBA from what is now Loyola University Maryland.

The mother of two first started advocating for local schools because of seeing overcrowding in her children’s schools and problems with bus transportation.

“I got involved because I saw the immediate need to reduce overcrowding and fix transportation problems in our schools,” she told the East County Times. “I’m very much an advocate for smaller classes and less crowded schools.”

After speaking out locally on school-related concerns, Henn became a member of the Northeast Area Education Advisory Committee, a body of volunteers that provides a geographical voice to the county-wide school board. She eventually served as chairperson of the group.

She worked closely with Baltimore County Councilman David Marks to address Perry Hall-area school overcrowding and is proud that the dogged work of many is paying off, with two new elementary schools scheduled to open in the next couple of years and “a new middle school is on the horizon,” she said.

In addition to physically eliminating overcrowding with new schools and additions, Henn also sees the need to better police student residency to ensure students are attending the schools they are geographically supposed to be attending.

“I’d like to look closely at the residency verification process to see if that could be made more efficient,” she said. “We have students from outside the county attending our schools, and we have students attending schools that are not their assigned home schools.”

There is a process for students to apply for special permission to attend a school outside of their home boundaries, but many students are breaking the rules by attending selected schools without permission.

Henn is also concerned about the cost of out-of-county residents who are enrolled in county schools.

“I sympathize with Baltimore City parents who are concerned about the quality of schools there and are trying to do better for their children, but it places a burden on the county school system,” she said.

Henn would like to see an audit of the system’s residency verification process and change it, if necessary, to make it easier for residence investigators from the Pupil Personnel Office to do their job.

She also expressed concern with what she sees as systemic problems with discipline and the perception that students with behavioral issues are not properly addressed.

“Every school is different and each school’s kids are different,” Henn said. “We need to empower our principals to address discipline problems with the latitude they need to adequately handle those problems.”

She expressed concerns over classroom behavior that spills outside of the school, namely to school buses.

“The buses are overcrowded and do they all have aides?” she asked rhetorically. “Are the drivers getting the support they need? They can’t drive the bus and supervise the kids at the same time.”

She is concerned that reports of bullying take too long to address and believes the definition of bullying is too narrow.

“It very often takes multiple reports and parental intervention to get these incidents handled and it shouldn’t be that way,” she said.

Henn believes that some schools do a much better job in responding to bullying incidents and would like to see a more consistent approach across the school system. The proliferation of technology and the popularity of social media websites can make bullying an environment from which children cannot escape, she said.

Because of the spillover of bad behavior to buses and into homes via the internet, Henn said the “classroom isn’t a bubble and that puts more demands on our teachers; we need to have more support for our teachers which in turn creates more supports for our students.”

Another concern of Henn’s is the system’s overall spending, and the amount of money that is being spent on technology, perhaps sacrificing other areas that need attention.

She is “very concerned,” she said, with the number of no-bid contracts that have been executed by system administrators, which “raises a huge red flag” in her eyes.

Henn, an information technology director at Baltimore City Community College, said she of all people understands the importance of technology in today’s world. But she wants the use of technology in the classroom to be balanced with other teaching methods.

“We’re so dependent on devices and software, but how much teaching can be happening if the teacher is constantly working with one student because their device isn’t working?” she said. “If not used effectively, devices can be a distraction to learning.”

Henn would like the system to look into using open education resources, or OERs, which are teacher-created and classroom-tested educational materials like informational handouts, test questions, quizzes and lesson plans, that are in the public domain and can be used at no cost.

She would like to see a wider ray of transparency within the system, and said she has already seen a change under Interim Superintendent Verletta White’s tenure.

Under former Superintendent Dallas Dance’s leadership, “there was no sense of accountability or response to concerns,” Henn said.

Dance resigned abruptly in April and has since come under investigation for paid educational consultation work that he did not disclose to the school board.

That said, she added that such a sense of secrecy and covert decision-making “transcends any one individual.”

“The system operates in many ways under a ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ philosophy and we need a cultural shift in the school system,” she said.

There is no shortage of Henn’s ideas, concerns and passion for the county’s school system.

Now she just needs to have the support of voters: “I would never have thought of myself as a candidate running for office, but this means that much to me; I want to be able to continue what I’ve started,” she said.

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Two solar arrays proposed for Kingsville, third at Mt. Vista Park on hold

Two solar arrays proposed for Kingsville, third at Mt. Vista Park on hold
An existing solar array currently sits along Pfeffers Road in Kingsville near the proposed sites for new arrays. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 12/13/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Baltimore County residents and businesses who like the idea of tapping into the power of the sun will have a chance to sign up for two local solar projects now under development in Kingsville.

Turning Point Energy Inc., a private company based in Denver, has been working with Kingsville residents to fine tune its plan for a solar array on part of the former Huber farm at the intersection of Raphel and Philadelphia roads.

A public hearing on its request for a special zoning exception from a county administrative law judge for the site at 11956 Philadelphia Road is set for Monday, Dec. 18, at 1:30 p.m. in Towson.

A representative of the Greater Kingsville Civic Association did not respond by Monday to a request for comment.

“We have taken their feedback, questions and concerns and adapted our solar project design and development approach to ensure it is in alignment with our neighbors and community members,” wrote Turning Point in an email.

If the project is approved, Turning Point expects to start signing up subscribers in the spring.

Still to be scheduled is a hearing for a solar project on the northwest corner of the Raphel/Philadelphia intersection headed by Power 52 Energy Solutions on land owned by BGE, which operates a large substation nearby on the south side of Philadelphia Road.

Both commercial projects are participating in the Maryland Public Service Commission’s three-year “community solar” pilot program, which enables solar companies to build arrays and sell power to subscribers.

The program is intended to diversify the generation of power, encourage investment in solar projects and increase access to solar power for renters and others who don’t have panels on their own roofs.

Those who sign up would receive a credit for the energy they use on their BGE bill. Provisions also allow discounts for low- and moderate-income customers.

Power 52 Energy Solutions, based in Ellicott City, is a for-profit entity that hopes to sell 30 to 40 percent of the energy it produces to qualifying customers in south Baltimore.

The company was co-founded by former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, whose jersey number was 52. It is affiliated with the non-profit Power 52 foundation, which is introducing at-risk youth to the basics of solar array construction with the goal of preparing them for jobs in the industry.

In July, the Baltimore County Council passed Bill 37-17, which allows for solar arrays on land zoned for resource conservation, business and manufacturing under certain conditions. It does not apply to farms that use at least two-thirds of the energy generated for agricultural operations.

Under the law, solar panels cannot be more than 20 feet high, they must be enclosed by a security fence and landscaping is required if the array is visible from a residential neighborhood or public road.

Nine solar sites are currently registered with the county and another six are grandfathered under the bill, which does not affect sites under development prior to Oct. 19, 2016, according to a list of projects maintained by the county.

One of the approved existing sites is a privately run solar array in Kingsville located between two cornfields off of Pfeffers Road.

A Baltimore County government plan to install solar panels at Mount Vista Park in Kingsville, as well as sites in Woodstock, Parkton and Southwest Area Regional Park in Lansdowne, is on hold pending the selection of a new vendor.

Solar City, now owned by Tesla, was originally picked for the work but withdrew, according to county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler.

“Tesla informed Baltimore County that it was terminating the solar projects in the face of previously unforeseen challenges that rendered these specific projects not viable,” wrote Kobler, who could not immediately provide more information, in an email.

“Baltimore County remains committed to the use of solar power and will be issuing a new [Request For Proposal] looking to utilize solar power at Baltimore County facilities,” she wrote.

The Turning Point hearing is set for Monday, Dec. 18, at 1:30 p.m. in the Jefferson Building, 105 W. Chesapeake Ave. in Towson.

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New senior housing proposed for property near Josenhan’s Corner

New senior housing proposed for property near Josenhan’s Corner
The darkened area, located on Old Eastern Avenue in Essex between Back River Neck Road (right) and MD-702 and just north of Mars Estates Elementary School, is being eyed for an 84-unit senior apartment complex.

(Updated 12/13/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The owners of a piece of land in Essex, which has been eyed for development in recent years, are seeking approval from Baltimore County for a new planned unit development (PUD) on the site.

The property is located on Old Eastern Avenue between MD-702/Southeast Boulevard and Back River Neck Road, near what has historically been known as Josenhan’s Corner.

The plan, put forth by Herman and Kittle Properties, Inc., would see a senior living apartment complex built on the site consisting of 84 units for residents aged 65 and older.

“That means not assisted living; just apartments for seniors 65 and up,” said David Willmarth, director of development for H&K Properties.

The project would be built as a four-story building with a mixture of one- and two-bedroom units, Willmarth said. It would be funded using a combination of conventional mortgage through a local bank and housing tax credit equity, meaning the developer would receive tax credits from the state in a competitive process.

“If we win the process, we’re awarded credits that are syndicated to big companies” like banks or insurance companies, he said. “They purchase the tax credits and we get cash to help us build the building.”

Willmarth said the tax credit equity could pay for roughly half of the project’s estimated $20 million total cost, and the combination of the two funding sources allows them to keep rents considerably lower than the market.

The developer noted that residents of the complex would earn 60 percent or less of the area’s median income, or about $38,000 per year, which he said is actually more than most of the seniors in that particular census tract.

At the Dec. 6 meeting of the Essex-Middle River Civic Council where the plan was presented, the federal government’s affordable housing program, commonly known as Section 8, immediately came up with regard to the type of residents who would live in the new housing.

But Willmarth assured they would not seek those with Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers or any other kind of project-based rent subsidies, in fact agreeing to it in their contract with the owners.

“This is just folks paying their own rent,” he said.

However, they would not turn down someone who has a voucher, provided they pass a credit and background check.

“If they pass that and they have a voucher, they’re welcome,” he said, noting that the check includes criminal records. Felony or drug-related convictions would be turned away, but lower-level offenses would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The project would include some parking for residents who want to lease spaces, as well as abundant green space including several mature trees being preserved on the property, Willmarth said.

He added that they must meet the most current standards for building with respect to the environment, including stormwater management.

But the EMRCC membership pressed Willmarth to do so without seeking any zoning variances or waivers so the project fully complies with current codes.

The project is being pursued through the county’s PUD process due to the mixture of zoning classifications currently on the property, including residential, office and community business.

PUDs allow developers to skirt existing zoning in exchange for a better project and a benefit for the community.

Willmarth said they would leave it to the community to decide what community benefit they would like. And EMRCC members floated the idea of having it be something for the closest community to the site, or potentially something to support the Eastern Baltimore County Task Force’s efforts to revitalize the area.

A previous development proposal for the site, also sought as a PUD, called for “workforce housing” apartments which were staunchly opposed by many in the community due to the potential for it to become more Section 8 housing in an area that already has a lot of it.

To get the funding they sought, that project had to include a percentage of affordable housing, said Sandra Kwiatkowski, one of the site’s current owners.

“The moment that Section 8 was mentioned, it was jumped upon and that was the end of that,” she said.

Additionally, as workforce housing, the project was not required to provide an extra benefit since the county classifies workforce housing itself as a benefit.

The previous developer offered to refurbish and maintain a problematic bus stop nearby, but community members did not feel that was enough.

Kwiatkowski pointed out that she grew up in the area and currently lives on the subject property.

“This is my community too,” she said. “It’s not that I’m just here to sell and see everything torn down. I’m part of this community and I want to see good things happen here.”

Sam Weaver and Karen Wynn, two leaders in the aformentioned task force, said they support the concept plan as presented, but they could only speak for themselves because their entire group had not yet met to discuss it.

“What we’ve heard so far, it seems like it would be an improvement,” Weaver said. “If they’re willing to spend that kind of money it would start the ball rolling for an uplifting for the whole area.”

The EMRCC voted that they were not opposed to the project moving into the county’s development review process, but did not necessarily give support for the project itself.

Since the project is located in County Councilman Todd Crandell’s district, Crandell will decide whether or not to introduce a resolution to the County Council to allow the project to begin the county’s review process.

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Swimmer Long goes 8-for-8 with world championship gold medals

Swimmer Long goes 8-for-8 with world championship gold medals
Long does her best Michael Phelps impersonation, posing with her eight gold medals. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 12/13/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Each time Jessica Long jumped in the Francisco Marquez Olympic Swimming Pool in Mexico City at the World Para Swimming Championships last week, she emerged from the water having earned another gold medal to add to her growing collection.

The swimming phenom who grew up in Middle River went eight-for-eight in the competition to lead the American team in total and gold medals. She won six individual races and was a member of two gold-medal-winning relay teams.

Long’s medal haul might not be as significant as it would have been had the meet taken place as originally scheduled, but she put in an impressive showing, nonetheless.

The championships were supposed to be held in September but a major earthquake that hit central Mexico on Sept. 19 caused a nearly two-month delay of the meet. As a result, some teams originally scheduled to compete dropped out of the rescheduled event.

For example, in both relay races in which Long participated, the U.S. team was the only qualifier. A clean race with no disqualifications guaranteed gold for the team.

“There were a few other teams in those particular events that unfortunately couldn’t attend,” Olivia Truby, a spokeswoman for the United States Olympic Committee, said in an email to the East County Times. “However, it was still a very competitive field throughout the whole meet, and we are very appreciative of everything Mexico City did to put on an incredible event.”

When the six-day meet ended Dec. 7, the U.S. had banked 54 total medals, good for second place on the overall leader board, while Long’s eight golds made her the meet’s most decorated female athlete, according to United States Olympic Committee officials.

Queenie Nichols, director of high performance for U.S. Paralympic Swimming, said she was  pleased with the performance of both veteran athletes and program newcomers.

“We are incredibly happy with how Team USA performed at world championships, especially swimming at altitude,” she wrote in an email.

China claimed the team medal title, with 56 total medals, including 30 golds. Italy finished third behind the U.S. with 38 medals and an impressive 20 first-place finishes.

Team USA’s medals were won by 18 individuals, including Timonium’s Becca Meyers, who won four medals (one gold, two silvers and one bronze), and Mt. Airy’s Zach Shattuck, who was a member of a bronze-medal-winning relay team.

Long, the daughter of Middle River residents Steve and Beth Long, is no stranger to the awards podium, regardless of the level of competition. She said her experience in Mexico City was “awesome.”

“It’s definitely been a really wonderful world championship experience,” she said in a statement from the USOC. “To come away with eight gold medals, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Long started the meet with three gold-medal performances on Sunday, Dec. 4, and capped off her perfect outing Thursday, Dec. 7, with a first-place finish in the SM8 (disability classification) 200-meter individual medley.

Between those days, she also won the S8 100m backstroke, the 34-point 4x100m medley relay, S8 400m freestyle and the S8 100m butterfly.

“Jessica continues to show why she’s one of the most successful Paralympic swimmers,” Nichols said in an email. “To sweep her events and win gold in every event is truly a testament to how great a swimmer she is.”

Not only did Long win eight gold medals, she did so convincingly. While many swim races are decided by tenths and hundredths of seconds, Long defeated each of her nearest competitors by at least five seconds. She finished nearly 25 seconds ahead of the second- and third-place finishers in the 400m freestyle and bested fellow American Julia Gaffney by more than 17 seconds in the 200m individual medley.

But while she enjoyed big leads in the pool, she was considerably slower than her own world record times in two of her races. Her time of 2:49.93 seconds in the 200m individual medley was nearly 13 seconds slower than her world record of 2:37.11, set in Montreal in 2013. With a final time of 1:12.81 in the 100m butterfly, Long was three seconds slower than her world record time of 1:09.79, set in Scotland in 2015.

A year removed from the Rio Summer Paralympics - where Long won six medals - and three years from the next games in Tokyo, Long is not at the peak of training. She has told other publications she is enjoying a lighter training load and taking it easy for a while.

She is enjoying success outside of the pool as well. Long was recently named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, which names 30 young people to watch in a variety of categories, including sports.

She also looks forward to the June 2018 release of her book, Unsinkable, written with her sister, Hannah Long.

Long revealed a picture of the cover of the book on her Facebook page this fall.

“Crazy excited to reveal the cover of my new book, Unsinkable,“ she wrote in the post. “This book is so special to me... it’s been two years in the making and it’s written by my little sister, Hannah Long.”

Long has also signed on with the Fitter and Fastest Swim Tour, where she will join other high-profile and elite swimmers who conduct swim clinics for athletes looking to improve their performance.

The four-time Paralympian has plenty of time to “take it easy” before she ramps up her training regimen in preparation for the 2020 Summer Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

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Star of Bethlehem once again lights the Christmastime sky

Star of Bethlehem once again lights the Christmastime sky
An event attendee inadvertently showed the scale of the behemoth decoration when he moved closer to take his own photo. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 12/6/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Placing the star atop a family’s Christmas tree comes with mixed emotions.

There is the poignancy of the moment, when the chosen family member delicately places the decoration in its place of honor. But there is usually some trepidation as well - that momentary fear that one wrong move will topple the carefully decorated tree.

As you’re carrying out that task this year, just be grateful your star is not 28 feet tall and doesn’t weigh in at more than 1.5 tons.

That is the size of the Star of Bethlehem, an iconic symbol with multiple meanings that graced the L-Blast furnace at Bethlehem Steel for decades.

The star was crafted to honor the steelmaking industry, Bethlehem Steel’s hometown of Bethlehem, Pa., and the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

Saved from the recycle pile by Tradepoint Atlantic employees, the much-loved star once again shines over the Greater Dundalk area, even if it is from a temporary home on the side wall of the former steel plant’s wastewater treatment building.

More than 100 area residents joined elected leaders and Tradepoint officials on Nov. 29, when the star was brought to life for the third time under TPA’s ownership.

“This star at Bethlehem Steel was for decades a source of community pride during the holiday season,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said during the brief ceremony. “And as we know in 2012, that star dimmed with the closing of RG Steel and we lost 2,000 jobs.”

He thanked Tradepoint officials for their investment in Baltimore County and for ensuring that the Star of Bethlehem once again shines brightly over the Sparrows Point peninsula.

Aaron Tomarchio, Tradepoint’s vice president of corporate affairs, called the star a “hand-crafted symbol of the Bethlehem Steel workers” and thanked the TPA employees responsible for its resurrection.

The behemoth decoration that is illuminated by 196 bulbs symbolizes the “strength and tradition and community” of the plant that provided jobs for multiple generations.

Noting that the star is in a temporary location - its perch atop the L-Blast furnace was much higher and could be seen from greater distances - Tomarchio said the star is still visible to many, including Francis Scott Key Bridge travelers.

After a countdown from 10, the switch was thrown, all 196 bulbs came to life and folks began taking selfies with the iconic star shining brightly in the background.

Because it’s all about the history and legacy of the generations of people who worked at “The Point.”

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Cowenton apartments to move forward despite councilwoman’s action

Cowenton apartments to move forward despite councilwoman’s action
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 12/6/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Although County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins moved in May to delay a planned development at a busy intersection in White Marsh, the project will now move ahead as scheduled after Baltimore County determined the project is vested.

Cowenton South, consisting of 325 for-rent apartments on Cowenton Avenue at MD-7/Philadelphia Road, was hit with a road block back on May 1 when Bevins, who represents the area, changed the county’s Basic Services Map to label the intersection as “failing” by traffic standards.

The intersection sees an average of 16,000 vehicles per day, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) - which controls the intersection because it is a state road - and traffic backs up on eastbound Philadelphia Road and westbound Ebenezer Road approaching the intersection beginning around 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Because the developer for Cowenton South, Keelty Homes, had not yet applied for their building permits at the time, Bevins’ action served to freeze the project until traffic improvements could be made to the intersection.

However, the county’s Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections (PAI) determined that the project is vested, meaning the developer had already completed enough work on the project to make it identifiable to the public by the time Bevins changed the intersection’s grade. Although the intersection is still labeled as failing, the project can now move forward.

PAI Director Arnold Jablon told the East County Times that the developer had done grading and installed the necessary utilities and roads on the property, and the project has actually been vested since 2009 or 2010.

“As far as the county’s perspective, the project was vested a long time ago,” Jablon said. “The plan that they have is protected.”

The director said when determining whether or not a project is vested, the county has to look at what kind of work has been done.

“There has to be sufficient work to be able to tell the public, according to the Court of Appeals, what’s going in,” he said. “When you put roads in and you do utilities and you do grading, that’s obviously giving notice to the public of what’s coming.”

Following her action in May, Bevins said she met with representatives of Keelty to discuss the issue and possible solutions since the added traffic will make problems there worse, and children living in the apartment complex will add to already-overcrowded schools in the area.

Despite being able to continue building, Keelty has promised to build only the first phase of the project - 185 units - and its community center until improvements are made to the intersection, according to the councilwoman. The developer has also agreed to contribute to the pot of money needed to fund the necessary traffic improvements, she said, which will incentivize the state to fix the intersection.

“The last meeting I had with them, they said they would make it a priority,” Bevins said of the SHA. “And I’m hoping that they do.”

SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar affirmed that the proper solution to traffic congestion at the intersection would be the addition of a through lane on eastbound Philadelphia Road to get more vehicles through during each light cycle.

“But this is a long-term improvement which is not yet funded for construction,” he said. However, the agency did add the intersection to its list of congested intersections to address as funding becomes available, he added.

In the meantime, SHA has recommended changing the traffic light phasing there to allow eastbound Philadelphia Road traffic to turn left onto westbound Cowenton Avenue after yielding to oncoming through traffic, while eastbound through traffic continues on Philadelphia. Currently, the left-turn and through lights are independent of one another.

“This will help ease the delay time and level of service for the side street traffic, as well as improve overall intersection operations,” Gischlar said. “With this interim improvement, we should be able to roughly reduce the overall total intersection delay by about 20 seconds.”

He said SHA is reviewing the proposal and, if approved, the signal upgrade could be scheduled for installation by summer or fall of 2018.

Gischlar did not specify a cost for the long-term improvements to the intersection, but Bevins said the through lane would cost “millions of dollars” and that seven properties would need to give up land on the road frontage for the state right of way to complete it.

She said she planned to appeal to all of the other developers with planned projects in the area to see if they too will contribute funds for the intersection’s needed improvements.

It will take two years for Keelty to build Cowenton South’s first phase, Bevins said, and she is hoping the improvements can be completed by then.

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Crandell wants answers regarding Fort Howard environmental status

Crandell wants answers regarding Fort Howard environmental status
The dots shown on the map indicate the sites where contamination has been documented with regard to Fort Howard. The orange dots are the active, "medium risk" sites and the blue dots are inactive sites. Image courtesy of ProPublica.

(Updated 12/6/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7) on Tuesday, Dec. 5, called on the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and any other relevant government agencies to explain the status of documented hazardous waste sites on the North Point peninsula at Fort Howard.

ProPublica on Nov. 30 published the first comprehensive map of sites across the nation, one of which is Fort Howard, that have been contaminated with toxic waste and explosives due to military use. The publication identifies four sites on the peninsula - two active and two inactive - where contamination has been found, all of which are within the county-owned Fort Howard Park.

The inactive sites - one a landfill and the other a site where contaminated fill was used - are those where military cleanup actions are complete, according to DOD records, which indicate the final cleanup actions were completed in September of 1998 and 1999, respectively.

The active sites are identified as “Multi-Use Range Complex No. 1,” a water site and a land site. Together, they represent a total estimated cleanup cost of $7.66 million, and the USACE estimates the cleanup to be complete in September of 2034 and 2035, respectively.

The sites, which are part of the USACE Military Munitions Response Program, are contaminated with heavy metals, including antimony, nickel, copper, zinc and lead, and are listed as a “medium” risk. However, the DOD and USACE have placed no limits on public access of those areas.

“This information, I don’t know if anybody knew about this,” Crandell told the East County Times.

“I am not an alarmist, but if this information is accurate, it is of serious concern,” he said in a statement.

Crandell noted that his office had contacted Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger’s office with a request that the environmental concerns be addressed so the community is as informed as possible on the potential future of Fort Howard.

The land making up the park was transferred to Baltimore County from the federal government in 1977, according to county tax records. The portion of the peninsula that is still owned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is slated for future residential development, potentially including senior housing.

Crandell said the developer is nowhere close to having a plan in place for development of the VA property. But “if the site is contaminated or environmentally unsafe, I’m not even going to think about putting housing or senior housing there.”

The councilman also pointed to a recommendation from the Maryland Department of the Environment in 2010 that “the three landfill areas be further evaluated due to the pending planned use of the facility.”

“We know that MDE recommended further evaluation of the property as far back as 2010,” his statement read, “and if there is substantial remediation to be done, the Department of Defense is on the hook for that.”

Although the identified sites are all within the pub
lic park portion of the peninsula, Crandell took the stance that they could have implications for the rest of the peninsula.

“It’s still close enough to the VA property to cause concern, especially when MDE suggested years ago that further evaluation of the sites be undertaken due to the fact that housing was planned there,” he said.

Additionally, he has concerns about public exposure to the contaminants by nature of visiting the park.

“I’m going to err on the side of caution here because I’m not sure the public is aware that this munitions cleanup is even planned or occurring,” Crandell said. “I just need the answers. I need to know the environmental status of the sites.

“I want the DOD and the VA to be straight with us and address the concern,” his statement read. “I would love to be told this is not as serious as it looks and why, but until we get answers I will be on guard for the safety of the public.”

Crandell noted that sites in or near eastern Baltimore County such as Pooles Island and Aberdeen Proving Ground - some of which includes Carroll Island, as well as Battery Point near Gunpowder Falls State Park - are off limits to the public because munitions are or are suspected to be buried there.

“Until I’m told by the appropriate agencies and given assurance that it is safe for people to be around it and that we’re not contaminated or [have] the possibility of live munitions on the site, you’ve got to question people potentially living there, and now at this point, the safety of the park,” Crandell told the Times.

“At the very least, this is worthy of investigation,” he said, “which is why we asked Dutch’s office to look into it.”

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Officials take first step toward possible TIF for Tradepoint Atlantic

Officials take first step toward possible TIF for Tradepoint Atlantic
Image courtesy of Google.

(Updated 12/6/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Baltimore County Council members unanimously passed a resolution on Monday, Dec. 4, that could lead to helping Tradepoint Atlantic pay for needed upgrades to roads, bridges, water and sewer lines and other public infrastructure at Sparrows Point.

At the request of Tradepoint and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Resolution 109-17 designates the boundaries of a new development district to encompass the 3,100-acre former steel mill site that Tradepoint is redeveloping with distribution centers, manufacturing operations and port upgrades to handle bulk commodities.

It also enables the possible funding of upgrades through tax-increment financing (TIF), which typically involves the borrowing of money by issuing bonds, then paying the money back out of the higher taxes collected on higher assessments due to new construction.

If implemented, Tradepoint would continue paying property taxes to the county based on 2016 assessments with the added tax revenue from redevelopment being used to pay off bonds.

“The resolution establishes a development district which locks in the 2016 land values for the project,” wrote Aaron Tomarchio, senior vice president of administration and corporate affairs for Tradepoint, in an email.

With demand for industrial land currently high, Tradepoint argues that public help now to complete the upgrades will help it to better compete with other East Coast locations to attract employers and the resulting jobs that will benefit Maryland.

“Having the necessary infrastructure in place will allow TPA to attract marquee tenants and employers that value shovel-ready sites when evaluating where to locate,” Tomarchio wrote.

Councilman Todd Crandell, who represents Sparrows Point, Dundalk and Essex, said Monday that the Tradepoint redevelopment promises to be “transformational” in reversing the loss of jobs following the demise of Bethlehem Steel.

He said the Monday vote sets the development district boundary but does not obligate the county to necessarily adopt a TIF. A lot of number crunching and a thorough cost-benefit analysis will need to be done before the county decides whether or not to get involved, according to the councilman.

“We’re a long way from doing a TIF,” Crandell said about a study period that is likely months away from starting. “We don’t yet have the information about the mechanics or dollar amounts.”

However, TIFs typically mean that the increase in tax revenue tied to higher assessments goes toward paying down the bond debt instead of going toward  the county’s regular spending on public services and projects such as roads, senior centers and parks.

Councilman Wade Kach, who represents northern Baltimore County, said Sparrows Point will continue to develop with or without a TIF and that if a TIF is implemented, it will mean less money for the general fund.

“It’s going to mean that revenue in the near future is lost to Baltimore County. You miss that income,” he said.

Kach said he is also concerned that the county’s debt service is expected to rise in the next five years, and that repaying TIF funds would only add to the burden.

Meanwhile, the possibility of a TIF is not the only option for Tradepoint, which is also researching other options.

“We are also looking at EB-5 financing, Private Activity Bonds and other potential federal grants that could assist in the massive infrastructure requirements needed to realize the full buildout of a multi-modal global center of commerce,” he wrote.

Under the federal EB-5 program, foreigners receive visas if they invest at least $500,000 in American projects that employ 10 or more workers. Private activity bonds are another way to raise money for a private company.

Tomarchio said if Baltimore County were to support a TIF, the Maryland Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO), a private corporation set up by the state to raise money for capital projects, would issue the bonds.

“The county would only pledge future property tax revenues generated by the increasing value of TPA to MEDCO to pay off any bonds issued for key infrastructure like roads, water, sewer, etc.,” he wrote.

Establishing base value
Determining the added value created by new construction at Sparrows Point is made clear by including in the resolution the base value of the development as of a certain date, in this case as of Jan. 1, 2016.

“This solidifies the increment potential and places the project already on sound footing for bond repayment,” Tomarchio wrote. “Again, this just preserves the option at this point in time.”

Tradepoint purchased the land in 2014 and spent several years on demolition and cleanup. It only recently began work on the building of large distribution centers for Fed Ex, Under Armour and Amazon that will result in significantly higher assessed values and tax revenues.

For example, the only parcel of seven listed with the resolution that shows new construction and higher assessments so far according to state tax records is an industrial parcel totaling 66 acres.

For the tax year ending June 30, 2018, the assessed value on the parcel is $8.8 million, with $96,530 paid to the county in taxes. The assessed value for new construction in the third quarter is much higher at $58.2 million with $480,290 paid to the county in taxes.

Kach asked about postponing a vote on the resolution until the county has more information, but Tradepoint and the other officials want to at least set a possible option in place now.

Voting on the resolution in 2017 automatically sets the base value as of Jan. 1, 2016, according to state law, officials said.

Debate in the coming year over the pros and cons of a possible TIF will likely  include a broader discussion of spending priorities for the county, said some Council members.

A TIF approved by Baltimore City for Under Armour’s redevelopment of Port Covington also included public involvement.

“A TIF is going to take a lot of work and time,” said Council Chairman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville and Arbutus.

“This is just the first step,” he said about the resolution.

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Swimmer Long kicks off world championships with three gold medals

Swimmer Long kicks off world championships with three gold medals
Long with one of her gold medals and a bouquet next to the swimming event sign in Mexico City. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 12/6/17)

- By Marge Neal -

The World Para Swimming Championships kicked off about two months later than they were supposed to, but the delay apparently did not phase former Middle River resident Jessica Long.

The four-time Paralympian won three gold medals on Sunday, Dec. 3, her first day of competition.

The meet in Mexico City was originally scheduled for September but was postponed because of a major earthquake in central Mexico on Sept. 19. The delay caused some last-minute adjustments in training schedules, to say nothing of the logistics of canceling and rescheduling transportation and lodging arrangements. But the team took it in stride and hit the pool Saturday ready to compete, as evidenced by its medal haul over the weekend.

When the dust had settled on the first day of competition, held at the Francisco Marquez Olympic Swimming Pool on Saturday, Dec. 2, the U.S. team found itself atop the medal leaders board with nine medals overall, including three golds.

Long, a double below-the-knee amputee, and Tucker Dupree, a swimmer from North Carolina, were named captains of the team. Longtime disabled swimming presence and Atlanta resident Curtis Lovejoy was selected as the team’s flag bearer in the opening ceremony.

When she hit the pool on Sunday to begin her competition, Long did not look back. At the end of the day, she had made three trips to the top of the awards podium, claiming gold medals in the SB7 (disability classification) 100-meter breaststroke, the S8 100-meter freestyle and the 4x100 34-point freestyle relay.

Long, the daughter of Middle River residents Steve and Beth Long, posted a picture on her Facebook page Sunday night of herself wearing one of her medals.

“First day of racing done,” she wrote. “I am off tomorrow but back at it Tuesday. So, so happy with my races tonight. Three gold medals and lots of fun.”

Her sustained success no longer surprises family members and friends who witness her devotion to her sport.

“I expected Jess to perform well at World Championships because she expects to win and she works hard to make it happen,” Steve Long told the East County Times.

Once considered the baby of the swim team, Long at 25 is now the grande dame of the successful group that has made its mark in all levels of international competition. Her Paralympic career began when, as a 12-year-old, she was named to the team that represented the U.S. in Athens in 2004. She also competed in Beijing, London and Rio de Janiero and has her eyes set on Tokyo in 2020.

Though she set off for Athens as an unknown entity in international competition, she returned home as a swim sensation, with three gold medals in her suitcase. She has been a force to be reckoned with ever since.

She now owns 23 Paralympic medals, with 13 of them gold. She has also enjoyed abundant success in previous world championships, most notably when she won nine gold medals at the International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2006.

Her longevity in the sport, her work ethic and her dedication to the team all have combined to make her a role model for younger athletes, as evidenced by comments made by a fellow team member to USOC officials after she finished third in the S8 freestyle on Sunday.

“It feels really good,” team member Julia Gaffney said when asked to describe the experience of winning two medals in her world championship debut. “I’m really honored to swim on Team USA... It’s always been my dream to race against Jessica Long and now it’s amazing to share a podium with her.”

Through Monday night, Team USA remained the leader in the overall medal count with 23. Long and McKenzie Coan lead the team with three gold medals each.

Long was scheduled to race on Tuesday in the 100-meter backstroke and the 4x100 medley relay. The meet ends Dec. 7.

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Metzgar hosts church security conference in wake of Texas massacre

(Updated 12/6/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

On Monday night, Dec. 4, approximately 75 pastors from Baltimore County, Baltimore City and elsewhere around the state gathered at the Eastern Assembly of God (EAG) in Dundalk. They were not there to discuss the teachings of Jesus, but rather to take part in a conference regarding how to respond to an active shooter situation.

“It’s really sad that it’s come to this,” Delegate Ric Metzgar (R-6), the event’s sponsor, told the East County Times before the event. “I never thought we would come to a day, come to a point, that we would have to have a church security conference... I’d rather be proactive than reactive.”

Metzgar cited the recent church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas as his motivation for holding the conference. The shooting, which occurred on Nov. 5, ended with 26 dead and 20 injured.

“I was flying on that Sunday, but by that Tuesday afternoon I had called the pastors, the Lord told me in my heart to prepare his people,” said Metzgar.

The delegate assembled a panel comprised of current and former law enforcement officers, as well as private security personnel, and reached out to EAG’s Pastor Ed Michael about hosting the event.

The two-hour conference kicked off with Maryland State Police (MSP) Master Trooper Michelle Workman giving a lengthy presentation on how to respond to an active shooter situation, using the guidelines designed in 2002 in the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Program at Texas State University. The program - which has become the standard since its creation - lays out a strategy called ADD, which stands for Avoid, Deny, Defend.

The program notes that people should avoid active shooter situations by taking in their surroundings, noting emergency exits and moving away from the source as fast as possible. If you cannot avoid the danger, according to Workman, you should try to put space and barriers between you and the danger. That includes turning off the lights, barricading doors and trying to keep hidden against walls to avoid being seen. If all else fails, defend yourself. That includes using uncommon tactics like throwing shoes and other objects at the attacker.

Most importantly, someone needs to take the lead.

“More often than not our first response is to deny that anything is wrong,” said Workman. “We continue to go about what we’re doing because we’re in a state of denial. You really need someone to stand up and take charge in these types of situations.”

Workman showed the crowd a clip from The Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island that occurred in 2003, which killed 100 and injured 230. The video included a timer to show that people only started reacting to the fire 30 seconds after it started. By that time it had already begun spreading and concert-goers proceeded to make for the exit. Only, instead of using all of the exits, most tried to exit the same way they came in. That led to a jam in the exits and kept people inside, many of whom lost their lives.

“Not only do you need to take note of the other exits, but you also have to realize that in those types of situations you need to look for unorthodox escapes,” she said. “In this instance, there was a whole row of windows that people could have broken and jumped out of. In other cases we’ve heard of people punching their way through drywall. You just need to find a way out.”

After Workman’s presentation, she was joined on stage by Sergeant Fred Shiflett of the Anne Arundel County Sherrif’s Office, Christopher Boggs of Dignitary Security and Nick Paros, a retired major from the MSP.

Quite a few of the pastors in attendance told the panel they had parishioners working as security, but Paros advised against that. He noted that doing so puts a lot of liability on the church, and that the best course of action is to hire private security. Shiflett and Workman advised the crowd to reach out to local law enforcement to see what they could do.

When asked what to do about the elderly or disabled during an active shooter situation, Shiflett proposed coming up with a plan ahead of time.

“The way my church works, we have an area that most of the handicap people will get set up, right by the exit where there’s a ramp,” said Shiflett.

At one point, Paros stated that the most important aspect of keeping people safe from a shooter was keeping a potential shooter out.

“What you need to think about is how you’re going to mitigate that from getting inside, and that starts outside the front door,” said Paros.

The former MSP officer told the audience to try to take note of changes in the lives of others, whether it is relationship or employment related or anything else. He also recommended keeping the doors locked when possible. But when that is not a possibility, private security is the way to go.

“I know since you all represent churches you’re in the business of keeping your doors open,” he joked. “And if you are going to do that you need to make sure you’re protected in other ways.”

For information about church safety or to find out about upcoming active shooter conferences in the Baltimore County area, contact Del. Ric Metzgar at 410-622-5232.

Lighted boat parade dazzles thousands, collects donations for needy

Lighted boat parade dazzles thousands, collects donations for needy
This year’s finale boat, designed and captained again by Nick Hock of Middle River, was decorated like a biplane complete with a working propeller and pulling a banner reading “Merry Christmas.” Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 11/29/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The 15th annual Middle River Lighted Boat Parade continued its trend of growth and spectacle on Saturday, Nov. 25, while collecting donations for a good cause.

While parade organizer Jim High did not have official numbers yet as to the amount of toys and other donations they were able to collect during the event, he said each of the collection boxes at area restaurants was full when picked up.

The donation boxes had been placed at three local restaurants with views of the parade.

The charitable beneficiary for the event was Santa’s Elves of Dundalk. And Middle River Stand-Up Paddleboard, owned by High, also donated a stand-up paddleboard for each collection box, he said.

“It was really kind of flawless,” High said of the show.

He joked that he “couldn’t count that high” when asked how many boats ended up participating in the event.

Some 95 boaters had registered to be in the parade, according to High, but some ended up not being able to make it. And as expected, because of the good weather, others decided to join in on the day of the event.

As a result, High said he could only put the final count somewhere between 80 and 100 boats.

He noted as well that the line of boats stretched three to four miles long, and “thousands and thousands of people lined the shorelines all over, from Bowleys Quarters to Wilson Point, to Hawthorne and down into Bauernschmidt and Turkey Point and Middleborough” to see the show.

“The area has a fantastic Christmas tradition,” High said. “Calling it the Mid-Atlantic’s largest lighted boat parade didn’t disappoint.”

Visit us on Facebook for more photos from the parade.

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In Dundalk, planes, trains and automobiles to welcome the Christmas season

In Dundalk, planes, trains and automobiles to welcome the Christmas season
The Hoopla festivities are set to begin with the unveiling of the intricate train garden at the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society. File photo.

(Updated 11/29/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Dundalk will roll out the green and red carpet this weekend for Holiday Hoopla, a comprehensive collection of events to welcome the holiday season.

Many organizers brag that an event offers “something for everyone,” but Holiday Hoopla is one of the few events that truly seems to meet that description.

Do you enjoy holiday train garden displays? Check. Never miss a parade? Check. Want to have pictures taken of the kids with Santa Claus? Check. Do the kids like to express their creative sides with crafts and other fun activities? Check. Do you have the need to rub shoulders with neighbors in a festive street fair atmosphere? Want to eat lots of great Christmas cookies without the hassle of baking them yourself? Want to get some early Christmas shopping done and support locally-owned small businesses at the same time? Check, check and check.

Throw in some seasonal music, roaming characters, a moonbounce and some face painting, add vendors and free ice cream courtesy of Turkey Hill, and there really is something for everyone, according to Chris Pineda, community engagement coordinator for the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation, one of the sponsoring organizations of the day-long celebration.

The day’s festivities kick off at 4 Center Place in downtown Dundalk at noon on Saturday, Dec. 2, with the opening of the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society’s 18th annual train garden. The multi-tiered display consumes about 300 square feet of space and employs about 90 animated figures that create many themed scenes, according to a statement from the group.

Also popular with train garden visitors is a scavenger hunt that encourages them to search the scenes to find designated objects and characters.

At 2:30 p.m., DRC officials will celebrate the restoration of a historic advertising mural painted on the side wall of 20 N. Dundalk Ave. The mural was discovered when the neighboring building was torn down, and DRC offered $7,500 in grant funds to have the painting professionally restored.

The celebration will include the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and refreshments, according to Amy Menzer, DRC’s executive director.

Dundalk-Eastfield Recreation Council’s annual Christmas parade will kick off at 4 p.m., according to chairman Alan Holcomb, who said he is looking for a “park stretcher” because the parade continues to grow from year to year.

While many crowd favorites are scheduled - including equipment from the Baltimore County Fire Department and the Wise Avenue and North Point-Edgemere volunteer fire companies, the Department of Natural Resources, Civil Air Patrol and lots of antique cars - Holcomb is excited about several new entries as well.

“I just talked with the folks from Mystic Moon Farms and we are going to have horses in this year’s parade,” Holcomb told the East County Times. “And no, I will not be marching behind them on cleanup duty.”

Baltimore County Animal Control will participate with its new Cuddle Shuttle, a mobile animal adoption center. Sparrows Point High School’s marching band will provide instrumental music and the Encore Girls will wow the crowd with their singing, according to Holcomb.

The parade, traditionally anchored by Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and a certain famous group of reindeer, winds through Old Dundalk and the Dundalk Village Shopping Center before ending on Trading Place at the entrance to Heritage Park.

Santa and Mrs. Claus then set up shop at the park’s gazebo, where they will greet hundreds of children before the night is over. Each child will receive a small gift after visiting with the benevolent duo, and free refreshments will be served from Mrs. Claus’ kitchen.

At the same time - roughly 4:45 p.m. - the DRC’s Holiday Cookie Tour and Center Place Street Fair will begin.

In addition to children’s activities and vendor displays, visitors are encouraged to participate in the popular Cookie Tour. Thousands of donated cookies will be available at many shopping center businesses, and visitors can collect their free cookies in a bag available across from 11 Center Place, according to organizers.

Some bakers opt to participate in the cookie recipe contest, with judges getting the tough job of tasting the entries and bestowing a variety of prizes to winners.

There will be some spillover from the parade to the street fair, according to Angel Ball, one of Holcomb’s “happy little helpers.”

“We’re going to have Andy the Armadillo from Texas Roadhouse there and the Chick-fil-A cow and they will walk around and be available for photos,” Ball said.

The street fair generally shuts down around 7:30 p.m., according to Menzer, while Holcomb said Santa will stay until the last child has had a chance to visit and share their holiday wishes and dreams.

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Council passes bill to allow new residential development in White Marsh

Council passes bill to allow new residential development in White Marsh
The site, shown here on the left, is the last undeveloped parcel as part of the Town Center area. Image courtesy of Google.

(Updated 11/29/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Last Monday, Nov. 20, the Baltimore County Council passed Bill 66-17 which allows for residential development in the vicinity of the Town Center district of White Marsh.

The new law, introduced by Councilwoman Cathy Bevins who represents the area, allows for residential uses by right on land currently zoned for light manufacturing if it is at least 10 acres in size and within 525 feet of White Marsh’s Town Center district.

The Town Center district of White Marsh centers on White Marsh Mall and is bounded by White Marsh, Perry Hall and Honeygo boulevards.

The law also applies to similar districts in other parts of the county.

Bevins said the bill applies to an undeveloped parcel bordering Sandpiper Circle between Corporate Drive and Honeygo Boulevard. The site’s owners, Owings Mills-based Chesapeake Realty Partners, have proposed a project to build “high-end,” luxury apartments there, but could not do so under the zoning prior to the new law.

CRP also built the Winthrop apartments in Towson, which the councilwoman called a “spectacular project.”

However, Bevins said she limited the White Marsh project to a maximum of 325 residential units.

“By right they could do like 500 and some,” because of the site’s nearly 13-acre size, she said. “But I put a limit on it.”

Last year, when the subject property was owned by Corporate Office Properties Trust, the real estate trust requested a zoning change for the site through the county’s Comprehensive Zoning Map Process to allow a similar project to the current proposal.

Bevins said she met with the would-be developer for that project and was impressed with his previous projects and the proposal but could not come to an agreement with COPT on the size of the project.

“What happened with that deal, it wasn’t the developer, it was COPT,” Bevins said. “They wouldn’t give me a covenant or declaration on the total amount of units. They were almost 600 units and I just thought that was too much.” Therefore, she did not change the zoning.

But she reviewed all the documentation from the rezoning cycle on that particular zoning issue, she said, to see how the public had reacted to it.

“We went through all the testimony and we kept files on every single issue,” Bevins said. “There was no opposition to it.”

She said she took that as a sign that most people did not care about having housing in a Town Center district. She also noted that the site is “kind of in a donut hole” as it relates to community representation, with neither the South Perry Hall Improvement Association, the Linover Improvement Association nor the White Marsh-Cowenton Community Association covering the area.

The councilwoman admitted that the new developers missed the rezoning cycle, “but I didn’t want to miss that opportunity,” she said. “I think it’s really good timing with [all the new development on Route] 43.”

Bevins recognized some preconceptions some people have about apartments, but defended the proposal for its quality.

“They said that they are planning on bringing the highest rents in Baltimore County - $1,850 [per month] for a one-bedroom,” she said. “They think they’re going to be able to get more there than in the Winthrop in Towson.”

She added that The Arbors, another luxury apartment complex on the White Marsh Boulevard extension in Middle River, is not far behind the new project in rental price.

“And they are 100-percent leased all the time,” Bevins said, adding that the average income of residents there is about $90,000 per year.

She said CRP has already done a market study as to the viability of the White Marsh project.

“They’re not going to build that kind of quality and not know that they can get that [rent].”

Bevins said the developer is also thinking in terms of the site’s proximity to other amenities in the area. She said that is why she “bought into” the project.

“They’re looking at what [Route] 43 is bringing, they’re looking at the jobs, they’re looking at, logistically, how close it is to [Interstate] 95, downtown, the airport, the MARC [train],” she said.

Bevins noted as well that the project would be built and marketed for people who want to live in an urban, city-like setting, particularly young people.

“They park their car, they like walking to the bars, walking to the restaurants, walking to get their hair cut, they walk to the liquor store, walk to the movies - they want to walk to everything, and they like to get on their bikes,” she said.

Regarding schools, Bevins said this type of development would likely have little impact on area class sizes, again using The Arbors and Winthrop as examples.

“Not to say there aren’t any kids, but it’s very few,” she said of The Arbors. “And at the Winthrop, there’s less than three children in that building.

“This is for empty nesters, young professionals, couples, people that haven’t started a family yet,” she added.

The project is also planned to have copious amenities, according to Bevins, such as a fitness center, pool, billiards room, conference center and more - “all those things that are what people want,” she said.

Bevins said the project could have a positive effect on businesses in the area as well, pointing specifically to nearby White Marsh Mall, which she said is “failing.”

Although the site is not within any particular community association’s boundaries, Bevins said she suggested the developers meet with the White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company to discuss a contribution to their new station to benefit the community, which they did.

“We’re working on a big number there,” Bevins said.

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‘Little church food pantry’ needs big community support

‘Little church food pantry’ needs big community support
Lucy Leimbach (left) instructs volunteers on what to give out to each recipient. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 11/29/17)

- By Marge Neal -

The food pantry run by the Chase and Piney Grove United Methodist churches might be small in size and scope, but it is a mighty lifeline for the families that regularly depend on it to make ends meet from month to month.

“We have about 20 people who depend on us regularly, and our shelves pretty much get wiped clean each month,” pantry volunteer Sherrie Tester told the East County Times. “We start over from scratch each month.”

With donations low and need for nutritional help high, the Times has partnered with the two churches to serve as a food donation drop-off point through Dec. 31. Nonperishable food items, including boxed pasta, bottled sauces, canned vegetables, soups, fruit, tuna and chicken, peanut butter, pudding and fruit cups and bags of beans and noodles can be dropped off at the Times’ office, 513 Eastern Blvd. in the heart of Essex, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

While the pantry is open just one Saturday each month, residents in need can call either church and an administrator will make sure the immediate need is met, according to pantry volunteer Lucy Leimbach.

In addition to nonperishable foods, volunteers try to have a package of frozen meat to give out to each person when the pantry opens each month.

“And at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we give out turkeys to the first 15 visitors,” she said. “We’d like to be able to give turkeys to everyone, and that’s Sherrie’s goal, but 15 is about all we can afford to buy.”

Local grocery stores will often give the pantry shoppers a discount and they shop around to catch the best sales. Leimbach said they usually can buy turkeys for about 49 cents a pound to get the most from their cash donations.

Chase UMC, which is a new name for the merged Ebenezer and Sharp Street Methodist congregations, is a small church with about 50 worshippers each Sunday, according to Leimbach.

Sharp Street’s historic building on Eastern Avenue burned in 2009, and Ebenezer’s leadership opened its door to Sharp Street so they could continue their worship services, according to Leimbach. Two churches resided in one building and held separate services before deciding to merge as one congregation, leading to the birth of Chase UMC, according to Leimbach and Tester.

At Chase, congregants are family members, according to Leimbach.
“We are family and we are helping family with this pantry,” she said. “We don’t refer to our family members as needy, we don’t tell them to get a job, we don’t judge, we’re just giving a little help to family members who need it from time to time.”

At a recent food distribution in time for Thanksgiving Day, food recipient Sandra Lyons echoed that sentiment.

“There is no judgement here; I don’t feel ashamed coming here,” the Hawthorne resident said. “These are the sweetest people and I really appreciate what they do for us.”

Lyons, who suffers from a host of medical problems that prevent her from working, uses the pantry each month. The food she receives can usually last at least a week, and longer if she needs to “stretch it out.”

Parkville resident Gail, who asked that her last name not be printed, receives the food to help stretch the budget for her family of six, which includes an adult child with autism and three young children.

“It makes a huge difference to us and it helps keep food in the house,” she said. “We make do; we’re not starving and the kids are growing.”

As grateful for the help that recipients are,  it is also important to know, Leimbach said, that many people who use the pantry also give as they can. She cited one man who was gifted with a case of pudding cups. He kept a few for his family and donated the rest to the pantry, stating that he would like to share when he is able.

“They might be getting but they’re giving as well, and that’s just so precious to me,” Leimbach said of pantry clients. “And they’re giving from their heart; it makes them feel good when they are in a position to give back.”

The pantry ministry might be small, but volunteers do everything they can to make sure the shelves have at least the bare minimum to help keep local residents afloat. In addition to food items, volunteers try to keep a stash of personal hygiene items, like toothpaste and tooth brushes, toilet paper, paper towels and deodorant on hand.

“We always run out of those items first, but they aren’t a priority,” Leimbach said. “They’re important, and people who depend on food stamps can’t use that money to buy anything other than food, but we think it’s more important to feed our people.”

The volunteers are hoping to build the pantry’s stock as the major fall and winter holidays approach. Tester said she would love to get enough donations so the shelves are not bare when the pantry closes each month.

Leimbach said she had no idea what a lifeline a small, rural church’s food pantry could be.

“I didn’t realize how important these little church pantries are to folks who just need a little boost from time to time,” she said. “We’re just doing what God asked us to do and we enjoy doing it; we’re happy and honored to do it.”

Editor’s Note: Nonperishable food, personal hygiene and grocery store gift card donations can be dropped off at the Times office, 513 Eastern Blvd. in Essex. To make other arrangements, call Chase UMC at 410-335-2172, or Piney Grove UMC at 410-335-6927.

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BRRC updates members on status of midge treatments at fall meeting

BRRC updates members on status of midge treatments at fall meeting
BRRC and DNR sampling of midge larvae in the Back River sediments has found their numbers to be much higher than what is considered a nuisance. Photo courtesty of BRRC.

(Updated 11/29/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Midges were top on the agenda at the fall general meeting of the Back River Restoration Committee last Tuesday, Nov. 21, and organization leaders gave updates on what has been done so far to address the swarming nuisance.

Many residents who live on or near Back River have likely seen midges covering their boats, in their pools or on their houses, according to Tom Parham of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

“They look like mosquitoes, but they’re a little bit bigger than that,” he said.

He added that they do not bite or carry diseases so they are not a health issue. But in high concentrations they can impact businesses.

“They are certainly a nuisance,” he said. “You go out there on a summer night... when you walk by the river and it’s just a cloud of midges. That’s something we wanted to try to deal with.”

Parham said Essex marina owner and BRRC President Sam Weaver first contacted him in 2014 about the swarms of midges affecting his business and several others in the area during the summer.

“Back then, we hadn’t heard of this before so we put together an expert panel to figure out how to deal with this,” Parham said.

Then early this year, Governor Larry Hogan appropriated $330,000 to fund a pilot program to try to cut down the midge numbers in and around Back River.

Midges exist all around the world, but eradication treatments had never been done before in tidal waters or on such a large scale, according to Parham.

“Like everyone else, we’re learning,” he said.

He noted that midges eat algae, which thrives in nutrient-rich waters and sediments, making Back River the “perfect habitat” for the bugs.

“When we sample out in the river, [midge larvae] are a large percentage of what is on the bottom,” he said. Their life cycle is less than two weeks. But adults only come up when it is warm.

Since their funding is limited, BRRC, DNR and the Maryland Department of Agriculture, which is leading the program, had to figure out what the most cost-effective way to get the job done was - using the best treatment dosage at the right time to knock down the midge populations.

Bti - a naturally occurring bacteria that only affects midges, mosquitoes and black flies - is the substance being used to kill the midge larvae in the river.

“So this is a safe substance when it’s applied properly,” Parham said. “It doesn’t affect fish or other vertebrates.”

Regarding their methodology, he said they are not trying to treat all of Back River right now.

“It’s kind of a proof of concept,” he said, noting that Back River is about 4,000 acres. The desired result is simply for people to be able to enjoy their outdoor areas more during the warmer months.

During the first treatment administered on the river in September, about 260 acres were treated, stretching from near Virginia Avenue to about Thompson Boulevard. And prior to the treatment, nearly all of the test areas showed the amount of midge larvae to be above what is considered nuisance levels, according to Parham.

“In the grand scheme of things, if you looked at an area... of maybe two square meters, that would probably have 1,000 or 1,500 larvae in just that little area,” he said, pointing out that anything above 500 per square meter is considered a nuisance.

Following the treatment, sampling done within a week showed midge larvae populations to be below the nuisance levels for nearly all of the test area.

Additionally, residents at the BRRC meeting said they did notice a reduction in midges they saw near the test area.

Because midges are dormant in the winter, the next treatment - the second of five total - will not occur until April, Parham said. They will then stagger the treatments to carry on into the summer, and after those they will have a better idea of how effective the treatments have been and what is working or not working.

“But it’s a promising sign that [people] are seeing less midges after one treatment,” he said.

Those involved will be doing more planning during the winter, according to Parham, such as for how to improve their equipment and how to go about sampling adult midge numbers.

Weaver noted that the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant has begun operating its Enhanced Nutrient Removal system which reduces the amount of nutrients going into the river, cutting the food source for the algae and, thus, the midges. Reconstruction of the Stemmers Run stream bed near the I-95/I-695 interchange is also nearing completion, which should stem the flow of nutrient-rich clay sediments into Back River.

While the Bti treatments will not eliminate the midges for good and must be repeated regularly, Parham explained, reducing the nutrients and the food source for the bugs will take care of the problem more naturally in the long term.

“So this is kind of the stop-gap measure as we work to reduce the nutrients in the river itself,” he said.

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Royal Farms continues to expand, gains approval at Fullerton Bingo site

Royal Farms continues to expand, gains approval at Fullerton Bingo site

(Updated 11/29/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

A Royal Farms request to allow a gas station at its planned convenience store in Fullerton was approved by a county administrative law judge on Oct. 31 with conditions.

The store, which will replace the existing Fullerton Manor Bingo at 7560 Belair Road, will also include gas pumps but will not include a car wash as originally proposed. Neighbors objected to a car wash at a rezoning hearing in 2016.

Per the order, fuel delivery trucks are prohibited from using the narrow, residential Glade Avenue, which borders the south side of the property, to enter and leave the convenience store site.

Royal Farms is also required to hire a third-party contractor to inspect and maintain the planned on-site storm water management system to control runoff. It  must also submit a lighting and landscaping plan for county approval.

In addition, the company, which is expanding regionally, plans to build a store on Philadelphia Road across from the General Motors plant in White Marsh.

The store will be located on the north side of Nottingridge Road as part of a retail area that also includes space for three restaurants, according to a KLNB site plan posted online and shown above.

Also planned is a new store at the corner of Perry Hall and White Marsh boulevards in Perry Hall and a relocated, expanded store on North Point Road in Dundalk.

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County officials break ground on new Northeast elementary school

County officials break ground on new Northeast elementary school
In keeping with a recent trend, the school's ceremonial groundbreaking took place well past the beginning of actual construction on the school. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 11/21/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

More than a dozen local elected and school officials gathered at the site of the new Northeast elementary school on Monday morning, Nov. 20, to break ground on the project.

While a large portion of the structure has already been put in place, the groundbreaking represented the ceremonial kickoff to the project. The school is slated to open at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.

The $49 million school is located at 4816 Joppa Road, near the intersection of Honeygo Boulevard. Most of the cost was footed by Baltimore County, with 71 percent of the funding coming from the local government.

For years now, parents, teachers and stakeholders in the Perry Hall area have been clamoring for overcrowding relief. Plans to build the school were announced in 2015, with the design work beginning in early 2016. The school will have a state-rated capacity of 725 students.

“We’re actually adding 10,000 seats [around the county] while taking children out of trailers and into modern learning environments,” said Kamenetz, citing his administration’s $1.3 billion construction initiative.

Councilman David Marks (R-5), who has been fighting for a new school since he took office in December of 2010, expressed his delight with the new school.

“This is Perry Hall’s first new school in a quarter-century, and one of three additional schools that will reduce overcrowding in northeastern Baltimore County,” said Marks, who represents the area. “It is a significant milestone for the families of Perry Hall and White Marsh.”

Charlene Behnke, who was named principal of the new school earlier this year, opened the remarks on Monday morning, highlighting her own experiences living and working in the Perry Hall area.

“Families have a strong pride here and they love their schools,” said Behnke, who previously held the position of principal at Vincent Farm Elementary. “Very soon we will be joining that strong community of schools and adding yet another school in Perry Hall where teaching and learning are at the highest possible level.”

Behnke has been working in the Baltimore County Public School system since 1991, starting off as a teacher. She took over as principal of Vincent Farm  in the beginning of the 2013 school year.

“This is amazing, it’s such a beautiful place,” said Behnke. “And with my children having grown up in Perry Hall schools, I know what a great education boys and girls get here, and I’m ready. We’re going to bring it here too.”

The new school, which has yet to be named, is going to be the prototype for new elementary schools moving forward, according to Edward Gilliss, chair of the Board of Education.

According to Gilliss, the school will  not only bring great relief to the area, but will also launch the area into the 21st century.

“The communty will have a school to be proud of, the students will be able to benefit from the best of instruction and the most updated technology, and all in the most nurturing and inspiring of learning environments,” said Gilliss.

With a new school comes redistricting, and over the last couple of months the school system has been working to solidify plans and present options to community stakeholders. In total, nine elementary schools are taking part in the boundary process, including Carney, Chapel Hill, Gunpowder, Joppa View, Kingsville, Oakleigh, Perry Hall,  Seven Oaks and Vincent Farm.

All of the information about the boundary process, including a breakdown of the proposed plans, a running log of community feedback, video archive and survey submission form can be found at

The excitement over the groundbreaking was palpable, with many displaying both relief and anticipation at the thought of reducing overcrowding in the area’s elementary schools.

“Our rezoning decisions have lightened the impact of development on overcrowding, and now we have officially broken ground on the first of three new schools to eliminate this problem,” said Marks. “I grew up a half-mile from this school site.  It will serve the bulk of central Perry Hall, both older neighborhoods and the newer Honeygo communities.”

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Middle River Lighted Boat Parade to hold toy drive this year

Middle River Lighted Boat Parade to hold toy drive this year
One of the more unique displays from the 2016 parade included a sailboat shooting off fireworks as it moved along its route. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 11/21/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The Middle River Lighted Boat Parade has grown in participation nearly every year since it began, indeed experiencing more rapid growth in recent years.

Now in its 15th year, the parade - an area favorite held each year on Middle River on the Saturday after Thanksgiving - already had 80 boats registered to participate as of Nov. 16 and could potentially see even more.

“If the weather is nice we should have somewhere between 80 and 100 boats,” said Jim High, one of the event’s chief organizers.

That number would top last year’s total which was in the 70s, according to High. It would also make the parade the largest of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic region and likely among the top five in the nation.

He attributed the growing success of the event at least partly to the $325 “captain’s package” that each boat captain receives for their participation. The package includes $25 gift cards to each restaurant on the parade route plus Pizza John’s in Essex, as well as paddleboard rentals from Middle River Stand-Up Paddleboard and kayak rentals from Stansbury Yacht Basin.

“That captain’s package is what’s making this such a big deal,” High said of the increased participation each year. “So if we have 100 boats, that’s [more than] $30,000 worth of stuff [given away]. That’s what’s paying for the party.”

There is also no cost for participants to enter the parade, he said.

The event is scheduled to begin at approximately 5:45 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 25, when the procession will depart from Stansbury Yacht Basin.

As a way to give back and not just entertain the community, parade organizers will hold a toy drive during this year’s event as well, High said. Donation boxes have been placed at three waterfront restaurants - The River Watch, The Crazy Tuna and Carson’s Creekside - along the route so that people going to view the boat parade can donate a toy, canned good or a coat while there.

“[The donations] will be distributed to local families before Christmas,” High said. “It adds a little bit of a charitable aspect to the Lighted Boat Parade which is something that we haven’t had in the last couple of years.”

Prior to the 2016 parade, the event benefitted a group called Captains Sharing and Caring.

In the same vein, event organizers also held a “Christmas in July” charity toy collection event which brought in roughly 4,000 toys for needy children.

“And they’re getting donated right now to a Dundalk charity called Santa’s Elves,” High said.

To kick off the event, boats will gather and line up at Stansbury Yacht Basin, then depart toward Carson’s Creekside restaurant, which they are expected to pass at about 5:50 p.m. before heading toward Wilson Point Park, according to High.

Public viewing will again be limited at Wilson Point Park due to Lockheed Martin’s ongoing environmental remediation work and Dark Head Cove being closed to boats as a result.

But after turning around at Wilson Point Park’s boat launching ramp, the procession will then pass Kingston Point Park in the Hawthorne neighborhood, where additional public viewing will be available, High said. He added that anyone viewing from that park should get “a real nice view of the party” at 6 p.m.

Next, the parade will round Hawthorne Point to pass by Middle River Yacht Club, The Crazy Tuna and The River Watch between 6 - 6:30 p.m., he said.

From there, “We will go into Norman Creek, passing Norman Creek Marina and Crescent Yacht Club,” High said. “As we exit Norman Creek, if the weather, the tide, the current and the waves are minimal, we’re going to come out to the [mouth of Middle River] out in front of Sue Island, Rockaway Beach and Bauernschmidt [neighborhoods].”

He stressed, though, that those stops will be a “game time” decision at the time the parade begins.

The parade will then cut across the river toward Bowleys Quarters and head up into Frog Mortar Creek past Sunset Cove - which High noted will be open the night of the event despite its ongoing renovations - and turn around again in front of Conrad’s Ruth Villa.

Finally, they will pass Strawberry Point and Wilson Point before dispersing back at Stansbury Yacht Basin at about 7:45 p.m.

“At that time, most of the boats will go back to one of the original restaurants they got started from,” High said.

Typically the parade also includes an extravagantly lit or engineered “finale boat” as the last boat in the line. But High said he will not know about that for this year until the night of the parade since he does not maintain contact with Nick Hock, who has been the architect of many of those designs in the past.

High called Hock the “genius” behind the finale spectacles. “He is the Tony Stark of the Middle River zip code,” he said. But “we don’t talk too much. He just shows up and does what he does.”

High described the annual boat parade “a great Middle River Christmas tradition” which was started as a way to get people to patronize local restaurants on what is typically their slowest night of the year.

“I’m so happy with this the way it is,” he said. “It’s a good gig.”

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Democrats looking to use testimonials to influence healthcare votes in Congress

Democrats looking to use testimonials to influence healthcare votes in Congress
Robert Rose (left) offered his story during the forum about how Medicaid saved his life. MCHI President Vincent DeMarco said Rose's story was typical of others heard around the state. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 11/21/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and U.S. Senator Chris VanHollen joined healthcare advocates and eastern Baltimore County residents last Thursday, Nov. 16, to talk about healthcare - specifically Medicaid - at the Ateaze Senior Center in Dundalk.

While the forum’s organizers brought people together with information and resources regarding healthcare, they stated that their purpose was to hear people’s stories and experiences with Medicaid more than anything else. The elected officials could then use those individual stories to advocate on Capitol Hill when trying to persuade others to vote their way on legislation related to healthcare.

“If we’re going to advocate for positions [on legislation], instead of just saying ‘We’re for Medicaid...’ I find it’s more effective when you’re trying to get other individuals in Congress to listen to you, it’s better to talk about specific cases,” Ruppersberger (D-2) said.

Ruppersberger and VanHollen said Thursday’s forum was particularly timely because the tax cut bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives and was working its way through the U.S. Senate, could have devastating effects on Medicaid.

VanHollen (D-Md.) said the tax bill would add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. And to make up for those losses, the upcoming 2018 budget proposal would seek to cut Medicare by $473 billion and Medicaid by $1 trillion.

“The reason they’re out there looking for cuts [to Medicaid] is because there’s a lot of money in it,” Ruppersberger said. “But every time you cut Medicaid you hurt people.”

The congressman also said the largest amount of money the federal government gives to Maryland is in Medicaid grants.

“That’s really relevant and important, because if in fact they start cutting Medicaid, the state will have to pick it up,” he said. “And if the state picks it up, that means taxes are going to have to rise.”

Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said the forum was the fifth in a series they have been holding across the state to highlight the benefits of Medicaid. He said the most important thing they have done in the series was to hear from people who have benefitted from the program.

“At each of these events, people talked about how Medicaid saved their lives, made them much healthier, kept them from financial ruin,” DeMarco said. “It’s a story that the people of Maryland, the people of America, need to hear.”

Robert Rose, who MCHI and the other organizers arranged to speak at the forum, said he had always had employee-based health insurance, but lost all of that when the company he worked for folded. And the prices of private insurance plans were “atrocious.”

“So I was without insurance for almost a year,” he said, during which time he became “extremely obese.”

Rose said he weighed more than 400 pounds before getting healthcare again, and as a result his blood pressure was “through the roof” and his knees were “completely blown out.”

Rose eventually worked with Healthcare for the Homeless to get healthcare through Medicaid and his life began to turn around. He got access to blood pressure medication and was able to see a doctor who he said treated him like a human being.

“It pretty much saved my life,” he said, noting that his weight and blood pressure are now under control, he is back to work and has even gone back to school to further his education.

DeMarco said Rose’s story is similar to what they have heard around the state, and it exemplifies the importance of Medicaid.

“The Medicaid program saves lives and it helps all of us,” he said. “People with jobs, they lose them, the Medicaid program keeps them on their feet.”

DeMarco also said that since the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, went into effect, there has been a drop in uncompensated care - people going to hospitals without insurance - of more than $300 million in Maryland alone.

“And they can’t pay, so who pays - all of us with higher healthcare premiums,” he said. “It’s what we call a hidden healthcare tax.”

He added that premiums have increased a lot more slowly under the ACA.

Dr. Bonita Taylor, who represented MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, said she has been a family practitioner for the last 30 years. She said MedChi members are hopeful and are fighting to make sure that Medicaid is successful.

“Nothing is more frustrating to a physician than to make the diagnosis and set up a treatment plan... and then to watch as the patient deteriorates because there wasn’t insurance and things weren’t covered,” she said.

Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch said in 2013, the year before the ACA went into effect, about 140,000 people in Baltimore County were eligible for Medicaid. That is compared with 190,000 people in 2017, he said, and the increase is largely a result of Medicaid expansions done by the state and federal governments.

Branch also commented that Medicaid is a “significant” factor in combatting drug addiction, noting it is “one of the best coverages” that helps pay for substance abuse and mental health services.

VanHollen said the ACA resulted in more than 400,000 Marylanders getting healthcare who had not had it before. Some were able to purchase healthcare through the exchanges and others got access to care through expanded Medicaid, he said, noting that in Maryland more than half were the latter.

The senator also said that two-thirds of the money spent through Medicaid program is spent for seniors in nursing homes or families with someone with a disability.

“It is a major source of funding to help people who are in... fragile situations due to their age or because of a disability,” he said.

The other third helps lower-income families access care.

VanHollen said it would be wrong for people to think that because efforts to repeal the ACA were defeated that they had also stopped the efforts to cut Medicaid or roll back access to affordable healthcare.

“I just don’t want anyone to think that we’re out of the woods when it comes to proposed big cuts to Medicaid or Medicare because it’s right there in the budget,” he said.

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Neighbors oppose Pulaski Crossing townhouse plan; hearing scheduled for Dec. 8

(Updated 11/21/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

A plan for 150 townhouses on Pulaski Highway in White Marsh is scheduled for review by a county administrative law judge at a public hearing in about two weeks.

Known as Pulaski Crossing, the project of one-garage townhouses on 31 acres is set to replace an earlier plan for a Carmax auction center at 11301 Pulaski Highway that was previously used by the Schwaber family for a drive-in movie theater.

The Bowerman-Loreley Beach Community Association of about 150 single-family homes located to the south between the cleared site and Bird River is opposed to the project, which it argues is in stark contrast to the existing commercial and industrial businesses along that stretch of the highway.

In 2016, the County Council rezoned a small adjacent agricultural parcel to allow 5.5 housing units per acre. The change enabled the rest of the commercially zoned Pulaski Crossing site to be developed residentially instead of commercially per regulations in the County Code.

The public hearing is set for Friday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m. in the Jefferson Building in Towson.

The development plan shows two entrance/exit points without traffic lights on a section of Pulaski Highway that is divided by concrete median barriers.

Neighbors say that residents who want to head toward the Beltway will need to turn right, drive east to Allender Road and then turn around to head in the opposite direction toward Baltimore.

However, there is a break in the median barrier at the current entrance to the property.

Still to be undertaken is a traffic study of the failing intersection at Pulaski Highway and Ebenezer Road due to already heavy traffic, said county reviewers, who discussed the plan at a pre-hearing conference on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

Builders will not be able to get building permits for Pulaski Crossing until improvements are made to the nearby intersection to relieve backed-up traffic, they said.

Also requested is a study to determine compatibility with the surrounding commercially zoned areas that include Shemin Nurseries and the Brooks-Ramsey automotive businesses.

The plan shows a large stormwater pond close to the highway, and a smaller pond toward the southern end of the site near residences. The ponds on the plan comply with regulations, according to reviewers.

However, they also noted potential problems with preparing the site for construction.

“The contours on the plan reveal rather excessive grading,” according to a comment by the Bureau of Development Plans Review.

“Development of this property through stripping, grading and stabilization could result in a sediment pollution problem, damaging private and public holdings downstream of the property,” the comments read.

The Office of Planning recommends that the plan include more amenities near the southern end of the site such as a playground and swimming pool, and also recommends new fencing to improve the appearance of the stormwater ponds.

Also still required is a school impact analysis to determine whether the new townhouse population will add to already overcrowded classrooms at Perry Hall High and Middle schools.

Library toy drive ‘makes all the difference’ in a child’s life

Library toy drive ‘makes all the difference’ in a child’s life
White Marsh branch Assistant Library Manager Olivia Mirot (left) and circulation assistants Dawn Filippou and Vanessa DiGregorio help to wrap gifts for the toy drive. Photo by Will Malkus of BCPL.

(Updated 11/21/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Each year at Christmastime, many local churches and organizations organize toy and gift drives to help neighbors in need. And far too often, supplies do not keep up with need.

For the fourth year, Baltimore County’s public libraries are partnering with community groups and homeless shelters to help fill that gap with their annual Connecting the Community Toy Drive.

Through Dec. 6, library patrons can drop off new, unused toys, books, games, dolls, puzzles and any other item a child might enjoy at any of the system’s 19 neighborhood branches, including seven in eastern Baltimore County.

Each branch has named a local nonprofit organization or church to be its beneficiary, and those groups are grateful for the extra boost the drive supplies to their efforts, according to organizers.

St. John’s Lutheran Church in Essex holds an annual Christmas season toy giveaway that is so popular that people camp out the night before the “shop” opens.

“We tried to discourage the overnight camp-outs,” the Rev. Charlene Barnes told the East County Times in a phone interview. “We tried giving out numbers one year but that caused some arguments so we stopped that.”

St. John’s collects toys year-round thanks to donations made to Miss Ann’s Closet, a ministry that distributes clothing and other needed items monthly to those in need, according to Barnes.

Closet founder Ann Brooks, a St. John’s member, goes through donations each month and sets aside the toys in the best condition for the December giveaway.

St. John’s is the beneficiary of the Essex branch’s toy drive. The roughly 10 bags of new toys the church has received from past drives “makes all the difference in what we are able to offer in new toys,” Barnes said.

The toy drives at the Rosedale and White Marsh branches both benefit the residents at the Eastern Family Resource Center, where the donations “make a huge difference,” according to April Stevens, volunteer coordinator for the Community Assistance Network, which oversees the homeless shelter at the center on Franklin Square Drive.

“Many of these children wouldn’t have a Christmas otherwise,” Stevens said. “These families struggle to put food on the table; gifts are out of the question.”

The shelter, which now can house 250 people thanks to the new facility that opened in October, is home to children from birth to age 18, according to Stevens.

“We need everything, from clothing and diapers for newborns to toys, clothing and toiletries for older children and adults,“ she said.

The toys and gifts the children receive for Christmas are special because they belong to the child, Stevens said. To have something that they can take with them when they leave is “huge,” she said.

Library staff members get as much enjoyment out of the collections as the recipients.

“This project links back to our strategic plan of connecting with the community on many levels,” Rosedale Branch manager Justin Hartzell said. “It’s a great initiative and everyone rallies around it.”

Sandy Lombardo, White Marsh branch manager, said her library’s effort has grown from the original toy drive to include a hat and mitten tree and toiletries.

“We try to be mindful of a very loved stuffed animal and get toys that will become that special, loved toy,” she said. “We also encourage donations of items that don’t have a lot of parts that can be lost and to choose things like small, hand-held electronic games that a child can play by themselves if no other children are around.”

Staff members even wrap all the gifts and put tags on them to denote the appropriate gender and age group, Lombardo said.

The library has partnered with Honeygo Village Dentistry, which has donated toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss to the cause.

The drive “is a good thing to do,” Lombardo said. “People are always looking for ways to give back to the community and this is a feel-good way to do that.”

To Stevens, the toy drive results in a priceless gift for children whose young lives have experienced only struggle and difficulties.

“With these gifts, on Christmas morning, a child gets to be a child, for a moment anyway, without worrying about adult things,” she said. “You can’t put a price tag on that.”

Other local library branches collecting toys and their beneficiaries are North Point and Perry Hall (Family Crisis Center of Baltimore County); Parkville-Carney (House of Ruth); and Sollers Point (Turner Station Conservation Teams).

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Royal Farms announced as first tenant at Shoppes at Tradepoint

Royal Farms announced as first tenant at Shoppes at Tradepoint
An artist's rendering of what the new store could look like when completed. Image courtesy of Royal Farms.

(Updated 11/21/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Tradepoint Atlantic has announced that Royal Farms will be the inaugural tenant of its retail center to be known as the Shoppes at Tradepoint.

The convenience store chain will build a retail store, gas pumps and a car wash on a 3.7-acre parcel of land along Bethlehem Boulevard at the foot of Peninsula Expressway, according to Roger Sauerhaft, a spokesman for Tradepoint.

“Royal Farms has signed a long-term contract and will be the first tenant at the Shoppes of Tradepoint,” he told the East County Times in a phone interview.

Tradepoint officials successfully petitioned Baltimore County last year during the quadrennial rezoning process to get about 70 acres of former steel plant land rezoned for retail use. Royal Farms will occupy one of seven free-standing retail pads, according to a statement issued by Tradepoint officials.

“We are excited to welcome Royal Farms, which is a brand both highly recognizable to Baltimore-area consumers and is known for its consistently impressive quality,” Eric Gilbert, Tradepoint’s chief development officer, said in the statement.

The location will be easily accessible to Baltimore Beltway travelers, with the southbound ramp on Peninsula Expressway and the northbound ramp around the corner on North Point Boulevard.

Both Royal Farms and Tradepoint officials expect that “thousands of people who work at Tradepoint Atlantic and the tens of thousands that travel I-695 every day will welcome this highly accessible retail development to the area,” according to the statement.

The Tradepoint Royal Farms store will offer nearly 5,400 square feet of retail space, a car wash bay and a total of 15 fueling pumps, including 10 multiple-product pumps and five high-flow diesel pumps, according to Shelby Kemp, a spokeswoman for the chain.

Until just recently, the North Point Peninsula had only two small, family-owned, independent gas stations. Convenience store chain 7-11 this year opened a new store with gas pumps at 5230 North Point Blvd., resulting in more competitive prices that local residents were happy to see, if comments made on social media sites are any indication.

Baltimore-area residents have always raved about the quality of the store’s fried chicken, but that reputation got a national boost this past summer when Food & Wine magazine named the popular fast food as the top entry on the list of “10 Gas Station Foods Across the Country That Are Worth the Detour.”

The article says that, while many people think only items like “Slim Jims, Twinkies and watery coffee” are available in gas station shops, “some remarkable food and drink is coming out of those little convenience stores.”

The new store and fueling station are expected to open in late 2018, according to the statement. Royal Farms, headquartered in Baltimore since 1959, manages more than 180 stores in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Tradepoint will continue to pursue other tenants for its retail complex. Officials have said at past TPA open house sessions that hotels, a grocery store, fast-food restaurants and other retailers will be courted.

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State veterans commission honors vets at war memorial

State veterans commission honors vets at war memorial
Ron Holcomb (right) and Todd Miceli delivered a proclamation from the governer recognizing veterans for their service. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 11/15/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The Lamky Luther Whitehead Veterans Memorial at Holly Hill Memorial Gardens in Middle River was the site of an intimate gathering on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, to celebrate and honor all veterans and remember those lost in their respective conflicts.

Saturday’s informal gathering, held each Veterans Day at the monument, was spent honoring and remembering veterans through song, prayer and telling stories of their service.

The tradition began in 1989, the year the monument was dedicated, according to LLW Veterans Committee member Keith Roberts.

The veterans memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 29, of that year. And on the following Veterans Day, there was no official service planned at the monument, Roberts said. But the monument’s founder, the late Al Clasing Jr., and his late wife, Marie, decided to visit the site on their own to say a prayer for veterans.

“When they got here, they found that there were a couple other veterans that had the same idea,” he said during the gathering. “And thus began this informal service every Veterans Day.”

During the service, representatives from the Maryland Veterans Commission, Todd Miceli and Ron Holcomb, delivered a proclamation from Governor Larry Hogan which recognized that veterans are the reason for the freedoms that we enjoy. It also stated that, following their service, they returned home to be responsible and productive members of society and honored them for that.

Also held Saturday at the LLW memorial site was the annual Luminary Service in the evening, which features red, white and blue lights to illuminate the stone monoliths, along with luminary candles positioned around the monument, each representing a name engraved onto the stones.

Roberts said he and the monument committee decided to dedicate this year’s informal Veterans Day ceremony at the monument specifically to Korean War veterans.

The Korean War began in June 1950 and ended in July 1953, with a total of 1,789,000 American soldiers sent to Korea during the conflict, Roberts said. Of that number, 36,000 were killed and 103,000 were wounded.

U.S. troops in Korea were part of the United Nations forces in the country, which included soldiers from 21 nations around the world. However, 88 percent of the troops sent there were Americans. And the U.S. spent $67 billion for its involvement in the conflict.

Perhaps most striking about it, Roberts said, is that 77,000 American soldiers who fought in Korea are still unaccounted for.

“That’s an incredible figure,” he said. “We still are finding and, through the use of DNA, identifying the remains of some of those soldiers.”

Roberts pointed out that the remains of Louis Damewood, Edward Saunders and David Wishon - three of the last four names listed under the Korean War deceased on the monument - were recently identified using DNA evidence.

The names listed on the stone slabs at the center of the monument are those eastern Baltimore County residents who gave their lives in military service during the respective conflicts. Those on the stones in the outer circle are veterans who have honorably served in any branch of the U.S. military.

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Brochin, Olszewski spar in first Democratic county executive candidates’ forum

Brochin, Olszewski spar in first Democratic county executive candidates’ forum
John Olszewski Jr. (left) and State Senator Jim Brochin (right) took their places separated by an empty podium marked for no-show Councilwoman Vicki Almond. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 11/15/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

The first candidates’ forum of the election season was held last Tuesday, Nov. 7, at Loch Raven Recreation Center, with former Delegate John Olszewski Jr. and State Senator Jim Brochin squaring off.

Notably absent from the event was Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who formally announced her candidacy in Owings Mills on Nov. 1. An official from the forum’s organizers, the Baltimore County Grassroots Coalition, noted that Almond had twice stated that she intended to be present at the forum, but pulled out at the last minute for an undisclosed reason.

With an empty podium marked for Almond in between Brochin and Olszewski, the evening proceeded without her.

Immediately, Brochin and Olszewski laid out their respective visions for Baltimore County. Olszewski won the coin toss and gave his opening statement first, stating that there was a hungry optimism in Baltimore County that he was looking to harness. He was quick to move to the left of Brochin, stating he was “proud to be a blue-collar progressive,” before highlighting aspects of his platform that included universal pre-kindergarten, campaign finance reform and more public/private partnerships to build jobs.

“As a teacher, I knew what it was like to see a kid who didn’t come to school with a meal. I knew what it was like to learn in a classroom without air conditioning. So we’ll give every kid the best possible start and the education they deserve by doing things like enacting universal pre-K in Baltimore County and expanding access to school meals,” said Olszewski.

In Brochin’s opening statement, he highlighted his efforts to be a voice for his constituents. Pointing to his environmental record, Brochin stressed the importance of keeping green space in the county and building more recreation fields. He also pledged to build the first opioid treatment center in Baltimore County, noting that “you would be hardpressed to find anybody who doesn’t have a friend, a family member or a loved one that has an addiction problem.”

But where Brochin pushed especially hard in his opening statement was on developer contributions to political campaigns. For the better part of a year, Brochin has been deriding contributions to Baltimore County elected officials since the County Council is the gatekeeper with development projects. Brochin contends that contributions from developers and their immediate family should be banned, citing similar legislation passed in Prince George’s County back in 1992.

“We have a system in Baltimore County, that predates this executive and council, where developers give campaign contributions to the council and country club memberships to the executive,” said Brochin. “They build whatever they want, wherever they want, and we are the collateral damage. And it’s got to end, and as Baltimore County Executive I will aim to end pay-to-play.”

Being a Democratic primary, there was plenty of agreement between the two candidates on the night. Both men agreed that there needed to be more investment in school construction and that there needed to be increased transparency. But there were often minor differences in approach.

Sticking with campaign contributions, Olszewski touted his plan to completely overhaul campaign finance and shift to public financing when Brochin was finished presenting his plan to limit developer contributions. Olszewski highlighted the use of public funding in Governor Larry Hogan’s successful 2014 gubernatorial run, as well as the implementation of a public campaign funding law in Montgomery County in 2014. He told the crowd that there needed to be a “more holistic” approach that curbed all special interests.

“We know it works, we know that it encourages competition, and we know it takes not just developer money out politics; it provides a real alternative to all special interest money,” said Olszewski. “There’s a lot of special interests in Baltimore County.”

Brochin disagreed with Olszewski’s assessment of special interests in the county, saying a look at the financial contributions for County Council members and the county executive reveals that the contributions are predominantly coming from developers. He went on to stress how inappropriate the contributions are, especially with the council often invoking “councilmanic courtesy,” which sees the rest of the council defer to the councilperson who represents the district where development is being discussed.

Aside from disagreeing with Olszewski’s assessment of special interests, Brochin also argued that the former delegate’s public campaign funding plan would require raising county taxes.

“What do you cut? Do you cut police, do you cut school counselors?” Brochin asked, noting that campaign finance just adds “another expenditure.”

Later in the evening, Brochin would again question Olszewski on how he planned to implement his vision to enact his school construction initiatives, his push for more school programs and meals, campaign reform and more, without increasing taxes.

Olszewski stated that, if elected, he would look at ways to shift money around and make things more efficient. He also questioned some of the spending decisions made in the past, including the decision to commit $330 million for students to receive laptops in Baltimore County Public Schools. He would not say whether or not he would do away with the program, but stated that initiatives like that should take a backseat when, citing issues like those at Dulaney and Lansdowne high schools where they have brown water or are sinking into the ground.

There were other times during the night when things got heated. On the HOME Act, a proposed piece of legislation that would see landlords forced to accept Housing Choice/Section 8 vouchers, Brochin was put on the defensive. Olszewski stated he supported the legislation and framed the argument as one of discrimination, stating that he would be an advocate for all.

Brochin, who opposed the legislation in its most recent form, stated that he could not back it because it would be unfair to landlords who only own a handful of units. He told the crowd that oftentimes the payments from the government come three or four months late, and that landlords who only own a few units can’t take that financial hit.

On minimum wage, Brochin took a cautious approach, saying that he would not support a $15 minimum wage right now. He referred to it as a “job killer” that would send jobs to other jurisdictions, and that any such initiative should be statewide.

“And I support the state raising that wage to $15 an hour and I hope that all of our legislators from Baltimore County and across the state are sponsors of that legislation this upcoming session,” Olszewski said. “Some of the jobs are changing and we need to make sure there’s a chance for people to earn a decent wage to provide for their families.”

When pressed by Brochin about if he  would push for a $15 minimum wage at the county level if elected, Olszewski expressed doubt that it could be passed in Baltimore County, agreeing that a push would need to happen at the state level. He countered by asking Brochin if he would sponsor that legislation next session, but Brochin said he would not.

“We’ll hit $10.10 in 2018 and I think we’re on the right path,” he said. “I want $10.10 to be enacted in 2018 and we can move forward after that.”

When given a chance to remark on the current administration as the evening came to a close, both men praised County Executive Kevin Kamenetz for his fiscal stewardship of the county and promised to show the same restraint.
When pressed about how they would differ from the current administration, Olszewski was measured in his response, simply stating that if elected he would push Baltimore County into the future. Brochin was a bit harsher in his response, saying that there’s a “culture straight out of the 1950s,” and that his administration would be the most diverse administration ever assembled.

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MDE recommends dredging Man-O-War Shoal; others still opposed

MDE recommends dredging Man-O-War Shoal; others still opposed
The location and general shape of Man-O-War shoal. Dark lines indicate the boundaries of oyster bars mapped by Yates (1911). Yellow rectangles within the outline of the shoal illustrate the types of cuts anticipated as shell is removed by dredging along the perimeter. However, cuts on the western third of the shoal are no longer planned since those areas were seeded with oyster spat within the last 10 years. Image courtesy of MD DNR.

(Updated 11/15/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The Maryland Department of the Environment has recommended granting a permit to dredge fossil oyster shell from Man-O-War Shoal to be used as a base for restoring oyster reefs around the Chesapeake Bay, despite objections from many local residents and environmental advocates.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources applied for the permit to dredge the shoal after the Maryland General Assembly passed a law in 2009 requiring them to do so. And in its review of DNR’s permit application, MDE has concluded that the proposed project would not have enough of an adverse effect so as to outweigh their desired goals.

The permit, if granted, would see the removal via hydraulic dredge of up to 5 million bushels, or about 300,000 cubic yards of oyster shell from the shoal in two phases over a five-year period. Each phase would be preceded and followed by monitoring periods to determine the ecological effects of the project. And if no significant negative impacts are found, DNR could apply for a new permit to increase their total haul to 30 million bushels or about 1.8 million cubic yards.

That amount would constitute approximately 30 percent of the available shell currently on the shoal, according to the MDE report.

Fossil oyster shell is widely regarded as the best surface for new oysters to attach and grow, but it is in short supply around the bay due to sedimentation and degradation of oyster shell, the report states. Therefore, many see Man-O-War as an abundant source of shell to form a base for new and replenished oyster bars in both sanctuaries and managed public harvest areas, as well as for aquaculture.

However, others see the program as a wasteful repeat of past failed programs which could potentially do more harm than good.

David Sikorski, government relations chairman for the Coastal Conservation Association, pointed to the oyster “repletion program,” which took place from 1960 to 2006 and was an effort to dredge fossil oyster shell throughout the upper Chesapeake Bay with the purpose of rebuilding oyster reefs elsewhere.

Between 185 million and 200 million bushels of shell were dredged during the program, “and what happened to it?” he asked.

“It ended for good reason,” Sikorski said. “It was the destruction of habitat in one place to attempt to replenish habitat in another by removing that shell. And after all those years and all those public dollars being spent and the upper bay being changed forever, we have no tangible benefit to the public from that program.”

Sam Weaver, owner of Weaver’s Marine Service on Back River and president of the Back River Restoration Committee, echoed those sentiments and said that for environmental reasons there is no reason to disturb the shoal.

“I don’t know why they would want to destroy one of the last real shoals around,” he said.

In its report, MDE acknowledged concerns that the project could negatively impact the shoal habitat and the value of the location for commercial and recreational fishing. But the department concluded that oyster production on the shoal currently is “very limited.”

“The existing Man-O-War oyster population has been supported primarily through seed plantings,” the report states, noting that no dredge cuts are proposed for any areas of the shoal that have been seeded with oysters within the past 10 years.

Additionally, while dredging is likely to result in a loss of benthos, according to DNR, “benthic communities probably will recover to pre-dredging levels of abundance, biomass and number of species within [six] to 12 months after dredging is completed,” they stated.

They also concluded using past fish surveys that those communities would not be substantially altered by the dredging.

Sikorski said supporters of dredging the shell say it is to support the oyster fishing industry and for restoration of the oyster population to benefit the bay as a whole.

“But [DNR] has admitted that the amount of shell available or proposed to take from Man-O-War doesn’t even meet half of the immediate need,” he said.

DNR’s application indicates that the shell dredged under the initial permit would be enough to recreate approximately 7 percent of the acreage of oyster bars estimated to be lost each year. And by their numbers, the total 30 million bushels to be dredged could recreate about 40 percent of that lost annually.

“That sounds like an awfully expensive proposal for a very limited return,” Sikorski said. And he attributed the massive need to DNR not ever putting proper and sustainable limits on harvest for oysters.

He also criticized the oyster fishing industry for being unwilling to adapt their harvesting techniques to the use of alternate substrates for growing oysters, such as stone or reef balls.

Sikorski said granite has been shown in Harris Creek and other sanctuary reef projects to be a good base for oysters to attach to.

“Oysters love to attach to it; they succeed by connecting to it,” he said.

Additionally, the BRRC through its Boy Scout venturing crew has been working with CCA to build and distribute concrete reef balls around the bay for oysters to grow on, Weaver said.

Sikorski noted that stone makes it more difficult for oyster harvesters using power dredges because it has a lot of vertical reliefs and they would then have to sort through a lot of the stone that comes up with the oysters. It is also a concern for fishermen using trot lines in those same creeks to catch crabs in the summer because the lines can get worn out or hung up on the rocks.

“They’re realistic concerns, but sometimes, if you’re going to better the bay as a whole, you might as well use a technique and materials that can make it work and are available,” Sikorski said.

The permit application is now being considered by the state’s Board of Public Works. Additional written comments regarding the project can be sent to William Morgante, Wetlands Administrator; Maryland Board of Public Works; 80 Calvert Street, Room 117; Annapolis, MD 21401 or emailed to by Nov. 21.

After that deadline, anyone submitting comments will be notified of the date of the BPW meeting at which the application is scheduled to be considered.

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Sixth District council candidate Geelhaar to run ‘campaign of the people’

Sixth District council candidate Geelhaar to run ‘campaign of the people’

(Updated 11/15/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Parkville native and current resident Glen Geelhaar is a consistent sort of guy.

The public schools and special education advocate attended Parkville Elementary, Parkville Junior High and Parkville Senior High schools and earned two associate’s degrees and a bachelor’s degree, all from Villa Julie College, now known as Stevenson University.

With the exception of a stint of residency in Harford County, Geelhaar, 53, has lived in Parkville his entire life and now wants to be the Baltimore County Council representative for the community in which he was born and raised.

The lifelong Republican was among the first candidates to file for the 2018 election when he filed his paperwork to run for the Sixth Councilmanic District seat on March 23. He has since been joined in filing by Deb Sullivan and Eric Lofstad, while Ryan Nawrocki has announced his intentions to run but has not yet filed.

A staunch supporter of public education, Geelhaar credits a ninth-grade social studies class assignment with igniting his lifelong interest in politics. The students were told to follow the 1980 presidential race and Geelhaar jumped into the assignment with gusto.

“I was hooked; I was impressed with a candidate named George H.W. Bush and I fell in love with Reagan,” he said. “I couldn’t vote for them then because I wasn’t old enough to vote but I did get the chance to vote for them both in 1984.”

His run for the council seat is his first personal campaign, but he is no stranger to political campaigns, having served as a volunteer for Helen Delich Bentley while he was still in high school. Since then, he has aided several local Republicans, including Fifth District County Councilman David Marks and state Delegate Chrisitan Miele and former Delegate John Cluster, each of the Eighth District, with tasks like door-knocking and envelope stuffing.

In discussing his political agenda, Geelhaar refers to what he calls the “three Es.”

“I’m most concerned about education, economic development and emergency services,” he said.

He believes the Baltimore County Public Schools system is in good shape but has room for improvement.

“The schools have a good reputation, but we have to protect that reputation; we can’t let it slide,” he said.

He points to school overcrowding and the number of schools that have much of their campuses eaten up by “rows and rows” of trailers that provide overflow classrooms. He is a strong advocate of a new elementary school in Parkville, something he says could be accomplished by reopening the former Parkville Elementary or by building a new school on one of several county-owned parcels in the Hiss Avenue corridor.

Geelhaar is disappointed by the “turf wars” that exist along district lines, particularly with regard to school issues.

While he understands he would be elected to advocate for the Sixth District’s issues and concerns, he also believes the council should work together to prioritize needs and make sure the most egregious problems are taken care of first.

He cited recent media coverage of a tour of Lansdowne High School, which has a mold problem and other serious structural deficiencies.

“[State Comptroller] Peter Franchot was quoted as saying that if you kept your pets in that building, you’d go to jail,” Geelhaar said. “So while I would certainly advocate for new schools in my district, if Lansdowne is making kids sick, that needs to be taken care of first.”

Geelhaar said he would promote some different thinking in the administration and running of the public safety departments. He supports the idea of an elected police chief (as opposed to the individual being politically appointed) and would like to implement a pilot program for police officers to take cars home.

“If you let police officers take their cars home with them, perhaps that presence of that car in the neighborhood or at the grocery store deters crime,” he said.

He also would like to see the county test out some hybrid police cars that get 38 miles per gallon of gas, as opposed to the 18 miles per gallon that the Tauruses now in use get.

“Our officers have to keep their cars running to keep their equipment charged up and much of that gas is burned up by idling,” Geelhaar said.

By contrast, the hybrid would stop running its combustion engine and keep the equipment charged with its battery, with the engine coming back on only when the battery needs charging, he said.

In terms of economic development, Geelhaar said he recognizes the value of the MD-43/White Marsh Boulevard corridor and acknowledges that many county officials see the area as a “jobs engine.”

But he also believes that other, older retail districts are being ignored and is concerned by the high rate of vacancies along many of the country’s traditional Main Street corridors, including Eastern Boulevard, Harford and Belair roads and Pulaski Highway.

He cited the success achieved by Marks, who targeted a failing shopping center in Perry Hall, where the high number of vacancies was threatening the well-being of the remaining businesses, including a bowling establishment.

“Councilman Marks targeted that center with an effort to boost occupancy and now that center is thriving again and the bowling lanes are no longer in danger of closing,” Geelhaar said. “We need to do that for more of our neighborhood retail places.”

If anything sets Geelhaar apart from his opponents, he believes it is his ability and willingness to try a different approach when it comes to problem-solving.

“I have ideas and I have back-up ideas,” he said. “I’m a plan B and Plan C kind of guy.”

Geelhaar also said he plans to hold fundraisers at a price point for everyone to be able to participate if they choose.

“I don’t have developers writing checks for $6,000; I’m getting donations of $20 and $100,” he said. “I see my campaign as a campaign of the people.”

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Freezing weather programs open early for homeless people

Freezing weather programs open early for homeless people
The North Point Government Center will now only be used as a standby center for homeless individuals when the Eastern Family Resource Center in Rosedale reaches capacity during freezing temperatures. File photo.

Dundalk center now on standby

(Updated 11/15/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

For the first time in eastern Baltimore County this winter, the county is providing 35 overnight beds for single homeless men when temperatures drop below freezing, as they did last Friday night.

The newly created beds in the recently relocated and expanded Eastern Family Resource Center on Franklin Square Drive in Rosedale mean that the North Point Government Center in Dundalk will no longer offer beds in freezing weather except as a backup facility.

“It’ll be on standby,” said Terri Kingeter, homeless shelter administrator with the Department of Planning, which oversees shelters in the county.

Normally, the county’s freezing weather facilities open Nov. 15, but this year they opened early because of the freezing temperatures experienced in the area over the weekend, she said.

Kingeter said she alerted the police and fire departments, and also called Prologue, Inc. which is contracted by the county to reach out to homeless people with information about shelters and other services.

Staff at the Medstar Medical Center also referred some homeless individuals to the Rosedale shelter.

As a result, eight people stayed there on Friday night and five on Saturday night, according to Kingeter.

“Normally when we open, we get nobody on the first night because nobody knows about it,” Kingeter said.

Every year the county’s shelter for men in Catonsville offers beds on a drop-in basis without requiring a referral from the Department of Social Services when temperature and wind chill factor drop below freezing.

The county also traditionally opened beds during freezing temperatures at the North Point Government Center, a former school at the southeast corner of Wise Avenue and Merritt Boulevard.

Now, instead of using the Dundalk site, the department will be referring single men to the Rosedale center, a three-story building on Franklin Square Drive that replaced a smaller center closer to the Medstar center. That center had previously only served women and families.

Homeless people looking for shelter services are advised to call the county at 410-853-3000, option 2, to check if beds are available that night on a drop-in basis due to freezing temperatures, Kingeter said.

Calling in advance also helps the county decide whether to activate standby beds, including those at the North Point Government Center, if needed.

People can arrive after 6 p.m. and stay until 9 a.m. the following morning, she said.

Administrators will try to inform overnight visitors before they leave in the morning about whether the shelter is expected to reopen again that evening because of expected continuing cold.

“That way they won’t have to leave and wonder [if they can return],” she said.

The county’s annual freezing weather shelter program is scheduled to run through April 15, 2018.

For more information, visit and search for “shelter and housing.”

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Dreamers liquor license in limbo; other bars fined for violations

Dreamers liquor license in limbo; other bars fined for violations
Dreamers is located at 4000 North Point Road in Dundalk. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 11/15/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

The Dreamers adult entertainment bar in Dundalk recently went on the market for sale, but without its income-generating liquor license, at least for now.

The Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners denied the owners’ request to extend the license on Oct. 30 after they failed to pay their annual $1,500 renewal fee and outstanding fines.

The owners have since appealed the decision to Baltimore County Circuit Court, which puts the potentially lucrative license in limbo pending the outcome of that case.

In the meantime, the marketing of the land and building at 4000 Old North Point Road is actively going forward with the hope of getting a good offer with or without the license.

Even if they win the appeal, the owners want to get out of the business, said agent Harry Cohen with ReMax First Choice in Essex, which is marketing the property and license.

A former president of the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association, Cohen said if the owners win the appeal and the license is preserved, it could be sold as a regular tavern license without its current designation as an adult entertainment license.

He also said it could be used on Dreamers property or anywhere in the 15th Election District. The number of licenses is capped in each district based on population, making them valuable commodities when they become available.

Cohen said some potential buyers have shown interest in the property since it went on the market, but added “the license is important to these people.”

On Monday, Nov. 13, the liquor board fined several other bars in eastern Baltimore County, including the Malibu Beach Bar in Dundalk, Gussie’s liquor store in Essex and Brix Sports Bar and Grill in Rosedale.

The Malibu Beach Bar on Eastern Avenue was fined a total of $1,250 for a public disturbance after failing to control a fight between a security guard and a patron in the parking lot, for selling alcohol to a minor and for having an employee under age 21 on the premises after 9 p.m.

Gussie’s on Old Eastern Avenue was fined $750 for selling alcohol to an under-aged police cadet. The owner said he failed to card the cadet because he was dealing with an influx of customers at closing time. The owner was also fined $250 for selling cigarettes to a minor, but the fine was waived because he had paid a fine to the state Comptroller’s office for the same violation.

Brix Sports Bar and Grill on Pulaski Highway was fined $500 for failing to card an under-aged customer. No action was taken on a charge of selling to an intoxicated person after the owner said he stopped serving the patron, offered him food and also offered to get him a cab.

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Kushner Cos. fined by Baltimore County as negligent property owners

Kushner Cos. fined by Baltimore County as negligent property owners
The Commons at White Marsh in Middle River had by far the most violations on the east side of the county with 49 citations. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 11/8/17)

- By Patrick Taylor - 

A property management company co-owned by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been fined by Baltimore County after racking up more than 200 county code violations.

Baltimore County threatened to withhold HUD (Housing and Urban Development) subsidies if the Kushner Cos., the property management group, failed to meet standards. Kushner Cos. made the necessary changes to the HUD subsidized properties, but failed to meet the deadline on three other properties for code enforcement issues. The company was fined $3,500 for the violations.

Kushner Cos. did not respond to requests for a comment.

“Contrary to the assertions of the Kushner Cos. that they are in compliance with local laws, our inspectors identified and cited more than 200 code violations in properties owned by Jared Kushner,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “Repairs were made only after the county threatened to withhold rent or issue fines. And in nine instances, we had to carry through with threatened sanctions. We expect all landlords to comply with the code requirements that protect the health and safety of their tenants, even if the landlord’s father-in-law is President of the United States.”

From 2015 to June of this year, Kushner Cos. has received $4.8 million in HUD subsidies on behalf of 197 low-income renters.

Kushner, who currently acts as a senior advisor to President Trump, has repeatedly found his name in the news for shoddy living conditions in the apartment complexes his company owns. A ProPublica/New York Times article published back in May was the first to shine a light on the negligence. Since then, multiple Democrats, including Attorney General Brian Frosh and Rep. Elijah Cummings, have launched investigations and inquiries into the property management group. The move by the  Kamenetz administration to fine Kushner Cos. adds the county executive’s name to the list.

On the east side, Kushner Cos. owns a wide array of properties, including Carroll Park, Cove Village, the Commons at White Marsh, Essex Park, Morningside Park, Whispering Woods and Charlesmont Apartments. Violations have been found at each of these locations since the beginning of the year, with 49 HUD and four code enforcement violations found just at the Commons at White Marsh.

Overflowing trash cans and rodent infestations were among the violations found at the properties during routine inspection, according to a release sent out by the county.

While the Commons at White Marsh was the most neglected site, Kushner Cos. had violations at all of the aforementioned sites. Whispering Woods was found to have seven HUD violations, while Charlesmont, Cove Village and Essex Park were each found with five or less HUD violations. There are no HUD units at Morningside or Caroll Park, but both were fined for code violations. Morningside was found to have five code violations. Five more complaints about conditions at the various Kushner-owned properties are still being investigated by the county.

A spokesperson for Kushner Cos. previously told The Baltimore Sun that the property management group was “in compliance with all state and local laws,” but that assertion was rebuffed by Kamenetz.

“It is a stretch of truth to assert they are in compliance with all laws when more than 200 code violations were observed by our inspectors in just the past 10 months,” said Kamenetz.

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County Council approves purchase of land in Essex for open space

County Council approves purchase of land in Essex for open space
The land to be purchased is located off Barrison Point Road on the lower Back River Neck peninsula. Image courtesy of Google.

(Updated 11/8/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The Baltimore County Council voted on Monday, Nov. 6, to unanimously approve the county’s purchase of more than 160 acres of land on the Back River Neck peninsula to be preserved as passive open space.

The county plans to purchase eight contiguous parcels of land off Barrison Point Road in Essex using $950,000 of Program Open Space funding from the state and $50,000 from its own capital budget, according to a county spokesperson. What the Council approved Monday was a contract of sale between the county and the property owners as part of the passive open space program.

Because the property will remain as passive open space, it will remain largely in its natural state with no park amenities installed.

County Councilman Todd Crandell, who represents the area, said the land acquisition represents a “significant” open space investment in the Seventh District on the Back River Neck peninsula.

“I’ve advocated to various members of the administration for a couple of years now to make such investments in our district,” he said. “I think this is the first Program Open Space investment in the Seventh District since 2007.”

Crandell called the agreement “a pretty big deal,” adding, “160 acres at $1 million is significant and welcomed on the Back River Neck.”

County spokeswoman Fronda Cohen pointed out that the subject property is located within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area in a Resource Conservation zone. She added that the county specifically identified this tract as a good candidate for open space preservation.

“Certainly the county is very aware of our responsibility to be sure that we protect any environmentally sensitive areas, as well as providing increased open space and protected open spaces,” Cohen said.

She noted that the zoning currently on the property protects it from intensive development, but also that zoning can change.

“We felt that if these properties were under county ownership it would clearly signal the intent that this remain open space for the community, but most importantly for environmental protection and conservation,” Cohen said.

She, too, called the amount of land a “significant” size, adding that it “can make a difference.”

“It was a real opportunity to do the work of being able to put together those eight parcels and make that purchase,” the spokeswoman said. “We’ll all literally breathe easier when you have more wooded areas that are preserved and protected as open space.”

The property is primarily forested, according to Cohen, and the only structure presently on it is an unoccupied building which will be demolished at the current owner’s expense prior to the county’s purchase.

Last month, the County Council approved a similar purchase of just over 12 acres of land in Middle River, also to be used for passive open space.

That property, located off Bird River Road, consisted of 14 unimproved residential lots and non-buildable wooded parcels. The county agreed on Oct. 16 to purchase that tract using a combined $490,000 of county and POS funds.

The Middle River property was zoned for residential development at a rate of two homes per acre, which explains its higher value than the Essex parcels.

“This purchase will ensure that the property... will be used for passive open space rather than new homes,” said Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents the area, at the time. She added that the acquisition would help strike a balance between new development and open space.

“Middle River is an area in the county that is lacking in open space so I have been working with the administration to bring more open space to the area,” she said.

Air cannons bill
Also approved Monday by a unanimous vote of the council was a bill, sponsored by Bevins and Councilman David Marks, to restrict the use of air cannons on agricultural land in response to complaints from residents living near the Bird River.

The bill as passed prohibits the firing of air cannons in certain Resource Conservation (agricultural) zones within 500 feet of an adjacent residential dwelling between the hours of 10 p.m. and sunrise as defined by the National Weather Service.

Air cannons create loud bursts of air to scare birds and other animals away from crops, and Councilman Wade Kach pointed out that the sound level from such cannons can reach 125 decibels.

“That can cause physical damage to the ears,” he said, stressing that the legislation came about because of one individual in Bevins’ district - along Stumpfs Road in Middle River - “who insists on using these air cannons, shooting them off every two or three minutes.”

Bevins said the cannons were in use “around the clock” during planting season and harvesting.

“It was very disruptive to the community,” she said. “The community and the farmers have been living in the same area from the beginning of time and this was never an issue until this past year.”

Bevins initially introduced the bill in September, but withdrew it to give the farmer and residents a chance to undergo mediation through the Baltimore County Farm Bureau.

“That mediation took place and there was no resolution,” Bevins said.

Prior to the vote, Bevins and Kach together sponsored an amendment to the bill, creating a sunset for the legislation after two years without further action from the council.

Bevins said the reason for the sunset was that they believe the new regulations will “set the tone” and will not be necessary after the time period is up.

“We didn’t want to punish all farmers because of, so to speak, one bad apple,” she said, “so we’re hoping that this remedies itself. If not, we’ll take a look at it again in two years.”

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Community hears update on Water’s Landing at Middle River PUD project

Community hears update on Water’s Landing at Middle River PUD project
This concept drawing shows how the community could look when complete. Image courtesy of Curry Architects.

(Updated 11/8/17)

- By Devin Crum -

For months, community members following the progress of the Water’s Landing at Middle River planned unit development (PUD) have waited to hear more details and updates from the developer about the status of the project.

They finally got that chance, as well as the opportunity to express concerns about the adequacy of the project’s stormwater management (SWM) plan at the Nov. 1 meeting of the Essex-Middle River Civic Council.

The most updated Water’s Landing plan shows 189 total homes to be built on a 53-acre waterfront parcel along Weber Avenue in Essex, according to Richard Alter, president of Manekin, LLC and developer for the project. The homes would be a mix of mostly townhomes and some single homes constructed across a tract formerly known as the Huber property.

Alter said site plans have been stable for about the last 15 months, and they have been working with the state’s Critical Area Commission to gain their approval for the plan.

The CAC’s approval is necessary because the project seeks to use nearly all of what remains of Baltimore County’s growth allocation for Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas. The growth allocation allows somewhat more intensive land use in waterfront areas in exchange for water quality benefits rather than having to abide by stringent regulations and shoreline setbacks.

“That has required us to submit to the county drawings and specifications” for the project, Alter said, which has been time consuming.

Using the growth allocation, homes can be no closer to the shoreline than 100 feet. However, without it they would be required to maintain a 300-foot buffer between buildings and the shoreline.

Alter said the closest home to the shoreline in the plan is 119 feet, while others are up to 250 feet away. And development counsel Sam Neuberger said the average distance of all the buildings from the shoreline will be about 200 feet.

Neuberger said the justification for using the county’s remaining growth allocation is that rainfall that hits the site after the development is built will actually be more clean than before the development took place, as is required by the CAC.

To accomplish this, the regulations require reforestation on site as much as possible, especially within the 100-foot buffer, and off site in the same watershed if it cannot all be done on site. They also require wetland mitigation and myriad other environmental remediations, according to Neuberger.

Eric Chudnicki, environmental services manager for the project with Daft McCune Walker civic engineering firm, said they are doing all they can on site to meet the reforestation and other remediation requirements.

What they cannot do on site, they will do on another property about 2.5 miles to the southeast, where they plan to “take 17.6 acres and put nothing but trees on it,” he said, adding that the property has been in agricultural production for a long time and the owners have decided not to farm it anymore.

They also plan to do about nine-tenths of an acre of wetland mitigation, which Chudnicki said is triple the amount of impact the project will have.

“The only impacts we have are really associated with some roads and some outfalls,” he said. “Everything else is as managed as possible, especially around the peninsula and the point.”

Some residents, however, expressed concerns that the SWM plan as designed for the project is inadequate.

EMRCC’s lead environmental advocate, Dan Doerfer, relayed an independent environmental engineering firm’s belief after looking at the plan that the SWM facilities for Water’s Landing would only treat about 60 percent of the rainfall they should for a project of this size.

Chudnicki assured, though, that they have devised a SWM plan that meets the county’s regulations for capturing and filtering stormwater, and he noted that the plan has already been approved by the county.

“We are trying to protect the water,” he said. “We are treating all of our impervious [surfaces], and we are doing it in a manner that we are required to in the critical area.”

Doerfer noted that there are both county and state requirements for SWM.

“The state language says to the maximum extent practicable, you should use Environmental Site Design,” Doerfer said, which is currently accepted as the highest standard for SWM.

“But the county generally holds developers to the minimum extent practicable,” he said, adding that county officials have already told him they are satisfied with the design.

Doerfer acknowledged that it is too far along in the process to do anything about this project now.

“So I think our issue is with the county,” he said. “The county should be looking at these developments and holding them to a higher standard for Environmental Site Design and not meeting [just] the minimum water treatment.”

Neuberger stated, though, that after this project the county will no longer have any new large-scale waterfront projects because the growth allocation will be gone.

Another aspect of the project for which both the developer and community members have expressed their desires is the relocation of the county-owned bus lot adjacent to the property. Neuberger updated the group on that issue in that the county is willing to relocate the facility, but the new location must be comparable in size to the existing lot.

He said they had a list of several possibilities for a new location that were outside the critical area, that have running water and where the facility will not be a “nuisance.”

“Then the county changed their requirement a little bit,” Neuberger said. “What they said is, ‘instead of just building one new bus facility, we have a bunch of antiquated school bus facilities in eastern Baltimore County; we’d like to have one really big one that just serves a wider area and is more in the growth area.’”

He said the county has identified some potential sites near Franklin Square hospital and other areas for such a facility.

However, the bus lot is a school board issue and has not been high on the board’s priorities list which is why progress has been slow, according to Neuberger.

Alter had originally estimated an 18- to 24-month timeline for the project to be completed, but now puts it at more like 36 to 40 months since they must get approval from the CAC to use the growth allocation, then must finish working through the county’s PUD process for final approval.

As part of the PUD process, the developer is required to provide a community benefit, for which they have chosen to contribute $50,000 toward the refurbishment of a SWM system at Chase Elementary School, which Neuberger said has been a failing system.

“The way it exists now, it does cause a fair amount of harm to the watershed,” he said.

He pointed out that the benefit was suggested to them by Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, in whose district the project will be built.

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Battle of North Point monument proposed for state battlefield

Battle of North Point monument proposed for state battlefield
A meeting to discuss the Society of the War of 1812’s proposal for a Battle of North Point monument was held Oct. 27. Attendees included members of the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society, the Heritage Society of Essex-Middle River and elected leaders. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 11/8/17)

- By Marge Neal -

If the Society of the War of 1812 has its way, a new monument commemorating the Battle of North Point will soon grace the North Point State Battlefield in Dundalk.

And the group is willing to put its money where its mouth is, having committed to the estimated cost of $30,000 needed to create the marker as envisioned by members.

Similar to organizations like the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, the 1812 group’s membership is limited to those who are documented descendants of participants in the War of 1812.

Society leaders held a meeting at the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society and Museum Friday, Oct. 27, to discuss proposed verbiage for the marker and to talk about any concerns, inconsistencies or suggestions.

Many hurdles still remain before the monument can become a reality, according to Christos Christous Jr., who spoke on behalf of the 1812 society.

The process to get the marker approved is an arduous one, he told those at the meeting, which included historical society members, elected leaders and the recently retired Charlesmont Elementary School principal.

Maryland Park Service officials have yet to even agree to accept the plan for review. They first must ensure it meets all of their requirements, according to Christous. The 1812 society cannot submit a formal proposal until the state says the project meets those standards and purposes.

For example, a suggested monument cannot duplicate information already on a particular site. In this case, it means the suggested marker verbiage cannot repeat information already on educational placards at the battlefield.

Another requirement is that the monument, because it will be placed at an unstaffed park site, require little to no maintenance, Christous said.

The 1812 society originally planned two monuments - one at Battle Acre, a Baltimore County-owned parcel, and one at the state battlefield. County officials nixed the one at Battle Acre immediately, citing priorities in other areas around the site. That caused the society to rethink its plans and design one monument that would incorporate all the intended information, which includes a short history of the battle, a list of troop strengths on the American and British sides and a list of all Americans known to have been killed in the local battle or died of battle-related injuries within one year.

The committee originally envisioned a tall, slender monument but current events put an end to that vision, according to Christous. In the initial design, a two-sided, “extremely tall” granite slab would list all of the war dead on one side and background information and troop strengths on the other.

“But in the current climate regarding monuments, we didn’t want to put something up that could be toppled or vandalized,” Christous said. “So we asked for new designs for something much longer, wider and closer to the ground so it can’t be toppled.”

Historical society member Patricia Paul expressed several concerns about the monument. She said she and several others do not think the monument as planned is appropriate for the site.

“I think this is way too much verbiage for this site,” she said at the meeting. “It’s not [user] friendly - people will not take the time to read all that.”

She also expressed a concern that the cost of the project is too high, to which Christous replied the cost is “irrelevant’” given his organization’s willingness to foot the entire bill.

He said the society would accept donations from community members if they have a desire to have “ownership” or otherwise support the effort, but the money is already committed and the society is prepared to move its plan forward.

“There are people who believe this isn’t appropriate for the land,” Paul said, lamenting that others in opposition had been unable to attend the meeting. “And there are other issues there with that land - there are homeless people living there at times.”

Christous told Paul he understood her stance but added that many people do want the monument erected and do believe it will be an appropriate, educational tool that honors those killed in the North Point skirmish.

“It is our mission to propose this monument,” he said at the meeting. “I will propose this and DNR will hold hearings and solicit community input. And then they will make the final decision to move forward or not.”

The 1812 society has solicited design proposals from three different monument crafters, according to Christous. Members are still waiting for two of those design proposals as well as the state’s decision to even allow further consideration of the plan, given the conditions that have to be met.

The main purpose of the monument would be to provide educational information about a battle that many do not know about, meeting attendees agreed. Marsha Ayres, the retired Charlesmont principal, said she wishes more classroom time could be devoted to the local history and suggested that many General John Stricker Middle School students do not know the story of the man for whom their school is named.

Paul Blitz, a member of the Essex-Middle River Heritage Society, said, “The purpose here is to educate.”

Christous agreed and said he wants to bring more attention to the role the North Point battle played in the defense of a young nation. North Point stands in the shadow of Fort McHenry when it comes to special events and the public eye, he believes.

“This was a significant event that changed the course of our nation and we want to bring attention to that,” he said. “This monument will be a big step toward that.”

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DRC receives $800K in neighborhood revitalization funds

DRC receives $800K in neighborhood revitalization funds

(Updated 11/8/17)

- By Marge Neal -

The Dundalk Renaissance Corporation has once again received significant grant funding from the state’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

The organization will receive $800,000 from the program’s Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative, according to a statement from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

“These investments will help revitalize cities and towns across Maryland, leading to an increase in economic development and more jobs for Marylanders,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in the statement. “The awards will help local communities achieve their unique redevelopment goals and improve the quality of life for our citizens.”

The DRC is no stranger to these awards and appreciates the continued financial support of the program.

“We’ve received these funds in the past and they have really increased our ability to expand the impact we are able to have in the community,” DRC Executive Director Amy Menzer told the East County Times in a phone interview.

DRC first received similar grant funding in 2014 when Dundalk was selected as one of four communities to participate in a pilot program. Dundalk was the only one of the four areas not in Baltimore City, according to Menzer.

“I think it speaks highly of what we are doing as an organization in the community that we continue to receive these funds,” Menzer said.

As with past grant funds, the 2018 fiscal year money will be spent in targeted areas to increase the “real, visible impact” of the additional funding, Menzer said.

Focusing on the historic downtown Dundalk area, the targted neighborhoods include Old Dundalk, both the city and county sides of St. Helena, Dun-Logan, Turner Station and the historic commercial Main Street, Menzer said.

“We are specifically targeting communities that feed in to Dundalk Elementary School in an effort to encourage home ownership and help build up the elementary school,” Menzer said. “The county is making a $31 million investment in a new Dundalk Elementary and we’d like to make an effort to improve the chances of attracting more homebuyers to that area, as well as help current residents make improvements to their property.”

DRC received $150,000 for operating support; $250,000 for the Vibrant Neighborhoods 2.0 Revolving Loan Fund; $200,000 for home purchase incentive forgivable loans; $100,000 for commercial improvement grants; and $100,000 in Main Street business incubator gap funding.

Menzer is particularly excited about the business incubator funding, which will allow the organization to complete renovations at its 11 Center Place office that will result in a business incubation lab on the first floor.

“Plans call for retail incubation space, as well as flexible desk, office and training space on the first floor of our building,” she said. “Our offices and staff will move to the second floor and this money can be used to help with those renovations.”

Another draw to many of these funds is that they do not come with income restrictions or matching fund mandates.

For example, the commercial improvement grants will help business owners make visible investments in their properties with money that does not have to be paid back and does not have to be matched with private funds, Menzer said.

Though details are not finalized, Menzer anticipates awarding grants in the $3,000 to $10,000 range to local business and property owners. The program and application deadline will be publicized, and a committee will judge the proposals and select the recipients.

“We expect more competition without the matching requirement,” Menzer said.

A goal of DRC is to attract a greater economic diversity in Dundalk, according to Menzer, and the award of grant funds without income restrictions lends itself to that goal.

“We can’t build economic diversity with HUD monies that have income restrictions,” she said. “This new money will allow us to offer incentives so that more middle-income people are attracted to buy in Dundalk or encourage current residents to stay here and invest in their properties.”

The forgivable loan program is targeted at potential home buyers who make 80 to 100 percent of the area median income. The loans are forgiven after a resident has lived in the house for at least five years. With the $200,000 pot of money, DRC plans to give loans of $5,000 to buyers in the general greater Dundalk area, and loans of $10,000 to homebuyers in the targeted, Dundalk Elementary School feeder neighborhoods, according to Menzer.

Interest-free loans made through the revolving loan fund must be repaid when the property is either sold or refinanced.

“These grant funds are a tremendous opportunity for DRC and Dundalk,” Menzer said. “The scale of these resources far exceeds what we would normally have available to us and allows us to help homeowners and business owners to make visible investments in our community.”

DRC is achieving tangible, positive results in the business community and the community’s housing stock and the continued awarding of money from this funding source is a vote of confidence in DRC’s ability to carry out its mission, Menzer believes.

For more information on any of these grant or loan programs, call the DRC office at 410-282-0261.

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New plan submitted for Shops at Perry Hall site

New plan submitted for Shops at Perry Hall site
The new commercial development is slated for the southeast corner of Belair Road and Honeygo Boulevard in Perry Hall. Image courtesy of Google.

(Updated 11/8/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Developers have submitted an alternate development plan for the Shops at Perry Hall site at the southeast corner of Belair Road and Honeygo Boulevard.

An earlier plan for the 14.5-acre site controlled by the Baltimore-based Southern Land Company was previously approved in 2009 for a big-box store, according to information presented at a meeting of the county’s Development Review Committee on Oct. 31.

“Market conditions in this part of Baltimore County require greater flexibility to adapt to the ever-evolving needs of the consumer,” according to a letter to the committee from the plan’s engineer about the alternate plan.

The site, which also borders a small section of Forge Road, is across Belair Road from the Honeygo Crossing shopping center.

A preliminary concept plan presented at the meeting shows a large fitness center, a gas station and convenience store, two restaurant buildings, a restaurant/retail building and another small building, as well as 542 parking spaces.

The developers have also proposed a carwash, which will require an approved special exception from a county administrative law judge after a public hearing.

The plan shows one access point from northbound Belair Road and two access points from the south side of Honeygo Boulevard.

Representatives from the Perry Hall Improvement Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposed development.

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Royal Farms awaiting approval at Fullerton bingo; Perry Hall site approved

Royal Farms awaiting approval at Fullerton bingo; Perry Hall site approved
The bingo manager did not respond to a request for comment regarding the future of the operation. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 11/8/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Royal Farms is waiting for county approval to replace the Fullerton Manor Bingo building at 7560 Belair Road with a full-service convenience store including fuel pumps, carryout service and outdoor seating along the front of the building.

The company dropped a proposed car wash from the plan after running into opposition from neighborhood groups at the time the site was up for rezoning last year.

Fuel pumps require approval of a special exception by an administrative law judge, for which a public hearing was held on Wednesday, Oct. 25, in Towson.

Four neighbors attended the hearing, and several asked questions about traffic and stormwater management. A decision is expected within a few weeks. Pending approvals, the planned Fullerton store is expected to open in late 2018.

The operator of Fullerton Manor Bingo did not immediately return a call for comment on Monday about the future of the bingo operation.

The store is part of an ongoing Royal Farms’ regional growth plan that also includes a relocated, expanded store on North Point Boulevard in Dundalk. An administrative law judge also recently approved with conditions a plan for a new store and fuel pumps at the northeast corner of Perry Hall and White Marsh boulevards.

Conditions require submitting landscape and lighting plans to the county and a review by the state and the Army Corps of Engineers about an adjacent floodplain and wetlands.

Only commercial special event temporary signs will be permitted at the store, and only signs permitted by the county will be allowed to be permanent, according to the decision.

Fullerton store plan
The former site of an A&P supermarket, the 1.7-acre property is located on the west side of Belair Road. To the south is residential Glade Avenue and to the north is Belair Beltway Plaza shopping center.

Proposed is a 24-hour store with seven pump islands and parking for 56 cars. It would employ about 20 full-time and 20 part-time people, said a company representative at the hearing.

The plan is to replace the bingo hall with a smaller, 5,200-square-foot building that would result in less paving - a drop from 87 to 74 percent impervious surface. Plans also call for replacement sidewalks and increased landscaping along the edges of the property.

Regarding vehicle access, there is currently access off Glade Avenue and Belair Road. Plans call for a second access off Belair Road that will enable fuel trucks to turn around on-site and not exit onto Glade Avenue.

Concerned about existing heavy traffic, neighbors said cars routinely back up on Belair Road during peak times, making it difficult to turn out from Glade Avenue. Resident Tom Clocker also noted frequent accidents at Belair and Thorncliffe roads and MTA and school bus stops in the area.

A traffic engineer said vehicle volume is not likely to increase, because most customers who will pull into the Royal Farms regularly drive Belair Road anyway. He also said there are no failing intersections in the area.

Clocker also asked about the maintenance of the proposed storm drain system designed to filter grease and oil runoff from the parking lot before it flows into a drain on Belair Road toward Stemmers Run.

There is currently no storm drain system on the site, which until now has not had fuel pumps or 24-hour vehicle traffic.

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Bill Clinton dedicates ‘Talking is Teaching’ panels at Sollers Point Multi-Purpose Center

Bill Clinton dedicates ‘Talking is Teaching’ panels at Sollers Point Multi-Purpose Center
Bill Clinton stopped by Turner Station in conjunction with early education outreach efforts launched by the Clinton Foundation’s “Too Small to Fail” initiative. He joked in the beginning of his remarks that the children present were thinking “when are all of these old people going to shut up so I can go play on the playground?”

(Updated 11/1/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Former President Bill Clinton stopped by the Sollers Point Multi-Purpose Center in Turner Station Monday, Oct. 30, to cut the ribbon on an education-themed playground.

Joining representatives from the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative, as well as Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) officials, Clinton stressed the importance of new signs that were designed to raise awareness among parents about the importance of talking and reading to their children, as well as getting their children talking.

“The purpose of Too Small to Fail is to empower parents and caregivers to talk, read and sing with children from the day they are born to help them to build the framework on which they can become everything they ought to be,” Clinton said.

The informative panels, which were placed as part of BCPL’s participation in Too Small to Fail’s “Talking is Teaching” public awareness campaign, include prompts to get children to talk about shapes, colors, numbers, feelings, the weather and a whole lot more.

“So many of the neural networks needed to support learning are formed by the time children are three years old,” Clinton said.

The former president told the crowd of people gathered at the unveiling that he has long had an interest in early childhood learning, and that the extra year his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, spent in law school studying early childhood development pushed his interest further.

Clinton told the crowd that the work being done by the Too Small to Fail initiative is to show that learning does not need to be restricted to the classroom. He noted that whether it is on a playground or on a bus, getting children talking about their surroundings can work wonders for their development.

Sollers Point is the 83rd playground to receive the panels, which were funded in full by the Foundation for Baltimore County Public Libraries. BCPL becomes the first public library to partner with the Too Small to Fail initiative.

“The Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library views reading as a critical and fundamental tool for all ages,” said Greg Jones, president of the Foundation’s board of directors. “Supporting early learning is a natural first step.”

The library foundation also committed $12,000 to expand the program, with both Storyville at Rosedale and Storyville at Woodlawn being underwritten by the foundation.

“This project is yet another example of our wonderful foundation supporting Baltimore County Public Libraries’ most important priorities,” said BCPL director Paula Miller. “We are proud to be the first public library system to install these panels, which facilitate conversations between children and their parents and caregivers.”

Clinton stressed during his remarks that no child should be at a learning disadvantage due to economic issues, whether they live in rural or urban areas.

“You can never know what’s in the head of a child. You can do a lot to make sure whatever they imagine, they live,” Clinton said in his closing remarks.

Clinton’s visit to Dundalk was a bit of a surprise to Miller and others. They knew that the Clinton Foundation would be coming for the event, Miller said, but it was unclear whether or not the former president himself would be joining. Last week, a team was sent out to Sollers Point to scout the location, hinting that the former president might stop by.

After remarks were given, Clinton, Miller and Jones posed for a ribbon cutting with a number of children. After the initial ribbon cutting, Clinton stayed a bit longer to cut off individual pieces of the ribbon for each child present to have as a keepsake.

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New site chosen to replace Fort Howard outpatient clinic

New site chosen to replace Fort Howard outpatient clinic

(Updated 11/1/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has selected a new location in Rosedale to replace its shuttered outpatient clinic at Fort Howard which closed last year.

The new clinic is slated to open in August 2018 in 12,000 square feet of leased space within the newly constructed Franklin Square Professional Center at 5235 King Ave., not far from Franklin Square Medical Center.

The building is owned by the development firm Cignal Corp., the principal of which is Armando Cignarale. Cignarale expressed interest in taking over the redevelopment of the former Fort Howard VA hospital property - the former home of the outpatient clinic - during a community meeting in June 2016.

The Fort Howard clinic was prone to flooding from rain and high tides, according to a VA spokesperson, but originally closed on March 9, 2016, due to flooding from a broken water heater. Patients using the location were transferred to the Loch Raven clinic in Baltimore. The facility was closed for good after mold was and other structural issues were found upon subsequent inspection.

At 50 percent larger than the Fort Howard location, the new facility will feature spacious exam rooms and comfortable patient waiting areas, the VA Maryland Health Care System announced last Wednesday, Oct. 25. They also touted its proximity to major highways, including I-95, I-695, U.S. Route 40 and Maryland Route 7, as well as mass transportation - a feature lacking at the old location.

“One of the things with Fort Howard, besides it being an older building…, was that it wasn’t as easily accessible to people using public transportation,” said VA spokeswoman Ming Vincenti.

Additionally, she said, “There was one road in and one road out. So when that road flooded, it was no business for the day.”

As one of six community-based outpatient clinics operated by the VA Maryland Health Care System, the Eastern Baltimore County VA Outpatient Clinic will also provide outpatient primary care services, mental health care, women’s health care, social work assistance, preventive health and education services, various medical screenings and referrals to specialized services available throughout the health care system. The clinic, which will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., will also feature a free weekday shuttle service to and from the Baltimore VA Medical Center.

Vincenti said a lot has been put into choosing the new location, which is right in the center of eastern Baltimore County and will offer free parking and readily available clinic appointments for veterans living in Bowleys Quarters, Carney, Chase, Dundalk, Edgemere, Essex, Fort Howard, Fullerton, Kingsville, Middle River, Nottingham, Overlea, Parkville, Perry Hall, Rosedale, Sparrows Point and White Marsh.

“So instead of it being kind of on the outskirts of one of those areas, it’s smack in the center,” she said.

The spokeswoman mentioned that a number of eastern Baltimore County residents who use VA services were choosing to go to the Loch Raven clinic rather than the Fort Howard location because of its inaccessibility.

“So when you think about driving downtown to go to that facility versus having one right in your own community or right down the road, that’s going to make a big difference,” she said.

Vincenti said the next 10 months will be used to get the new space set up for the health care system’s needs and standards of care.

During the VA’s fiscal year 2017, which ran from October 2016 to September 2017, the system determined that they saw 3,123 visits from 1,570 veterans who would have used the Fort Howard clinic had it been open.

When the new clinic is up and running, they anticipate nearly tripling those numbers with about 9,000 visits from 4,500 veterans coming twice per year to the facility.

Asked if there is a plan yet for the old building at Fort Howard, Vincenti said not at this point.

“We’re focusing on getting a clinic back open for the veterans who were going there,” she said.

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Rosedale residents looking to resolve issues surrounding methadone clinic

Rosedale residents looking to resolve issues surrounding methadone clinic

(Updated 11/1/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The Riverside Treatment Services methadone clinic has operated at 8359 Pulaski Highway/US-40 in Rosedale for about the last year and a half. But residents living in the area are growing frustrated with the problems they see as related to the facility.

The Rosedale Community Association held a meeting on Oct. 18 to give residents and business owners a forum to air their frustrations and to try to devise a plan to address the situation.

One resident of Berk Avenue said at the meeting that it looks like “the walking dead” at 5 a.m. as patients are making their way down the street to the clinic. He also said he nearly stuck his finger with a discarded syringe buried in a pile of leaves on the street near his home as he was picking them up.

“That’s what I put up with,” he said.

Kathy McCoury, of the Baltimore County Business Association, said she hears from a lot of the businesses in the area, including some of the nearby motels, that they do not support having the treatment center there because of what it draws.

“We’re on a main highway, and there’s no reason why we need one of these kinds of facilities on a main drag,” she said, adding that she has witnessed two near-accidents there due to drivers exiting the facility. “It’s just too busy of an area to have it.”

One supporter of the clinic said a lot of the people receiving treatment at RTS go there and then go to work and do not stick around in the area.

Another supporter asked, “If not here, where?”

He said some of the people seeking treatment there are just trying to get help, such as a particular woman who is a wife and a mother. “Where would you suggest they go?”

To that, RCA President Russ Mirabile and other attendees replied that they should go to a hospital to receive treatment where they would not be a burden on area residents.

Capt. Chris Kelly, commander of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Precinct 9 which services the area, remarked about the severity of the opioid crisis when he noted that as of the night of the meeting there had been 228 fatal overdoses in the county. He said 134 of those were fentanyl related and added that there had been 1,252 non-fatal overdoses in the county year to date.

Kelly informed the crowd that he is limited in what he can do as law enforcement to police methadone clinics because they are regulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“There really is no difference, in the eyes of the law, between that and a dialysis center,” he said.

Further, Kelly had concerns that excessive enforcement around the clinic and those who use it could be construed as harrassment and interrupting the care of sick people.

“At a certain point, we could be liable for interrupting their care,” he said.

The captain acknowledged that they have seen a few car accidents in the area of the clinic, and they do enforce impaired driving laws. But he admitted he did not know how methadone would show up for field sobriety or blood tests.

However, Kelly said they are increasing bicycle patrols in the area to help officers patrol the smaller side streets.

The residential side streets have experienced the problems because many people traveling to and from the clinic on foot must travel through the adjacent neighborhoods to make use of public transportation along Philadelphia Road. They must also cross the busy US-40.

There are no bus stops directly on Pulaski Highway in the area near the clinic, some residents lamented.

Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), who represents the area, made mention of this during the County Council’s meeting with state transportation officials on Thursday, Oct. 26, while discussing the state’s Consolidated Transportation Program, asking why the buses only use Philadelphia Road.

A representative from the Maryland Transit Administration said while he did not know the definite answer, it could have to do with a lack of pedestrian structures or safe places for people to wait for a bus.

Crandell said not having a bus stop close to the clinic has led to other issues such as trash or other things making their way from the facility into the neighborhoods.

“Most of these patients are just walking down the street,” he said. “Some of them are causing disruptions in neighborhoods where they’ve never had disruptions before.”

The councilman acknowledged the need for such clinics. “However, they do have an impact,” he said.

Asked what can be done to get bus stops strategically located nearer to such facilities, the MTA representative said the agency has actually consciously moved bus stops away from methadone clinics.

“That has to do with people falling into the roadway,” he said. “In some respects you don’t want bus stops right next to methadone clinics.” He added there is a healthy balance they need to find.

At the community meeting, Mirabile said he disagreed with the police captain about the amount that could be done, noting that the ADA only covers the building which houses the clinic and the government cannot permit a nuisance that is detrimental to residents’ quality of life.

“This affects our insurance premiums, property values, and we consider it a public nuisance to the community and a public safety issue as a result of the [ADA],” he said. “That act or any other act cannot disturb all of our quiet enjoyment and peace of mind.”

Instead of working through elected officials and bureaucratic avenues to try to find a solution, Mirabile suggested the community should hire a zoning attorney to litigate the issue in court.

“This will take action immediately,” he said. It will not have to wait a year or two years.

“All we’re asking them to do is let them go some place where they won’t bother all of us,” Mirabile said.

State Delegate Robin Grammer (R-6), who also represents the area, said he has been working on the issue for about a year and researching what other states have done or tried to do.

He said these types of facilities operate under a “very loose” regulatory framework, and they are not required to inform the community when they come in.

“What we’re essentially seeing is they’re going in without any warning, without any notice... and you really start to see a lot of community problems that you can’t control,” Grammer said.

The delegate opined that they should be required to be in more of a “protected” space and that an “isolated” space where there is no residential would be best.

He noted that several states have passed bills to try to regulate where these centers can be or apply a state regulatory framework for them.

“And every single bill that we found has been overturned in the courts because these are considered protected by federal law,” Grammer explained.

Methadone clinics are licensed and regulated federally through the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. And while SAMHSA has in place rules that the centers must adhere to, they also have broader “guidelines” under which they operate.

“But the guidelines aren’t binding,” Grammer said, adding that they include things like putting in place policies and protocols to prevent the types of issues communities have experienced.

He noted that he has also consulted with the National Conference of State Lawmakers to see what information they can find, and he hopes to introduce legislation in the 2018 General Assembly that would “make certain requirements” of the state’s Behavioral Health Administration regarding the clinics.

“But it seems that our options are very limited without having someone from our federal delegation sponsor a change to federal law,” Grammer said, which he acknowledged would be difficult in today’s political environment in Washington, D.C. “I’m still looking for options here, but we may have to get our congressional delegation involved on this one.”

Del. Bob Long (R-6) said he has met with the owners of RTS and found the meeting productive.

“RTS has committed to work with the community,” he said. “RTS wants to be good neighbors and encourages Rosedale residents to report any problems.

“The most important goal is to keep our neighborhoods safe and clean,” Long said.

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Medical marijuana store relocates within Dundalk

Medical marijuana store relocates within Dundalk
The former Burger King on Rolling Mill Road at North Point Boulevard is slated to be the new location for the cannabis dispensary previously planned for German Hill Road. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 11/1/17)

Colgate community meeting set for Saturday

- By Virginia Terhune -

The group of investors that planned to open a licensed medical marijuana dispensary on German Hill Road in Dundalk has relocated to an alternative site in a more commercial area on North Point Boulevard.

The group is leasing a long-shuttered Burger King restaurant at Rolling Road across from the Bob Bell Chevrolet car dealership near the Baltimore City line and plans to open in early December, pending a final inspection by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

Located near a car dealership, a self-storage business, a commercial vehicle repair shop and a bar, the dispensary project has the support of the nearby Colgate residential neighborhood.

“It’s the first building to be renovated in more than 20 years,” said Donna Metlin, president of the Colgate Improvement Association, who also cited the benefits of medical marijuana products to treat pain and chronic conditions.

“I think it’s a real asset for Colgate,” said Metlin, who has invited representatives of the Health for Life dispensary, affiliated with CGX Life Sciences, to speak at a community meeting set for Saturday, Nov. 4, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church at 7834 Eastern Ave.

Project Manager Julie Winter said she will make a presentation and answer questions about the dispensary, one of nearly 100 expected to open around Maryland under a law that allows the growing, processing and sale of medical marijuana to registered users.

The parking lot has been repaved, landscaping is complete and a new roof and HVAC system will be installed in the building, according to Winter.

Work has started on the interior renovations and the dispensary hopes to open by the pending deadline set by the commission.

“We’ll be fixing the inside and the outside over the next six weeks and hope to be ready by the Dec. 9 date,” Winter said.

In the meantime, the German Hill building and property are set to go up for sale next week, she said.

Neighbors of dispenaries are typically concerned about security, parking and customers who use such facilities, which are sometimes confused with methadone clinics.

Metlin said she is impressed with the level of security required in the dispensary, ranging from surveillance cameras, a vault to store products and a secured vestibule where customers must present identification before entering.

“It’s tighter than Fort Knox,” she said.

Winter said she is also working with Metlin to schedule a job fair to help fill 30 to 40 positions with preference given to local residents and veterans.

Needed are people with experience working in reception areas, pharmacies or holistic centers as well as managers with retail experience, she said.

The Health for Life dispensary is one of six pre-approved dispensaries in eastern Baltimore County under regulations that allow two dispensaries in each state legislative district.

Also located in District 6, which includes Dundalk and Essex, is the Charm City Medicus dispensary farther south at 717 North Point Blvd. in a commercial center across from Eastpoint Mall.

Renovations are under way and the site is expected to open soon pending final inspections by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

CGX initially bought a two-story brick building next to the Speedy Mart convenience store on German Hill Road but was denied requested relief from parking and landscaping requirements by a county administrative law judge.

The group appealed the decision and a hearing was set for Oct. 18, but it was canceled after the group found what it saw as a more suitable location on North Point Boulevard.

In addition to limited parking and other site constraints, the group was also dealing with opposition from the Berkshire Community Association because of its proposed location next to residences, a park and a daycare center.

“It was smack in the middle of our neighborhood,” said Nora Baublitz, president of the BCA, which like Colgate supports the alternative site in the more commercial area off North Point Boulevard.

For more information about dispensaries and the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, visit

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Tradepoint open house offers food, reunions and information

(Updated 11/1/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Tradepoint Atlantic open houses continue to attract a near-capacity crowd.

Maybe it’s the draw of a free dinner, catered by Costas Inn; maybe it’s the keen desire to stay informed of progress at the former Bethlehem Steel plant in Sparrows Point; maybe it’s the opportunity for retired steelworkers and shipyard workers to catch up while visiting their old stomping grounds; maybe it’s a combination of all of the above.

In any case, Tradepoint officials are happy to see the great attendance at the semi-annual gatherings. Stating the desire to communicate as often and openly as possible with the surrounding communities, Eric Gilbert, Tradepoint’s chief development officer told the crowd, “It’s important to us to have you here.”

The most recent open house was held Oct. 25. Attendees were able to hear updates on the demolition of old steel-industry buildings, new construction, dredging, existing tenants, proposed bus service to the campus and soon-to-be announced new deals being negotiated, though the latter subject was shrouded in cryptic teases.

Gilbert said about 20 percent of the campus’ usable space is in use, and having Under Armour select Tradepoint for a distribution center is a “really big deal to have.”

The goal is to turn the 1.3 million-square-foot warehouse over to the company this month. Under Armour will then build out the interior to meet its needs, with the expectation to be operational by May 1, 2018, according to Gilbert.

The industrial center’s FedEx Ground distribution center has been fully operational for about three months. A building is under construction on a parcel that company officials refer to as “TPA 5,” and Tradepoint officials are in the final stages of negotiations with what Gilbert would refer to only as “another blue-chip company.”

“Expect more information on that later this year,” he told the crowd.

The company is also building several “speculative” buildings without specific tenants in mind. One “spec” building is a warehouse and two others are “port-centric” which can accommodate bulk marine-related commodities.

The spec buildings would allow companies to make a quick move without waiting for custom construction, and they are versatile enough to meet the needs of the kinds of companies Tradepoint is trying to attract, Gilbert believes.

He also told the crowd the company was able to rezone a portion of land closer to the beltway and Bethlehem Boulevard to allow for retail space. He cryptically told the crowd the first retail tenant has been signed, but would say only that it is a well-known name in the convenience store/fueling industry. Again, he said more details would come later in the year.

Pete Haid, Tradepoint’s environmental director who gave an update on a planned dredging project, got a laugh out of the crowd when he said he did not have any fancy photographs to show.

“Dredging is one of those jobs that, no matter how good a job you do, it looks pretty much the same when you’re done,” he said.

Some extensive dredging is needed at the site mainly because over the years, previous tenants did not keep up with maintenance dredging and silt carried by a slow current has built up in many areas. He emphasized that no new channels are being dredged; the purpose of the project is to return the turning basin, approach channel and the finger pier area to the previous depths to accommodate cargo ships.

The desired depths are 42 feet around the east berth and 47 feet around the finger pier, Haid said. He anticipates removing 200,000 cubic feet of dredged materials a year for five years.

While additional silt testing will be necessary before a final decision is made, Haid said preliminary tests show the sediment to be a good candidate for “innovative reuse.”

The project is going through the permit process now, according to Haid. He spoke of the arduous, sequential process involving many agencies, including Maryland Department of the Environment, the Department of Public Works and the Army Corps of Engineers, in addition to the Maryland Port Authority.

A denial at any of the sequential steps in the process could shut down the project or cause changes in the plan, Haid said.

Tom Hewitt, director of the Maryland Transit Administration’s Office of Service Development, gave an update on a proposed bus line to serve the Tradepoint campus.

He said his office has been working on a bus route with Tradepoint officials for about two years.

“This is a major opportunity to get workers to the job opportunities here,” Hewitt said.

The main trunk of the proposed route will run from the Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital campus to Tradepoint via Eastern and Dundalk avenues, Dunmanway, Peninsula Expressway and Bethlehem and Sparrows Point boulevards, according to maps handed out by MTA.

Two options of the route are being considered, with one offering an alignment with Boston Street. Public hearings - including one at the North Point Library from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15 - will be offered for bus riders to weigh in on the two options.

Hewitt said he expects the new bus route to go live Feb. 4.

Tradepoint officials said that, currently, more than 800 employees are working for about 75 tenants. They anticipate having more than 2,500 workers on site by the end of 2018, which would equal the number of steelworkers employed when the plant closed for good in 2012.

After the formal presentation, attendees were invited to visit stations around the room staffed with experts who would be able to individually answer questions and concerns.

And they were encouraged to dig in once again to the Costas Inn spread.

Dreamers in Dundalk loses liquor license

Dreamers in Dundalk loses liquor license
Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 11/1/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Closed since April, the Dreamers Female Review adult entertainment bar on Old North Point Road in Dundalk could be up for sale soon after owners failed to pay their liquor license renewal fee of $1,500 and outstanding fines imposed by the liquor board in February.

On Monday, the county Board of Liquor License Commissioners denied a request by the owners to extend their liquor license due to financial hardship, citing lack of evidence to support the request.

The decision means the owners have lost the lucrative license unless they appeal to the Baltimore County Circuit Court and win a reversal or file for bankruptcy, which would put a hold on the board’s decision.

The owners’ attorney, David Mister, said they have defaulted on their mortgage and that there are judgments against them totaling more than $106,000. As of last week, they were working with a broker to sell the property, the business and the license to pay off the debt.

Dreamers was fined $4,000 in February for violating dancer dress codes and for drug violations. In addition to the fines, the license was also suspended from Feb. 15 through March 7.

The board previously fined the bar $2,000 for similar violations after a hearing on Dec. 19, 2016.

License holder Virginia Borsella said Monday that the financial problems were in large part due to the three-week suspension in February that temporarily closed down the business.

She also cited a decline in customers since the Bethlehem Steel mill in Sparrows Point closed down years ago and recent construction work on North Point Road that blocked customer access.

The president of the Wells-McComas Citizens Improvement Association, Robert Zacherl, disputed the latter claim. He also noted problems with drug violations and with patrons or possibly renters who appeared not to be sober, yelling and causing disruptions outside the bar.

“It’s our opinion that the hardship is on the community,” he said.

The board, however, was limited to considering only the circumstances that lead to the request for the hardship extension, according to commissioner Les Pittler.

Pittler argued that there was not enough evidence presented and that the license had expired because the 180-day period to file a request for hardship had ended.

Mister countered that the owners filed their renewal on time and that the license still existed but had simply not been issued as of May 1 because of the outstanding renewal fee and fines.

In other business, the commissioners dismissed charges made in a police report that Putty Hill Liquors on Belair Road had sold liquor to a minor.

The board took into consideration that the officer was not present Monday to testify which denied the defense a chance to cross examine, and that the owners had since started using a scanner to regularly check all IDs.

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Patapsco High School celebrates groundbreaking for $42.3 million renovation

Patapsco High School celebrates groundbreaking for $42.3 million renovation
Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 10/25/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

The atmosphere was celebratory at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts on Tuesday, Oct. 24, as county government and school officials gathered to break ground on a comprehensive renovation project for the school.

The $42.3 million project has been in the works for approximately five years, according to Craig Reed, principal at Patapsco. Reed joked that what put the ball in motion five years ago on the renovation plans was showing a school official the poor conditions of the bathrooms.

Projected to be finished for the start of the 2019-20 school year, the renovation includes air conditioning, roof replacement, a new front entrance, updated classrooms and technological improvements, plumbing and much more. Work on the renovation began immediately as school let out for the summer last year.

“This is a $42 million reinvestment in this high school, and it comes on top of a $100 million brand new Dundalk High School, the three new elementary schools that are about to break ground at Berkshire, Colgate and Dundalk, and that comes on top of the other air conditioning projects we have,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “Altogether, this is more than a $300 million investment in the southeast area.”

Some of the work has already been completed, including upgraded health suites, a refurbished main office area and a wing of classrooms and lockers.

Chris McGuinness, a science teacher and the school’s athletic director, noted that while classrooms are being renovated around the school, students are moved to temporary classrooms until the work is done.

Although most of the completed improvements so far have been made to the interior, there is one big, noticeable difference outside - a real front entrance.

“It corrects a long-standing issue here at Patapsco, giving the school a proper entrance rather than having to come in the side doors and down a long hall before you get to the front office,” said Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) Board of Education Chair Edward Gillis.

Delegate Bob Long was the only member of the Sixth District Delegation in attendance, and he expressed to the East County Times that improvements to the facility have been a long time coming.

“This is something that was a big issue when I was elected back in 2014, so to see it finally be addressed  is a good thing,” Long said before wondering aloud  whether the timing of the renovation for the school was politically motivated.

Kamenetz spokesperson Ellen Kobler dismissed the claim, however.

“The much needed Patapsco High School comprehensive renovation is part of the county executive’s $1.3 billion schools for our future program. This project has been in the planning stages for a long time,” Kobler said.

Interim Superintendent Verletta White noted that she spoke to current students who were excited about the upgrades even if they wouldn’t experience the changes themselves. She said the students took it as a point of pride and something for the underclassmen and future students to look forward to.

The school, which was built in 1963, was bumped up on the renovation list when funding for renovations at Dulaney High School were pushed back.

Despite the renovations being completed, the school still has the issue of overcrowding to deal with. Enrollment at Patapsco is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years, with the school projected to be 12.8 percent over capacity by 2019 and 18 percent over capacity in 2026. County officials have stated that just because they are getting renovations now does not mean additional renovations will not come in the future.

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‘Public servant’ Sullivan enters race for District 6 County Council seat

‘Public servant’ Sullivan enters race for District 6 County Council seat
Deb Sullivan has filed as a candidate for Baltimore County Council in District 6 and officially announced her campaign at a kickoff event on Oct. 19. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 10/26/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Rosedale resident Deb Sullivan will be the first person to say she is not a politician.

But after much personal thought, family discussion and encouragement from mentors who suggested she consider running for office, the relatively new Republican finds herself a candidate for the Sixth District Baltimore County Council seat.

Sullivan announced her candidacy in front of about 80 supporters at a fundraiser Oct. 19, at the Olde Philadelphia Inn, a locally-owned business not far from her Rosedale home.

She told the crowd that she was a Democrat from the age of 18 until about four years into the tenure of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. She said it became apparent that her values and concerns were not lining up with those of Democratic leadership and decided to change her affiliation.

“I became more aware of spending and waste,” she said.

Citing glaring differences in design and architecture of public amenities like bridges and overpasses as one travels from one side of the county to the other, Sullivan said, “Our side of the county deserves to look better. I want to make our residents proud to live in District 6.”

She filed her candidacy with the Maryland State Board of Elections on Sept. 20.

The staunch public education advocate was lauded by supporters for her service to community, her years of PTA leadership while her three children attended Baltimore County Public Schools and her ability to “get things done.”

Longtime friend and fellow volunteer Judy Zuk described Sullivan as “down to earth” and someone who is able to empathize with the plights of people from many different walks of life.

“She has already been a public servant for many years,” Zuk said in her remarks about Sullivan’s candidacy. “She is passionate about helping the residents of District 6.”

Former Eighth District Delegate John Cluster introduced several Sullivan supporters in attendance, including State Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer, a candidate for Baltimore County Executive; Delegate Joe Cluster (R-8); Sixth District Delegates Ric Metzgar and Bob Long; and former Delegates Joe Boteler - currently running in District 8 - and Jim Ports.

“Their attendance just shows you the support Deb has here in this district,” John Cluster said.

In his remarks, Redmer laughed as he recalled he and Ports being approached by Sullivan to discuss school issues while they were in the state legislature.

“It became apparent we had two choices,” he said of Sullivan’s impassioned pleas. “Either say yes or get a restraining order.”

For her part, Sullivan said she is humbled and overwhelmed by all the support she is receiving.

After talking about some of the projects she spearheaded in her various PTA leadership roles, she thanked her supporters and family for encouraging her on this journey.

The candidate was born and raised in the Overlea area and is a 1976 graduate of Overlea High School. She and her husband of 41 years, Wayne, are the co-owners of Sullivan’s Garage, which was founded by Wayne’s father in 1958. With a son now managing it, Sullivan is proud to say the family business is a third-generation entity.

In addition to her advocacy on behalf of public education, it is her business experience that makes Sullivan a perfect candidate, according to Cluster. He pointed to her knowledge of running a business, including coordinating payroll and billing, her knowledge of regulations that affect small businesses and her familiarity of the district she has lived in her entire life as strengths that will serve her well on the council.

Redmer said he believes a run for office is a “natural extension, a natural progression” of what Sullivan has already spent her adult life doing.

“She will not need training wheels when she gets to the Baltimore County Council,” he said. “She’s been there, done that.”

Sullivan said she has grown more comfortable with the identity of candidate after realizing that many people don’t want “politicians” in office; they want people who serve.

“And I am definitely a community servant,” she said. “I have worked on behalf of all segments of the population - schools, children, senior citizens, small businesses,” she said. “My husband and I are very involved with the Maryland towing association and I lobbied to get tow trucks included in the state’s move-over law.”

Asked about the top issues she sees facing the district, Sullivan listed schools, crime and development.

She said schools still have a lot of room for improvement, especially with regard to overcrowding and discipline; residents shouldn’t have to be afraid to venture out to a neighborhood store by themselves; and development should occur only after extensive thought, research and community input.

“Development should be responsible and it should occur because of it meeting a need in the community,” she said. “There shouldn’t be development for the shear sake of development.”

While she has embraced her new role, she told the East County Times she originally hesitated because she would never want to pursue something she felt unqualified for.

But, she told her enthusiastic reporters she would be responsive and diligent in serving the Sixth District.

“Your concerns will never fall on deaf ears as they have in this community and this district in the past,” she said. “Your phone calls will be answered.”

Sullivan joins a crowd of candidates seeking the seat of Democratic incumbent Councilwoman Cathy Bevins. Republicans Glen Alan Geelhaar and Erik Lofstad have filed with the Board of Elections. Ryan Nawrocki, who lost to Bevins in a close contest in the 2010 general election, has announced his intentions to run again.

“This is going to be an extremely difficult, competitive and expensive race,” Redmer told those gathered at the event. “Incumbents are always very well funded but we believe this campaign is winnable.”

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Lofstad to officially launch County Council campaign for District 6

Lofstad to officially launch County Council campaign for District 6
Erik Lofstad has filed as a candidate for the Baltimore County Council in District 6 and plans to hold a campaign kickoff event on Sunday, Oct. 29. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 10/25/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Rosedale resident Erik Lofstad has become the third official Republican candidate for the Baltimore County Council’s Sixth District seat, having filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections on Monday, Oct. 23.

Lofstad has planned a campaign kick-off event for this Sunday, Oct. 29, from 2 - 5 p.m. at Lighthouse Gardens in Bowleys Quarters.

On the council, the information technology (IT) professional hopes to address issues such as financial responsibility, public safety and government transparency and access to the public, according to his campaign website.

Lofstad joins a crowd of at least three other candidates vying for the District 6 seat, currently held by Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat.

Other Republican candidates so far include Glen Geelhaar of Parkville and Deb Sullivan of Rosedale, each of whom has filed. Middle River resident Ryan Nawrocki announced his intention to run this month but has not yet filed. White Marsh resident Heather Patti is also rumored to be considering a run but has not yet filed or announced her intentions publicly.

Lofstad differentiated himself from the other candidates, though, in two ways. First, he said he is probably the only one with a website that details his platform and values.

“Most local candidates keep it pretty vague,” he told the East County Times. “I just kind of put it all out there.”

Second, he has been using data to work smarter, he said, noting there are tools that can help target his message for the highest efficiency using social media and “solid demographics.”

“I see some people who are running for office who are incredibly wasteful,” Lofstad said. “There are ways that you can fine-tune your audiences and even moreso than most peole know. I only know of a few people who are doing it properly.”

State Delegate Christian Miele (R-8), who attended Towson University with Lofstad, told the Times in August that he is using those same types of tools in his bid for his district’s State Senate seat.

Lofstad said the results he has seen so far have been positive. However, he noted he has only been knocking on Republican doors since they are the voters he will have to win in the primary election, which will take place June 26.

Some may recognize Lofstad’s name from his run against Kathy Klausmeier (D-8) for State Senate in 2014. But he admitted that he only ran because the party had no one else to do it.

Despite his admission that he did next to nothing for that campaign, Lofstad received nearly 40 percent of the vote. He lost to Klausmeier, but earned some valuable name recognition in the process.

He said he still meets people sometimes who say they voted for him four years ago simply because he was the Republican on the ballot.

In the time since, he has worked as a member of the county’s Republican Central Committee, helping to raise money for other candidates and networking within the political world, in addition to his job as an IT programmer and business analyst.

Lofstad said he chose to run for County Council this time around because that is what he wanted from the beginning. He has goals for county government, including making it more cost efficient.

He noted that there are other jurisdictions in the U.S. that are similar in size and demographics to Baltimore County, but are able to provide certain services at half the cost.

“Why is that?” he asked, adding that he wants to come up with ideas and best practices from around the country and the world to get the best returns on investment for the county.

Lofstad said a lot of development also seems to be closely tied to political contributions without thinking about the long-term health of the local economy.

“I do believe in property rights,” he said, “however, there’s a balance with the needs of the community.”

Referring to the scrapped Paragon outlet mall project in White Marsh, he said, “I just think it was poorly handled,” commenting on the environmental sensitivity of the area and that economic trends are not going in that direction.

Regarding the key initiatives he would push for as councilman, Lofstad explained his platform as largely about making sure individuals are enabled with the tools to do things for themselves.

“Instead of forcing them to do x, y and z, [we can] kind of enable them to do things they might have done anyway by making it a little bit cheaper for them,” he said.

Using security cameras as an example, the candidate posited that some sort of property tax credit for homeowners and businesses purchasing that type of equipment could be beneficial.

“Eventually, as dumb as we think criminals are, they would know the neighborhoods where pretty much everyone has those outside cameras,” he said. “And it’s way more cost effective if it’s privately owned and run than if we had some [Baltimore] City-like system where it’s centrally controlled.”

Lofstad said he will be “incredibly honest” throughout the 2018 campaign and that he thinks people are starting to pick up on and like that.

“I care a lot about the community,” he said, “and I think I’m the best person for the job.”

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Brochin makes executive run official with filing, dual announcements

Brochin makes executive run official with filing, dual announcements
State Senator Jim Brochin has officially filed and announced his candidacy for Baltimore County Executive. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 10/26/17)

- By Marge Neal -

State Senator Jim Brochin (D-42) has made no secret of his intentions to run for Baltimore County Executive.

The four-term state legislator has been taking his message to community and service organizations since the spring, talking about the issues he believes most threaten Baltimore County, its governance and its citizens’ quality of life.

On Oct. 19, he made it official. After filing his candidacy with the Maryland State Board of Elections early in the day, he followed that up with not one, but two public announcements: one at Towson Manor Park and one at the Essex-Holly Neck VFW Post 2621 hall in Essex.

He has two major campaign messages that he believes resonate with the majority of Baltimore County voters and that set him apart from his Democratic challengers.

Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond (D-2) and former Sixth District State Delegate John Olszewski Jr. have announced their intentions to run, though neither had filed as of press time.

“We have to stop pay-to-play in Baltimore County,” Brochin told the East County Times in a phone interview Monday, Oct. 23. “We have to take away the power of developers to call all the shots in Baltimore County.”

He called the decision to sell off the North Point Government Center and its surrounding open space a prime example of the results of pay-to-play. The plan to hand that land to a developer was crafted in secrecy, with no input from the surrounding neighborhoods that have used the building and open space for much-needed organized recreation space for decades, he said.

“I can assure you that, when I become Baltimore County Executive, the plans for that center and that property will go back to the community,” Brochin said. “The community knows what’s needed there and that’s where the plan will come from.”

The other major issue being championed by Brochin is that of illegal immigrant status.

“I don’t think Baltimore County should be a sanctuary community, but let me explain what I mean by that,” he said.

Brochin does not believe that officials should be able to approach anyone on the street and demand to see immigration papers or ask about their status.

As executive, he will not permit citizens - whether they are walking on a sidewalk, have been a witness to or a victim of a crime and went to the police for help, or are students enrolled in public colleges and school - to be “harassed” by officials about their legal status.

However, he said, a resident that has been arrested and charged with a crime is a different story.

“If someone is at the detention center and has been arrested for a crime, and we find out there’s an [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detainer for them, we need to work with ICE,” he said. “ICE is simply asking for them to be held for 48 hours so they can come in to interview the person.”

Someone who has been arrested and has an ICE detainer has been arrested for at least a second crime, and as such, should be subject to deportation, Brochin said.

“I believe my stance represents the vast majority of Baltimore County citizens and the vast majority of Democrats,” Brochin said. “But more importantly, it’s common sense; government shouldn’t be allowed to harass anyone.”

Brochin said he believes it is important for all residents to know where our candidates stand on the important issues facing the county. Candidate debates provide a forum for residents to learn where candidates stand, and he said he will do everything in his power to participate in as many as possible.

“As long as my schedule is clear and the sponsors are flexible, I will be there,” Brochin said of potential future debates. “I want voters to know where I stand and why - not because a developer stuffed my pockets with cash, or how my party told me to stand, but because I considered an issue with lots of thought and research and sought input from constituents before coming to a thoughtful, well-balanced stance.”

Brochin, alongside Olszewski, is scheduled to appear at a Democratic county executive candidate forum at Loch Raven Recreation Center in Parkville on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. Almond, however, has declined to attend.

Almond has stated publicly through a spokesperson that she will not participate in candidate forums or debates at this point in the campaign season because it is too early.

“It’s not appropriate to have a forum or debate so early when the field isn’t clearly defined,” spokeswoman Mandee Heinl told the Baltimore Sun.

Brochin said he has a busy week on the campaign trail, with a fundraiser, a meeting with Dundalk Renaissance Corp. board members during the group’s fall festival scheduled for Oct. 28, and door-knocking in Dundalk this weekend.

“I love the door-knocking; I love getting out and listening to people,” Brochin said. “Someone has to stand up for Essex and Dundalk and I believe I’m that person.”

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Save A Lot out, ALDI in at Dundalk Plaza shopping center

Save A Lot out, ALDI in at Dundalk Plaza shopping center
The Dundalk Plaza shopping center began a major improvement project this past spring. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 10/25/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Renovations to the Dundalk Plaza shopping center on Merritt Boulevard are happening at a fast and furious pace, with major upgrades to the storefronts and a major new store arriving to add to the tenant mix.

Moving out of the center on Oct. 25 will be the Save A Lot grocery store, which is reopening the next day in the Merritt Park shopping center farther south at Wise Avenue.

Moving in will be an ALDI grocery store relocating from near the Walmart on North Point Boulevard. It will occupy a remodeled space of nearly 20,000 square feet reflecting its modernized store design.

“It’s a new prototype [store],” said Laurie Mazzotta, president of the Mazzotta Group based in Towson that manages leasing for the center. “It’ll be a shining star in Dundalk.”

A global company based in Germany, ALDI operates 1,600 stores in the United States, including locations in Dundalk, Essex, Rosedale, Perry Hall and Towson.

In February, the company announced a $1.6 billion investment to remodel and expand more than 1,300 stores by 2020 to create space for more fresh produce, meat and bakery items.

The stores will feature open ceilings, natural lighting, as well as energy-saving refrigeration, LED lighting and recycled materials, according to a Feb. 8 company press release.

Other new retailers will also be opening in Dundalk Plaza by spring or sooner, including Aspen Dental, America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses and Boost Mobile, Mazzotta said.

Within the center, Planet Fitness recently moved to a larger space near the ALDI end of the center from a space near Octapharma Plasma. Nearby, Lendmark Financial Services has returned to its newly renovated space after having temporarily relocated to another space in the center.

Meanwhile, work continues this week on the outside building façades, and planned is new striping in the parking lots and a new sign to replace the existing pylon sign.

“It’s going to look great as you’re going down Merritt Boulevard,” said Mazzotta, about the renovations to the center long recognized for its Ollie’s Bargain Outlet store.

Nothing had been done for years, and the center appeared to deteriorate further when the TJ Maxx clothing store relocated to Nottingham Commons in White Marsh in August 2016.

Unknown to the public, the shopping center owners, Ekos Realty based in Columbia, began planning the renovations two years ago but had to schedule the work around the pending expiration of the Save A Lot lease on Oct. 31 this year.

“Their hands were tied until they were able to redevelop,” said Mazzotta about the major upgrade set in motion by the expiration of the lease.

Ekos and Save A Lot talked about staying in the center, but ultimately Save A Lot decided to relocate to the Merritt Park center, which has been revived with the arrival of new tenants.

“We’re excited about bringing to Dundalk the new and improved Dundalk Plaza,” Mazzotta said.

Jeff Baehr, division vice president for ALDI, said plans for when the company will close the store on North Point Boulevard and open the store in Dundalk Plaza have not yet been solidified.

ALDI is also modernizing its Old Eastern Avenue store at the corner of Stemmers Run Road in Essex.

The store plans to expand into its parking area, extending the building a short distance toward Old Eastern Avenue.

A hearing set for Monday, Oct. 23, on its request for a variance to allow 84 parking spaces instead of the required 91 parking spaces has been postponed.

ALDI also has plans to open new stores in the United States, increasing the number to 2,500 by the end of 2022, according to a June press release.

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County celebrates new comprehensive shelter, resource center

County celebrates new comprehensive shelter, resource center
Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 10/25/17)

- By Marge Neal -

With a “heart for the homeless,” Baltimore County officials and community advocates celebrated the grand opening of the new Eastern Family Resource Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 19.

The gleaming new building on the sprawling MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center campus in Rosedale replaces an aging facility that housed a shelter for women and children only.

The new, 80,000-square-foot center, built at a cost of $26 million, offers a greatly expanded capacity for women and families and adds space for as many as 50 men, plus a transitional shelter program for as many as 10 families.

The improved and expanded facility is an idea that was in the making for a long time, according to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. He procured $5 million in state assistance while Martin O’Malley was governor and the groundbreaking was held in December 2015. Franklin Square contributed $5 million and the county invested $16 million.

“This is a feel-good moment,” he said to an enthusiastic crowd excited to celebrate the opening of the state-of-the-art building.

The center represents a “sea-change” in Baltimore County, with the emphasis on a center that offers not just a place for sleep but also a place for support, Kemenetz said.

In recognizing the increased need for services, training and counseling, the county has increased its funding to a variety of programs serving the homeless and has upped its commitment to the Maryland Food Bank and other programs, according to the executive.

Coupled with the creation of a new shelter on the west side of the county, Kamenetz said his administration has invested $30 million in modern shelter facilities. The Westside Men’s Shelter, opened in July 2015, was built at a cost of $3.4 million.

Baltimore County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who believes her job in the community is “where the rubber meets the street,” said she is “especially grateful” for the expanded capabilities of the new and much-needed center.

“I breaks my heart to be meeting with a family about to be evicted, only to be told the shelter is full,” she said at the ceremony. “This facility will change that.”

The shelter is run and staffed by Community Assistance Network, a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services and programs for low-income residents.

While the ribbon-cutting ceremony was last week, the center has been in use for about three weeks. Nearly 160 clients have settled in to the center.

“It feels good to have space,” Megan Goffney, CAN’s director of homeless and housing services, told the crowd. “We have work space for our staff, we have a break space and the kids have their own computer space.”

She said 157 residents are in place now, with 87 children among them. She was particularly excited to announce that men and older male teens also have “real beds” to sleep on, as opposed to mats on the floor supplied previously.

The center is an ambitious collaboration of many agencies, including the Baltimore County Department of Health, Healthcare for the Homeless and CAN, according to county officials. In addition to shelter services, community residents will be able to access family planning services; dental, mental health, substance abuse and sexually transmitted infections clinic services; and the Infants and Toddlers and Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition programs.

Kamenetz reminded the crowd the economy still has not rebounded for many segments of the county’s population. Homelessness affects everyone, he said. Someone who is homeless today was someone’s neighbor, perhaps, someone’s work colleague or relative.

Losing a job leads to losing a car, housing and self-esteem, he said.

“They’ve lost everything but hope, and Baltimore County has that,” Kamenetz said. “Some folks need a helping hand and we’ve got that. Here are the tangible results in bricks and mortar.”

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Royal Farms building new store in Perry Hall

Royal Farms building new store in Perry Hall
The site of the new Royal Farms is at the corner of Perry Hall and White Marsh boulevards, with access off Perry Hall Boulevard across from Southfield Drive. Image courtesy of The Mazzotta Group.

(Updated 10/25/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

A county decision is expected soon on a Royal Farms plan to build a new convenience store with a carryout restaurant and gas pumps at the northeast corner of Perry Hall and White Marsh boulevards.

The State Highway Administration will not allow access roads close to the busy intersection near White Marsh Mall, according to testimony presented at a hearing before a county administrative law judge on Oct. 12.

As a result, Royal Farms proposes to build a main access road slightly north of the intersection of Perry Hall Boulevard at Southfield Drive that will pass under BGE overhead power lines to reach the store.

A second, right-only access to the south of that is also planned for northbound Perry Hall Boulevard traffic only, according to testimony.

The access plan will require the creation of southbound and northbound turning lanes at the Southfield Drive and Perry Hall Boulevard intersection, which is not presently controlled by a traffic light.

To create the lanes, adjustments may be made to the concrete median that exists there, according to an engineer with Morris & Ritchie Associates.

Located near the proposed store are the Southfield and Burnam Woods apartments, as well as townhouses to the north.

No one from the surrounding community spoke at the hearing, and a representative of the Perry Hall Improvement Association did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Royal Farms is asking for relief from parking and landscaping requirements, and it also requires approval to build the access road across undeveloped land that is zoned for residences and not commercial use.

It will also need a special exception for the fuel pumps as well as approval for a fourth outside sign. County Code allows three signs, but the company wants to put up two signs each on two facades of the building.

Activist Michael Pierce of Kingsville, who voluntarily monitors development projects for compliance with sign regulations, spoke at the hearing and asked for assurances that Royal Farms would only erect the signs noted in its development plan.

A decision by the judge was expected within a week, but as of Oct. 24 it had not been posted to the county’s website.

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Officials break ground for new Victory Villa Elementary School

Officials break ground for new Victory Villa Elementary School
BCPS Board of Education Chair Edward Gilliss (at podium) delivered remarks to members of the Victory Villa community at the groundbreaking for the new Victory Villa Elementary building, which is being touted by officials as a “state of the art” upgrade. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 10/18/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

County and state officials gathered Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the site of Victory Villa Elementary in Middle River to officially break ground for the new building.

Set to open at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, construction for the new Victory Villa  school building is already ahead of schedule, with the groundbreaking taking place in the shadow of the building’s steel skeleton.

“I can’t believe the progress already being made and I am very excited for the new school to open its doors next year,” said Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6), who represents the area.

Bevins was especially pleased as this is the first new school to come to her district since she took office in 2010. “This groundbreaking not only represents a new school for this area, but progress in the community,” she said.

Other officials on hand for the groundbreaking included County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Interim Superintendent Verletta White, state delegates Bob Long, Robin Grammer and Ric Metzgar (all R-6) and multiple Board of Education members, including board chair Edward Gilliss and board member Stephen Verch.

Gilliss spent his time delving into the history of the school, which initially opened in 1942 as thousands flooded into the Middle River area to work at the Glenn L. Martin factory. Originally called “The Middle River School,” it was built as a temporary school for those families who were just moving into the area. Fast forward more than 70 years and the “temporary” school was still standing.

“I think it’s time for a change, and I bet you agree with me,” said Gilliss. “This site will house a center for learning in the Middle River community, a place where children will grow and thrive while honoring the community’s history and identity.

Kamenetz noted that Victory Villa is the 83rd school since 2011 to be renovated or rebuilt, touting the success of his administration’s $1.3 billion “Schools for Our Future” initiative. The new Victory Villa building cost approximately $39 million to construct.

“It’s an historic investment,” said Kamenetz. “This is the largest single construction initiative in the history of our county, and we’re really excited about it.”

According to Kamenetz, the new facility will have central air conditioning, school-wide Wi-Fi and an updated security system. The new school will also be a “passport school,” with students taking a foreign language starting in the fourth grade. Victory Villa’s capacity will increase from 326 to 735 students, helping to alleviate overcrowding in the area.

White stated that the need to create more seats due to overcrowding was a “good problem to have,” as it meant “more families are choosing Baltimore County Public Schools.”

Those sentiments were shared by Bevins.

“Baltimore County has some of the best public schools in the region,” she said. “Part of the reason so many families from other counties move to this county is so their children can attend Baltimroe County Public Schools. When I visit these schools I see students eager to learn, the hardest working teachers and principals in the state and parents who are invested in their children’s future.”

Investment in the future was the theme of the day, with Victory Villa principal Marge Roberts all stating that the move to rebuild the school was long overdue.

“As principal I can proudly say our staff, students and families are thrilled to witness this transformation of our historical temporary schoolhouse into a 21st century learning environment,” said Roberts.

Most of White’s time at the podium was spent recounting a memory when she previously worked with Victory Villa in a supervisory roll. An older gentleman, whose wife had just passed away, showed up to the school. When asked if he had children or grandchildren at the school, he said no, but added that he returned to the elementary school because “that’s where he remembered feeling supported.”

“Schools are the hub of communities,” said White. “We have to keep that in mind, whenever we’re building a new facility, or whenever we’re supporting and maintaining our existing facilities.”

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Community leaders believe ‘big dent’ has been put in rat population

Community leaders believe ‘big dent’ has been put in rat population
Residents from many of the rat-infested communities on the east side visited the County Council in Towson last spring to press for a solution to the issue. File photo.

(Updated 10/18/17)

- By Marge Neal -

By all accounts, a pilot program designed to fight rat colonies in specifically targeted Baltimore County communities has been a success.

Code Enforcement employees and community leaders say the three-pronged attack of education, enforcement and extermination has significantly reduced the rat population in those neighborhoods.

“We’re getting very good feedback on the program,” Code Enforcement coordinator Adam Whitlock told the East County Times. “It seems to be working on all levels.”

The latest program differs on several levels from attempts made in the past to wipe out rats, most importantly through a strengthened oversight of the exterminators selected to do the inspections and treatment, according to Cliff O’Connell, an Essex resident and local business owner.

“Regional [Pest Control] is doing a great job,” O’Connell said of the contractor selected to do the extermination treatments. “They’re thorough and professional, they have the most recent technology and they have good record-keeping; I’m really impressed with them.”

Lynne Mitchell, president of the Eastwood Residents and Business Community Association, had high praise for Regional as well.

“They put a bar code on the gate of each property,” she said. “Their exterminators can pull up the information, see when they treated, how they treated, where they treated and if the family has pets or not,” she said in a phone interview. “They have really been the right company to do the job well.”

Mitchell said she gives credit to Whitlock and Code Enforcement Chief Lionel van Dommelen for selecting the best contractor and not necessarily the cheapest one.

Another important aspect of the renewed attack on rats was the reinstatement of a second trash pickup date each week for the participating communities.

Many years ago, in an effort to encourage more widespread recycling, Baltimore County dropped one trash pick-up day per week to offer a weekly single-stream recycling pickup. The goal was to reduce the amount of trash going to landfills and increase the amount of collected recyclables.

But in densely developed rowhouse communities with small kitchens and back yards, not much recycling is being done and trash piles up for a week before being picked up, O’Connell explained.

“I have many people tell me their kitchens are too small and they don’t have room for recycle bins,” he said. “And they only have room for so many trash cans in small yards-or they can’’t afford to buy the number of cans they need.”

The pilot program originally included nine communities, including the east side’s Berkshire, Colgate, Eastwood, Hawthorne, Holland Hills, Middlesex and West Inverness neighborhoods. The selected areas received educational materials with tips to combat infestation, as well as the added trash day and chemical exterminations.

Another four communities, North Point Village, Eastfield-Stanbrook, Charlesmont and Gray Haven, were selected to get the additional trash day only, according to Whitlock.

The original nine areas would receive two, eight-week treatment cycles and the additional trash date was budgeted for a full year, according to a statement issued by Baltimore County officials.

Now that the original nine communities have completed one eight-week treatment cycle and are in the midst of the second and final cycle, the success of the extermination spurred county officials to add treatment for the extra four communities, Whitlock said.

Baltimore County invested $770,000 in the program, including the costs of the two extermination cycles and the additional trash day for one year.

However, the success of the new program can not be attributed to just one element, Whitlock believes.

The added trash day has “obviously made a big difference,” he said, but so have the concerted efforts of the new exterminator.

“We’ve gotten into about 90 percent of the properties in these communities,” he said. “That’s huge right there. Not much can be done to fight these rats if we’re only getting into half of the properties.”

When exterminators found themselves with a locked gate or a yard with a dog in it, they left a hang tag that said “sorry we missed you” and gave the resident a specific time and date when they would return, Whitlock said. The improved communication worked and the gate was unlocked or the animal inside on the date of the return visit.

“Of the 90 percent of properties we were able to get on, about 20 percent of those needed treatment,” Whitlock said. “Of the properties treated, only about 35 percent of those needed additional treatments upon followup.”

While treatment works, it does not solve the problem, Whitlock, O’Connell and Mitchell all agreed.

“We’ve got to stop feeding the rats, it’s a people problem as much as it’s a rat problem,” O’Connell said. “There are still a lot of people with poor trash habits.”

“All rats do in their life cycle is eat and reproduce,” Whitlock said. “And they’re going to stay where they have a food source; we have to stop feeding them.”

But Mitchell believes there is still one important element missing from the attack on rodents.

“I would really like to see bulk trash pickup reinstated,” she said of the discontinued service. “People without pickup trucks have no way of getting rid of bigger items so they just set them in their yards and they become breeding grounds for rats.”

She also would like to see the county not back down on code enforcement fines.

“Residents know they can go to the hearing and get the fine thrown out,” Mitchell said. “They learn they don’t have to change their behavior and they won’t have to pay a fine.”

It’s one thing for a first-time offender to have a fine waived, she said, but repeat offenders should have to pay.

Whitlock said his department is seeing fewer infractions in the targeted communities and many residents are making an effort to properly store trash between pickups. He did not cite a difference in complaints specific to rats because the rodents are not a complaint category. But related complaints, like junk being stored in yards, discarded furniture and lack of trash cans or lids, are down.

“You’ll always have people who don’t care; there’s no way around that,” he said. “But many people are making an effort and the results show that.”

It is uncertain whether the program will be repeated next year, but O’Connell and Mitchell both said they hope it continues.

“At the very least, I would definitely recommend keeping the second trash day,” O’Connell said. “We’ve made great progress but if we stop working on the problem, that progress won’t last long.”

Mitchell said she is seeing big changes in Eastwood, one alley at a time, one block at a time.

“We are seeing a caring difference and it’s important we work together,” she said. “I believe Baltimore County is finally on the right track with this. It needs to continue.”

The program is not perfect and she hopes improvements, like the addition of bulk pickup, can be made.

“But this is the biggest dent made so far in this problem and we have to keep trying.” she said.

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Task force recommends new regional park for Kingsville

Task force recommends new regional park for Kingsville
The three parcels in question, all contiguous along Raphel Road, are (from northernmost) the Rutkowski farm, the former Mt. Vista Park and the Schmidt property which abuts Interstate 95. Image courtesy of Google.

(Updated 10/18/17)

- By Devin Crum -

A task force appointed by County Councilman David Marks (R-5) recommended last week the consolidation of several parcels of land to create a new Kingsville Regional Park.

The task force, which included area recreation council and civic organization leaders and was chaired by local resident Bill Paulshock, convened over the summer and set out to recommend a plan for the former Mount Vista Park property along Raphel Road in Kingsville. They released their list of recommendations last Monday, Oct. 9.

The task force suggested that the new facility be named Kingsville Regional Park and the existing Kingsville Park on Franklinville Road be renamed Franklinville Park. They would like the new park to have four large (110-by-65-foot) and four short (80-by-50-foot) fields and that at least one of the large fields have artificial turf. They also want ground reserved on the site for a future indoor recreation facility.

Chief among their recommendations, though, is a swap of two properties on either side of the Mount Vista Park property, one owned by the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) and the other owned by Baltimore County.

The swap, long eyed by stakeholders in the community, would see the 27-acre, county-owned Schmidt property - which sits between the Mount Vista parcel and Interstate 95 - traded for the 67-acre Rutkowski farm property on the other side of Mount Vista Park. The Rutkowski and Mount Vista parcels would then be combined into a single, 178-acre regional recreation area.

“We want to swap [the Schmidt property] with the Rutkowski farm so that the [MdTA] site is closer to the highway,” Marks told the East County Times. “It makes absolutely no sense for the Maryland Transportation Authority to have a maintenance yard in that location. It makes perfect sense to move that facility close to Interstate 95.”

He added that the MdTA site is also used for training of the agency’s police dogs, while the Schmidt property is vacant and largely unused.

The land swap idea has been around since at least March 2014 when it was pitched to the community and saw widespread support. However, the plan has stalled partly because of the county’s valuation of the two properties, according to Marks.

He said part of the problem is that the current county executive’s staff does not support a simple swap, believing the county would be giving up a more valuable property than they would get in return.

“What I’m telling people is that the land swap is the top priority,” Marks said, adding that he would be happy if they could get that done in the next two years.

“We would like a transfer to occur as soon as possible, but if that cannot happen, we want to provide a blueprint for this property for the next county executive,” he said in a statement.

About four acres of the current Mount Vista Park, a former public golf course owned by the county, is also slated for a solar farm which is supposed to be complete by the end of 2018, according to Marks. He said that piece is at the western end of the park as it exists today.

As per the recommendations, the new regional park would have more passive uses, such as trails, picnic pavillions and a small playground, in the westernmost areas.

“The easternmost area would have more active uses so that traffic and any noise is focused on the part of the park with fewer residential neighbors,” the task force’s statement read.

“The key thing to remember is that we are not proposing any lighting of the fields,” Marks told the Times, “and the recreational facility would have limited, dawn-to-dusk hours.” He added that the area, being rural, is sensitive to excessive lighting.

The task force is also opposing any extension of public water and sewer to the property.

Both Marks and Paulshock noted that the park concept would need to be done in stages due to cost, and Marks estimated that cost to be “well over” $3 million.

He noted that the cost of just one artificial turf field is at least $700,000.

“It’s a sizable expense,” Marks said, “so it would require a number of years to get done.” He added that the county would also likely expect the Perry Hall or Kingsville recreation councils - or both - to contribute to that cost in some way.

Mount Vista Park in its current form is open to the public for recreational purposes and is used by area sports teams, according to Marks.

Since being elected, the councilman has worked over the past seven years to open four new parks in Perry Hall and to renovate the current Kingsville Park.

Paulshock thanked the task force members for their work. “We have developed a consensus that will advance the idea of a regional park with community-friendly uses,” he said.

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Charter commission wraps up charter review, finalizes recommendations

Charter commission wraps up charter review, finalizes recommendations
The commission considered recommending an expansion of the County Council from seven members to nine, but could not come to a consensus on that point. File photo.

(Updated 10/18/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

The county’s Charter Review Commission has concluded its work and is recommending extending the time for review of County Council bills from a maximum of 40 to 65 days and to put in place a formal, codified pay plan for top-level employees.

The advisory commission was expected to submit its report on Monday, Oct. 16, to the County Council, but as of late Monday, the Council had not received it. The Council will conduct its own review before possibly recommending changes for county-wide voter approval on the November 2018 ballot.

Last updated in 1990, the 51-page document outlines the basic structure of Baltimore County government, defining how it is set up and how it operates. Like the U.S. Constitution, the charter reflects the balance of powers held by the Baltimore County Executive and the County Council.

Councilman David Marks (R-5), who represents Perry Hall and Towson, initiated a resolution early this year that requires an appointed commission to review the charter every 10 years.

Formed in February, the commission met 11 times, reviewing the charter article by article with some input from citizens and community organizations from the central and northern parts of the county, including the Green Towson Alliance, the Greater Timonium Community Council and the Valleys Planning Council.

The charter currently states that if the Council takes no action on a bill after 40 days, the bill dies. Should it fail, the council member can currently start the process over by reintroducing the bill.

The commission recommended extending that time to 65 days, but it does not address the issue of last-minute amendments that can potentially significantly change the intent of a bill.

Community groups such as the Green Towson Alliance said that substantial amendments are sometimes presented publicly just before the Council takes a final vote on the bill, giving little opportunity for public input.

Commission members concluded that any changes to the amendment procedures should be done by the Council and not through the charter.

Pay plan for exempt employees

At the request of the County Council, the commission also reviewed the way top-level exempt employees are compensated.

Exempt employees include the county administrative officer, department heads, professional staff such as county attorneys and all elected officials.

The charter includes wording about the more structured compensation system for classified employees, who are paid using specific pay scales according to job type.

There is no such wording for exempt employees who are currently paid according to policies set by the county executive and approved by the Council that can vary depending on the administration in power.

This creates a gap in the way the county handles certain personnel matters, according to Council Chair Tom Quirk (D-Catonsville).

“This has led to some inconsistent and perhaps arbitrary results, particularly with respect to certain benefits afforded to some executive branch employees,” he wrote in a Sept. 19 letter to the commission. “We disagree with some of the practices that have developed over the years, and we intend to correct these issues legislatively.”

No changes for other issues

The charter commission discussed nearly a dozen other substantive issues, but there was no consensus among its members to recommend changes.

One potential change would have expanded the Council from seven to nine members. Due to population growth, the number of constituents is now about 118,000 for each council member - more than similar ratios in surrounding counties and more than state senatorial districts.

Commission members concluded that possibly adding staff to existing offices to help handle the increased workload would cost less than creating space and staff for two additional council members.

The commission decided against changing current provisions in the charter that prohibit them from holding state jobs and allow them an unlimited number of terms.

Members also opted not to change the independent position of the People’s Counsel - an office which represents the public interest in zoning matters - by requiring that the office possibly report to a department head.

Associations had requested adding a requirement for more county budget hearings to the charter, but a majority of the County Council recently voted against requiring the county executive to hold more hearings.

The charter is included in the Baltimore County Code posted at Search for “County Code.”

Minutes of the Charter Review Commission meetings and information about past charter revisions are posted at under Boards and Commissions.

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Zion UCC celebrates roots, people with sesquicentennial events

Zion UCC celebrates roots, people with sesquicentennial events
Many longtime church members posed around the altar decorated with produce for the annual Harvest Service. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 10/18/17)

- By Marge Neal -

An organization founded predominately by farmers certainly respects its roots.

So it should come as no surprise that Zion Evangelical Lutheran United Church of Christ in Essex reveres its history and celebrates longevity anniversaries with gusto.

The “chapel upon the hill,” as it is affectionately known, officially marked its 150th anniversary with a gala banquet on Oct. 21 and a special worship service Oct. 22, and church members are reflecting upon a heritage that has its feet in three centuries while also looking to the future.

The seed that grew into what became Zion UCC was originally planted in 1865, when several families of mostly German descent started gathering in each others’ homes to worship, according to church archivist and historian Joan Jordan.

A constitution declaring the existence of the German Lutheran Presbyterian Howards Congregation was written in October of that year, with Louis Freund, Moritz Knauff, John Rosengarn and Michael Berlett listed among the founders.

“Those four people were among the major founders of the church, and some of their direct descendants still attend our church today,” Jordan said.

Bylaws were adopted in 1866 and the name of the congregation was changed to The United German Lutheran and Reformed Church. The group continued to grow and in December 1866, Freund and Rosengarn secured a loan for $800 to buy an abandoned church and its surrounding two acres near Race Road.

After being refitted for heating and completing other needed repairs, the building, then called the German Lutheran Presbyterian Church, held its first worship service Jan. 21, 1867.

A booklet published in 1997 to mark the church’s 130th anniversary lists the surnames of Magsamen, Schmidt, Kroll, Krebs, Weinreich and Langenfelder among the first members of the fledgling church.

As the church prepares to wind down its year-long celebration of its 150th anniversary, members are reflecting more than usual upon their history and the relationships forged as a result of being part of the same worship family for so long.

Jordan, 71, has attended the church her entire life and counts herself as an official member since her 1960 confirmation.

Jane Anderson, who grew up in Rosedale, said she has attended the church for all of her 62 years.

After the conclusion of the annual Harvest Service held Oct. 15, Jordan rattled off other surnames well known in the community, including Winter, Krotee, Gieser and Wienecke. As church members were packing away the produce used to decorate the harvest altar, Jordan pointed to person after person, mentioning a founding or longtime member surname in their lineage.

The Harvest Service is an annual, “beautiful tradition” that honors the founding farmers as well as present-day area farmers while also being thankful for the bounty of the rich fields, Jordan believes.

“We’ve been doing the harvest program for as long as I can remember and we still have many farmers in the area and many who belong to our church,” she said.

Both events will connect the past with the present as guests and performers bridge the centuries in which the church has existed, Jordan said.

The Rev. Dale Krotee, a UCC minister in Camridge, Md., will deliver the keynote address at the banquet. Krotee’s mother was a Freund, according to the historian. He also is a cousin of Jordan’s, whose mother was a Krotee.

Randa “Randy” Gieser Calder, a musician and singer, is one of the entertainers scheduled to perform at the banquet.

“Randy is a direct descendant of the first minister we have a picture of,” Jordan said, referring to George Gieser, who served as the church’s pastor from 1872 - 1878.

Connections to the past are prominent throughout the small church. Perhaps the most impressive are the stained-glass windows that line both sides of the sanctuary. Each religious scene honors the memory of someone, though there are some mysteries that Jordan has been unable to solve in her extensive research.

“The most recent one is dated 1942,” she said in reference to small panes within the windows that show a name of a donor or honoree. “Of the names that we could trace, most of them were area farmers.”

But much about the windows remains unknown. For example, Jordan said it is unclear whether all the windows were made and installed at the same time, and had the donor panes added as each contributor made a donation, or if the windows were created and installed on a staggered basis as donors stepped forward.

“I’m not sure we’ll ever know,” she said, however, sounding as if she is not ready to admit defeat.

Over the years, the church has acquired land, adding a parsonage, education building and parish hall, and changed its name several times. The original church was torn down and a new one, at a cost of $4,000, was dedicated on Oct. 25, 1896, according to the 1997 booklet.

The 1896 church still stands, in a manner of speaking.

“That church is inside this one,” Jordan said of the 1896 structure. “It was made of clapboard and it was encased in stucco, and then that was encased in the brick church we have today.”

When a fire caused significant damage to the music room, steeple and other areas of the church in 1986, Jordan said her first thoughts were of that early structure encased in the current building.

While members have done an admirable job researching, documenting and publishing Zion’s considerable history, Jordan, a retired teacher, said she still has homework to do.

Much of the church’s early days were recorded in German. Jordan said the celebration committee had hoped to have three record books translated by the 150th anniversary, but time ran short.

Now she has 10 years to work on that for the 160th celebration. And she has a contact with someone at Parkville High School who she hopes will be able to do the translation.

In the meantime, she and others hope the pews will be overflowing for the special service on Sunday.

The Rev. Katie Penick will lead the service that will honor the church’s history and longevity. One element of the service will be the singing of a hymn called “Chapel Upon the Hill,” according to Anderson, the lifelong church member.

“Years ago, someone rewrote the words to an existing hymn and called it ‘Chapel Upon the Hill,’” she said. “We don’t know exactly when, but it was at least the 1930s or ‘40s,” she said.

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East side Neighborhood Heroes honored at ceremony in Towson

East side Neighborhood Heroes honored at ceremony in Towson
Anna Norris (center) received commendations from both Kamenetz (left) and Marks (right) for her volunteerism. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 10/18/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and members of the county council took time out of their schedules last week to honor seven “neighborhood heroes” - one for each district - at an event in Towson on Thursday, Oct. 12.

Honorees from the east side included Purnell Glenn, Miramar Landing Homeowners Association President and active environmental advocate and volunteer; Anna Norris, a Perry Hall grandmother, school puppeteer and founder of the Tender Loving Care Circle volunteers, who donate hand-made blankets and comfort items to children’s organizations; and Jean Ann Walker, a retired elementary school teacher, church volunteer and historian with the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society.

“These folks are our unsung heroes, truly impressive and folks who unselfishly devote their time and energies and expertise because they simply want to give back and keep our communities strong,” said Kamenetz.

Kamenetz highlighted the volunteer efforts undertaken in the community, from community associations to recreation programs to volunteer firefighters. “But what really impresses me more than anything else are the neighbors who look out for other neighbors,” he said.

For the Fifth District, Norris was honored for her tireless efforts to better the Perry Hall community. A retired teacher, Norris gives back to the community in multiple ways. She spends time reading at different elementary schools and at her church. She’s constantly baking for local fire departments and works with Habitat for Humanity. She founded a sewing circle of volunteers, called Tender Loving Care Circle, that make pillows, blankets and other comfort items for children in need.

“There’s no higher calling than service, and service takes many forms,” commented Councilman David Marks (R-5), adding his thanks and appreciation.

Norris said she was overwhelmed by the award. She said that one of her fondest memories comes from working at the Young School in Perry Hall, especially singing “This Little Light Of Mine.” She said the candle finger puppets she put together for the song bring a lot of joy to the young children.

“At the tender ages of three, four and five, they embrace the gifts of friendship, gentleness and kindness that are so evident in the school system,” she said. “I encourage you to take your candle and go light the world.”

Glenn was honored for his work with the Miramar Landing Homeowners Association as well as the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy. Knowing how important our waterways are, Glenn has spent a lot of time working to improve the Gunpowder watershed. His work on the “Clear Creeks” project has helped beautify the Miramar Landing community of Middle River through education, rain barrels and garden installations. When he is not educating residents about the importance of keeping the waterways clean, he is walking around the area and picking up trash and debris. He also works with various other groups and within local schools to help younger generations know the importance of a clean Chesapeake Bay.

“Glenn has done so much more than what was mentioned today,” said Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6). She noted that he does not just work within his community but in the communities that surround Miramar Landing.

Walker was the last to be honored on the day. The lifelong Dundalk resident currently serves as president of the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society, though it is worth noting she has held nearly every position there since she started volunteering. She does most of the group’s outreach and led the charge to revive the annual Defender’s Day celebration. During the Christmas holiday, she puts the train garden together at the historical society.

Perhaps the biggest testament to Walker’s community involvement is the fact that five separate individuals nominated her for the award, more than any other recipient.

“Teachers never retire,” said Kamenetz. “They just keep on teaching. And Jean has used every opportunity to teach all of us about our heritage, and there’s no greater history than in the Dundalk community.”

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Seven Oaks Elementary celebrates 25th anniversary

Seven Oaks Elementary celebrates 25th anniversary
Principal Carol Wingard poses by a “memory tree.” The memory trees were set up for current and former students to preserve special moments throughout the years on paper leaves. The trees will be left up all year with new leaves added as the year goes on. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 10/11/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Saturday, Oct. 7, was a day of nostalgia and celebration at Seven Oaks Elementary in Perry Hall as the school celebrated 25 years of being open.

Throughout the day, more than 600 current and former students, teachers, administrators, and community members stopped by to take part in the celebration.

“It was just such a perfect day and everyone had a wonderful time sharing memories,” said Seven Oaks Principal Carol Wingard.

Wingard hit on the nostalgia of the day in her opening remarks, commenting about how the school has changed over the years.

“When I think of anniversaries, I think of the phrase ‘looking back to move forward,’” said Wingard.

She noted that things like stylized tin pencil boxes, eraser trolls, computers that utilized floppy disks and overhead projectors have been swapped out for smartboards and personal devices for the students. She joked that when overhead projectors were used, inevitably one or two students would fall asleep in the dark. “We don’t use those anymore,” she quipped.

Remarks were also given by a slew of local officials, including Community Superintendent George Roberts, Board of Education member Julie Henn, County Councilman David Marks (R-5), State Senator Kathy Klausmeier (D-8) and delegates Joe Cluster (R-8), Eric Bromwell (D-8) and Christian Miele (R-8).

“As a resident of the Seven Courts Drive community, I know firsthand the love that residents feel for this school,” said Marks. “I’m proud to represent this school and thank the faculty, parents and alumni for organizing this celebration.”
Following the remarks by elected officials, Barbara Ondo, who has been teaching at the school since it opened in 1992, gave an overview of the school’s history before current students performed a couple of songs for the crowd of hundreds. The students performed a trio of songs - the school song, a song entitled “Forever Friends” and another called “Memories.”

“That was my favorite part of the day,” said Wingard.

One of the biggest draws of the day was the unearthing of a time capsule that was buried in 1992. Working from an image of where it had been buried in the school’s courtyard, Wingard, along with her husband Michael and charter principal Karen Schafer, got to work digging. After digging for a bit, the crowd gathered told them to dig nearby. While doing that, a current first grade student, armed with an appropriately small shovel, went back to the original spot and started digging. Moments later, his shovel emerged from the dirt with a chunk of styrofoam on the tip.

Unfortunately, water managed to work its way into the capsule and damaged the contents inside, which included photos from 25 years ago, a cup that each student received during the school’s first year, a fabric calendar, assorted artwork, a bottle of White Out and more.

“Water kind of destroyed most of the pictures, though Ms. Ondo did a fantastic job recreating and touching up what we had,” said Wingard.

Throughout the day, those who gathered painted rocks for the school’s rock garden and added “memory leaves” to “memory trees” in the hallway by jotting down specific memories on leaves made out of construction paper. Current teachers still need to paint their own rocks, but after they do, all of the rocks will be coated by art teacher Samantha Flynn with epoxy to keep them looking fresh before they are put on display. The memory trees will be on display in the main hallway throughout the year, with the hope that more people will add their memories as the year goes on.

Of course, Wingard plans on burying a time capsule later in the year. Along with different trinkets and works of art the current students will put together, Wingard also plans to bury the contents in the 1992 time capsule to keep a running history of what life as a Seven Oaks student was like during the different eras of the school.

“This time we’ll definitely make sure we do a good job sealing it, and we’ll also add a plaque to the location so 25 years from now they aren’t guessing based off of a picture,” Wingard said with a laugh.

Wingard considered the day a success, with months of hard work from the organizing committee - which included past and present teachers, principals, teachers and more - paying off. And the hard work of the committee didn’t go unnoticed.

“Hats off to the planning committee for doing such a terrific job,” Del. Miele commented. “It was an honor to celebrate this special occassion with students, teachers and administrators, past and present.”

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Wise Avenue VFC celebrates 75 with a proud and noisy presence

Wise Avenue VFC celebrates 75 with a proud and noisy presence
State Delegate Bob Long and County Councilman Todd Crandell joined the parade, riding atop the antique Wise Avenue engine 272. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 10/11/17)

- By Marge Neal-

The Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Company threw itself a 75th birthday party on Saturday, Oct. 7, and a whole lot of its regional first responder brothers and sisters showed up to celebrate.

Inside voices were not required; party guests were loud and enthusiastic as they liberally used their horns and sirens to announce their arrival along Wise Avenue from Grays Road to the North Point Government Center.

As early as 7:30 a.m., Wise Avenue volunteers were gathered on the front parking apron of their fire station, with gleaming modern engines and the antique Engine 272 ready to strut their stuff.

The group, founded in February 1942, has been celebrating the milestone with a variety of events throughout this year. A gala event was held at the Sparrows Point County Club last month and the annual holiday train garden will carry out the anniversary theme, according to Matt Schwartz, who served as chairman of the anniversary committee.

The parade also coincided with Fire Prevention Week. The Wise Avenue volunteers respond to as many as 100 calls a week but the company’s role has changed in those 75 years due to several trends, including fire prevention, according to company spokesman Bob Frances.

“We used to respond to calls that were about 80 percent fire-related and 20 percent medical-related,” he told the East County Times. “But with the success of fire prevention education and outreach, the instances of fires have gone way down.”

On the other hand, an aging community and the current opioid crisis contribute to an increased number of medical calls. The percentage of calls responded to today are almost the opposite, with 80 to 90 percent of calls related to medical emergencies and the rest to suspected fires, according to Frances.

“We are responding to a lot of opioid-related calls; a lot of overdoses,” he said. “A lot.”

At first glance, Saturday’s parade seemed to be moving at a fast clip. From a vantage point near the Inverness Presbyterian Church, sirens had been audible for several minutes before the first vehicle was seen cresting the hill a couple of blocks away.

But it didn’t take long to figure out that Dundalk Engine 6 had pulled out of the lineup to respond to an emergency call. The rest of the procession followed along shortly afterward at a more leisurely pace.

Many Baltimore County volunteer and career stations were represented, including Eastview, North Point-Edgemere, Lansdowne, Jacksonville, Rosedale and White Marsh. Baltimore Fire Department sent its Hook and Ladder Truck 4 and Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company was represented by Engine 315. Pennsylvania was represented by the Phoenixville Fire Department’s Engine 65. Not only did their members travel nearly 100 miles to participate, they brought Wise Avenue’s antique Engine 272 to the party.

Several antique and privately-owned engines participated as well, including Zelienople (Pa.) Engine 7, Pikesville VFC Engine 323, Baltimore County Engine 5 and Mount Gilead Engine 10.

And of course, no local parade is complete without beginning and ending escorts and traffic assistance from the Baltimore County Police Department.

“A special thank you goes out to the Baltimore County Police Department Precinct 12 for helping the parade go off without a hitch,” members wrote in a Facebook post.

When the parade disbanded at the government center, it morphed into a firefighting festival of sorts. Citizens were invited to observe demonstrations and many pieces of equipment were on display throughout the day for children to climb on and learn about. First responders participated in a firefighter challenge, which included activities like flipping a giant tire while wearing full turnout gear, hose carry and dummy drag. North Point-Edgemere firefighters carried out a vehicle extrication demonstration using Wise Avenue’s retired Utility 279, and Middle River Rescue Squad 743 performed a rescue demonstration.

Wise Avenue VFC has about 190 members on its books and about 75 of them are actively involved on a regular basis, according to Schwartz. Besides the mission of firefighting, medical assistance and fire prevention programs, the company supports many community organizations, opens its hall to area organizations and constructs its widely popular annual holiday train garden.

Frances said he was excited and humbled to see the outpouring of support for the event.

“We’ve been part of these types of celebrations ourselves before, but to be the central focus really gives us a sense of history and accomplishment,” he told the Times. “Seventy-five years is a long time and to look back to see where we came from to where we are is pretty humbling and amazing at the same time.”

The recognition of 75 years not only celebrates the current membership, but honors the “men and women who had the vision, dedication and perseverance to set this all in motion and make it work,” Frances believes.

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Nawrocki announces bid for Sixth District council seat

Nawrocki announces bid for Sixth District council seat
Middle River resident Ryan Nawrocki has declared his intent to run against Cathy Bevins for Baltimore County Council in District 6.

(Updated 10/11/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

The field in the race for the Sixth District County Council seat got more crowded Oct. 10 as Middle River resident Ryan Nawrocki declared his intent to run.

Nawrocki, a Republican, last ran in 2010 but lost in a close contest to current Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D).

“I’m running for County Council because eastern Baltimore County residents deserve a real voice and a different direction. For too long, we’ve had crumbling schools, a lack of focus on creating good paying jobs and a County Councilperson that hasn’t fought for the hard-working residents of our district,” Nawrocki said in a release sent out early Tuesday morning.

Nawrocki is currently working on his master’s degree in public management at Johns Hopkins, and he recently opened a communications and marketing firm. He was previously the senior director in the communications branch of the Maryland Transit Authority, and his résumé includes a role in former Governor Bob Ehrlich’s administration as well as communications director for Congressman Andy Harris.

The Middle River resident, who is vying for the Republican nomination alongside Parkville resident Glen Geelhaar and Rosedale resident Deb Sullivan, touted his résumé as unique.

“I think having a good understanding of how federal laws and state laws work is an asset,” Nawrocki told the East County Times. “Everything now is intertwined. A lot of the county’s funding comes from the state or federal level. Having learned the different ways the state agencies interact and knowing some of the key players inside of [Gov. Hogan’s] administration... I think those are important assets to bring to the area to navigate through the different processes.”

Nawrocki lamented the fact that Kamenetz and Hogan have often had heated battles in the media, with the Republican candidate noting that a good working relationship with the governor can only be beneficial to the county. Nawrocki referred to the public spats as a “disservice to the county.”

As far as what his plans are if elected, Nawrocki’s main focus is on economic issues. Nawrocki pointed to the most recent unemployment numbers for the State of Maryland, which has Baltimore County with an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent - the highest rate of any county in the Baltimore metropolitan region, which also includes Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

“I think that we’ve had a lack of a focus in this county on creating good paying jobs,” Nawrocki said, “in this area in particular but the county as a whole, and I think that’s wholly unacceptable. We have an unemployment rate like that and we have a county executive who doesn’t think it’s worth it to go after companies like Under Armour, for example.”

Along with economic issues, Nawrocki is also focusing on the public school system. While upgrades have been made to schools in the area, Nawrocki, a father of three young children, noted that more work needs to be done on the construction front. He also pointed to standardized test scores which show area students falling behind in both math and English, which he chalks up to a “lack of investment.”

Nawrocki’s entrance into the race represents serious intent by the Republican party to flip the Council seat from blue to red. As reported in the Dec. 15, 2016, issue of the East County Times, recent voting patterns in the Sixth District and eastern Baltimore County as a whole have the Republican party feeling hopeful.

It’s also not a stretch of the imagination to think Hogan will get behind Nawrocki, considering the Middle River resident’s work within the Hogan administration and Hogan’s endorsement of Al Redmer in his run for County Executive.

When Nawrocki and Bevins met in the 2010 election, the Democrat only won her seat by one percentage point, indicating another potentially tight race in the Sixth District.

Still, Nawrocki has a lot of work to do if he wants to unseat an incumbent who has garnered a reputation for constituent service. Bevins and her staff recently announced that they have surpassed 5,000 constituent service complaints solved since she took office.

In 2010, Nawrocki knocked on over 10,000 doors in the district, he said. He knows he’ll have to be out on the trail knocking on more doors and attending more meetings if he wants to flip the Sixth District. He’s also planning on hitting social media hard.

“Things have changed since the last time I ran,” said Nawrocki. “Social media existed but it wasn’t what it is today.”

All in all, Nawrocki’s message boils down to it being time for a change.

“I think that the past seven years we have needed a real voice in this district, and we have not had that voice. And I think it’s time we take a different direction and work together to change some of these things that are chronically underperforming, together as a district and as a county,” Nawrocki said.

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Revitalization task force applies for grant to help beautify Essex

Revitalization task force applies for grant to help beautify Essex
While some flower boxes - like this one in front of the East County Times office - have flowers and other plants in them and are well maintained, others along the Eastern Boulevard streetscape are left empty and have become an eyesore. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 10/11/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Following a walkthrough of Essex’s main business corridor with county and state officials last month, the Eastern Baltimore County Task Force is getting their plan together for how to improve the area.

The task force, formed as a committee of the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce, has been working in recent months to address issues they have identified along the Eastern Boulevard corridor, particularly with the streetscape and the area’s aesthetics.

Those issues, identified as hindrances to new business investment and development in the area, include things like trash piling up in trash cans in front of and dumpsters behind businesses, graffiti left on buildings, dirt or mold on building façades, overgrown trees obstructing business signage and flower boxes left empty or with dead or unmaintained plants in them.

But Sharon Kihn, the chamber’s executive director, revealed at the Oct. 4 Essex-Middle River Civic Council meeting that they have applied for the third year in a row for a commercial revitalization grant through Baltimore County.

If approved, the $10,000 grant would be used to put new planters throughout the 300 - 500 blocks of Eastern Boulevard, Kihn said, and to spruce up some of the existing ones.

While some of the existing flower boxes have nice flowers and other plants in them and are maintained by business owners, others are empty or otherwise do not look nice.

“So what we talked about was fixing up those planters,” Kihn said. “Some of them have brick work on them that needs to be fixed. We also have both cement and brick planters that have benches all around them” that need to be repaired.

Additionally, they plan to cover some of the empty tree grates from removed trees with new planters or large flower pots, she said. And they are looking to install protective poles in front of some to guard against motorists hitting them where that has happened in the past.

“We will start with whatever planters we can purchase for this year,” Kihn said, adding that the Back River Restoration Committee has agreed to donate all of the new plants for the planters. “Their volunteers have offered to do all of the planting, they’re going to get the dirt and also take care of and maintain the plants, which is a huge investment.”

She stressed that all of that would not be possible with just the money from the grant.

The grant application must now go through the county’s approval process, and the chamber will not know until March if they have been approved.

“I don’t think we’ll have any problem getting this approved,” Kihn said. “It goes directly to the heart of what the grant is all about.” However, she added they are also looking into other grant sources such as from the state.

Questions remained among some community members, however, about a $10,000 gift the largely inactive Essex-Middle River Renaissance Corporation received several years ago for similar purposes.

That organization’s president, Joe DiCara, said the corporation received those funds at least four or five years ago and they were intended to help market the Essex community.

“That’s been done” with the money, he said. “And I know we made a donation to the Essex Day festival because that’s the whole reason for Essex Day.”

While DiCara did not recall how much of the money is left, he said what remains is in an account maintained by the corporation’s accountant and held that there has never been any misuse of it. He added he has spoken with Kihn and has no opposition to letting the chamber use it for the same purpose.

“I don’t think there’s any issue with allowing [Kihn] to get some of the money to do some of the things that the chamber wants to do,” DiCara said. “I just want to see Essex prosper again.”

Regarding the other issues the task force identified, member Cliff O’Connell said some property owners have removed graffiti on their buildings after being cited by county code enforcement. The task force has also delivered to the county’s Department of Public Works a list of the trees along the boulevard’s streetscape that they would like removed.

“The bigger ones that are covering the faces of buildings, we asked to get them out first, and the ones where the sidewalk was the worst” because of the roots, he said.

O’Connell added that the task force has had conversations about replacing the well-known Essex cube with something they feel would represent the area better, like items related to the waterfront.

But there is “controversy” around that idea because “a lot of people like it,” he said.

“They say a lot of people like it, but in [community meetings] if you ask how many people like the cube, out of 50 people you might have two that when you talk about tearing it down they say, ‘Oh, a lot of people like it,’” O’Connell said. “I’ve never been in a room yet where a lot of people liked it.”

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Greenleigh at Crossroads starts to grow in Middle River

Greenleigh at Crossroads starts to grow in Middle River
The luxury Berkleigh apartments now under construction at Greenleigh at Crossroads in Middle River are due to open in April. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 10/11/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Michael’s Cafe in Timonium plans to become the first white-tablecloth restaurant to open its doors in Greenleigh at Crossroads in Middle River, where construction in now under way on the first of 1,500 homes, townhouses and apartments.

“Having the rooftops brings the employers and retailers,” said David Murphy, a vice president with Elm Street Development based in McLean, Va.

Elm Street is developing the 200-acre site off MD Route 43 along with Somerset Construction of Bethesda and St. John Properties of Windsor Mill.

Known for its crab cakes and steaks, the family-owned Michael’s plans to open in June or July inside the building next to the Dunkin’ Donuts in Greenleigh’s existing retail center.

Co-owner Stephen Dellis said he learned more about the growth at Greenleigh through a brother who regularly commutes between his business on Belair Road and his house in Middle River.

“When we saw it, it was a no-brainer… it’s a booming area,” said Dellis, who said the restaurant will likely hire 40 to 60 employees for its second location, which will open with a menu similar to the site in Timonium.

“It’s a good opportunity,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll contribute to the area and to the other businesses.”

Also under construction or planned for the mixed-use community are apartments, more office space, a hotel and more retail stores.

“There’s a lot of buzz about Greenleigh. It’s unique,” said Murphy. He added there are no developments in Baltimore County equal in size or range of amenities.

Homebuilders Williamsburg, NV and Ryan have started work on the residential section, which Murphy said will take about 10 years to fully build out.

As of Friday, Oct. 6, a total of 45 units had been sold with 27 units under construction, and residents are expected to begin moving in by the end of November, he said.

Also under construction at Greenleigh are the luxury Berkleigh apartments being built by Somerset.

The horse shoe-shaped complex of 317 units is being built around a multi-level garage, according to Neil Greenberg, Somerset’s chief operating officer.

Studio rents will start at $1,375 per month, one-bedrooms at $1,584, two-bedrooms at $1,975 and three-bedrooms at $2,382, he explained.

Furnished short-term leases starting at three months will also be available.

“We won’t start leasing and won’t be accepting applications until we are 45 days from opening, which is currently scheduled for April 15, 2018,” he noted.

Nearby is a Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel due to open in March, as well as a recently completed three-story office building built by St. John.

Planned for the future are two more office buildings, a grocery store and 183 more apartments proposed by Somerset.

“It’s all benefiting each other,” said Murphy about the current phase of residential, commercial and retail development. “Right now everything seems to be working in concert.”

More than a decade ago, the state extended Route 43, also known as White Marsh Boulevard, an additional four miles from Pulaski Highway to Eastern Boulevard to open up the former A.V. Williams tract in hopes of luring major manufacturers to help grow the tax base in Baltimore County.

That vision never fully materialized, but commercial development has nevertheless taken place along the four-lane highway during the last 10 years.

St. John has developed flex and office buildings south of Greenleigh at Crossroads Circle with a dozen-plus office and flex buildings occupied by tenants such as the Danfoss engineering company, the county’s Crossroads Center alternative school and the Amped Up family recreational center.

Expected to move to Crossroads Circle next spring from east Baltimore is the Eisai company, a Japanese pharmaceutical lab with 55 employees that makes a brain cancer drug.

On the west side of Route 43, St. John recently began grading a 20-acre site across from the existing Arbors luxury apartments built by Somerset to make way for the first three of a dozen one-story office buildings and two retail buildings.

The construction is on land owned by Florida Rock Properties of Sparks, which had originally envisioned the Windlass Run Business Park for the site.

The buildings are due to open next year and no tenants have been announced yet, said Richard Williamson, senior vice president with St. John.

Several local employees and residents said there have been accidents at the Route 43 and Crossroads Circle intersection that is presently controlled by a blinking red and yellow traffic light.

The Maryland State Highway Administration is monitoring the area for existing traffic flows and other factors through late fall before deciding when to upgrade the signal to full operational status.

“We’ve been asking for that,” Williamson said.

Farther south near Eastern Boulevard are two areas developed by  First Industrial Realty Trust on Bengies Road and Chesapeake Real Estate Group on Tangier Drive.

The nearly one dozen industrial and distribution buildings are almost fully leased with tenants such as Mary Sue Easter eggs, Breakthru Beverage liquor distributors, Mid Atlantic Port Service and two tire distribution centers.

First Industrial expects 63,000 square feet of space to become available in March at 1225 Bengies Drive when a tenant moves to another location.

The building is an asset, “featuring excellent access to labor, services, amenities, major highways and the Port of Baltimore,” said Mac McCulloch, marketing/leasing manager for First Federal.

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Council members withdraw bills dealing with parking, air cannons

Council members withdraw bills dealing with parking, air cannons
The Baltimore County Council was set to vote Monday night on bills meant to address issues with parking in the Dundalk Village Shopping Center, as well as the use of air cannons on farms near residential neighborhoods. But both bills were withdrawn before the vote. File photo.

(Updated 10/4/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The biggest news to come out of the Baltimore County Council’s legislative session Monday night was the body’s endorsement of incentives to entice Amazon to build a new distribution center at Sparrows Point.

The distribution center would be separate from the company’s second headquarters, for which a site has not yet been chosen and a nationwide search is underway.

The Council voted unanimously on Monday, Oct. 2, to support a $2.2 million package of incentives for the project, which would see an 855,000-square-foot distribution center built at Tradepoint Atlantic which is redeveloping the 3,100-acre former steel mill site. The new center would be in addition to the 1 million-square-foot facility at the site of the former General Motors plant on Broening Highway in Baltimore.

While neither Amazon nor Tradepoint has commented on the plans, county officials have said Amazon is in negotiations to build the facility, which would potentially bring 1,500 jobs.

The incentives package consists of conditional loans of $2 million from the state’s Department of Commerce, along with an extra 10 percent, or $200,000 kicked in by the county.

Two bills which were set to receive votes Monday were each withdrawn by their sponsors for the purpose of giving the relevant parties more time to work on a solution.

The first, introduced by Councilman Todd Crandell (R-Dundalk), was meant to address problems of larger trucks and vans parking improperly at the Dundalk Village Shopping Center.

“We have some very large vans that park in the spots that are intended for the retail customers,” Crandell said of the issue at the Council’s work session Sept. 26. He added that the vans restrict visibility for pedestrians and vehicular traffic in the area.

“It’s just sort of crunching the whole area and making an unsafe situation and taking away parking from the retailers,” Crandell said.

The vehicles at issue are those used by the Caring Hands Adult Medical Day Care, which occupies space in the shopping center, for patient transport to and from the facility.

The bill would have prohibited parking of vehicles with more than a three-quarter-ton manufacturer’s rating capacity on streets within the center, including Shipping Place, Center Place, Commerce Street, Trading Place, N. Center Place, S. Center Place and Dunmanway.

Crandell assured there is adquate parking for the vehicles in a large parking lot at the rear of the building, but they are not using it.

“I don’t think anyone would have a problem with dropping off patients at the front door,” Crandell said at the work session. “But these are left there all afternoon, all evening and are causing some safety and some visibility problems.”

On why he withdrew the bill, Crandell told the East County Times there were amendments under consideration that could have caused some unintended consequences.

“It’s better to pass a solid bill than to go back and amend it later,” he said. “So we will keep working on it.”

The second bill, introduced by Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D - Middle River) and co-sponsored by Councilman David Marks (R - Perry Hall), was meant to address issues that have arisen between farmers and nearby residents over the use of air cannons to scare animals away from their crops.

The genesis of the bill was in the Bird River Beach community of Middle River, according to Bevins, who said residents along Stumpfs Road in that neighborhood are living under circumstances that are “almost unbearable.”

She said at the Sept. 26 work session that farmers adjacent to long-established residences have been firing the cannons “every three minutes - all day, all night.”

Marks pointed out that some such devices are marketed as producing a 130-decibel blast, which is equivalent to a 37 milimeter cannon or a military jet aircraft with afterburner at takeoff just 50 feet away.

Bevins said she has also heard complaints from residents across Bird River from the subject farm on the issue.

The bill as submitted would have amended county law in agricultural zones to prohibit discharging the cannons or other similar devices between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. It would have applied to the RC2 (agricultural), RC4 (watershed protection), RC20 (critical area), RC50 (critical area, agricultural), RC7 (resource preservation) and RC8 (environmental enhancement) zones.

Bevins noted at the work session, however, that she was planning to amend the bill to apply only to properties within 500 feet of a community so as not to affect those in less populated areas.

On why the bill was withdrawn, Bevins’ senior legislative advisor, Jim Almon, said it was to allow more time for the concerned parties to undergo mediation through a program offered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. But the bill was also reintroduced Monday night.

“By being reintroduced, the bill starts the 45-day life cycle over again,” Almon said. “This gives everyone more time to try mediation and come to a compromise on air cannon use without legislation.”

“I always believe in trying to mitigate any kind of issue before creating legislation,” Bevins said at the work session. ”We’re just looking for a resolution for these residents.”

The bill would again be heard at the Oct. 31 work session and voted on at the Nov. 6 legislative session if no compromise is reached, he said.

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Proposed medical marijuana dispensaries running into roadblocks

Proposed medical marijuana dispensaries running into roadblocks
A Baltimore County administrative law judge has denied a parking variance for a proposed medical cannabis dispensary at 7458 German Hill Road. Nearby are rowhouses and the Speedy Mart convenience store. State law allows the opening of more than 100 similar facilities around the state. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 10/4/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

One medical marijuana group is progressing in Dundalk, but a second group and others in Perry Hall and White Marsh have run into neighborhood opposition or local zoning issues in getting their establishments off the ground.

Retail dispensaries are due to open around Maryland in early December as part of a new state program that allows the sale of medical marijuana to registered users with cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, epileptic fits and other painful or debilitating conditions.

Pre-approved operators - two in each state legislative district - must secure locations and county approvals before undergoing inspections and a final vote by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

In Perry Hall, LMS Wellness, Benefit LLC already has the zoning that allows it to lease a former florist business at 4741 Ridge Road near the intersection at Perry Hall Boulevard.

However, plans have been questioned by the South Perry Hall Improvement Association, which is concerned about traffic and security at the site.

William Huber, a principle with LMS who lives in Perry Hall, said he met with the association several weeks ago and has since drafted a covenant agreement for review by its attorney.

“We’re trying to exceed [state] security regulations,” said Huber about a system of guards and cameras that will monitor a closed vestibule, waiting room, dispensary and vault.

LMS is also extending parking into the open field on the Perry Hall Boulevard side of the building to head off problems with customers parking on Ridge Road or nearby residential streets.

Huber said LMS has no plans to eventually turn the site into a methadone clinic, a concern raised by residents. He said residents are also concerned about the possibility that Maryland could one day legalize recreational marijuana.

County Councilman David Marks (R - Perry Hall) proposed legislation that would have blocked the dispensary because of its proximity to a future school location, but he pulled the bill when it failed to garner enough support. He suggested that LMS work out a covenant agreement with the association.

Another group, Blue Ridge Wellness, LLC, has plans for a dispensary in the Festival at Perry Hall shopping center on East Joppa Road which is managed by Kline Scott Visco, a commercial real estate company based in Frederick.

Edward Scott of Kline Scott Visco said earlier this year that he had the zoning to go forward and apply for building permits.

However, Marks said he added the site to the adjacent Perry Hall commercial revitalization district at a Council meeting in early September. That means Blue Ridge Wellness will need to apply to a county administrative law judge for a special exception from zoning regulations, which requires a public hearing.

“At this point, since the applicant has yet to engage me or the community, I would not support the proposal,” Marks wrote in an email on July 21. “I want there to be dialogue on these applications. That did not happen in South Perry Hall until there was a threat of legislation.”

Scott did not reply to several requests for comment about current plans for the Festival site.

In Dundalk, CGX Life Sciences operating as GreenMart LLC, has also run into delays over its proposed dispensary at 7458 German Hill Road near the Speedy Mart convenience store.

A county administrative law judge in July denied the company’s requests for landscaping and parking variances. GreenMart appealed to the county’s three-member Board of Appeals, which has scheduled a public hearing for Wednesday, Oct. 18, in Towson.

The group resolved the landscaping requirements by getting a waiver from the county Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections.

It also took steps to deal with the parking issue by scaling down the plan to operate on the first floor only of its two-story building, thereby reducing the number of required spaces, according to file documents.

However, still outstanding before the Board of Appeals is requested relief for parking in a buffer strip between the building and a neighborhood park.

Elsewhere in Dundalk, Charm City Medicus expects to substantially finish renovating its leased building at 717 North Point Blvd. by the end of October. The building is in a commercial area near Eastpoint Mall.

President and CEO Bryan Hill said more than 100 people have inquired about 10 to 15 open jobs at the dispensary that include administrative and inventory control positions.

Hill said he plans to invite neighbors to tour the building, which will include initial check-in procedures, a waiting room with TVs and educational information, a secured display and sales area, a vault and three security systems.

“It’s like a jewelry store operation,” said Hill, who will also be serving as government relations director with the newly formed Maryland Medical Dispensary Association trade group during the General Assembly session in Annapolis this winter.

Like GreenMart in Dundalk, Chesapeake Health Sciences had also appealed the denial of a requested special exception that would allow a dispensary at 5512 Ebenezer Road in White Marsh, just west of Pulaski Highway.

A hearing set for Sept. 14 before the Board of Appeals was cancelled and had not yet been rescheduled as of Tuesday, Oct. 3.

Also pending is the location of the second dispensary in legislative District 7, which stretches from Middle River into Harford County and up to the Pennsylvania line.

Earlier this year, Meshow LLC, which had looked at space in the Carroll Island shopping center in Middle River, was in the process of securing a site off Pulaski Highway in Joppatowne in Harford County.

Managing member Paul Michaud, a retired banker who presently lives in Monkton, did not return several requests for comment about the status of the search for a location.

For a list of pre-approved investor groups, customer registration requirements and other industry information, visit

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Bevins requests update on status of Gunpowder River train bridge

Bevins requests update on status of Gunpowder River train bridge
Residents living around the bridge have grown increasingly concerned about things like crumbling and spalling concrete at several places along the span. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 10/4/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Sixth District County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins sent a letter to U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen late last month expressing concern about the condition of the Amtrak train bridge across the Gunpowder River.

The bridge, which directly connects Chase in Bevins’ district with Joppa in Harford County, has been a source of concern for surrounding communities for many years, she said.

“I have listened to those in the community and monitored the bridge’s condition and it is my belief that the time has come for there to be significant improvements made to the bridge,” Bevins wrote in her letter to Van Hollen.

The bridge was originally built in 1913 and spans approximately one mile across the Gunpowder River. It is part of the Northeast Rail Corridor and services five rail lines, including Amtrak and the MARC train.

The Northeast Rail Corridor connects four of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the country and not only serves thousands of commuters, but also provides substantial economic activity to Baltimore County, Maryland and the region, Bevins pointed out.

In her letter, Bevins requested information on the date and results of the bridge’s last inspection and asked Van Hollen to leverage his position as a U.S. Senator and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to advocate for the bridge’s inspection.

The date of the bridge’s last inspection was Sept. 1, 2016, according to Chelsea Kopta, spokesperson for Amtrak which owns the bridge. She held that there are no structural repairs required on the bridge at this time and there are currently no plans for future work on the bridge.

Kopta stressed that Amtrak inspects the bridge in accordance with Federal Railroad Administration requirements and Amtrak’s Bridge Management Policy.

“Amtrak is aware of the conditions of the Gunpowder River Bridge and the spalling concrete to the underside in some locations,” she said. “The present condition does not affect the load carrying capacity of the bridge.”

Bevins’ senior advisor, Jim Almon, said the issue has been brought to her by members and leaders of area community associations, including Bird River Beach, Bowerman-Loreley Beach, Oliver Beach, Harewood Park and the Essex-Middle River Civic Council.

“Also, she just noticed it because she lives right there, that it sort of doesn’t look very strong or sturdy,” Almon said.

Bevins claimed in her letter that the bridge’s deterioration has already resulted increasted maintenance costs and an increased risk to those who use it or pass under it on the water.

However, Kopta asserted that Amtrak has not seen an increase in maintenance costs for the bridge.

In her letter, Bevins mentioned the apparent consideration for a $550 million replacement of the bridge as part of the federal capital budget.

But Almon noted that the funding would have to be voted on by Congress and there is currently no money dedicated for design or construction of the project. Additionally, unfunded costs of the replacement currently sit at $145 million, according to the Northeast Corridor Capital Investment Plan for Fiscal Years 2018 - 2022.

Sen. Van Hollen’s office sent its own letter to acting FRA administrator Heath Hall on Monday, Oct. 2, seeking information on the availability of federal funding for the bridge’s replacement, as well as answers to Bevins’ questions regarding its inspection.

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Parkville woman wins writing prize for ‘unnerving’ story

Parkville woman wins writing prize for ‘unnerving’ story
Carolyn Eichhorn. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 10/4/17)

- By Marge Neal -

When Parkville resident Carolyn Eichhorn entered the Baltimore County Public Library system’s spooky story contest last year, the author admits to playing it a little too much on the safe side.

“That didn’t turn out too well because I never heard back,” she said in a phone interview. “So I pushed it a bit more this year.”

That “pushing” paid off with a third-place win in the library system’s Tales of the Dead Short Horror Story Contest. Her prize is a T-shirt and two tickets to this weekend’s fall fundraiser, “A Toast Among Ghosts.”

“It’s not really a ghost story, but it is unnerving,” Eichhorn said of her winning entry titled “Close Neighbors.”

Contestants were told to keep their entries to less than 3,000 words. The submitted stories were judged by a panel that included librarians and published authors, according to a statement from BCPL. Judging criteria included originality, fear factor and quality of writing.

The writing contest is held in conjunction with the Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library’s annual fall fundraiser. This is the third year for the Halloween-related event and the second year for the writing contest, according to Erica Palmisano, a spokeswoman for BCPL.

“It really is a lot of fun,” Palmisano said of the event, which allows participants to get an after-hours view of the Reisterstown branch as well as guided tours of the nearby historic Reisterstown Community Cemetery, which dates to 1764. “We’ll have a ghost story fire pit and folks from the cemetery will take groups on tours and talk about some of the people buried there.”

All of the contest winners will read their stories around the fire, according to Palmisano. Timonium resident Gary R. Beard won first place in the adult division for his entry, “A Sinister Charm;” Christine Stake of Cockeysville placed second for “Captured;” and 10-year-old Hailey Schap of Fallston claimed the under-21 title for “The People of Sails.”

Eichhorn said she is excited to attend the event and read her story.

This is the second spooky story contest in which the longtime writer has placed. She won the 2015 Plant Hall Spooky Story Contest held by the University of Tampa, where she earned her master’s degree in creative writing. The contest is named for a historic building on the campus that started out as a hotel in 1891 and became the home of the university in 1933, according to an online history of the school.

“It’s very ornate, very beautiful,” Eichhorn said of the building she described as Moorish. “It’s quite inspirational if you’re looking to write spooky or scary ghost stories.”

For the BCPL contest, Eichhorn said she wrote her winning entry over the course of a weekend.

Eichhorn teaches creative writing and literature at Walden University, an online college, and works in the school’s administrative office in Baltimore. She has had several short writing pieces published and is currently shopping a finished novel to several literary agents. The murder mystery is the first of a planned series featuring a professional ghostwriter as the protagonist who finds herself involved in an investigation after the celebrity chef who hired her to write a memoir is killed.

“One agent who read a synopsis and 25 pages asked to read the complete manuscript,” Eichhorn said of her publishing process. “So that’s very encouraging, but we’ll see.”

She also keeps her writing chops in shape with a blog called Grounds for Suspicion ( Her most recent entry is a charming essay about a performance poet she happened upon while visiting Ashville, N.C.

In the meantime, Eichhorn looks forward to the Toast Among Ghosts event and the opportunity to read her “unnerving”  story as well as hear the other winning entries.

The library fundraiser is set for 7 - 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Reisterstown branch, 21 Cockeys Mill Road in Reisterstown. General admission tickets cost $20 and VIP tickets, which include a commemorative glass and two drink tickets, cost $40. In addition to the activities mentioned, the event will also include performances by Edgar Allan Poe and John Reister (founder of Reisterstown) impersonators. Live music will be provided by the Ampersand String Band and Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings.

Local vendors will sell beer, wine and food.

“We sell out at 400 tickets and the event has sold out each year we’ve had it,” Palmisano said. “We still have a good amount of tickets available but people should act fast to get them.”

Tickets can be purchased online at

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Local volunteer companies receive grants for equipment upgrades

Local volunteer companies receive grants for equipment upgrades
The yellow communication line connects to audio equipment in the diver’s gear to provide a constant line of communication, as well as a rope to help direct the diver. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 10/4/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced on Monday, Oct. 2, that two local volunteer fire companies were among a record number that applied for and received Volunteer Fire Assistance Grants in 2017.

The Bowleys Quarters Volunteer Fire Department and the White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company each received $3,000 in grant funding to purchase necessary upgrades for their equipment which will help them do their job.

The grants are part of a record $102,548 provided by DNR to 45 volunteer fire departments in 17 counties across the state. It is the most funding they have distributed in state history.

“Volunteer Fire Assistance Grants allow us to support our first responders, hardworking men and women who risk their own lives and safety to protect our state’s citizens, communities and natural resources,” said Maryland Fire Supervisor Monte Mitchell in a statement. “These grants pay for equipment and training and improve volunteer firefighting efforts by our local partners.”

The DNR statement noted that fire companies and departments use the grant funds for a variety of materials and services such as dry hydrant pressurized systems that enable access to nearby water sources in areas without hydrants, repairs to fire boats used to battle blazes best accessed by water and coveralls that offer safe yet lightweight protection to reduce heat-related fatigue and injury.

The White Marsh company plans to use their grant to cover half of the estimated $6,000 cost of upgrading their brush truck, according to Anna Lucente-Hoffmann, senior communications manager for DNR.

“Their plan includes a winch for their brush truck and then additional equipment for their brush truck,” Lucente-Hoffmann said. That additional equipment includes nozzles, hooks, fire extinguisher brackets, a foam eductor - which sprays a foam fire suppressant - and a fire hose.

But the vast majority of their grant would be used toward the winch, she said, which is a main component.

The Bowleys Quarters department plans to use their funds to contribute to upgrades estimated at more than $12,000, according to DNR.

Lucente-Hoffman said their plan includes replacement of an outdated fire pump, which is what they use to pump water to the fire. That will consist of approximately 90 percent of the cost of their project, she said.

The remainder of their upgrades consist of purchasing a foam suppression system and a vinyl cover, Lucente-Hoffmann said.

Similarly, the Middle River Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company last month purchased and demonstrated the use of new equipment to aid communication between divers and the surface during rescue operations.

MRVFR purchased a state-of-the-art Ocean Technology Systems hard-wired communications pack using a $3,000 BGE Public Safety Grant they received in January. They demonstrated the use of the new equipment on Sept. 13 during a training dive at the Wilson Point Men’s Club pool.

MRVFR’s dive team is the only dive rescue team for all of Baltimore County and also provides mutual aid assistance to Baltimore City, Harford County and occasionally other counties around the state.

“As you might imagine, the visibility as you descend just several feet into the water is essentially zero,” said company member Jack Amrhein in a statement. “With the diver having no sight or navigational knowledge of his surroundings and the land-based tender not being able to see the diver below the surface, the danger and stress levels can be quite high. This new equipment allows the diver to have voice communication to help make their search more efficient as well as greatly enhancing the safety.”

Company Lieutenant Charlie Wilkinson said the system is “like and open phone line” between the diver and the tender at the surface. He noted that divers used to communicate with the surface only through a series of rope tugs, and previous wireless systems were unreliable.

Divers say they find it reassuring to have the hard-wire communication, Wilkinson explained, adding that the person at the surface is also able to tell if the diver is stressed or working too hard.

One diver gave an example of the comfortability the new equipment provided during a situation he had on a call while searching underneath a boat at Hart-Miller Island.

“I was pointed in the wrong direction and the guy at the surface was able to tell me exactly how to correct myself,” he said, rather than giving him what could have been unclear signals some other way. He said it made for a more efficient search.

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Treat yourself to tricks, ghosts, ghouls and other things that go bump in the night

Treat yourself to tricks, ghosts, ghouls and other things that go bump in the night
A homemade Mr. Potato Head decoration with interchangeable Halloween features has delighted passersby in Edgemere in years past. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 10/4/17)

- By Marge Neal -

From recreation councils to local pubs, restaurants and institutions, more and more folks are getting in on the business of scaring their customers half to death.

And if the scarier haunted houses and similar attractions are not your thing, many organizations, including the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, the Maryland Science Center and even local churches have tame, kid- and family-friendly activities to help celebrate the Halloween season.

Here’s a sampling of local and a little farther away Halloween and fall seasonal attractions to keep you busy this Halloween season.

Cox’s Point Haunted Mansion
The 49th annual Cox’s Point Haunted Mansion will open at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13 at Cox’s Point Park, 820 Riverside Drive in Essex. Sponsored by the Essex-Stembridge Recreation Council since 1968, the event is the country’s oldest nonprofit haunted house, according to organizers. General admission is $10 per person. The Haunted Mansion will be open every Friday and Saturday from 7 - 11 p.m. through Oct. 28. With interactive and “in your face” scares, the haunted production is not recommended for small children. For more information, call 410-887-0255 or visit

Bennett’s Curse: The Ultimate Fear Experience 2017
Bennett’s Curse, 7578A Eastpoint Mall (next to Shoppers World in the former DSW Shoe Warehouse), is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 6 - 8; Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 29; Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 30 and 31; and Friday and Saturday, Nov. 3 and 4. General admission is $25 in advance, Speed Pass is $35 in advance and the VIP Experience costs $40 in advance. All tickets cost an additional $5 if purchased at the gate. Group discounts are available. Bennett’s Curse is ranked one of the country’s scariest halloween attractions as rated by The Travel Channel, according to the group’s Facebook page. Organizers say their haunted house “continues to raise the bar when it comes to executing mind-numbing horror.” The event is not recommended for children younger than 10. For more information,

The Haunted Dungeons of Fort Howard
Sponsored by the Edgemere-Sparrows Point Recreation Council, the Haunted Dungeons take advantage of creepy indoor military installations and outdoor wooded trails at Fort Howard Park, 9500 North Point Road in Fort Howard, to produce a Halloween experience that is “the most fun you will ever have... being scared,” according to the group’s Facebook page. The Dungeons will be open Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 29. Tickets cost $15. Tours begin at dusk and the park closes when it reaches group capacity. For more information, visit or call 443-216-9001.

Halloween at Todd’s Inheritance
Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site, 9000 North Point Road in Edgemere, will host trick-or-treating for the kids and house tours for the adults from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 28 and 29. Admission is $10 for adults; $7 for senior citizens; and free for children under 15. Annual family memberships, which allow unlimited access to the house and scheduled special events, cost $30.

Family Fall Festival
The Dundalk Renaissance Corp. will hold its annual Family Fall Festival from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, in Veterans Park on Shipping Place in downtown Dundalk. The event will include scarecrow making, pumpkin decorating, music, kids’ activities, vendors, a costume contest for canines and kids and trick-or-treating at Main Street businesses. Costume contest prizes will be awarded in best by age category, best overall and best creative costume. The event is free, but food will be sold. For more information, contact Chris at

Valley of the Haunted
Valley of the Haunted, 4722 Mellow Road in White Hall, features a 1.2-mile walking trail through the woods crawling with ghosts, zombies and other scary creatures. The attraction is open Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 15, 16, 22, 23, 29 and 30. Valley of the Haunted offers free on-site parking, haunted hayrides, live bands and food and drinks for sale. For young children, Little Haunts Sundays are held from 2 - 5 p.m. Regular tickets start at $12 in advance and cost $20 at the gate. Little Haunts tickets cost $5 each. Proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County. For more information, visit

Take the entire family to ZooBooo! at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore for a day of trick-or-treating, games, costume contests, live entertainment, kid-friendly food and special Halloween treats for the animals. ZooBooo! will be held from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Friday to Sunday, Oct. 27 - 29. The event is free with paid admission to the zoo.

Great Halloween Lantern Parade and Festival
The Great Halloween Lantern Parade and Festival will be held Saturday, Oct. 28, with the crowd gathering at the Patterson Park Pulaski Monument. The event will include a costume contest, lantern making, hayrides, yoga, live music and crafts market, local food trucks and a beer garden. All are welcome to dress in costume, bring a lantern and march in the parade. The festival begins at 3:30 p.m., the parade lineup begins at 6:30 and the parade kicks off at 7. For more information, visit

Spooky Science
The Maryland Science Center at the Inner Harbor will host Spooky Science from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28. “Creepy chemistry and mysterious science combine to provide a hauntingly good time,” according to the organization’s website. Kids can make “gooey, glowing slime, launch creepy catapults, see our mad scientists in a creepy interactive demonstration and even watch us chuck pumpkins off of the roof.” Activities are free with paid admission and completely free for members.

Funtober is a website that lists many Halloween-related events, including costume contests for youngsters and pub crawls for adults. To check out the listings,

There is no shortage of Halloween events. Many churches and community organizations offer community parties and trunk-or-treat events. With just a little bit of research, you can celebrate Halloween for most of the month.

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Redmer and McDonough officially announce candidacies for county executive

Redmer and McDonough officially announce candidacies for county executive

(Updated 9/27/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

On Saturday evening, Sept 23, Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr. put months of speculation to rest, officially announcing his candidacy for county executive.

Redmer was joined by Governor Larry Hogan and a slew of elected officials at Boumi Temple in White Marsh when he announced his candidacy, touting himself as someone with a unique perspective having worked in both the legislative and executive branches at the state level, coupled with a successful record in the private sector.

The former delegate from Perry Hall joins current Delegate Pat McDonough (R-7) in the race for county executive. McDonough hasn’t been shy about his intent to run, putting up signs and holding fundraisers. After learning that Redmer was planning to announce his campaign, McDonough scheduled his official kick-off for the same day, holding a more reserved breakfast gathering at  The Boulevard Diner in Dundalk.

Both candidates spent time talking about increasing transparency at the county level, with McDonough highlighting the thousands of constituent cases his team has handled during his time as a delegate and promising to provide the “gold standard” of service when in office.

“I am deadly serious about this philosophy of putting people first,” said McDonough.

Redmer called out perceived cronyism at the county level, saying that in order to get things done under the Kamenetz administration, connections are necessary.

“We are going to clean up those good ol’ boys’ sweetheart deals,” Redmer told a crowd of over 600 to thunderous applause.

While the two took the same position and spent about the same amount of time discussing transparency and a more open government, the two Republican candidates took different approaches to the rest of their remarks.

McDonough spent a good portion of his speech touting a tough-on-crime agenda, which he sees as something even regular citizens can have an effect on through groups like Citizens on Patrol. At the top of the ladder, he proposed instituting sector policing and putting an end to sanctuary policies.

County officials in the Kamenetz administration repeatedly stated throughout the hearing process for Councilman Todd Crandell’s 287(g) bill proposal - which would have seen Baltimore County Correctional Center officers trained to work directly with Immigration and Customs Enforcement - that Baltimore County is not a sanctuary county by definition.

Still, McDonough promised the county would look to work more closely with the Jeff Sessions-helmed Department of Justice to ensure the county is as compliant with federal law as possible.
The brash delegate from Middle River also promised to crack down on gangs and drug dealing, all while looking to keep crime in Baltimore City from overflowing into Baltimore County.

“After one year in office they will say, ‘I am not going to Baltimore County, because that guy will lock you up,’” said McDonough.
Redmer largely stayed away from the issue of crime, but told the audience that if elected he would make sure that first responders are operating with top-of-the-line equipment, including GPS. He said that when officers go to respond to a crime, the first thing they do is pull out a map book to find their way, which cuts into response time.

The Perry Hall Republican also spent time promising to deal with quality-of-life issues that have plagued the east side, like rats and midges.

But by and large, Redmer was touting his decades of experience and closeness to Hogan, who has proven to be a thorn in the side of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on issues ranging from school air conditioning to the sale of the North Point Government Center and the “Rain Tax.”

When it came to economic development, both McDonough and Redmer spoke highly of Tradepoint Atlantic and other ventures in the county, but both stated that more needed to be done.

Redmer took the position that there needs to be a more sound long-term jobs plan, while McDonough spoke of the need to bring back vocational training and increase apprenticeships.

McDonough also took a hard stance when it came to Baltimore City, saying that Baltimore County should be fighting for the new Amazon headquarters instead of backing Baltimore City’s bid. He also pointed to hundreds of thousands of dollars the county gives to the National Aquarium in Baltimore as well as multiple museums in the city as money that would be better spent in the county. He promised that, if elected, the $500,000 the county spends on those institutions would be immediately shifted into the county’s tourism budget.

McDonough wound down his time pointing out that by running for county executive, he’s giving up a seat in the House of Delegates that he could easily hold. He said it was his obligation to run after the last eight years of the Kamenetz administration. Redmer welcomed the challenge from McDonough, ending his remarks by telling his opponents to “brace yourself because we are going to bring it.”

While a lot of time will be spent analyzing both men’s positions, it is worth noting that Redmer’s event included some powerful politicians aside from Hogan, including Delegate Kathy Szeliga, who is the Minority Whip in the House of Delegates but has served the Seventh District with McDonough since 2011. Other politicians on hand included Delegate Joe Cluster (R-8) and Councilman David Marks (R-5).

McDonough had support of some local officials as well, including delegates Ric Metzgar (R-6) and Rick Impallaria (R-7) and Councilman Wade Kach (R-3).

Elsewhere in the county, Democratic hopeful Johnny Olszewski Jr. officially opened up his campaign headquarters, located at 4050 North Point Blvd. in Dundalk. Surrounded by a host of Democrats vying for different elected positions, Olszewski spoke about his mission to the volunteers gathered outside.

“People in our county are hungry for leadership that’s going to get back to basics again,” said Olszewski. “And it’s time that we give them that, and that only happens going person to person, door to door, phone conversation to phone conversation.”

Olszewski, a former educator, stressed the need for providing the right learning environment for children, including up-to-date facilities and meal programs. He also highlighted the need for economic development to “make the future bright again.”

Like Redmer and McDonough, Olszewski harped on transparency, promising to enact campaign finance reform to eliminate special interests as well as changing the county council session schedule “so you can participate in our government.”

“I’ll expand the number of work sessions we have and budget hearings we have so that there aren’t zero people testifying on the Baltimore County budget,” said Olszewski.

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County gives Depot owner 60 days to clean up tires, other debris

County gives Depot owner 60 days to clean up tires, other debris
Large piles of tires have remained on the property’s back lots for at least three months. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 9/27/17)

- By Devin Crum -

A code enforcement complaint about masses of tires stored illegally on the Middle River Depot property has resulted in an order from a Baltimore County judge to resolve the issue or face a $6,000 fine.

Following community complaints dating back to June and a code enforcement complaint filed by County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins’ (D-6) office about the conditions on the former industrial property, Administrative Law Judge Lawrence Stahl on Wednesday, Sept. 20, gave Depot owner Middle River Station Development LLC 60 days to bring the site into compliance.

According to county attorney Melissa Merrick, a code enforcement inspector visited the Depot property, located at 2800 Eastern Blvd. in Middle River, on Aug. 23, finding “open junkyard conditions, including tires, wood, junk, debris and boats on the sides and rear of the building.”

Merrick also noted that she had received a call from the county fire marshal’s office regarding the state of the property.

“Their concern is primarily based around the piles of tires that are located behind the commercial building on the property,” she said. “Obviously the concern is that it’s a fire hazard.”

Merrick noted that the $6,000 fine resulted from fines of $200 per day for 30 days. But “We’re looking for compliance,” she said.

The tires remained on the site as of Tuesday morning, Sept. 26.

Baltimore County and the State of Maryland prohibit storing tires outside and uncovered - as they have been at the Depot - because of the potential for water to collect in them and create a breeding ground for mosquitoes, as well as the potential fire hazard they pose.

Stahl referenced a months-long tire fire years ago in Baltimore County as an example of the reason for concern.

Timothy Manuelides, attorney for Middle River Station Development, explained that the tire situation came about as the result of a lease between his client and Summit Point Kart LLC, a former tenant. SPK was planning to use space in the building to operate a go-kart facility and they brought in several trailer loads of tires to line the track.

“And for some reason, they abandoned the lease earlier this year and they left all of their tires behind,” he said.

Manuelides added that litigation between the Depot owner and SPK has since followed and they are trying to get the former tenant to remove the tires.

“Even though the litigation is going on, it’s still a dangerous situation which can be taken care of,” Stahl countered. “The answer ‘we’re in litigation’ isn’t going to fly if there’s a fire.”

“The predicament we’re in is that they claim these tires have value,” Manuelides responded, “that this is not discarded property, this is not recycling.”

Merrick questioned if the landlord should be able to remove the tires on their own and store them at the tenant’s expense during litigation.

Manuelides said they could only do that if they are deemed abandoned property. He added that they plan to declare the tires as abandoned property if they are not removed by the tenant.

“But if we remove the tires, they could sue us later and say we converted their property,” he said.

Stahl advised that since the tires were left by the tenant and they have already been the subject of a citation and are a fire hazard, the attorney should file a motion as part of their litigation to remove the tires.

Regarding the boats and other debris, Manuelides said they are also from a former tenant who had leased space in order to bring in, then discard boats. He said action has been taken by the property owner against that tenant as well, and they had begun to remove the trash around the boats.

“Being a landlord is tough; being a commercial landlord is even tougher,” Stahl said, although he empathized with anyone having trouble with their tenants. “However, you can’t let something like this go on.

“This doesn’t happen overnight. This happens over a period of time,” he said of the boats and trash. “That tells me that your principal didn’t really supervise the use of the property because, when these piles started to happen, the landlord should be doing something about it before it gets to this.”

Manuelides said the boat tenant would be coming back to clean up the mess “and for no other reason.”

Stahl said in delivering his order, “We’ve got to straighten this thing out. I’m going to make it easier for you.”

The judge imposed the full fine for the record, but suspended $5,250, leaving only a $750 fine and 60 days to resolve the issues. He then suggested that when Manuelides receives the order for compliance, he take it to the court handling the SPK litigation and ask for a temporary order allowing the Depot owner to remove the tires and do whatever else is necessary to secure the property.

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Two invasive species could threaten Bird, Gunpowder rivers

Two invasive species could threaten Bird, Gunpowder rivers
The tiny snails can be easy to overlook but reproduce quickly and can carpet a stream bottom. Photo by Theaux Le Gardeur.

(Updated 9/27/17)

- By Devin Crum -

One plant and one animal not native to the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries have caused concern after being found in the Bird and Gunpowder rivers, respectively.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced last Thursday, Sept. 21, the first confirmed presence of New Zealand mudsnails in the upper reaches of the Gunpowder River in northern Baltimore County.

Likewise, residents along the Bird River have complained that the non-native hydrilla plant has spread rapidly through the upper river, creating a challenge for boating and other recreation and “choking out” native underwater grasses.

The snails have currently only been seen within the first five miles downstream of Prettyboy Reservoir in the Hereford area. And although they are far from the tidal Gunpowder at present, there is real concern among some that they will eventually make their way to it.

Gunpowder Riverkeeper Theaux Le Gardeur said temperature, salinity and turbidity do not seem to be limiting factors for the snails, which only grow to four to six millimeters in length.

“So I imagine we’re going to see them sooner rather than later down there” in the tidal Gunpowder, he said.

Jay Kilian, with DNR’s Resource Assessment Team, affirmed that the snails are tolerant of brackish water.

“So theoretically, they could make it there and sustain populations,” he said. However, he could not give any indication of how long that might take.

“They move rather quickly,” Le Gardeur said, noting that each of the tiny mollusks can produce about 100 offspring every three months. They can also occupy a stream bottom in numbers as high as 300,000 per square meter, he said.

Judging by years of sampling done by DNR for another purpose in the stretch of river where the snails were found, Kilian believes they are a “relatively recent introduction.”

He said they monitor the area regularly for trout populations and the presence of an invasive algae called didymo. However, it is also possible the snails were introduced years ago and it has simply taken this long for them to be observable.

Kilian said the suspicion of how the creatures got to the Gunpowder is that they were introduced inadvertently by a recreational fisherman or fishermen. He explained that the upper Gunpowder is well known regionally as a popular trout fishery, used by anglers from both in and out of state.

“Odds are very good that it came in on recreational gear, possibly by anglers moving from an infected water body somewhere to the Gunpowder,” Kilian said. He added that they are tolerant of harsh conditions and can survive out of water for extended periods.

Kilian noted that the nearest known population of the mudsnails is in Spring Creek, Pa., also a popular trout fishery.

Regarding the snails becoming a new food source for trout and other fish in the river, he said he is sure fish will consume them.

“But from what I understand, they are of very poor nutritional value to fish,” Kilian said.

While the potential ecological impact remains unknown, he said the snails will also compete with other, likely native species - which may be more nutritional food sources for fish - for the available resources. “And given their density, they’re locking up a lot of biomass.”

“What happens is they eat a lot of them but they don’t digest a lot of them,” Le Gardeur said. “So the fish actually lose fitness because they’re occupied eating these snails and they really can’t digest them.”

Le Gardeur added that this could have implications for bass in the tidal Gunpowder, as well as the anglers who seek them there.

Methods to control the snail population in an open system like the Gunpowder River would likely be ineffective and “I don’t even know if it’s possible,” Kilian said. “I think the goal now is to keep it from being moved inadvertently by anglers, kayakers, anybody coming into contact with the river.”

He said additional signage about the issue has been placed around the area to notify users of the river to de-water their equipment on site and wash it thoroughly before using it again in another body of water.

Brooke Landry, a natural resource biologist with DNR, also did not have an indication of how long hydrilla has been in the Bird River. But residents have said it has been there at least the last few years.

Landry said its first sighting in the Chesapeake Bay, however, was in 1982 in the Potomac River, adding that it has since found its way to “pretty much” every fresh water tributary of the bay.

As far as how it got into the Bird River, she said, “Generally, it’s probably the same as how it has gotten everywhere else. It’s one of those plants that’s easily transported on boat trailers and propellers and things like that.”

She added that birds can sometimes carry it around as well, and it is assumed that it was first introduced after being in someone’s home aquarium.

Residents using the river have complained that the plants, which seem to double in mass each year, have made the waterway unnavigable except in the existing dredged channels.

However, Landry said the hydrilla is not necessarily an environmental problem in the Bird River or in the bay.

“It’s [a type of submerged aquatic vegetation] SAV in the bay and SAV are all considered good,” she said. “Where it shows up, it is generally welcome.”

DNR does not manage specifically for hydrilla, she said, adding that it actually counts toward the state’s bay restoration goals.

Landry said the plant can also tolerate poor water quality better than many native species.

“So oftentimes what you see is our native species have died back in an area because they can’t tolerate the lack of water clarity, but hydrilla usually can,” she said, adding that it may look like it is taking over because it fills in and reproduces quickly.

But then what will generally happen after a while is the return of the native plants because the hydrilla have stabilized the sediments and cleared the water, she said. “So when the seeds of native plants float by, they are better able to establish in that area.”

Landry noted that DNR only considers a species “invasive” when it is out-competing natives, which is not always the case with hydrilla because it has simply colonized empty areas. It does not typically displace healthy native SAVs.

DNR does, however, encourage people to be mindful of their equipment and transport the grass as little as possible.

“We still don’t want to move it around any more than necessary,” Landry said.

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Lacks Legacy luncheon to honor namesake, Turner Station leaders

(Updated 9/27/17) 

- By Marge Neal - 

Turner Station is determined to make sure the legacy of Henrietta Lacks is never forgotten.

This year, when residents and other guests attend the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group’s annual luncheon on Oct. 6, they will do so by driving or walking along Henrietta Lacks Way on the way to the Fleming Community Center.

Lacks was memorialized over the summer when Baltimore County officials dedicated the Main Street/New Pittsburgh Avenue corridor in Turner Station in her honor and state officials did the same with a stretch of Broening Highway.

The second annual HLLG luncheon will again serve to remind the community of Lacks’ contributions to modern medicine while also honoring the group’s man, woman and business owner of the year.

State Delegate Adrienne Jones will be the guest speaker, according to event organizer Adele Newson-Horst. Jones has represented the Legislative District 10 in the Maryland General Assembly since 1997. She recently was reelected by her peers for a 10th time to serve as Speaker Pro Tem. Jones serves on the House Appropriations Committee, is chairwoman of the Capital Budget Subcommittee and is the House chair of the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and Personnel Oversight. She also is a member of the Health and Human Resources Committee.

In addition to using the event to raise money for a wax likeness of Lacks to be placed at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, the luncheon will also honor David Marshall as Business Owner of the Year, Mary Branch as Woman of the Year and Larry Bannerman as Man of the Year, according to Newson-Horst.

Marshall represents the third generation to lead Marshall’s Trash Removal, which was founded in 1951 by his grandfather, Willie D. Marshall Sr. David Marshall assumed the helm earlier this year after the retirement of his father, Willie D. Marshall Jr.

“Faithful servant” Branch has been honored many times for her service to the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Sacred Heart of Mary parishioner is a recipient of the Dame Commander of St. Gregory Medal for outstanding service to the local archdiocese, according to information from event organizers.

She enjoys thrift shopping, reading and enjoys collecting clothes and other items for the area’s needy and homeless. But her biggest claim to fame is serving as leader of Cub Scout Pack 270 for more than 53 years. Branch’s service to scouting resulted in her receiving the Silver Beaver Medal, scouting’s highest honor for adult leaders.

Since retiring after a 38-year career with BGE, Bannerman has been active in many community organizations and efforts, including the Turner Station Conservation Team, HLLG, Rebuilding Together, Boy and Girl Scouts and various youth sports and recreation programs.

The luncheon will be held at the Fleming Community Center, 641 Main St. in Turner Station, from noon to 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 6. Tickets cost $50 each. Many levels of event sponsorships are available as well. To reserve tickets, contact Carlisa A. Jones at

New FedEx Ground distribution center roars to life in Sparrows Point

New FedEx Ground distribution center roars to life in Sparrows Point
The FedEx racecar was the real star of the show last Wednesday as a symbol of the speed of the new facility. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 9/27/17)

- By Marge Neal -

FedEx Ground recently held the requisite ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of its new distribution center on the Tradepoint Atlantic campus in Sparrows Point.

But event organizers jazzed up the mundane tradition held Sept. 20, with the roaring entrance of the company’s No. 11 NASCAR racer into the state-of-the-art automated package handling center that opened for business in July.

It was fitting that a racecar capable of speeds of more than 200 miles per hour was used to celebrate a facility where packages can race in and out in as few as six minutes.

During the ceremony, many superlatives were used to describe the automated warehouse capable of handling up to 15,000 packages per hour.

FedEx Ground President Henry Maier referred to the “amazing new facility” as a “shiny, new, state-of-the-art” station that is the “most automated operation in the industry.”

The company was the first to commit to leasing and building at Tradepoint Atlantic, the 3,100-acre multimodal logistics center that is the successor to the steel industry that occupied the tip of Sparrows Point for more than 100 years.

FedEx is proud of its part in restoring a contaminated site for renewed use in the community, Maier said, and the new station created jobs for local citizens while providing improved service to businesses and individual delivery customers.

The company employs about 275 full- and part-time workers and 150 contracted service providers at the 307,000-square-foot warehouse on Bethlehem Boulevard. The East Baltimore Station, as the facility is dubbed, is part of a national network that handles 8 million small packages a day, according to Maier. Locally, it links with two existing centers in White Marsh and Halethorpe, according to a statement from the company.

Gov. Larry Hogan, who received a rousing and extended standing ovation when he was introduced, thanked FedEx for its investment in Maryland, which he said is “breathing life into this site with a storied past.”

He thanked FedEx for its significant financial investment in Sparrows Point, noting the new center adds “to an already large footprint” the company has in Maryland.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz thanked Tradepoint Atlantic officials for embracing the vision of the Sparrows Point Partnership, a commission created to explore the potential use of the land after the 2012 closure of the steel plant.

Kamenetz said that since it was clear that steel would not be coming back to the property, it was time to take a look at what the next generation of jobs would look like.

The same qualities that made the land a perfect site for the manufacturing of steel - deep port access and its close proximity to major interstate highways and rail systems, also make it a perfect site for the creation of the logistics, light manufacturing and distribution center that Tradepoint officials envision.

Eric Gilbert, chief development officer for Tradepoint, noted that steel officials selected the farmland 120 years ago for those attributes which are still relevant today, although for quite different uses.

In addition to FedEx officials and elected leaders, many clients were invited to the event and to tour the plant that ships many of their products.

John Cooper, warehouse manager for Head USA’s distribution center in Curtis Bay, said he attended the event to check out the new facility, which he said provides better service for his company and, consequently, Head’s customers.

The Curtis Bay center is one of two national distribution centers for the company that manufactures sporting goods equipment, including skis, snowboards, a variety of racquet sports equipment and swimming gear, according to Cooper, a Middle River resident.

“We’ve been with FedEx almost exclusively for our ground packaging for about three years,” Cooper said. “We’ve experienced better service since using FedEx exclusively and we’ve found it’s easier for our customers to track their deliveries with the FedEx tracking system.”

FedEx announced in January 2016 its intention to build on 50 acres of the Tradepoint campus. It has since been joined by several other companies, including Harley Davidson, Host Terminals and Under Armour, which is in the process of building a 1.3-million-square-foot e-commerce center near the FedEx site.

U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2) said he was pleased to see FedEx choose another site in eastern Baltimore County, which he said is one of the most patriotic areas in the state and whose residents are known for their strong work ethic.

He noted the creation of 275 new jobs and said he understands there is potential for job growth as FedEx grows into the capabilities of the new center.

“I think you hit a home run here,” Ruppersberger said.

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Most Back River rec. programs opt to join ranks with Middle River

Most Back River rec. programs opt to join ranks with Middle River
Although administratively merged with Middle River, Back River programs will retain preferential use of local facilities. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 9/27/17)

- By Marge Neal -

The Middle River Recreation Council family grew considerably larger Monday night as the bulk of Back River Recreation Council programs agreed to merge with their 21220 counterpart.

Back River has suffered financial, volunteer manpower and administrative setbacks for several years and was the victim of a nearly $36,000 theft three years ago at the hands of Shane Gleason, a former treasurer.

Baltimore County Board of Recreation and Parks members in July voted to recommend merging the two recreation councils after reaching the conclusion Back River would not be able to achieve and maintain all of the requirements of being recertified by the advisory board.

Middle River officers invited Back River program officials to a question-and-answer gathering Sept. 25 before the group’s formal board and general council meetings. Back River volunteers were given copies of Middle River’s volunteer chairperson manual and the group’s constitution and bylaws.

President John Creswell explained the council’s general fundraisers, which include an annual carnival, and how they benefit individual programs.

“We try to incentivize volunteers to participate,” Creswell said of fundraisers. “Each individual program gets a portion of the profit based on the level of volunteer participation.”

The group also introduced a new volunteer fundraiser and event coordinator, who is planning a Breakfast with Santa event Dec. 9.

“She’ll be looking for two volunteers from each program to help,” Creswell said of the coordinator of the event that will also celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Victory Villa Community Center, the longtime home of the Middle River group.

When the regular meeting convened at 8 p.m., Creswell asked each Back River program chairperson to introduce themselves and state whether they would join the Middle River group.

After the dust had settled, all but three programs had opted to merge. Still mulling the decision are the boys basketball and girls softball programs, plus a club for senior citizens.

On board with the merger are several unique programs, including a miniature airplane flying club that takes advantage of the amenities at Essex Skypark, a children’s theatre program that refers to its participants as BRATs, playing on the group’s moniker of Back River Acting Troup, and the Baltimore Metro Horseshoe Club that boasts of “12 professional pits with flood lights” in a fenced-in area behind the Back River Community Center.

John Volz, who represented a karate program, said he believes the merger is a positive move because it will open his program to a larger pool of potential participants.

Throughout the summer-long discussions of a merger, county board Vice President Chuck Munzert emphasized that most Back River programs could make the transition from one group to another without any bumps. With rare exception, programs will continue to use indoor and outdoor facilities in the Back River Neck community. They will keep their current program funds and schedules.

“I would say that, as of now, the Back River Rec. Council is no longer in existence,” Munzert told the East County Times Tuesday morning. “There are still a few things to tie up and some paperwork to take care of, but we are confident all of the programs have found a home and will be taken care of.”

Girls softball and boys basketball volunteers from each group are in communication, and Munzert said he is confident that compromises can be reached to satisfy all involved.

For example, the girls softball program will stay together and practice and play home games in Back River, according to Munzert, though they will travel to Middle River for away games.

Many Back River children ride their bikes to practices and games, and moving all games to Middle River might mean many children couldn’t participate.

“That’s not our purpose,” Munzert said. “We want to make this as painless as we can for everybody.”

Based on conversations he heard after Monday’s meeting, when program volunteers from Back River and Middle River huddled with each other, Munzert said he remains hopeful everyone will join Middle River.

While individual program participants are free to join any recreation program offered by any council, organized Back River programs that refuse to merge with Middle River will cease to be affiliated priority users of recreation facilities, according to Munzert.

“If you don’t belong to a rec. council, all you can do is request to use a building, but that use is not guaranteed,” Munzert said. “That’s one of the main advantages to being affiliated with a council.

“Overall, I think it went very well and I didn’t hear any negativity,” Munzert said of the meeting. “There are some people who aren’t real happy about it but that’s to be expected. I’m hoping in two months everyone will be happy and that things are going smoothly.”

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NFWF awards $12.6 million in funds to benefit Chesapeake Bay

NFWF awards $12.6 million in funds to benefit Chesapeake Bay
Clear Creeks Project volunteers and community members, including County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (fourth from right), joined in celebrating the six-figure sum awarded to the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy for bay restoration projects. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 9/20/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Government, business and volunteer organizations gathered in Middle River’s Miramar Landing community Tuesday morning, Sept. 19, to celebrate millions of dollars in grant funds awarded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

NFWF will award 44 grants this year totalling a record $12.6 million for environmentally focused organizations to be used toward restoration projects within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Those grants all come with matching funds from the organizations that receive them, which tallied an additional $21.3 million for a total of $33.9 million for projects to benefit the bay.

Locally, the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy won $200,000 through NFWF’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, which joins nearly $600,000 in matching funds.

GVC, through their Clear Creeks Project, plans to use the money to install stormwater best management practices including rain barrels, rain gardens, micro-bioretention practices, conservation landscaping and forest buffers. The project will mobilize communities to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff, manage stormwater and restore forests and streams in the Middle River, Bird River, tidal Gunpowder River and lower Gunpowder Falls watersheds, according to their project plan.

Miramar Landing Homeowners Association board member Purnell Glenn said the event gave his community an opportunity to showcase what they have already done in partnership with the Clear Creeks Project and with prior grants from NFWF and others.

The community has planted several large bayscape gardens and many native trees in their common areas to help capture and control stormwater runoff. In addition, many residents there have installed their own rain barrels and/or had their properties certified as Bay-wise.

“This is the product of some of the work that gets done as part of the Clear Creeks Project” and that the NFWF grants have helped fund in the past, said GVC President Jim Martin.

He noted that the Clear Creeks Project’s efforts have reached more than 18,000 local residents, and 3,100 residents have volunteered to do work such as planting trees or gardens.

Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2), who represents the area, said the grants announced Tuesday are about government, business and conservation groups coming together to develop practical methods to minimize urban, agricultural and commercial impacts on the bay.

“Here in Middle River, the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy will be working to encourage nearby residents to plant trees, clean up streams and install stormwater management with the goal of reducing harmful runoff,” he said.

Ruppersberger, who sits on the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee which helped make the grants possible, said he will continue to fight for this type of funding from the federal government.

He pointed out that the bay contributes $1 trillion to the region’s economy each year through fishing, farming, boating and tourism, and that 18 million people currently live within its watershed.

“So a collapse of the bay would be both an ecological and economic catastrophe, and we’re not going to let it happen,” the congressman said.

Ben Grumbles, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, said the message from the state has been and continues to be to fight federal cuts to Chesapeake Bay restoration funding, “to keep the backstops and to grow the partnerships.”

He said Governor Larry Hogan is also working in his capacity as chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council to make sure there is regulatory accountability and strong science backing it all up.

Jake Reilly, NFWF’s director of Chesapeake Bay programs, said this year alone, the foundation is also providing more than $2 million in grant funds directly to units of local government, such as Baltimore County - “those folks charged with managing and implementing local environmental programs,” he said.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said the county has a proud history of protecting the environment as he referenced the creation of the Urban-Rural Demarcation Line (URDL) nearly 50 years ago.

The URDL serves to focus more intensive development in more urbanized areas and preserves 2,000 miles of streams and tributaries in the county through conservative land use and environmental restrictions outside the URDL, he said.

Kamenetz noted that the county’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability spends more than $25 million every year doing “simple” things like planting trees and “not-so-simple” things like rebuilding stream beds.

Reilly observed that, of the $12.6 million in grants awarded Tuesday, $10 million came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and nearly $1 million came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, plus additional funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

Corporate partners such as Altria Group and CSX also contributed funding.

Reilly said the projects being funded by the grants will be able to reduce nutrient sediment pollution by a combined 8.4 million pounds

“For local water quality, we’re going to be restoring 160 miles of streamside habitat across the Chesapeake Bay watershed through riparian buffers, livestock exclusion and restoration of degraded stream reaches across the watershed,” he said.

Reilly added that the funds will help to permanently protect 2,000 acres of sustainably managed agricultural land, implement best management practices on another 40,000 acres, treat stormwater from more than 200 acres of urban and suburban impervious surfaces and restore more than 140 acres of wetlands. More than 4,000 volunteers will be involved in these efforts, he said.

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Back River Rec. Council mulls merger with Middle River

Back River Rec. Council mulls merger with Middle River
Although administratively merged with Middle River, Back River programs will retain preferential use of local facilities. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 9/20/17)

- By Marge Neal - 

The ball is in Back River Recreation Council’s court, so to speak, as the volunteer group considers a suggestion to merge with the Middle River Recreation Council.

Citing a number of administrative, clerical and financial concerns, the Baltimore County Board of Recreation and Parks in July made the merger recommendation as a way to head off the more serious move of decertifying the council that plans and organizes a variety of recreation programs for children and adults in the Back River Neck area.

Decertification would mean the end of the group and its programs as they currently exist, while a merger would allow all of the programs to continue, with most able to stay at the same neighborhood facilities, according to board Vice President Chuck Munzert.

Munzert, who represents the Sixth Councilmanic District on the board, has been working with the Back River group, first in an attempt to help it become compliant with board policies, then to communicate the board’s recommendation to members when it became apparent the council would not be able to complete the tasks necessary to remain an independent, board-certified council.

After meeting with council officers and program chairpersons Sept. 6, Munzert said most people involved seemed to be on board with a merger.

“We met last week and I told them it would be in their best interest to merge with another council and we suggested Middle River,” Munzert told his board colleagues at their Sept. 13 meeting. “They understand they’ll keep everything as is if they move as a group. I really think it went very well.”

A merger would allow most programs to remain at their current facilities, with the exception of two - youth softball and basketball - according to Munzert. Softball, which has already joined forces with Middle River to create a larger, more competitive league, would just merge completely with Middle River. The basketball program is still considering its options, Munzert said.

The Ballestone Preservation Society, charged with preserving and maintaining the historic Ballestone-Stansbury House on the grounds of Rocky Point Golf Course in Essex, would also be affected by the merger. While it maintains its own bank account, it operates under the non-profit umbrella of the Back River council, according to Ballestone President Cas Groth.

Groth said she met with Department of Recreation and Parks Director Barry Williams on Sept. 15 to discuss the future of the preservation group. Ballestone has been encouraged to obtain its own non-profit status, which Groth said members are investigating.

“We have a member who’s an accountant, and she’s looking into what we need to do,” Groth told the Times. “We know it’s a complicated process and we’re going to need some help.”

Williams said at the board meeting that staff members would be available to assist the group with the non-profit application process.

Middle River council officers expressed some concern over potentially being saddled with any Back River debt, and Munzert said he assured them that would not be the case.

While Back River experienced a theft of nearly $36,000 by Shane Gleason, the group’s former treasurer, the council has somewhat rebounded financially and each program is solvent, according to Munzert.

Gleason, who was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 18 months in the county’s detention center, was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount stolen, but repayment has not yet begun, according to board chairman Eric van den Beemt.

A judgement in favor of the Back River council in the amount of $35,852.41 was recorded June 29, 2016, according to online court records.

The proposed merger is expected to be discussed again at the Sept. 25 meeting of the Middle River Recreation Council.

“I think the meeting [with Back River] went very well,” Munzert said at the board meeting. “If everyone comes on board with Middle River, it will be a done deal.”

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Dredging planned for marine terminal at Tradepoint Atlantic

Dredging planned for marine terminal at Tradepoint Atlantic
Image courtesy of Google.

(Updated 9/20/17)

- By Devin Crum -

A permit application is currently under review by the Maryland Port Administration, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which would allow Tradepoint Atlantic to dredge their port at Sparrows Point to its previously achieved depth.

Tradepoint, the company in charge of redeveloping the former steel mill site into a 21st-century industrial logistics park, is seeking to perform “maintenance dredging” to bring their turning basin and approach channel back to their previous depth of 42 feet. In addition, the area around the finger pier - the former ore pier - at the mouth of the turning basin would be dredged to its previous depth of 47 feet.

“This is not new dredge, this is not new material,” said Peter Haid, Tradepoint’s environmental director. “This is basically sediment that has come in from the estuaries, brought in and moved around by tide or waves.”

The permit application specifies 1 million cubic yards of material to be dredged. But Haid said they only plan to dredge about 200,000 cubic yards per year over a five-year period.

The project would begin with the “business section” of the shipping berth, Haid said, inside the turning basin where the depths are currently the most shallow at about 36 feet. This would be done over the first year.

In the second year, the approach out to Brewerton Channel - the Port of Baltimore’s main shipping channel - would be dredged, followed by cleaning out the remainder of the turning basin in the subsequent two years. In the final year, they would dredge the area around the finger pier, Haid said.

The material to be dredged, according to Haid, is consistent with what is present elsewhere around the Baltimore harbor and has been found acceptable not only for dredge material containment facilities, but also for innovative re-use techniques which seek to cut down on landfilling of the material.

He said the material is not highly contaminated with pollutants found landside at Sparrows Point because there is no direct stormwater discharge from the property to the water along its southern frontage, which includes the marine terminal.

“It’s all burm,” he said. “The water either runs back or percolates.”

Aaron Tomarchio, Tradepoint Atlantic’s vice president of corporate affairs, said in the steel mill’s declining years, they did not invest much money in infrastructure.

“It was just [left] there to age. So after years of use and not a whole lot of attention, it needs some attention,” he said.

Tomarchio explained that the dredging would coincide with other “extensive”renovations of the terminal to achieve their port goals, noting a four-phase plan to improve the east and west shipping berths.

The area around the berths and the turning basin will eventually all be paved, he said, and high-mast lights will be installed. They will also install heavy-lift cargo pads to load and unload cargo from ships and are hoping to restore the rail crane on the dock. They plan to remove an old pier along the west berth as well to provide additional frontage for the turning basin.

“The whole redevelopment of Sparrows Point hinges on our ability to provide multiple layers of logistic support to a tenant,” Tomarchio said, listing the marine and rail cargo handling capabilities alongside their development arm, which is building the “vertical” parts of the project, as pieces of the puzzle. “All three work together to create a logistics solution for prospective tenants and manufacturers that we’re looking to have locate to Tradepoint Atlantic.”

He said they are hoping to announce a manufacturing tenant in November, and that tenant requires a 42-foot shipping depth which would need to be available within four years.

“There’s a market driver for this right now,” Tomarchio said. “It’s all in preparation for what we hope is a really good commercial opportunity to generate jobs and bring businesses to Sparrows Point.”

The executive noted that despite the need for dredging, the terminal has remained active, moving about 1.6 million tons of bulk material cargo through their port last year.

“And we’re on pace to probably exceed that this year,” Tomarchio said.

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‘Town center’ dropped from Sheltered Harbor plan

‘Town center’ dropped from Sheltered Harbor plan
A total of 94 townhouses are proposed for the southern half of the Sheltered Harbor planned unit development at 8100 Stansbury Road in Dundalk (shaded area overlooking Lynch Cove). Originally planned for the section were 183 condos, a restaurant and office and retail space.

(Updated 9/20/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

A cluster of new waterfront townhouses are in the pipeline for Dundalk, pending county approval of a revised planned unit development (PUD) for the remaining half of the Sheltered Harbor complex overlooking Lynch Cove.

The county’s Development Review Committee recently concluded that the proposed 94 townhouses are a “material change” to an earlier, higher-density PUD project that had included a “town center” of condos, a restaurant, shops and offices.

Although smaller in scale, the change in types of buildings is significant enough to require a public hearing before a county administrative law judge.

“I have been working for a while now on getting this blighted property cleaned up and getting a development project that fits in with the surrounding community,” wrote County Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7) in an email.

“I think that this has been achieved by significantly downsizing the scope of the project, but the community should still have a chance to be heard,” he wrote about the chance for public input at the hearing.

The project was originally introduced in 2004  by Crandell’s predecessor, John Olszewski Sr., with a County Council resolution.

PUDs allow alternate uses from those of the underlying zoning, provided developers offer some sort of community benefit.

A benefit can be a “green” building, higher quality design or building materials, workforce housing or a capital improvement for community residents or a local volunteer fire department, according to the County Code.

In this case, redevelopment itself was considered a benefit because it would improve a deteriorating property, developers argued at the time with county agreement.

It will replace the “partially dilapidated, outdated, sparsely used, partially abandoned industrial warehouse and boat yard,” wrote county hearing officer William Wiseman in his 2006 ruling on the concept plan.

County Planning Board records also indicate that a payment of $30,000 was promised to the community for improvements to nearby Chesterwood Park.

The 11-acre former commercial boatyard at 8100 Stansbury Road was first approved about 10 years ago as a two-phased PUD with high-rise condos, office and retail space, a restaurant, boat slips and a public walkway along the shoreline.

The Phase I plan on the northern section included 144 condos in three four-story buildings with a clubhouse, pool and 64 boat slips, according to Planning Board records.

The project was later scaled down to 89 small townhouses that eventually became 69 larger townhouses with garages on the first level built by Ryan Homes as the Waterfront at Sheltered Harbor. Due for completion by February are the final 14 Ryan townhouses, and all but one of the 69 units had been sold as of early September.

Envisioned for Phase II on the southern section was the larger, more commercial complex to include about 190 condos, three townhouses, office and retail space, a restaurant and about 170 boat slips for “transient and residential use.”

The southern section has since been purchased by Fairway Capital Partners, an investor group based in New York. Proposed now for the site are 94 townhouses in 13 buildings, which preliminary plans state will result in less traffic in and out of the site than the original town center plan.

Local schools affected by the development include Grange Elementary, General John Stricker Middle, Dundalk Middle and Patapsco High School.

Sheltered Harbor townhouse owner Ashlee Ecker, who can see the undeveloped Phase II section from her deck, said she prefers to see the townhouses because they will probably generate less traffic than a restaurant.

Ecker, whose father worked at Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point, said she moved to the Waterfront at Sheltered Harbor because of its closeness to her job in Baltimore City. Living close to the water is also a plus; her boyfriend is looking forward to getting a boat, she said.

As of Sept. 1, the Phase II site had been cleared except for two rubble piles. Asbestos was removed in May and still required is the cleanup of contaminated dirt that contains arsenic and elevated levels of petroleum components, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Pilings from former boat slips also remain in the water off the eastern end of the site.

Courtney Cox, whose family has operated the Anchor Bay East Marina at the end of Cove Road near Sheltered Harbor for decades, said she welcomes new development along the Dundalk shoreline.

Her parents opened the Hard Yacht Cafe at the marina in 2007 after Cox graduated from culinary school, and it has been growing ever since, she said.

Residents of the nearby Lakes at Stansbury Shores subdivision south of Stansbury Road have become regular customers. And in return, her father volunteers to plow their streets during the winter, she said.

More recent Sheltered Harbor residents also frequent the restaurant, along with paddleboarders who come in after spending time on the water. A church group regularly meets there, and the cafe’s outdoor deck enjoyed some national exposure after appearing in a Season 3 episode of “House of Cards.”

“We’re so excited about getting to meet some new neighbors,” Cox said about the pending buildout of the Phase II section.

“Dundalk is becoming a much more desirable place,” she said. “[Investment] is doing great things for the area and increasing the property values.”

Having lost thousands of jobs with the shutdown of Bethlehem Steel and other industrial plants, Dundalk is poised for an economic upswing fueled by the ongoing redevelopment of Sparrows Point by Tradepoint Atlantic and other new investment in the area.

“Every place has a cycle, and Dundalk’s is overdue,” Cox said. “My grandmother remembers when Canton [in east Baltimore] was a scary place where people did not want to go, and now it’s where everybody wants to be.”

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New hotel wins liquor license

New hotel wins liquor license
The new Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel on Crossorads Circle in White Marsh is due to open in March 2018. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 9/15/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

The new Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel now under construction in the emerging mixed-use Greenleigh at Crossroads community off Route 43  in White Marsh is set to open early next March, according to developers.

Developers of the four-story hotel, featuring 120 rooms, were granted a liquor license to operate the hotel bar by the county Board of Liquor License Commissioners on Monday, Sept. 11.

The hotel plans to hire about 50 people, said Thomas Lee of USA Management II - the developer for the project - after the board's hearing in Towson.

About two-thirds of those will be full-time jobs, including positions for housekeepers, bartenders, kitchen workers, front desk people and others. The jobs will be advertised on social media closer to the opening next year, Lee said.

The new hotel located on Crossroads Drive is part of the developing 200-acre Greenleigh at Crossroads community of stores, 1,500 townhouses and apartments, and office and flex commercial buildings along the four-mile extension of Route 43 from Pulaski Highway in White Marsh to Eastern Avenue in Middle River.

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Chapel Hills to host some new facets for same great festival

Chapel Hills to host some new facets for same great festival
Chapel Hills owner Russell Berk (right) always adds something new to the Perry Hall Apple Festival each year. Festival sponsors (from left) State Delegate Joe Cluster, Joe Norman and County Councilman David Marks, along with State Delegate Christian Miele (not pictured), contributed funds for entertainment such as live music and apple butter making demonstrations. Photo courtesy of David Marks.

(Updated 9/13/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The annual Perry Hall Apple Festival, co-hosted by Chapel Hills Farm and Nursery and the Perry Hall Improvement Association, is set to return this weekend, Sept. 16 and 17, bringing with it all the apple- and fall-related entertainment one could possibly imagine.

The festival has enjoyed increasing popularity over the years, but its organizers never cease to bring new and exciting aspects into the mix.

This year, the main new attraction will be the Amish apple butter demonstration on Saturday.

“The ladies from Chester County, Pa., are going to make apple butter from scratch,” said Chapel Hills owner Russell Berk, adding that they will use a copper kettle and other specialty equipment.

The freshly made apple butter will also be for sale at the festival.

While the apple butter demonstrations will only be held on Saturday, most of the festival’s attractions are scheduled for both days, such as the pie eating contests (11:30 a.m.), live music (noon to 4 p.m.), chainsaw sculptures, face painting, sack races, pony rides, hay rides and more.

Many of them even stay in place for Chapel Hills’ Fall Festival Days which take place every weekend through October. See more information on Fall Festival Days on page 13B of this week’s Essex Day supplement.

“And then, of course, we have the [haunted] trail all done up with all the figures,” Berk said. He noted the trail is always a big draw with some visitors coming back every week to go around it.

“It’s better, it’s fun; my nephew keeps adding to it,” he said.

Live music this year will be provided by the same band as last year, albeit under a different name. Arrow Horse - formerly The Lovesick Hillbillies - will crank out the bluegrass tunes on stage from noon to 4 p.m. each day of the festival.

Berk said the band has been quite popular in the past for the apple festival and other events around the area.

“It’s a lot of local people tied to that,” he said.

Another popular attraction returning this year will be the Masters of the Chainsaw - professional chainsaw carvers - entertaining crowds with their expert wood sculptures.

The festival truly offers something for everyone, adults and kids alike, including a large petting zoo, sack races, pony rides, tractor-drawn hay rides, the Gator wagon train, a miniature hay maze and pedal tractors, plus the excellent and intricate face painting.

“A big draw is the face painting all the time,” Berk said. “She does a good job and brings a couple of people with her.”

The masterpieces are done by Face Painting by Fantasy Artz, which accepts both cash and credit cards at the festival.

“She does real exotic jobs,” Berk commented. “She can do your whole head. It’s amazing.”

Another big part of the event is the craft show, which includes some 50 vendors and are a also a popular aspect, according to Berk.

“They’re real crafts,” he said of the quality of the goods for sale. “And they almost all re-book year to year.”

Also back for their sixth year at the festival are the ever-popular wine tastings with something for all tastes, including apple wines and hard apple ciders.

And let’s not forget the apples! For sale at the festival and in the Chapel Hills store will be a wide variety of apples, apple sauce, apple butter, candy apples and apple baked goods like pies, along with apple cider donuts made fresh on site.

Berk mentioned other apple products and baked goods as well. “But apple cider donuts, that’s a big thing,” he said. “That’s our main baked good.”

Other treats visitors will find at the festival include Thunder Ridge kettle corn, funnel cakes, apple cider and more. Or if you’re in the mood for something savory, pit beef and turkey, pulled pork and hamburgers will also be available.

The 2017 Perry Hall Apple Festival is sponsored by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and County Councilman David Marks, as well as Perry Hall resident Joe Norman and state delegates Joe Cluster and Christian Miele.

The festival will be held at Chapel Hills Farm and Nursery, 4350 Chapel Road in Perry Hall, from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sept. 16 and 17.

A full list of vendors is available on the event’s website at Visit the website or call Chapel Hills directly at 410-256-5335 for more information.

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Local residents sacrifice time, goods for Harvey relief efforts

Local residents sacrifice time, goods for Harvey relief efforts
Jacob Nelson (left) gets help unloading a car filled with baby supplies. Nelson noted that while Harvey was tragic, the community’s response was uplifting. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 9/13/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

As Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas, an effort to provide relief swiftly got underway, and the North Point-Edgemere Volunteer Fire Company (NPEVFC) teamed up with the Bowleys Quarters Volunteer Fire Company (BQVFC) for a supply drive. Last Friday, Sept. 8, a 53-foot tractor trailer filled with food, water, hygienic supplies, clothes and more left from White Marsh headed to the Houston area.

The two volunteer companies collected materials for days leading up to last Friday, with donations still pouring in throughout Thursday evening and early Friday morning. So much was donated that all of the surrounding storage buildings at the North Point facility were filled with donated goods.

“It’s really the least I can do,” said Miriam Summers as she dropped off a bag with diapers, soap and other hygiene products. “I know it’s not much, but it’s something.”

Clothing seemed to be the most frequent donation, but the NPEVFC ended up posting on social media that clothing was no longer a necessary item. Instead, they were looking for food, water and hygiene products.

“Clothing you can get from anybody,” said NPEVFC member Jacob Nelson. “The water and the food, that’s more important. We want people to know we’re always here to help.”

State Delegate Ric Metzgar, who stopped by the station with the rest of the Sixth District Delegation, noted that they were told clothing is too heavy and bulky in transport, and that space is often better used for necessities.

“This is what our community is all about,” said Delegate Bob Long.

The truck and transportation were donated by Harry “Buddy” McGowan and his company, White Marsh Transport. Originally the plan was to leave the large trailer by the North Point fire station, but it was a logistical problem given the size of the truck. Instead, McGowan parked a smaller truck around the back of the facility, and when it would get full he would take it to White Marsh where the supplies would be transferred into the larger trailer.

But it wasn’t just supplies that were sent down to aid with relief efforts, as Baltimore County Fire Department personnel also headed down south to help out. One of the volunteers, Perry Hall Improvement Association President John Amrhein, has been serving with Maryland 1-Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT), first in Texas and now on standby in Florida.

According to Amrhein, who works as a paramedic and lives in Perry Hall, he and his team were primarily working in a medical support capacity.

“We basically set up a M*A*S*H,” he said. “One tent was for basic treatment, small wounds and prescription refills, and the other tent was for urgent care treatment where we were able to do everything from sutures to looking after unconscious folks.”

During the time Amrhein spent in the Texas town of Beauxmont, the DMAT team treated somewhere from 200 - 250 people, including two people who needed to be intubated and a few people suffering from heart attacks and strokes. But mostly, the injuries come in the aftermath when the cleanup is taking place.

“A lot of injuries we had were people tearing apart their houses in the aftermath,” said Amrhein. “And with hospitals flooded and without clean water, we essentially take over for them.”

Some of those who were deployed to Texas have now been redeployed to Florida and Alabama. Amrhein was redeployed on Saturday, arriving in Florida via a C-130 aircraft, courtesy of the military, since all other air vehicles were grounded. They’re currently awaiting instruction on what their role will be, but for the time being Amrhein is providing logistical support and helping responders get measured for respirators. He noted that breathing equipment is necessary in the aftermath of a disaster because of molds, spores and other toxins that might be airborne.

“We’re still trying to figure out what the state and local needs are,” said Amrhein. “Our primary thing is to be the support to keep local services going until they can get back on their feet.”

On Monday, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz praised the county’s five emergency responders offering their services in the south and touted improvements to the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), including a $152,000 technical upgrade featuring two video walls capable of displaying up to 16 different media sources. The upgrade also included new air conditioning and upgraded emergency power.

“Working through a disaster is difficult under the best of circumstances,” Kamenetz said. “It’s critical that our personnel have modern facilities and reliable, state-of-the-art technology. Every citizen has an interest in this investment.”

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Revitalization advocates walk through Essex with county government, elected reps

Revitalization advocates walk through Essex with county government, elected reps
From left: Tim Dunn of the county's Bureau of Solid Waste Management, Tom Hargis and Randy Shifflet of the Bureau of Highways, local business owner Gary Jennings, Ron Metzger representing Councilman Todd Crandell, former judge Robert Romadka, State Delegate Robin Grammer, Bryan Sheppard representing County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, business owner Cliff O'Connell, BRRC President and business owner Sam Weaver and BRRC Executive Director Karen Wynn all joined for the walkthrough. The county representatives were about to answer many of the advocates' questions and suggest possible solutions.

(Updated 9/13/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Just one month after the Eastern Baltimore County Task Force revealed its laundry list of desired improvements for Essex’s main corridor, they have gotten enough notice from government representatives that they feel they can begin working toward their goals.

Members of the task force, together with pertinent county and state representatives, walked a portion of Essex’s business center along Eastern Boulevard Thursday, Sept. 7, to get input on how best to fix the issues they have identified.

The East County Times reported on Aug. 10 the task force’s desire to spruce up the Eastern Boulevard business corridor and increase economic interest in the area, at first through small but noticeable projects to improve aesthetics and quality of life.

The team, consisting of business owners Gary Jennings and Cliff O’Connell, former judge Robert Romadka Sr. and Back River Restoration Committee leaders Sam Weaver (also a business owner) and Karen Wynn, identified issues hindering businesses in the area. They pointed out things like trees blocking business signage, eyesores like graffiti, lack of walkability and lack of code compliance among businesses and residents.

Bryan Sheppard, community outreach representative for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, said the 400-block of Eastern Boulevard is one of the worst blocks in the area, adding that the alley behind it is also one of the worst.

Tom Hargis, of the county’s Bureau of Highways, said what he can do in the alleys is limited. While the county does own some of the alleys in the area, they only have right of way in others. Specifically, they can only trim back overgrown weeds that are directly over the alley’s paved surface. Anything else would be on private property.

However, Hargis said he could do more with the trees along the boulevard’s streetscape and had several suggestions about what can be done there.

For example, Hargis said he can remove any dead or unwanted trees along the streetscape, but actually recommends not having them at all because of the problems they cause.

“If you want them removed, I’m your guy,” he said.

Hargis noted that trees require a lot of maintenance and cause the problems seen along the corridor today when not kept in check. The holes left behind after they are removed also become a tripping hazard and must be filled in, as was the case in many spots.

Sheppard commented that the county “is now on notice” for the holes after being made officially aware of them and could be liable if someone were injured.

As a result, Randy Shiflett, also with the Bureau of Highways, arranged for all of the empty tree holes to be filled in before the walkthrough even ended.

Hargis suggested a better alternative to trees would be large flower pots along the streetscape that could be moved if needed and would be easier to maintain.

In the same vein, the brick pavers that make up much of the sidewalks are problematic because they are more difficult to maintain.

“Brick doesn’t work; it gets jagged, the tree [root]s push it up,” Hargis said, adding that the county’s solution would be to tear it up and replace it with concrete. They would then add a two-brick “ribbon” along the walkway’s road edge.

Asked about Americans with Disabilities Act compliance of the brick walkways around tree grates, Hargis said, “Most of it fails.”

Another major issue was the trash cans along the main drag, many of which are rotted out or otherwise defective, leading to trash spillage which attracts rats.

Tim Dunn, with the county’s Bureau of Solid Waste Management, said he thinks a lot of the issues pointed out are justified, but he would need to look into the budget to be able to replace the defective cans.

The county has always been responsible for emptying the cans, but has not replaced them because they did not install them in the first place, according to Dunn. If the county replaces them, they will then also maintain them, he said.

Open and overflowing dumpsters as well as graffiti, particularly in alleys, were explored as well. But those were largely recognized as issues for county code enforcement to address.

However, Sheppard said a recent code enforcement sweep of the area had begun to address the problem.

Jennings, the business owner, was excited to see a code enforcement citation posted on a business in the 400-block for failure to remove graffiti from a back wall. He also admitted that he had received such a citation for a building that he owns.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

O’Connell said the task force’s next steps would be to try to drum up more support from the surrounding neighborhoods by explaining they want to invest in improvements in the area and want to find funds for them wherever they can, from both public and private sources.

The Baltimore Sun recently reported that the downtown Towson area received a $75,000 grant from the state's Community Legacy program to install new street recycling and trash containers.

On that effort, the Towson Chamber of Commerce worked with a local state delegate to write a grant application for the funding, the Sun reported.

Sheppard stressed that any county funding for new improvements would not come until at least the next fiscal year’s budget, which will take effect in July 2018.

“But if you get the community support, that gives you some time to get working on some things” privately, he said.

O’Connell said he is hoping the group can make some improvements they can show people and get other residents and business owners to join them.

“Right now if you talk to them they say, ‘What difference does it make?’” he said. But he was optimistic that they can make progress now.

“I think something is really going to happen,” O’Connell said. “It just feels like with the amount of people and departments involved we can get something done here.”

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BRRC raises, pays out thousands during annual rockfish tournament

BRRC raises, pays out thousands during annual rockfish tournament
Troy Cook (center) and his team, the Wallhangers took home the top prize of $3,000. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 9/13/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The sun was shining, spirits were high and passion for the health of Back River and the Chesapeake Bay was on full display Saturday, Sept. 9, for the Back River Restoration Committee’s 10th annual rockfish tournament.

And while the tournament’s winners took home thousands of dollars in prizes, many more thousands were raised to benefit the BRRC and its mission to restore Back River and keep it clean for all to enjoy.

The event, which is one of the BRRC’s major yearly fundraisers, enjoyed some 84 sponsors and a record 78 boats signed up to fish starting at daybreak. And when the tournament ended at 3 p.m., three anglers were able to stand tall with their catches and prizes.

Coming in third place on the day was Ron Balding with his fish measuring 31 and five-eighths inches. For his catch, Balding and his team took home a $750 prize. They were also the winners of the $250 Riverside prize for having the largest fish caught on a boat either purchased from or docked at Riverside Marine in Essex.

Ranking second place in the tournament was Chris Mohn with his 32-inch rockfish. For his fish, Mohn and his team received a $1,250 prize.

And filling out first place was a 32 and one-quarter-inch rockfish hauled in by Troy Cook. Cook and his team, the Wallhangers, earned the top prize of $3,000 for their bounty, which weighed in at 11.56 pounds.

Cook said the waters were a little rough in the morning, but calmed down and became nicer - along with the weather - in the afternoon. He noted that the winning fish was eventually caught near Love Point on Kent Island, at the mouth of the Eastern Shore’s Chester River.

“We stayed there pretty much all day,” Cook said.

Asked what would become of the winning fish, Cook said it would not be preserved and mounted, as the team name might suggest. Instead, he planned to divide both the meat and the prize money among the team members.

While the cash prizes were a big draw for boaters and anglers to enter the tournament, the real prize for many ended up being the after-party, where there was plenty of food, drinks, camaraderie and, of course, raffles and other prizes to further benefit the BRRC.

All told, the event brought in around $20,000 for the nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, according to Executive Director Karen Wynn.

Add that to $12,000 they received from the proceeds from the annual Rockin’ on the River music festival in June and their highly successful golf tournament the same month and it has been a great year for the BRRC. And they still have their annual shrimp feast coming up, which is another of their major events, according to BRRC President Sam Weaver.

However, he stressed that the more funds they raise, the more they will be able to do for the health of Back River, which ultimately benefits the Chesapeake Bay.

“And it all goes to cleaning up Back River and the Chesapeake Bay,” Weaver said. “It’s not like any of us is making money on this.”

The BRRC has conducted frequent cleanups of the river since its founding in 2005, in addition to their operation of the Back River trash boom since 2010.

As of April this year, the group’s activities had combined to remove 2.8 million pounds of trash and other debris from the Back River watershed, which includes a large swath of Baltimore City and stretches as far north and west as Towson. According to the BRRC’s tally, they removed 801,568 pounds of trash from the river and the bay in 2016 alone, about 556,000 of which was collected at the trash boom.

They have also removed untold tires and bulk items fouling the river and its tributaries, and they acquired two new barges for use this year which have helped them haul up to 10 tons of material at a time.

The BRRC also recently received funding from the state to begin treating Back River for midges to reduce the nuisance they pose to area residents and businesses.

Midges are non-biting, mosquito-like insects present in numbers considered to be beyond nuisance-level on and around the river due to excess nutrients in the mud on which they feed. The nutrients are believed to be a result of the last century of operation of the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

BRRC volunteers, in coordination with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources, were scheduled to begin applying a larvacide to the river Monday, Sept. 11, which kills the larvae of midges and other nuisance insects like mosquitoes and black flies. The larvacide consists of a naturally-occurring bacteria which is only harmful to those larvae and does not affect humans or other animals or fish.

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County officials apply ‘hammer’ to ensure Seagram’s demolition continues

County officials apply ‘hammer’ to ensure Seagram’s demolition continues
Workers began taking down buildings on the property Wednesday, Aug. 30. But the county plans to enforce a $100,000 fine for failure to meet the demolition deadline, and is proposing an additional $140,000 fine to be sure the job gets done. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 9/7/17)

- By Marge Neal -

John Vontran, an owner of the former Seagram’s distillery property on Sollers Point Road in Dundalk, did not make his county-imposed deadline of Aug. 30 to have the abandoned buildings torn down and the debris hauled away.

Little to no visible work took place on the campus until a fire late Monday night, Aug. 28, significantly damaged one of the remaining distillery buildings. That fire came on the heels of another that occurred early in the morning of July 3, which was the catalyst for county officials to issue a fine of $100,000 and call for an expedited code enforcement hearing July 12 to force Vontran and his partners to demolish the neglected buildings.

While Vontran applied for a permit to raze the buildings in early May - about two months before the first fire - it did not get approved until Aug. 30.

Maryland Building Permits, a permits expediting company headquartered in Towson, on May 4 filed the application for a permit to raze the structures, according to a copy of the document.

As the application wound its way through the county’s process, it was approved by Planning the day it was received and by Sediment Control on May 24. It then appeared to sit dormant in the system for more than 12 weeks before the permit was issued Aug. 30 after being approved by the Environment and Permits agencies that same day.

But Arnold Jablon, director of the county’s Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections, said the delay occurred because the razing permit couldn’t be approved and issued until asbestos abatement was completed.

“We needed the certification of asbestos abatement and when that came in, we issued the building permit to raze,” he said.

A sign was posted on the property’s main gate on Aug. 23, stating that asbestos removal would begin Aug. 26 and was expected to be completed in early October. The work was apparently able to be completed in four days, given the approval of the razing permit on Aug. 30.

Jablon, citing the “lack of good-faith effort” to complete the required work by the Aug. 30 deadline, said he stands by the $100,000 fine levied in July and a lien has been placed against the property for that amount.

To encourage the owners to continue the demolition and cleanup work being done, code enforcement officials have issued new citations for many of the previous violations and have recommended an additional $140,000 fine.

“This is just a hammer to make sure they keep doing the work they’re doing,” Jablon said. “Code Enforcement is not in the business of making money - we want conformance with the law.”

In the July 12 code enforcement hearing, Administrative Law Judge Lawrence Stahl ordered that the building damaged by the July 3 fire be torn down by July 26 and the rest of the remaining buildings be demolished and have all debris properly disposed of by Aug. 30. He also ordered that a $100,000 fine be levied against the owners if those deadlines were not met.

On Monday night, Aug. 28, with little to no visible work done on the property to meet the demolition deadline, the second fire in less than two months broke out in yet another structure. The new fire brought renewed attention to the looming deadline to have all the buildings demolished.

Jablon on Aug. 29 said he would move to immediately enforce the $100,000 fine and order new code enforcement citations to be issued.

On Wednesday, Aug. 30, heavy equipment and demolition personnel were on the property, beginning the razing process. Word spread quickly through the community via social media that demolition had begun.

Nearby residents expressed appreciation of the work in their online comments, and several noted they were tired of looking at the neglected buildings and fearing for the safety of their homes every time a Seagram’s building burned.

Sollers Investors has a county-approved plan to build 185 townhomes on the roughly 12-acre parcel. The owners have also entered into a voluntary agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment to perform environmental remediation on the land that is contaminated with toxins resulting from distilling processes. That remediation must be completed before home construction can begin.

Vontran did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

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Restored historic cannons dedicated to veterans on Defenders Day

Restored historic cannons dedicated to veterans on Defenders Day
Despite the sometimes-heavy rain, dignitaries and community representatives laid wreaths around the restored cannons in honor of all U.S. veterans. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 9/7/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Although much of the annual Defenders Day festival was rained out on Saturday, Sept. 2, community members were still able to dedicate two fully restored historic cannons in a ceremony that kicked off the day’s events.

The cannons - two World War I-era M1906 artillery guns - have stood their post in front of Battery Harris in Fort Howard Park for more than four decades save for a one-year absence during their restoration. They were taken away in November 2015 and returned in November 2016.

Previously placed directly on the ground, the cannons’ wooden wheels had begun to deteriorate, and their metal bodies showed their age with chipping paint and rusting components.

So as part of the Keeping the Promise for Another 100 Years, community members worked with various government entities and businesses to restore the 100-year-old cannons to their former glory and preserve them for the next century.

Scott Pappas, chairman of the Keeping the Promise committee, said the project and the day’s ceremony were made possible through the generosity of the Maryland Army National Guard, Chesapeake Woodworking, Sherwin Williams and the United States WWI Centennial Commission, with additional contribution from Midway Lumber, Staples, the taxpayers of Baltimore County and the Defenders Day committee.

“The weathered cannons symbolized the American people keeping the promise to honor and care for our veterans,” Pappas told the crowd. “And the newly restored cannons serve as a tangible symbol of our veterans’ service and sacrifice, ready to stand for another 100 years.”

Pappas explained that a second phase of the project, planned for completion by Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2018, is slated to consist of a WWI memorial in the park complete with a promenade, interpretive signage, landscaping and a granite monument.

Pappas also said the project would not have happened without the leadership of committee co-chairman Sgt. First Class Leslie Ernest (ret.) of the Maryland Army National Guard.

National Guard personnel under Ernest’s command carried out much of the restoration of the cannon bodies at their installation near Havre de Grace while Chesapeake Woodworking in Baltimore restored and restructured the wooden wheels. Sherwin Williams donated all the paint needed for the project.

Ernest, a Dundalk resident, said the project started for him on a walk through Fort Howard Park in May 2015 when he noticed the cannons had fallen into disrepair.

“And being a history buff and a 31-year veteran of the military, I felt that my duty and my honor was to get the Maryland Army National Guard involved in restoring the cannons,” he said.

The long process was completed, Ernest said, “with the help of a lot of key people.”

“I think they turned out pretty decent,” he said to a round of applause. “I hope that we can continue to preserve them because, me being a history buff and being in the military and being a patriot, I can’t stand to see our cannons and our war memorials not being taken care of.”

Brig. Gen. Sean Casey, director of the Joint Staff of the Maryland National Guard, said what struck him Saturday was the history - “the history of where we’re physically located right now.”

Casey noted that both the fort and the park were named after John Eager Howard, a militia colonel and hero during the American Revolution, as well as an eventual governor of Maryland.

The British also landed on the North Point Peninsula in the area in 1814 with the intention of burning and pillaging the city of Baltimore, he said.

“But as they moved up the peninsula, they met the Maryland militia,” and the Battle of North Point ensued, Casey said, calling it a “turning point” in the war.

In addition, Francis Scott Key wrote what is now our national anthem while aboard a ship just offshore as he watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry.

“Now today, we’re honoring our veterans by dedicating these cannons, keeping the promise for another 100 years,” Casey said.

He asked all to remember the 62,000 Marylanders that answered the call for WWI, particularly the 2,000 who made the ultimate sacrifice and never came home alive.

“Today we dedicate these guns to all veterans of all wars, but specifically those from the great State of Maryland,” he stated.

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Access World applies for new crushing equipment at Sparrows Point

Access World applies for new crushing equipment at Sparrows Point
Image courtesy of Google.

(Updated 9/7/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Access World, a metals warehousing company formerly known as Pacorini Metals, is seeking a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment to install crushing equipment at Sparrows Point to process more of their materials.

The company, which does business internationally but is headquartered on Broening Highway, operates five warehouse locations in Maryland, two of which are at Sparrows Point and employ a total of over 100 workers.

According to Len Crescenzo, Baltimore location manager for Access World, the company leases a warehouse in the former New Cold Mill building left behind from the days of steelmaking and owned by Tradepoint Atlantic. They also operate out of space at the marine terminal at the Sparrows Point Shipyard, which is separate from Tradepoint Atlantic.

They have had a presence on the site for nearly two years handling bulk and break-bulk materials.

“We’re a company that primarily, originally, had done warehousing of metals and metal-type products,” Crescenzo said, adding that the company is “a growing operation at this point” and is entering the “value added service” position in business.

“We’re very new to this part of the industry,” he said.

But in order to continue their expansion, Access World needs new crushing and screening equipment to process the bulk commodities which are brought to the Sparrows Point site to be processed then shipped out to its customers. As a result, they have applied for a permit needed from MDE before they can proceed.

“This particular permit is for two 500-ton-per-hour crushing plants and four 200-ton-per-hour screening plants,” said Michael Cirri, president and chief financial officer for Jenkins Environmental, Inc., Access World’s environmental consultant who wrote the application.

Cirri said all of the crushing activities under the permit would be conducted inside of a building, which would go a long way to help limit fugitive emissions. Both crushing plants could be operated on either electricity or diesel engines, he added.

The types of materials they plan to process in the plants include but are not limited to various commodities such as aggregates, metallics and grain, Cirri said.

The MDE permit application, available on the MDE website, includes a full list of the commodities to be processed.

Cirri also noted that the permit would allow Access World to carry out similar operations to what was permitted and conducted by Kinder Morgan at Sparrows Point and to what MCM Management Corporation currently does on the industrial site.

MCM has worked at Sparrows Point for the last five years processing slag from on-site. They applied for a MDE permit in June for use of similar equipment.

Access World would only be processing materials from other places, however, be they domestic or international.

“As of right now, we don’t have anything in-house from The Point,” Crescenzo said. “Everything that we’re looking at to crush will all be brought from somewhere else.”

In addition to the crushing operations taking place indoors, the company plans to use wet suppression on any outdoor activities to control fugitive dust, Cirri said.

The screening operations will take place outside and will make use of wet suppression techniques, as well as a water truck for wet suppression of haul roads.

“In this type of operation, the primary concern is to control dust,” he said.

Cirri described the project as a non-major source of emissions.

“That means our pollutants of concern are all below the major threshold limits,” he said. The pollutants would result from the operation of diesel engines.

And all emissions calculations, Cirri said, were based on the maximum throughput that each piece of equipment is capable of processing.

In addition, Access World is committed to maintaining a 12-month rolling average of emissions for all of their equipment, Cirri said. “So they’re going to calculate the emissions every month, and this level of record keeping is going to ensure that they don’t exceed the major source threshold.”

Shannon Heafey, an administrator with MDE’s Air Quality Permits Program, said following the informal meeting, which was held Aug. 24, the department began its technical review of the proposal. Taking into consideration concerns raised at the meeting, she said, they would determine if it would meet their standards. Any resulting draft permit would be available for public review before being issued.

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New school year, new superintendent, new challenges

New school year, new superintendent, new challenges
Interim Superintendent Verletta White stopped by a science class at Woodlawn High School Tuesday, telling the freshmen to “relax and have fun while focusing on the road ahead.” Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 9/7/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Baltimore County Public Schools kicked off the school year on Tuesday, with over 110,000 students returning to classes around the county.

Verletta White, the new interim superintendent of BCPS, spent the first few days touring schools across the county, including Chesapeake and Kenwood high schools, Perry Hall Middle and Seneca Elementary, which were planned for Wednesday.

“I want to be in schools as often as possible,” said White. “There’s an excitement that comes with the first day of school, and I have that this year.”

That excitement has been palpable since she spent the day greeting teachers at the supply giveaway two weekends ago, and it was echoed by Board of Education member Julie Henn.

“I’m excited about working with our new superintendent,” said Henn. “Having worked her way up from a teacher to an administrator I think she brings a really great background and has shown a great willingness to work with the Board on what we feel needs to be addressed.”

Henn stated that this year one of the main focuses of the Board will be on disciplinary issues within the schools, citing concerns expressed by administrators and community stakeholders in schools across the county.

The issue of student behavior and violence has been of concern to legislators, including the entire Sixth District Delegation, Delegate Pat McDonough and Councilman Todd Crandell. In letter sent out by Crandell and the Sixth District Delegation, they wrote that “there have been many incidents throughout our district - in elementary, middle and high schools - that include criminal violence, bullying and other forms of harassment that have no place in our schools.” The letter goes on to say that they are “troubled by the lack of consistency in consequences and sound disciplinary policy.”

According to Henn, the public will have a chance to give their input at an open meeting in the fall, but she acknowledged that she already knows some changes need to be made.

“We hear from certain schools that student behavior is a problem and we need to address that,” said Henn. “The Board will be revisiting that. I’m looking forward to [the input meeting] and what the public has to say. Hopefully we can get a lot of teacher input as well and we’ll be able to revisit the policies and strengthen those.”

But according to a recent press release sent out by Grammer, any plans for a hearing have yet to reach the ears of legislators.

“Fall is here, schools are about to reopen, no planning has been executed and the entire issue has been written off as hearsay by the ‘Education Establishment’ in Towson,” Grammer’s release reads in part. (The rest of his letter can be found on page 8 of this week’s issue.)

While it seems that the main issue of the year will be discipline, Henn also noted that there is still a lot of work to be done with regard to facilities upgrades and alleviating overcrowding. She noted that Dulaney, Towson and Lansdowne high schools all need to be replaced and also that overcrowding at the middle school level still leaves a lot to be desired.

“I’m trying to work with the superintendent to find out what short-term relief we can put in place until we get the new [Perry Hall] middle school up in 2021,” said Henn.

The beginning of this school year also saw the completion of a lot of school air conditioning projects on the east side, with Orems, Pleasant Plains, Chapel Hill, Kingsville and Oakleigh elementary schools, as well as Golden Ring and Middle River middle schools, all getting their installations finished over the summer.

“I am so excited for the students, teachers and staff who will be starting off this school year with air conditioning in their classrooms. This is a great win for students and teachers who deserve a comfortable learning and teaching environment,” said Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6).

Councilman David Marks and Henn also expressed their excitement, with Henn adding that she could “not only see the difference, but also feel the difference,” after touring Kingsville and Chapel Hill.

The only schools left without air conditioning are schools that are being replaced or renovated, which includes Berkshire, Colgate and Dundalk elementary schools, as well as Kenwood High School.

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New homes planned for off Philadelphia Road in White Marsh

New homes planned for off Philadelphia Road in White Marsh
The new development would have access off Holter Road rather than Thirteen Mile Lane, which is a private road. Another piece on the far side of Thirteen Mile Lane would be designated for forest conservation. Image courtesy of Little & Associates, Inc.

(Updated 9/7/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Gemcraft Homes, based in Bel Air, plans to build 17 new houses off Philadelphia Road in White Marsh.

The wooded site, which also includes two existing houses, will be called Overlook at Honeygo. It is located east of Interstate 95 between Thirteen Mile Lane, a private road, and Holter Road, which serves an existing residential neighborhood.

Several residents said they would have preferred access via Thirteen Mile Lane, but that would likely mean making that road public with consent from abutting property owners.

County Administrative Law Judge John Beverungen held a hearing about the development plan on Thursday, Aug. 31, in Towson, and his decision is expected in about two weeks. His approval is needed before the project can proceed.

Most affected is the neighboring community of 13 houses called Honeygo Springs at the southern end of Holter Road, which currently dead-ends in a T that terminates in two cul de sacs.

One resident, who lives on the northern cul de sac that will be eliminated to make way for the extension of Holter Road to the new homes, attended the Thursday hearing.

She said that young neighborhood children routinely play in the cul de sac and that she is concerned about truck traffic passing through the neighborhood during construction and residential traffic once people move in.

County officials testified that they have approved most of the concept plan except for stormwater management plans, which will be addressed in more detail later in the development process.

Proposed is a bio-retention area and a sand filter area, as well as bio-swales to contain water runoff, according to the site plan.

Trees will be cut down on much of the site except for two forest buffer areas, according to the plan. A special variance from forest buffer requirements to allow the removal of three “specimen trees” was approved in May by the county Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability.

Specimen trees are those whose trunks are 30 inches or more in diameter roughly chest height from the ground.

The developers have also agreed to pay the county a $39,100 fee in lieu of meeting open space requirements, according to an approval from the county Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections.

At the hearing, the Holter Road resident said Chapel Hill Elementary is already considered officially overcrowded, which can in some situations require that a hold be put on new construction.

Gemcraft representatives said a new elementary school, which is funded and under construction at East Joppa Road and Chapel Road, is due to open in August 2018 before the new houses are completed, probably within 15 months to two years from now.

That includes an estimated nine to 12 months until a grading permit is issued, followed by four to six months for installation of roads and utilities, plus four to six months for home construction.

The new subdivision will also need to comply with the county’s Honeygo building design guidelines, which will be reviewed for compliance as the project gets closer to construction.

Decisions by the county administrative law judge are posted at

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Chorus of the Chesapeake to offer lessons in perfect harmony

Chorus of the Chesapeake to offer lessons in perfect harmony
Kevin King (left) directed a recent performance of the Chorus of the Chesapeake at the 200th anniversary of the dedication of the Aquila Randall monument in Dundalk. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 9/7/17)

- By Marge Neal -

If you sing in the shower or car, are always up for a night of karaoke or have visions of performing in community theater or singing in a church choir, the Chorus of the Chesapeake has a deal for you.

The venerable men’s barbershop harmony group, headquartered in Dundalk, is offering a free vocal music education program called “Ready? Set, Sing!”

Chorus director Kevin King will lead five weekly vocal lessons at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Sept. 26 through Oct. 24, at the North Point Government Center, 771 Wise Ave. in Dundalk.

King, a 30-year music educator, has music in his blood. He’s the son of the late Fred King, who was a long-time music teacher for Baltimore County Public Schools and a nearly six-decade barbershopper with extensive directorial experience. Fred King directed the Chorus of the Chesapeake from 1966 to 1996. The group won the international chorus competition in 1971 under his leadership.

The free lessons are being provided with no strings attached in part to celebrate the chorus’ 60th anniversary, according to Bill Day, a member of the group.

“We did this in the spring and it was pretty successful so we thought we’d try it again,” Day said. “And while we picked up a couple of guys then, there is absolutely no obligation to join the chorus.”

The a cappella chorus was chartered in 1957 as the Dundalk chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, according to an online history of the group. The group now has about 120 members “on the rolls,” according to Day, with about 50 active members.

“Some guys can no longer get out to performances but they continue to pay their dues because of their devotion to the group,” Day said.

The chorus is known for its community involvement, with performances at events such as the Dundalk Heritage Fair and other public gatherings. A small portion of the chorus performed at the July celebration of the bicentennial of the Aquila Randall monument - a Battle of North Point historical marker - in Dundalk.

The group is honored to be singing the Star-Spangled Banner at the Baltimore Orioles baseball game on Sept. 19, Day said.

There is no minimum or maximum age to join, according to Day, though most members are 21 and older.

“Every once in a while, we get a high school student, and they are welcome to join,” he said. “But most members are of adult age.”

Each participant will be assessed and lessons will be tailored to meet each person’s ability and goals. Space is limited. Interested male singers should register before Sept. 26 by calling Linden White at 410-836-7594 or sending an email to

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WWII plane to again dominate skies over Baltimore

WWII plane to again dominate skies over Baltimore
By now, many have likely noticed the WWII plane gracing the tarmac at Martin State Airport since Monday. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 8/30/17)

- By Devin Crum -

This Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 2 and 3, a sight unseen by many in more than 70 years will return to the skies over eastern Baltimore County.

The Liberty Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the memory of World War II veterans who served aboard Boeing B-17 bombers, will bring the sights, sounds and smells of the iconic airplanes back to Baltimore this weekend for all to enjoy.

For a fee, interested persons can even get the full experience by taking a roughly 30-minute flight in the Madras Maiden, which is currently on tour and flying out of Martin State Airport in Middle River. Flights are priced at $450 per person, or $410 with a Liberty Foundation membership. It is important to note, however, that those funds go toward offsetting the cost of operating the historic aircraft, which amounts to about $4,500 per hour.

“That’s what actually supports this airplane as it tours the country,” said volunteer captain Bob Hill. “That’s what keeps it alive.”

Hill added that if it was not flying, it would be like other B-17s - static in a museum somewhere, only available to look at.

But if you can’t shell out that kind of cash, the foundation still invites the public to view the flights, as well as participate in free ground tours of the airplane after flights finish each day.

Keith Youngblood, tour coordinator with the foundation, said flights will begin at 10 a.m. each day and finish by late afternoon, potentially 3 or 4 p.m.

Hill said being able to fly in the airplane allows people to experience it with all senses.

“And you correct me if I’m wrong after you get off the airplane, there is a taste to it,” he told the media Monday, Aug. 28. “You experience all five senses. You can’t do that with an airplane that’s poised on a floor somewhere in some museum.”

Hill said he has piloted B-17s to Baltimore many times over the years. And some may remember when the Memphis Belle, a more famous B-17, toured the area from Middle River in 2012.

The pilot noted that the Liberty Foundation’s educational outreach is also meant to honor veterans and to make people aware of not only what was accomplished during WWII, but also what continues today and provides us with the freedoms that we all have and enjoy as a nation.

“People have to make sacrifices for that to happen, so we’re grateful for that,” Hill commented. He noted that the “greatest generation” is also what created the economic superpower that the U.S. became post-WWII.

Hill, 61, said nearly all of his high school teachers were WWII veterans, which gave him a great appreciation and affinity for those who have made such sacrifices.

The Liberty Foundation was founded by Don Brooks, Hill explained, whose father was a tail gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress during the war and completed 30 missions on the airplane.

The elder Brooks survived the war and made it home. But following his death in the late 1970s, his son wanted to find a way to honor him and all the B-17 crews that flew during WWII.

“I like to think we inspire people,” Hill said, whether or not they inspire them to get involved in aviation. “Whatever it is that you aspire to do, we hope it inspires people.”

Hill threw out some statistics regarding B-17s during the war, such as that men flying missions in the airplanes out of bases in England in 1943 and 1944 had only a 23-percent chance of surviving any given mission.

“That’s a 77-percent chance you would not return from your mission. And you were required initially to fly 25 missions and then you could rotate home,” he said, adding that that was eventually increased to 30, then 35 missions.

Additionally, because the planes were not pressurized, crew had to battle the elements as well as the enemy, Hill said. At the typical flight altitude of 19,000 - 26,000 feet, the temperature inside the B-17s could reach minus 40 F.

Records show that 4,145 B-17s were lost in combat during the war, along with 609 more lost during training or formation exercises due to mid-air collisions. In the Eighth Air Force alone over two and a half years of fighting, 26,000 air crew were killed and 100,000 wounded.

This is compared to the Pacific marine campaign, which lasted three and a half years and during which 19,800 men were killed.

“So it was much more dangerous to be in the skies over Europe in a bomber,” Hill said.

He also pointed out that people can visit battlefields on land and sea to see monuments or grave sites. “But you can never return to the battlefield in the sky. It’s not there.”

And unlike during surface battles, where commanding officers make decisions strategically and tactically as a battle evolves, in the air there were no generals to make those decisions as battles progressed.

“You had a bunch of 21- and 22-year-old pilots making these decisions on what we should do,” Hill said, adding that it was a largely new type of warfare in the air.

He noted as well that there is currently an HBO special in production by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks called “The Mighty Eighth” which focuses on a B-17 bomber group during WWII.

The miniseries - slated to be 10 one-hour episodes - is based on the book “Masters of the Air” by Donald Miller and will join the directorial pair’s previous WWII productions of “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific.”

The Madras Maiden, although painted in the colors of the 381st Bomb Group, never saw combat. It was built in October 1944 under contract by Lockheed-Vega in Burbank, Cali., and was sold as surplus by the military in 1959.

Now owned by the Erickson Aircraft Collection, it is based out of Madras, Ore., where it spends its winters. It is currently under lease to the Liberty Foundation which makes 42 - 48 stops with it around the country each year, touring between late February and mid-November.

For the foundation’s last visit to the area five years ago, they had leased the Memphis Belle, which is privately owned and is now in a museum. Their own B-17, the Liberty Belle, has been in re-restoration since 2011.

Those interested in scheduling a flight on the majestic beast can contact Scott Maher at 918-340-0243 or

Youngblood, the tour coordinator, gave his guarantee that they will stay until at least 5 p.m. each day to accomodate those who want to take ground tours.

“But we usually stay out until 7 or 7:30,” he said. “As long as people come, we stay out and go through that.”

See below for more views of Monday's flight on the Madras Maiden.

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Sights of the Flight!

Below are some of the things that passengers and visitors on the ground alike can hope to see this weekend aboard the visiting Madras Maiden, a Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" from World War II. See the article above for more details.

Demolition by fire continued as Seagram’s razing deadline loomed

Demolition by fire continued as Seagram’s razing deadline loomed
Firefighters and police officers remained on the scene of a still-smoldering building at the former Seagram’s property Tuesday morning. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 8/30/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Baltimore County firefighters responded late Monday night, Aug. 28, to a second fire in less than two months on the former Seagram’s property in Dundalk.

The latest blaze occurred just two days from the county-imposed deadline of Aug. 30 to have all the remaining buildings demolished and the lot at 7101 Sollers Point Road cleared of all debris.

Firefighters responded to a call of fire on the property at about 10 p.m. Monday, according to public safety spokeswoman Elise Armacost. About 20 pieces of equipment responded and there were no injuries to responders. Some personnel remained on the scene at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday. Police still had Sollers Point Road blocked off as smoke or rain-related steam appeared to be coming from a building at the center-rear of the property.

Monday’s fire is at least the site’s fifth multiple-alarm fire since 2007, and one of at least 27 overall fire service responses to the property in that time, according to information supplied by Armacost. In addition to the “significant” fires, personnel have responded to calls for indoor and outdoor trash fires, reported odor of smoke, at least one brush fire and building fires of one alarm or less.

“Please note the information I am providing is approximate; it is possible that some incidents, especially minor ones, were coded in such a way that they did not show up when we did the search,” Armacost wrote in an email to the East County Times.

Residents in neighboring houses started posting photographs and videos of the blaze around 10:30 p.m. Monday. Some commented they were worried about hot embers blowing in windy conditions and expressed concerns about their own roofs catching fire.

With it “obvious” that the demolition deadline of Aug. 30 would not be met, Arnold Jablon, director of the county’s Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections, said Tuesday he is disappointed and frustrated that the property’s owners did not abide by the agreement that was reached last month.

“I thought we had a definitive decision and that’s obviously not going to happen,” he told the Times when asked what definitive action county officials would next take to address the problem. “We had an agreement, reached after code violations over a long period of time, and it’s very clear that agreement is not going to be honored.”

Jablon said he would move immediately to enforce the $100,000 fine and place a lien against the property.

County fire and code enforcement officials will also act immediately to issue new code citations, which will result in another administrative hearing, according to the director.

“We will get those new citations issued today or tomorrow; absolutely as soon as possible,” Jablon said Tuesday.

The former distillery is owned by Sollers Investors LLC, an entity that includes developers John Vontran and brothers Mark and Jeffrey Powers, who also head the Powers Companies, a commercial and residential building/development entity headquartered in Reisterstown.

The abandoned property, long an eyesore and source of code enforcement and other complaints, has been a nuisance to the surrounding community since it ceased operation as a distillery and was sold in 1994 to Brewery Station, Inc., headed by property developer and apartment complex owner Frank Scarfield.

Scarfield sold the property to VO LLC, headed by Vontran and Paul Oliver, in 2008. VO transferred the property to Sollers Investors in April 2013. Under the combined ownership, the property has been targeted by trespassers and arsonists, used as an open dump and illegal storage space for commercial and construction equipment and illegally rented to commercial entities without proper permits, resulting in at least 19 code violation complaints since 2004 and at least 27 responses by Baltimore County Fire Department personnel since 2007.

Before Monday’s fire, the most recent incident happened July 3, when an early-morning blaze consumed one of the remaining buildings on the campus.

That fire spurred Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell to contact the county’s Code Enforcement department and ask for an immediate inspection of the property and an expedited hearing to address the neglect and nuisance of the site.

A hearing was held with Administrative Law Judge Lawrence M. Stahl on July 12. In his final order written July 19, Stahl meted out a $100,000 fine on the owners. He also ordered the building nearly destroyed by the fire to be completely torn down by July 26 and that “demolition of the remaining buildings and cleanup of the entire property be completed by Aug. 30, 2017.”

On July 13, a construction crane was seen on the property. Workers knocked down what appeared to be a reinforced column, all that existed of the six-story building that collapsed as a result of the July 3 fire. Crandell posted on his Facebook page a picture of the equipment and wrote, “Thankfully, demolition work began today, with all the proper paperwork filed with the county.”

Crandell’s posts evoked hundreds of comments and “shares” as many people weighed in on the topic.

But the demolition equipment was gone on July 14, and no additional work appeared to be taking place on the property. With the demolition deadline looming, the Times took photographs of the property on Friday, Aug. 25, which showed all remaining buildings still standing, and the lot still overgrown with tall grass, shrubbery and trees that now mostly block view of the land from the street.

After the ALJ’s final order was issued, county officials seemed to take a hard line with the ultimatum placed on the owners.

Code Enforcement Chief Lionel van Dommelen told the Times in July that “the only things that are to be left standing by the end of August are the smokestack and water tower,” referring to two structures that are on the county’s historic landmarks list and must be preserved.

He said the only thing that could extend the deadline was if it was determined that extensive asbestos abatement would be required.

Jablon said the owners have entered into contractual agreements with a certified asbestos abatement company, but that didn’t happen in a timely enough fashion to meet the demolition deadline.

He added that the county would not grant Sollers Investors any more permits for the property until the six-figure fine is paid.

County officials and the owners knew several of the buildings contained asbestos, Jablon said, which meant that removal of the dangerous material by a certified contractor had to take place before the buildings could be razed.

“That stuff can’t become airborne,” he said. “That has to be removed by a certified contractor.”

Asbestos removal began over the weekend, according to Crandell, who noted his frustration that the deadline would not be met.

“I was hoping they would, but given the years of excuses and negligence, I’m not really surprised the deadline wasn’t met,” he said Tuesday. “I’m frustrated, the community is beyond frustrated and it’s beyond time for the owners to be held accountable.”

Noting the approved plan for 185 townhomes to be built on the land, Jablon said he was excited when he first saw those plans. The development, known as Foundry Station, would be a “great thing” for the Greater Dundalk community, he said, and he is disappointed the project has moved so slowly.

He said the county won’t “give up” on holding the owners responsible for the property.

“We’re on it; we’re doing the best we can,” Jablon said, noting that little can be done other than fine the owners and place liens against the deed.

The county would be required to condemn the property through the courts to have the authority to raze the buildings, a move they do not want to make because it would be tied up in courts for years, according to Jablon. The property is also contaminated with toxins from its distillery days, and Sollers Investors has entered into a voluntary environmental remediation program through the Maryland Department of the Environment. The owners anticipate remediation and demolition costs to be about $3 million, according to testimony given at the county hearing to approve the Foundry Station proposal.

Ideally, the owners will make good on the agreement and follow through with the development as planned, Jablon said, while he plans to use the tools he has available to keep it on track.

“We thought we had this taken care of,” he said. “We tried to hit them over the head with a hammer, and now we’re going to come back and hit them over the head with an anvil. Those buildings have to come down.”

Vontran did not respond to multiple requests for interviews for this article.

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Christina’s Female Revue again fined by liquor board

Christina’s Female Revue again fined by liquor board
The adult entertainment establishment was given its second $2,000 fine in six weeks. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 8/30/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

The Baltimore County Board of Liquor Commissioners fined Christina’s Female Revue in Edgemere another $2,000 after a hearing Monday, Aug. 28, in Towson.

An undercover police detective testified that he and two other officers visited the bar on July 27 about 8:30 p.m. and stayed about an hour.

The dancers were not wearing pasties, and some dancers were simulating masturbation on stage and pulling down their G-strings to reveal their “Intergluteal cleft,” according to the police report.

The licensee argued that the dancers were wearing pasties but that the pasties were made of clear Latex.

The board’s decision was the second time in six weeks that the adult entertainment bar, located at 4508 North Point Blvd., was found to have violated the board’s “prohibitive practices” rule.

The bar was previously fined $2,000 following a hearing on July 17 after an undercover detective visited the bar and reported that dancers had failed to use pasties and they were accepting tips between their breasts.

Officers also said they were responding to a complaint that that Christina’s Female Revue was offering “lap” dances.

The licensee testified Monday that he was offering “private” dances where women are fully clothed, but decided to close down the room and replace it with a dining area.

In other business, the board fined McAvoy’s restaurant and bar at 2531 Putty Hill Ave. in Parkville a total of $750 for serving alcohol to an intoxicated person who was also a minor.

An officer testified that he responded to a call from the bar on June 24 at 1:30 a.m. about a young woman whom he concluded was highly intoxicated. An attorney for the licensee said the woman, who is 20, was fraudulently using an ID card belonging to her 23-year-old sister.

The board concluded, however, that even though the bartender was deceived by the fake ID, the establishment was still responsible for serving a minor.

The board also dismissed on Monday two other allegations of serving alcohol to an intoxicated person against the River Watch restaurant in Essex and Charlie Brown’s Tavern in the Overlea.

Attorneys argued that there was no testimony that indicated that the patrons appeared intoxicated when they were served alcohol in the bars.

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Al Redmer Jr. set to announce candidacy for county executive; McDonough sounds off

Al Redmer Jr. set to announce candidacy for county executive; McDonough sounds off
Pat McDonough, who is also running for county executive, has taken issue with Governor Hogan's decision to back Redmer. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 8/30/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

After months of speculation, Al Redmer Jr. is set to announce his candidacy for Baltimore County Executive at a Sept. 23 event at Boumi Temple in White Marsh with Governor Larry Hogan.

Redmer is a former state delegate from Perry Hall who held the position of Maryland Insurance Commissioner from 2003 - 2005. He was reappointed in 2015. Redmer is the second Republican to enter the race, with Delegate Pat McDonough (R-7) declaring his intent to run months ago.

While Redmer declined to comment, multiple sources close to him confirmed with the East County Times that he will announce his candidacy on Sept. 23.

The news made its way to McDonough before a campaign event at Pappas Restaurant in Cockeysville last weekend, and the outspoken delegate did not hold back, taking aim at both Redmer and Hogan.

“Hogan needs Baltimore County, and what has he decided to do? He’s decided to divide the Republican party,” McDonough told a crowd of about 70.

McDonough questioned whether or not it was appropriate for Redmer to hold onto his job as Maryland Insurance Commissioner while running for office, and also noted that with health insurance rates set to rise, Redmer could be an easy target for Democrats.

“Everyone in this room has insurance, and he’s the chief regulator,” said McDonough. “There’s a conflict of interest with him to go out and ask for your money while he’s regulating.”

With Hurricane Harvey fresh on everyone’s mind, McDonough brought up Hurricane Isabel and blasted Redmer’s handling of the storm as insurance commissioner. He also hit Redmer on siding with Congressman and former County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger on an eminent domain initiative in 2000.

“People on the east side haven’t forgotten. Republican or Democrat, they still haven’t forgiven him,” said McDonough.

McDonough eventually turned his attention from Redmer to Hogan, claiming that the governor is putting his own campaign at risk by backing Redmer.

“He’s risking [his] reelection because he can’t afford to lose one voter,” said McDonough.

According to McDonough, Hogan won’t back him because he’s too “Trump-like.” In the July 6 issue of the East County Times, Devin Crum noted that McDonough wanted to shape his campaign in the mold of former Governor William Donald Schaefer, not President Trump. But Hogan’s commitment to backing Redmer suggests McDonough has not shed that connection.

Hogan, a moderate, has not had much public discussion regarding President Trump, but statements put out during the healthcare debate and the Paris Accord debate show that he and the President are not in line. And for McDonough - a man the Wall Street Journal dubbed the “Trump of Baltimore County” - being tied more closely to Trump as opposed to the ever-popular Hogan could be a death knell in a firmly blue state that saw Hillary Clinton receive just over 60 percent of the vote in the last election.

“He’s Mr. Moderation, he’s Mr. RINO,” said McDonough, mocking Hogan. “He’s Mr. I’m a Republican but really a Democrat.”

McDonough was not done with Hogan either, calling his decision to back Redmer a “gross miscalculation, politically” before hitting the governor on fundraising efforts.

“I’ll tell you about Larry [Hogan]. Larry raises money for Larry,” said McDonough. “When Larry makes a phone call he’s going to say, ‘This is Larry Hogan, give me money.’ The person on the other end will ask ‘What about Al Redmer?’ Hogan will respond with, ‘Who?”

Hogan could not be reached for comment.

McDonough pointed to two recent fundraisers in Baltimore County, one at Conrad’s Ruth Villa and the other at the Timonium Fairgrounds, as evidence that Hogan does not have the draw he once did. According to McDonough, those events undersold by hundreds. But standing in stark contrast to those claims is the recent Delegate Christian Miele fundraiser for his State Senate run, which saw the young delegate pick up more than $50,000 in an evening.

While McDonough gave the impression that he is not worried, the fact that he spent a third of his time blasting Redmer and Hogan suggests otherwise.

When pressed about endorsements, McDonough stated he did not care much for endorsements, but added some would be coming. He also noted that he has the backing of the Trump Administration and suggested Vice President Mike Pence or other administration members like Attorney General Jeff Sessions or spokesperson Kellyanne Conway might visit Baltimore County to lend support.

McDonough also plans to hold a campaign announcement event the same day as Redmer’s at Dundalk’s Boulevard Diner, where Trump visited during the 2016 campaign.

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Tourism study going out to bid, will suggest use of added tourism funds

Tourism study going out to bid, will suggest use of added tourism funds
The Baltimore County Sailing Center's Junior Regatta, held in July, is an example of an event that could be promoted with the added tourism funds. The regatta drew about 500 people to Rocky Point Park in Essex for its 2017 event. File photo.

(Updated 8/30/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Baltimore County spends less than some of its neighboring counties to promote its tourist attractions, including its 200 miles of waterfront stretching between the Patapsco River in Dundalk and the Bird River in White Marsh.

But that could change next year, as funds begin to accumulate thanks to a County Council bill that will divert an 8-percent share of the county’s estimated $10.8 million a year in hotel tax revenue into the tourism budget now overseen by the county’s Department of Economic and Workforce Development.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz allocated $254,000 for tourism promotion in fiscal year 2017, and the new revenue is expected to bump that up to $1.2 million for FY 2018, according to this year’s budget.

Meanwhile, new hotels in the pipeline should help boost tourism promotion even more, pending the results and recommendations of a soon-to-be-undertaken study of the regional market.

“We believe an infusion of $800,000 to $1 million each year without any additional cost to taxpayers will provide the Office of Tourism and Promotion and the Tourism Council the resources necessary to maximize the return on this investment,” wrote Council Chairman Tom Quirk (D-Catonsville) in his budget message for fiscal year 2018, which started July 1.

The quadrupling of funds is somewhat misleading, though, because the Kamenetz administration offset the increase by shifting $634,700 in grant expenses from its $3.5 million Arts and Sciences budget into tourism.

Some of the $634,700 will be paid out to 10 county organizations such as the Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, the Maryland Fire Museum in Lutherville and the Glenn L. Martin Aviation Museum in Middle River, which is set to receive $7,000.

But the bulk of the shifted grants - a total of $500,000 - will be used to continue the longstanding county practice of awarding grants to major cultural and tourist destinations in Baltimore City, such as the Walters Art Museum and the National Aquarium.

The city grants are a good investment, said Fronda Cohen with the Department of Economic Development, because convenient access to city attractions improves the quality of life for county residents.

The grants aren’t blank checks, however; the city organizations are routinely surveyed to ensure that county residents are among their patrons, she said.

Access to Baltimore cultural institutions is also a plus for economic development because it helps attract potential employers to the county that generate jobs and tax revenue, said Will Anderson, director of Economic Development, during a May budget discussion.

Hal Ashman, who owns Ultimate Watersports in Middle River, chairs the county’s Tourism and Promotion Advisory Council, which is made up of appointees from both the city and county.

He said he does not object to continuing to award grants to the city, but transferring that obligation to the tourism budget won’t leave much to promote county attractions, at least in FY 2018, which ends next June.

“Shifting the expenses over strips the purpose of the bill,” he said.

Kamenetz will leave office after the November 2018 election, and some hope the next county executive will move tourism promotion up the priorities list.

In the meantime, projects are in the pipeline to help generate more hotel tax revenue for the county that could expand the pie for all.

Construction of the Marriott SpringHill Suites is well under way as part of the Baltimore Crossroads development off MD Route 43 in Middle River, and new hotels are proposed for White Marsh, Catonsville and possibly Sparrows Point, as the Tradepoint Atlantic site develops over the next five years.

Regional study
Part of the renewed focus on tourism in Baltimore County is the allocation of $150,000 for a regional study to evaluate current conditions.

“The purpose is to establish a long-term strategic plan on how to best spend the funds,” said Ashman, who envisions a follow-up marketing campaign based on the study recommendations.

Two county employees currently work full-time for the tourism program, and another person is being added to split his or her time between tourism and economic development.

Employees manage the county tourism website, organize two Restaurant Weeks each year, and oversee the annual publication of Enjoy Baltimore County, a 40-page promotional brochure which is contracted out to a company in Columbia and funded through advertising.

Ashman said he and his executive board members recently met with Anderson, the economic development director, to talk about the pending request for proposal, a document posted by the purchasing department that solicits bids to do the study, which is expected to produce recommendations before next July.

The council representatives recommended the county not necessarily pick the low bidder to do the study, he said.

The Marine Trades Association of Baltimore County says it also wants input into defining the study’s scope.

Although briefly mentioned as a group in Enjoy Baltimore County, the county’s tourism brochure, the marinas and waterfront attractions do not have their own section like the wineries and horse-related events in northern Baltimore County, said Bob Palmer of Tradewinds Marina in Bowleys Quarters and a past president of the MTABC.

More specific mention of eastern Baltimore County destinations such as the new iFly skydiving attraction in White Marsh, the longtime Bengies drive-in theater in Middle River and the annual Defenders Day event in Edgmere are spread throughout the publication.

Palmer said he is hoping that by joining others in the county-wide study, the marinas can add to what they already do to attract visitors to the shoreline.

For 22 years, MTABC has published its annual Waterfront Guide, which lists dozens of marinas and marine-related businesses along with local restaurants, hotels and retailers.

“There’s a multiplier effect,” said Palmer about the spending that visitors do that helps support neighboring businesses.

This year’s 50-page edition includes a story about the expansion of recreational opportunities at Hart-Miller Island, as well as listings of local waterfront parks and festivals that attract visitors.

The Baltimore County Sailing Center’s junior regatta off Rocky Point Park in Essex drew an estimated 500 people in July, including people from as far away as Texas and Colorado.

“The White Marsh hotels are booked,” said Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents part of White Marsh, Middle River and Bowleys Quarters, during the May budget discussion.

Eastern Baltimore County also has the Hammerman beach at the mouth of the Gunpowder River and North Point State Park in Edgemere near the route the British took when they marched toward Baltimore in 1814.

The Todd’s Inheritance house, where American militia spotted the advancing British, recently opened to the public, and there are other historic sites such as in Dundalk’s Turner Station and the Ballestone-Stansbury House in Essex.

Eastern Baltimore County is also home to the Rocky Point public golf course in Essex and three craft beer breweries - Red Brick Station in White Marsh, DuClaw in Rosedale and Key Brewing in Dundalk.

Seventh District Councilman Todd Crandell, who represents Dundalk and Essex, said he recently met a couple from Frederick County who made a special trip to Baltimore County to sample the beer at Key Brewing.

“They’d never been to Dundalk,” said Crandell, who envisioned a case where tourists could visit an east-side brewery and waterfront restaurant, then head into Baltimore to watch a Ravens game.

“You could organize a Baltimore County weekend,” he said about the potential for growth as a result of the pending study and its recommendations.

“All the elements are there,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for the public and private sectors to really [work together].”

For more information or to download a copy of the county's tourism brochure, visit

Grants shifted to FY18 tourism budget

City:  $500,000

Baltimore Museum of Art - $200,000
Center Stage - $100,000
National Aquarium - $100,000
Walters Art Museum - $100,000

County:  $134,700

Irvine Nature Center, Owings Mills - $35,000

Patapsco Heritage Greenway (river divides Baltimore and Howard counties) - $20,000

Gordon Center for Performing Arts, Owings Mills - $14,700

Fire Museum of Maryland, Lutherville - $13,000

Historical Society of Baltimore County, Cockeysville - $12,000

Baltimore Chamber Orchestra (performs in Towson) - $12,000)

Towson University Asian Art & Culture Center - $10,000

Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum, Middle River - $7,000

Contemporary Arts, Inc., Lochearn - $6,000

UMBC Center for Art Design & Visual Culture, Catonsville - $5,000

NOTE: County budget also includes separate line item of $24,100 for Blue Angels Fleet Week at Martin Airport in Middle River.

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Teachers gear up for school year courtesy of supply drive

Teachers gear up for school year courtesy of supply drive
Dohony (right) receives her allotment of marble notebooks in the first stop in line at the supply giveaway. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 8/30/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Over the last month, the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools worked with businesses and regular citizens in the county to collect school supplies to disperse to BCPS teachers. On Saturday, Aug. 23, hundreds of teachers from around the county  stopped by Boscov’s at White Marsh Mall to pick up what had been collected.

Teachers lined up outside of a makeshift setup in the mall for the chance to walk around and collect everything they could potentially need, from binders, folders and notebooks to pens, pencils, glue sticks, bookbags and more.

For Sharon Dohony, a special education math teacher at Middle River Middle School, the supply drive was a blessing.

“All of the teachers here are really excited,” said Dohony, who was taking part in the supply drive for the first time. “We can’t believe we’re getting all of this free stuff.”

Dohony, who has been teaching for almost 30 years, noted how difficult it is to find deals on supplies. In the past, chain stores would offer discounted prices for teachers getting ready to go back to school, but those deals are few and far between now.

“We end up spending hundreds each year on supplies for our students. Hundreds,” said Dohony. “So having something like this is amazing.”

The amazement was evident, with teachers looking as giddy as a student on a snow day. Some let out yells of joy, others hugged the volunteers who worked tirelessly to organize the event. All seemed thoroughly pleased with their haul of supplies.

This year’s drive was the biggest yet for BCPS, with 67 businesses and organizations taking part in donating supplies. For comparison, last year saw less than 20 businesses take part in the event.

“A simple thank you to the participating businesses, organizations and individuals is not enough,” said BCPS Interim Superintendent Verletta White. “Their involvement sends a strong message to our teachers and students that this is a community that cares deeply about education and about them. The notebooks, backpacks, crayons and other supplies that were donated will mean that more of our children can start the school year fully equipped for success.”

White was at the supply giveaway at Boscov’s, greeting every teacher as they entered the makeshift shop. And the fact that the superintendent was taking time to meet individually with every teacher that showed up was not lost on the teachers.

“She introduced herself and I was like, ‘I know who you are,’” exclaimed Dohony, adding that White’s appearance was a nice personal touch.

The Education Foundation had a goal of getting supplies to 500 teachers this year, and ultimately ended up smashing that goal. In total, 750 teachers received supplies on Saturday.

Other giveaways also took place around the county over the past week. On Friday, Aug. 22, more than 3,000 students received school supplies through The Preston Mitchum Jr. (PMJ) Foundation. Students recieved everything from backpacks and other necessary school supplies to clothes and other necessities. In Middle River, supplies were distributed at the Middle River Boys and Girls Club on Fuselage Avenue. The PMJ Foundation will also be donating to each of the groups they partnered with, including the Middle River Boys and Girls Club.

And on Tuesday, Aug. 29, the Kevin Liles for a Better Baltimore Foundation, Inc. held their Sixth Annual Back-to-School Event at the Sollers Point Multipurpose Center, with hundreds of bookbags and other supplies being distributed.

The Education Foundation of BCPS, Inc. is a nonprofit organization established to attract and direct public financial contributions to programs and activities of the school system in support of quality education for all children.

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Middle River Depot gets more time to clean up tires

Middle River Depot gets more time to clean up tires
Despite a code enforcement complaint being opened and subsequently closed on the matter, the tires remained on the back lots of the Middle River Depot as of Tuesday morning, visible from MD-43/Whitemarsh Boulevard. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 8/23/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Following a code enforcement complaint initiated by County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins’ office, the owners of the former Federal Depot property in Middle River received a correction notice more than a month ago for code violations found on the property.

A hearing had been scheduled for Aug. 16 in Towson to potentially penalize the Depot owner for the citations. But the inspector who issued the correction notices conducted a pre-hearing inspection a day prior, found the issues to be resolved and promptly canceled the hearing.

However, as of Tuesday morning, Aug. 22, large piles of tires - the source of the initial code complaint - remained on the lots behind the Depot’s main warehouse building.

Storing tires outside is a violation of the county code because of the potential for water to collect in them and create a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

According to Jim Almon, senior legislative advisor to Bevins, the code inspector handling the complaint thought that because he did not have physical access to where the tires were being stored, they were not part of the problem, “even though in the original complaint I listed tires.”

“So he thought that he just had to deal with the parking lot,” Almon said.

Almon spoke to the inspector because county employees are not authorized to speak directly with the media.

As a result of the first correction notice, which did not specify tires, the owner cleaned up the debris that was found on the paved lots in front of the Depot building, which led to the complaint being closed out and the hearing canceled.

But with the news that the tires remained on the lot Tuesday, Almon said the inspector planned to visit the site Wednesday, Aug. 23, to issue a new citation specifically for the tires. He also planned to address the boats that are being improperly stored there, Almon said.

Following the new citations, the owner will have a “grace period” of 15 days to clean up the tires and boats, after which a new hearing in Towson will be scheduled “as soon as possible,” Almon explained.

Almon relayed the inspector’s comment that the mishap merely delayed by two weeks what would have happened anyway.

Almon told community members at the Aug. 2 meeting of the Essex-Middle River Civic Council that if the Depot owner, who lives in New York, or a representative failed to show at the hearing, the county will have workers clean up and dispose of the tires and simply bill the owner for the work.

The resident agent for the property had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

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Monument property sale brings attention to importance of preservation easements

Monument property sale brings attention to importance of preservation easements
The Methodist Meeting House historical marker, placed in 1914, now sits on private land with no protective easements. Photo by George Fischer.

(Updated 8/23/17)

- By Marge Neal -

While the historical importance of Confederate monuments is being hotly debated across the country, eastern Baltimore County residents are working to preserve local War of 1812 markers to ensure that future generations are aware of the importance the area played in protecting the independence of a fledgling nation.

Recent celebrations of the bicentennial of the Battle of North Point have brought increased attention to Dundalk’s various commemorative markers for the era and the need to preserve and maintain them.

Several community organizations gathered in July to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the dedication of the Aquila Randall Monument on North Point Road, a marker that honors the 24-year-old soldier who was the first American casualty of the North Point skirmish that also saw the death of British General Robert Ross.

Another related monument that has been adopted by local volunteers is the Methodist Meeting House marker on North Point Road near German Hill Road.

Members of Clean Bread and Cheese Creek, a volunteer group that regularly cleans sections of its namesake creek, have taken on the maintenance of several North Point-area markers, including that of the Methodist house, according to group founder John Long.

“About seven years ago, I took a tour of all the 1812 monuments and I was shocked at the condition of most of them,” Long told the East County Times, noting the Methodist marker was in particularly bad shape. “When we took it over, it was all covered and grown over,” he said. “You couldn’t even tell from the street that the marker was there.”

The Bread and Cheese group also annually cleans around the Randall, Battle Acre and North Point Battlefield monuments, though little is needed to be done for the Randall monument, Long said.

“The homeowner there takes really good care of that one,” Long said.

The Randall monument sits on a small corner parcel of land that is a county-owned preservation easement, meaning the marker is protected from sale or demolition.

The Methodist marker is a concern for local historians and preservationists because it sits on privately-owned land and does not enjoy the legal protection that such an easement would provide.

Long said his group had permission from the previous property owner to clean and maintain the marker. But a recent sale of the land has residents concerned about the marker’s future.

“The land was sold in the spring and without an easement, the future of the marker is really up to the discretion of the property owner,” local history buff Patricia Paul said. “We have no reason to believe that it might be taken down, but it would be nice to have that protection for it.”

Paul was a member of the committee that planned the July celebration of the Randall monument.

The 2.8-acre parcel that hosts the Methodist marker and is adjacent to a Prime Storage business, was sold in April to Baltimore Residential, LLC, for $100,000, according to Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation online records. The corporation is listed as being headquartered in New York.

Prime Storage Group, the parent company of Baltimore Residential, has no plans “at this time” to change public access to the monument or to Bread and Cheese Creek, according to Cynthia L. Ashby, vice president of operations.

“We are proud to be on the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail and will do everything possible to continue to share this vital piece of history with the public,” she wrote in an email to the Times.

The Methodist marker has been surveyed by the Maryland Historical Trust and is included in the list of sites that make up the National Park Service’s Star-Spangled Banner Trail, according to Baltimore County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler.

“Inclusion does not come with a regulatory component. Consequently, the private owner is not obligated to preserve the site,” she wrote in an email to the Times.

Regulatory protection for the marker could be achieved through the county’s landmark process, according to Kobler. The designation is legislative and would require a nomination from the property owner or a third party. The nomination would be considered by the Landmarks Preservation Commission at a public hearing. If the commission decided to support a nomination, it would then be forwarded to the Baltimore County Council for final action.

County staff members cannot submit nominations, according to Kobler.

“An owner’s consent is also not required to initiate the process and the Council may choose to designate a property over an owner’s objection after public testimony and discussion,” Kobler wrote in the email. “However, the county advises that when anyone other than the property owner plans to submit a local nomination, they should discuss it with the property owner first.”

Paul said she has been in contact with representatives of the property owner, who are aware of the historical significance of the lot and monument.

“They have been very pleasant and seem to appreciate the importance of the marker,” she said of Prime Storage officials.

Paul, who sits on a battlefields/War of 1812 advisory committee of the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society, said the Methodist marker will be discussed at the group’s fall meeting. She said she sees the value of pursuing the landmarks designation for the marker to ensure its future is guaranteed.

“We’d like to all be on the same page for this; we’d like everyone to work together to make this happen,” Paul said.

Long said he would be “more than glad to help and sign on” with any efforts to nominate the marker for landmark preservation.

“We would certainly be willing to assist any group that would start that process,” he said.

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Liquor board dismisses two illegal gambling cases, levies fine in one other

Liquor board dismisses two illegal gambling cases, levies fine in one other
Sunset Cove was the only east-side establishment penalized by the liquor board Monday, after being found to have overserved a patron. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 8/23/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

The Baltimore County liquor board doesn’t typically dismiss most of its cases during its Monday hearings in Towson, but this week was an exception.

The board dismissed charges of illegal gambling against two bars and also dismissed charges of serving alcohol to intoxicated people in four other cases.

The reason for dismissal of several cases was that police officers who could have confirmed or added to information in police reports were not present to testify.

Both the Middle River Inn on Old Eastern Avenue in Middle River and Patrick’s Sports Bar and Grill on Eastern Boulevard in Essex were charged with operating illegal gambling machines.

An officer with the police department’s vice squad testified that in response to a complaint, the police got a warrant to search the Middle River Inn on June 28.

Investigators in that instance seized two gaming machines and $191 in cash, plus an additional $12,000 in cash from the office and from cash registers, according to the police report.

The next day, an officer who examined the machines concluded the machines had been set to function as gambling devices that provide an illegal pay out to customers.

But the officer who testified acknowledged that he did not personally witness any illegal gambling and that his partner who was there on June 28 was not able to attend the hearing.

The officer who examined the machines the next day was also not present to testify.

An attorney for Middle River Inn argued that without the officers’ testimony, there was not enough evidence to show that illegal gambling had taken place on that day.

He also argued that without the officers being present, he could not cross examine them on behalf of his client.

The board agreed, and for the same reason, also dismissed similar charges against Patrick’s Sports Bar and Grill.

Serving intoxicated persons
In other business,  the board fined Sunset Cove on Red Rose Farm Road in Middle River $750 for serving an intoxicated person, but dismissed charges against four other establishments because there was not enough evidence presented to link the bar to the intoxication.

The county must make the case that the bar is shown to have served the person who appears intoxicated. Defense lawyers typically argue that the intoxication could be due to drinking somewhere else or taking drugs or prescription pills.

In the Sunset Cove case, an officer testified that he stopped a young woman at about 1 a.m. She registered 0.15 blood alcohol concentration on a breath test, almost twice the legal alcohol limit.

She told the officer that the only place she had been drinking was Sunset Cove - information which was also reflected in the police report and personally confirmed by her during the hearing.

However, the board dismissed charges of serving intoxicated people in four other cases because the evidence was not as strong.

The four establishments were the Excape Lounge on Pulaski Highway in Middle River, the Ye Old Tavern in Parkville, Mr. B’s on Eastern Avenue In Essex and the Greene Turtle in White Marsh.

Officers were present to testify in the first two cases, but not in the others.

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Prospective marijuna dispensaies appeal local zoning rulings

Prospective marijuna dispensaies appeal local zoning rulings
Chesapeake Health Sciences, which seeks to operate a medical cannabis dispensary in White Marsh, is asking the county’s Board of Appeals to overturn a lower judge’s decision and grant them the zoning special exception they need. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 8/23/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Two groups of investors who have been granted preliminary state licenses to open medical marijuana dispensaries by early December have run into local roadblocks that could delay their progress.

Under the new program overseen by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, more than 100 stores around the state are supposed to open later this year pending local approvals and final inspections by the commission.

However, some may be delayed due to appeals to reverse zoning decisions having to do with where the dispensaries are located.

Chesapeake Health Sciences, which has a contract to purchase a building at 5512 Ebenezer Road off Pulaski Highway in White Marsh, is appealing a decision by Baltimore County Administrative Law Judge John Beverungen, who denied its request for a special exception under the zoning regulations.

A special exception is required for a medical cannabis dispensary to operate at the site because it is located within the Cowenton-Ebenezer Commercial Revitalization District.

An appeal to the three-member Baltimore County Board of Appeals requires a public hearing and deliberation and can take weeks to process.

CHS’s appeal is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 14, at 10 a.m. in Towson.

Meanwhile in Dundalk, GreenMart of Maryland, affiliated with CGX Life Sciences, has asked Beverungen to reconsider his recent decision to deny the group’s request for parking and landscaping variances for its site at 7458 German Hill Road.

A motion for reconsideration is allowed under county regulations and is typically quicker than appealing to the Board of Appeals.

The Medical Cannabis Commission regulates the growing, processing and sale of medical marijuana around the state but has no authority over local land-use and zoning decisions, which are made at the county level.

Dispensary operators that think they might not be ready to open by the early December deadline could qualify for an extension granted by the commission on a case-by-case basis, said commission Executive Director Patrick Jameson.

The commission, which is completing final inspections and has begun to grant final approvals for operators, is set to meet again on Monday, Aug. 28, at 2 p.m. in the Harford County Council Building at 212 S Bond Street in Bel Air.

The meeting is open to the public, but parts of it may be held in closed session under exemptions allowed in the state’s Open Meetings law.

Also running into possible delays is a plan by LMS Wellness, Benefit LLC, to lease the former Siefert florist business on Ridge Road in South Perry Hall off Perry Hall Boulevard.

County Councilman David Marks, who represents the area, withdrew a bill he proposed that would have blocked the project based on its proximity to a planned elementary school site.

Marks said he withdrew the bill because there weren’t enough votes on the council to pass it. He said he is working on scheduling a meeting with the licensees and the South Perry Hall Improvement Association to work out a solution.

“Right now, one possibility is a covenant agreement that restricts hours of operation and sets other requirements on the property,” Marks wrote in an email.

The site is zoned for business, and the licensees have a right to operate there. However, the site is right next to a residential neighborhood, and neighbors say it belongs in a more commercial area.

Meanwhile, Marks is waiting to meet with representatives of Blue Ridge Wellness LLC, which plans to open a dispensary in the Festival at Perry Hall shopping center on East Joppa Road just west of Belair Road.

A list of growers, processors and dispensaries, along with registration requirements for customers and information about commission meetings is posted on the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission website at

Devin Crum contributed to this article.

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Stand-up paddle boarders race to clean up Bear Creek

Stand-up paddle boarders race to clean up Bear Creek
Stand-up paddle boarders launched from Cove Road on a sunny Sunday morning. Over 50 racers took part in B’More SUP’s first race in Bear Creek. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 8/23/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Dozens gathered on Bear Creek on Aug. 13 to take part in a series of stand-up paddle board races, organized by the paddle boarding company B’More SUP. But winners weren’t handed trophies or ribbons as they crossed the finish line. Instead, they were handed a trash bag.

“This year is all about us building our community, and I thought it would be a nice idea to have a cleanup as a community building event,” said B’more SUP owner Jessie Benson. “Knowing how important the waterways are to the Baltimore area - whether it’s in the Inner Harbor or the creeks and rivers in the county - we thought this would be a good idea.”

The cleanup was held in conjunction with Blue Water Baltimore, a conservation group that Benson teamed with a few years back. While she doesn’t have a background in environmentalism or conservation, she loves spending time on the water and hopes to eventually hold a race in the Inner Harbor.

“It’s a dream of mine, and hopefully we can get there soon,” said Benson.

Originally, racers were going to clean along the creek and beaches. But after racing 2.5-mile and 5-mile courses, the racers were a bit worn out.

“We only collected about five bags of trash on the day,” Benson said. “But this was the first time we tried something like this and it was a good learning experience.”

According to Benson, B’More SUP has held four cleanups - which they call a “SUP and Scoop” - in the past. Those cleanups have yielded better results, with most participants individually filling a bag or two.

B’More SUP has been operating in Dundalk for the last three years, but this was the first year a race was held on Bear Creek. Benson said that after the success of the Aug. 13 race that she hopes to have a race on the creek each year.

“Next year we’ll take the lessons we learned here and apply them,” she said. “We want to show people we’re passionate about being on the water, and a big part of that is taking the time to help clean the waterways.”

Benson said they plan to hold a cleanup in September, but that no date has been selected as of yet. For more information, visit

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CCBC’s ‘Baltimore Stories’ to put focus on local roots, local pride

CCBC’s ‘Baltimore Stories’ to put focus on local roots, local pride
Actress, dancer and storyteller Maria Broom will be one of CCBC's featured artists during its "Baltimore Stories" series. The new series was made possible through a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 8/23/17)

- By Marge Neal -

When the Community College of Baltimore County opens its doors on the coming fall semester, the school well-known for its performing arts programs will kick off a year-long celebration of Baltimore with a series of stories told through dance, music and theater.

The series, “Baltimore Stories,” recently received a financial boost in the form of a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, according to a statement from the college. The funding will support commissioned work by artists who either live in or have Baltimore-area roots.

The commissioned artists will augment a program that includes CCBC resident artists and programs. Using music, dance, spoken-word performances and film, the guest artists will offer their interpretations about what Baltimore means to them, according to the statement.

Featured artists will include actress, dancer and storyteller Maria Broom; world-renowned choreographer Peter Pucci; and Peabody Conservatory-trained composer and lyricist Derrick Wang.

Though created as a project of CCBC’s Performing Arts Department, director Anne Lefter is excited that other academic programs are joining in with their own offerings.

“The art gallery has come on board with an exhibit featuring Baltimore architecture,” she said in a phone interview. “And the Creative Writing Forum is going to do a series on Baltimore authors.”

The forum brings authors on campus throughout the year, Lefter said. The writers provide classroom workshops for selected classes and also hold open presentations in which they read from their works and discuss the writing process and their lives as writers, Lefter said.

While much of the program is academically based and satisfies curriculum objectives, the message and purpose of the program is much deeper, Lefter believes.

The Baltimore area is often the focus of less-than-positive news, and many students think their hometown “isn’t all that great,” Lefter said.

“Sometimes, the first thing many students think is that they need to move away to accomplish anything or to make a difference,” she said. “We’re hoping that, with ‘Baltimore Stories,’ our students can come to understand their own story and their own place, to get that power and that passion to make their contributions to their community.”

She cited Pucci as an example of a student who discovered himself after enrolling at CCBC.

“Peter’s highest ambition was to become a [physical education] teacher,” Lefter said of the choreographer. “He came to CCBC and his life changed.”

Through “Baltimore Stories,” Pucci will produce a 45-minute dance project involving dancers with the CCBC Dance Company, Towson University’s community dance program, local high schools and The Collective, a professional Baltimore dance troupe, according to the statement.

“Because of his CCBC connection and his desire to work with and mentor students, we are always looking for opportunities to work with Peter,” Lefter said. “We’re excited to have him back on campus.”

Baltimore audiences will recognize Broom from her roles in “The Wire” and “The Corner.” She also is known for her years as a television news reporter for Baltimore’s then-ABC affiliate, WJZ.

“Maria is known for her storytelling and her ability to get people to connect to and discover their own stories,” Lefter said. “We’re excited to have her on campus next spring when she will work with our students to get in touch with their own stories.”

The “Baltimore Stories” series will offer a wide variety of performances across a diverse spectrum of genres. The official kickoff event is set for Sept. 23, when the Baltimore Symphonic Band, under the direction of Chris Wolfe, will offer a free concert at CCBC Catonsville.

On Dec. 9, also on the Catonsville campus, the Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble will offer a production called “Destination Baltimore.”

The theme will carry through the summer of 2018, when Cockpit in Court Theatre, in residence on the CCBC Essex campus, will stage a production of “The Little Mermaid,” with song lyrics written by Baltimore native Howard Ashman.

Another program Lefter is excited about involves Baltimore playwrights. Several local writers penned short plays in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray uprising of 2015. Throughout the fall semester, students will work with the authors in workshops to strengthen and tweak the scripts as necessary.

“And then, next spring, we will produce those plays on stage, with full productions by our students,’ she said.

Throughout the year-long program, Lefter hopes the varied and diverse series opens doors, minds and eyes.

“In education, we teach all these important national and international facts and figures - things that are important historically and helped shape our world,” Lefter said. “But we want to show our students and our community that all those things you need to know are right here too, that important things are happening right here in Baltimore.

“We want our students to know the human experience is the human experience, no matter where you are, no matter where you live.”

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Rediscovered Dundalk Avenue mural restored with vintage twist

Rediscovered Dundalk Avenue mural restored with vintage twist
The historic mural was restored by Shawn James and Kerry Cesen of Mural Masters. Now the vintage advertisement greets commuters and residents as they travel Dundalk Avenue in downtown Dundalk. The ad, thought to date to the 1950s, was discovered when an adjoining building was torn down to create additional parking for a Royal Farms store. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 8/17/17)

- By Marge Neal -

There are many sayings that remind people of better times to come: when one door closes, another opens;  every cloud has a silver lining; tomorrow is another day; or, quite simply, it gets better.

Dundalk commuters and shoppers are now enjoying a silver lining that was discovered when a commercial building was torn down to make way for additional parking for the Royal Farms store at Dundalk and Baltimore avenues.

Demolition of the building at 20 N. Dundalk Ave. revealed a long-forgotten wall mural advertising Eddie’s Thrift Market and milk from the now-defunct Fairfield Western Maryland Dairy.

“We didn’t want to see the building torn down but it didn’t have the historical significance needed to save it,” Dundalk Renaissance Corp. Executive Director Amy Menzer told the East County Times. “So the discovery of the mural was a pleasant surprise - a little bit of good to come out of the demolition.”

Upon discovery of the lost art, the committee established to celebrate the centennial of the Old Dundalk neighborhood was asked to consider having the mural restored, according to Menzer.

After receiving permission from the owner of 24 Dundalk Ave., the structure that hosts the mural, the committee started its restoration effort, which included consulting the Maryland Historic Trust, procuring funding and interviewing muralists, Menzer said.

The painting was in “remarkably good shape, given its age,” according to artist Shawn James, owner of Mural Masters, the Baltimore-based company selected to do the restoration work. It is thought the mural dates to the 1950s.

In a stroke of good luck, the building that was torn down was not physically attached to the structure that bears the painting, James said, though from the exterior it looked as though it was. The resulting interior space between the walls ensured that nothing was drilled into the mural, and no structural supports were placed against it.

Committee members discussed a variety of options regarding preserving the painting, according to Menzer. Though it was in relatively good shape for its age, the mural did have extensive peeling and flaking - due more to its age than exposure - and needed considerable work.

“The discussion about restoration ranged from scraping it all down to get rid of loose and peeling paint and putting on a clear coat to preserve it as is to recreating it as close to the original as possible,” Menzer said. “But the problem with clear coating it is it couldn’t then be touched up as needed because paint wouldn’t adhere to the coating.”

Now exposed to the elements, the mural will need occasional maintenance.

The solution was somewhere in the middle, James said.

“We hand-scraped and wire-brushed the entire wall to get rid of all the loose, flaking, peeling paint,” he said. “Then we applied a bridge primer made specifically for peeling paint, which allows for new paint to adhere to the old.”

Using colors that were often hand-mixed to match the originals, James and associate Kerry Cesen painstakingly restored the painting to like-new, with a hitch.

“While we wanted to restore the work, we didn’t want the end result to look like a gleaming, vibrant, brand-new painting,” James said. “The desire was to restore the mural while also keeping the feel or look that it was more than 50 years old.”

By using the custom-blended muted colors, the artists were able to achieve the goal of creating a brand-new painting that looks vintage.

The committee also discussed repainting the advertisement and then deliberately “distressing” it to give the appearance of age, according to Menzer.

“But they decided against that because it didn’t make sense to have fake distressing,” she said with a laugh.

James has bachelor’s degrees in painting, photography and art education from Old Dominion University and a master’s degree in general fine arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He started his mural business around 2007 and had grown it to a full-time job by 2010.

He specializes in creating original works of art and the restoration of older works. The Eddie’s mural is the second one in Dundalk he has restored; he also worked on the Battle of North Point mural near Battle Acre Park, according to Menzer.

James and Cesen began restoring Aug. 2, and by putting in some long days, were able to complete the project Aug. 8.

“We do much more than just paint,” James said. “We researched the milk company, a lot of prep work was involved, we searched for premium-quality exterior latex paint that will stand up under the elements and we mixed a lot of the colors by hand because we couldn’t just buy what we needed off the shelves.”

His company’s work preserves bits of local history while also giving the artists personal gratification when they step back to look at the results of their labors.

While it was not cheap to restore the mural, Menzer believes the $7,500 cost was a good investment in the community.

“It was sad to see the building torn down but it was a happy accident to have the mural revealed,” she said. “It’s great to be able to preserve something that is pleasant to look at and brings back memories for some of our older residents.”

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State delivers on Back River midge abatement to improve quality of life

State delivers on Back River midge abatement to improve quality of life
BRRC and DNR sampling of midge larvae in the Back River sediments has found their numbers to be much higher than what is considered a nuisance. Photo courtesty of BRRC.

(Updated 8/17/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Last Wednesday, Aug. 9, Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order directing the Maryland departments of Agriculture (MDA) and Natural Resources (DNR) to begin midge eradication treatments on Back River.

And Wednesday, Aug. 16, the state's Board of Public Works voted to officially approve funding for the effort.

The treatments will apply a biological larvacide called Bti to identified “hot spots” which have the highest concentration of midge larvae. Bti is a bacteria that only affects midge and mosquito and black fly larvae. The treatments will cover a 260-acre area of the Back River in Essex a total of five times from August - October 2017 and May - June 2018.

Midge numbers around Back River are “way beyond” what is considered a nuisance, said Karen Wynn, executive director of the Back River Restoration Committee, which has worked extensively to clean up the river for nearly a decade.

Midge swarms during warmer months have had significant economic ramifications for tourism, local businesses and community facilities leaving some unable to use their waterfront property during its most desirable time.

Businesses such as Brewer’s Landing Bar and Grill, the Hawks Pleasure Club and several marinas have decried that they frequently have to close their outdoor areas to customers due to midges and they have lost business as a result.

“We have heard the repeated call of local residents loud and clear,” Hogan said in a press release. “Our administration is proud to take action to provide immediate and much-needed relief from this ongoing nuisance and provide further upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.”

A 2014 DNR study identified the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant as the likely source of the midge problem due to excess nutrients, on which the larvae feed, being discharged into the river.

The state is contributing more than $650 million to plant upgrades for Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) to reduce nutrient pollution to the river and the Chesapeake Bay, according to spokesperson Hannah Marr, including estimated nitrogen reduction of more than 1.8 million pounds per year.

While that work is slated for completion in 2018, Marr said, the ENR operations were put into place in June and are expected to make significant progress in nutrient reduction by September.

However, DNR also surmised that the midge problem was too large to be solved naturally through fish predation, making the Bti treatments necessary.

“I commend Governor Hogan for his leadership on this issue by launching a pilot initiative to help marinas, restaurants and local residents,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder in the release. “The state is taking action, despite the county’s refusal to act, to reduce the nuisance of midges so Marylanders can enjoy Back River.”

In October 2016, Hogan offered to have the state split the cost of a larger midge treatment program with Baltimore County. But the county declined, through Environmental Protection and Sustainability Director Vince Gardina, who claimed the river is state jurisdiction and, therefore, state responsibility. He also noted that the amount of money requested was too low for a comprehensive solution and would have little impact.

Hogan pressed on in March, dedicating his half of the money - $330,000 in the state budget - without the county. But that action was delayed, according to Marr, when the state legislature removed the funds from the budget and again when Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office later opined that MDA did not have the authority to conduct the midge treatments.

“The governor’s executive order gives the Department that authority,” Marr said.

According to Wynn, the apparatus to apply the larvacide by boat was delivered to BRRC headquarters last week. And with BPW approval, they could theoretically begin the treatments Thursday. But realistically, they will begin next week.

“Everything is kind of in place with the company that’s going to be doing it, but they haven’t officially been awarded the contract,” Wynn said, noting that the Bti is sitting, waiting to be shipped, and would arrive within two to three days. “We’re all ready to go other than it’s just the final stages and the technicalities of officially awarding the bid.”

Wynn also addressed a criticism of the effort she has heard from members of the public, who have wondered why advocates are seeking to put pesticides into the river, which has undergone extensive clean-up efforts, to kill the midges which are naturally occurring.

“We are not knocking out the population of midges,” Wynn said, noting that fish and other organisms in the river feed on the larvae. “We want to bring them down to a tolerable rate where people can go outside.”

Midges have always existed in Back River, their larvae feeding on the nutrients in the mud. But construction on I-695 in the area in 2008 allowed nutrient-rich clay to wash into the river, Wynn said, bolstering their numbers.

“That’s when the population really started exploding,” she said. “And it’s just gotten progressively worse each year.”

While midges do not bite to spread disease, they can aggravate chronic conditions like asthma or cause allergic reactions.

Wynn has posted several photos and videos to the BRRC Facebook page in the last few years depicting midge swarms. But she attributed the spike in their numbers to several factors instead of just the wastewater treatment plant or the clay from construction.

She included in the list the commercial overfishing of the river that BRRC members have witnessed, which removes potential predators from the ecosystem. She also mentioned, to a smaller degree, the BRRC’s own cleaning of Back River, which makes the area more desirable to the bugs along with other wildlife.

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Former Essex doctor charged in ‘pill mill’ crackdown

Former Essex doctor charged in ‘pill mill’ crackdown
Dr. Hasan H. Babaturk formerly maintained a medical office at 901 Eastern Blvd. in Essex.

(Updated 8/17/17)

- By Marge Neal -

In a move that state officials and law enforcement officers consider a major assault on Maryland’s opioid “pill mills,” a former eastern Baltimore County physician has been indicted for his alleged distribution of controlled dangerous substances.

Hasan H. Babaturk, who worked for Multi-Specialty Health Care on Eastern Boulevard in Essex from 2004 until he was terminated in 2015, is charged with 10 counts of distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, 10 counts of unlawful prescription of a controlled dangerous substance and one count of keeping a common nuisance, according to a statement from Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.

A separate investigation resulted in the indictment of Anne Arundel County physician Kofi Shaw-Taylor and nine co-conspirators. Shaw-Taylor is accused of prescribing nearly 285,000 doses of oxycodone while operating two clinics described as “pill mills” by investigators.

The charges were announced in a press conference held by Frosh on Aug. 10.

“These physicians were using their skills not to heal, but to spread the disease of addiction,” Frosh said in the statement. “They enriched themselves by stealing from the state and exploiting their patients. Today, they face the consequences.”

Babaturk’s medical license was suspended in February 2016 after an extensive investigation of alleged violations of standard medical practices, according to the Maryland Board of Physicians.

In surveillance conducted by Baltimore County police from Oct. 14, 2015, through Jan. 6, 2016, Babaturk was observed making “exchanges” with “purported patients” on motel, apartment complex, fast food restaurant and shopping center parking lots, according to online records.

The same investigation that resulted in the suspension of Babaturk’s medical license also served as the basis for the most recent charges against him. The investigation alleges that Babaturk, a Harford County resident, “unlawfully distributed, dispensed and prescribed controlled dangerous substances, including oxycodone, oxymorphone, fentanyl and Xanax,” according to the statement from Frosh. On many occasions, Babaturk was observed selling those prescriptions from his car, according to the statement.

The act of dispensing illegal prescriptions from his car is the basis for the charge of keeping a common nuisance.

In April, Babaturk was sentenced to a year in the Baltimore County Detention Center after being found guilty on charges of possession of a controlled dangerous substance (not marijuana) and driving while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol.

While the former physician is alleged to have carried out unlawful medical transactions in Baltimore County, Babaturk was charged in Harford County because that is where the bulk of the surveillance took place and where the majority of evidence was collected, according to Scott D. Shellenberger, Baltimore County State’s Attorney.

In addition to surveillance of Babaturk’s activities in and around Harford County, a search warrant was executed on his home in Bel Air, Shellenberger said.

“This was a joint operation with the state’s attorney and it was determined that Harford County was the best jurisdiction to proceed with charges,” Shellenberger said.

Asked if, at some point, Baltimore County could decide to move forward with additional charges, Shellenberger said it is possible.

“We can revisit that,” he said. “Because these are felonies, there is no statute of limitations. If there was for some reason a ridiculously light sentence given in Harford County, we could decide to circle around and come back to this.”

Because of its work on the investigation, Baltimore County will have input in how the case plays out, Shellenberger said, and be able to make recommendations on sentencing if Babaturk is convicted.

Each count of unlawfully distributing controlled dangerous substances carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 according to the statement from Frosh. The charge of keeping a common nuisance could lead to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while the charges of unlawful prescription of a controlled dangerous substance by a provider - a misdemeanor - each carry potential penalties of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

“This is a complicated case,” Shellenberger said. “It’s going to take a while for this case to come to trial; I would say at least a year.”

Maryland is in the midst of what officials are calling a “widespread” opioid epidemic. Eighty-nine percent of all intoxication deaths in Maryland in 2016 were opioid-related, a category that includes heroin, prescription opioid painkillers and non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, according to Frosh’s statement. The number of opioid-related deaths increased by 70 percent from 2015 to 2016 and has nearly quadrupled since 2010.

Joint-agency investigative efforts such as the ones that led to the indictments of Shaw-Taylor and Babaturk are part of the state’s ongoing efforts to curb the flow of illegal drugs.

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Permit pending for crushing operation at Sparrows Point

Permit pending for crushing operation at Sparrows Point
Image courtesy of Google.

(Updated 8/17/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Environmental officials are set to host a public meeting on Thursday, Aug. 24, to answer questions about a request by Access World (USA) LLC, a bulk cargo handler, to operate crushing and screening operations at Sparrows Point.

Formerly known as Pacorini Metals, Access World uses diesel-powered equipment to load and unload bulk cargo that it stores in outside piles or inside buildings.

The informational meeting hosted by the Maryland Department of the Environment is set for 6:30 p.m. in the North Point library’s meeting room, 1716 Merritt Blvd. in Dundalk.

The company leases two sites - one off Cold Mill Road near Bethlehem Boulevard from Tradepoint Atlantic and another at 200 Shipyard Road across from the Key Bridge in the Sparrows Point Shipyard.

The proposed operations would include two 500-ton-per-hour crushing plants and four 200-ton-per-hour screening plants at the two sites.

Materials processed would vary depending on customer requirements and market demand, according to the application on file at the North Point library.

The application does not specify what would be crushed, but a list of 40 possible products includes everything from coal, coke and granulated furnace slag to metals, processed glass and oyster shells.

The operation would run 16 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the application, which does not provide details about how dust would be controlled.

The process of unloading cargo from ships would stop if winds exceeded 35 miles per hour, and the heavy equipment used to move materials on-site could not exceed 15 miles per hour.

The vehicles and equipment are predicted to burn 65,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year, according to the application.

Access World is based in Switzerland, and the North American division is based in Stamford, Conn.

The application on file at the North Point library includes a four-page summary of planned operations and technical data, including emissions calculations and equipment specifications.

For more information, call MDE’s Shannon Heafey at 410-537-4433.

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Police, community search for answers after young girl’s death

Police, community search for answers after young girl’s death
Family, friends and neighbors of the slain girl have decorated the site of the shooting with balloons, candles and flowers in her memory. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 8/9/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Following the shooting death of a 13-year-old girl in Middle River last week, concerned community members met with police and other stakeholders to find out exactly what happened, what is being done and what can be done in the future.

And due to the circumstances surrounding the incident, residents were particularly worried that it may have been caused by gang activity.

Just before midnight on Monday, July 31, police received a call for a shooting in the Miramar Landing community behind the 7-Eleven on Compass Road. When they arrived on scene, they found Iyanna Watkins, 13, deceased with multiple gunshot wounds.

Two adult male victims were also located later, each with one gunshot wound to the lower body.

According to a statement about the incident, police had determined that the victims were with a group of people sitting behind the 7-Eleven when at least one suspect began firing at the group from an alley a distance away.

Investigators were exploring the possibility that the shooting was related to an altercation that occurred earlier that evening between this group and another group, according to police.

However, Captain Andre Davis, commander of the Essex Precinct, attempted to quell fears that the shooting was a result of gang violence.

“The issues over there are not gang related,” Davis stressed, “they’re juvenile related.

Davis added that there are no gang problems in Middle River or Miramar Landing, specifically, that he is aware of, but they do investigate signs of gang activity such as graffiti “tags.” He also said police can usually tell when people are affiliated with certain groups using indicators such as clothing colors, tattoos, bandanas or gang signs that are consistent throughout the group. Additionally, they will often move in groups of at least three or four people.

Detective Jim Lambert, who is investigating the shooting with the BCoPD’s homicide unit, said the case was the result of a lot of “ridiculous” back-and-forth that has escalated over time.

“The truth of the incident is that about an hour before the shooting there was a call for police service because of two large groups of girls fighting,” Lambert said, adding that the shooting looks to be retaliation for that fight. “But that may not be the only cause,” he said.

Lambert said they are actively investigating the case, and it would be over if those involved told the truth. But those people are not coming forward and cooperating with police.

Regardless, “We have direction,” the detective said of the investigation.

Responding to criticism that it sometimes takes a long time for police to respond to incidents, Davis admitted there are only 21 officers currently on any given shift, and those officers cover an area of about 42 square miles.

But Lambert affirmed that police are not overwhelmed in the county to the point where they cannot put together a solid case.

Detective Bollinger, Lambert’s partner on the case, said they are monitoring social media using fake accounts to avoid detection. Additionally, they are using surveillance footage from the 7-Eleven and Vince’s Crab House in their investigation.

Bollinger also hinted that drugs, particularly marijuana, could have been involved in the initial altercation while noting that marijuana is the cause behind all of their drug-related shootings since it is decriminalized and anyone can carry it.

But because of the young ages of those involved - some as young as 11 - the parents are the ones who needed to be at the meeting and they were not, Bollinger said.

Likewise, Davis encouraged parents to control their children to keep them out of trouble and help avoid incidents like this.

“When police are called but don’t necessarily see anything illegal, they can only do their best to move the subjects along,” Davis said. He added that if they are in a legitimate gathering place such as a park, police can only be a presence there to prevent illegal activity.

There was concern from some residents, though, that the juveniles they see loitering often do not live in the community.

In that instance, Davis encouraged residents to continue to call police.

“Because they will get tired of the calls,” he said, “and they will do whatever they can to solve the problems.”

The Essex captain pointed out that his precinct is one of the busiest in the county, and as a result he has increased police patrols over the last year.

Analysis for the past year showed 711 calls for service to the area around the intersection of Middle River and Compass roads, said Davis making the case that police are vigilant in the area, 548 of which were for the subject shopping center and all but 60 of which were officer-initiated.

Davis also revealed that police will soon roll out a parental notification program to be sure parents know when their children are engaging in “unproductive” behavior. Police are also planning to partner with school resource officers (SROs) from local schools to ride around neighborhoods and help identify kids they see causing trouble, the captain said.

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Eastern Baltimore County Task Force looking to spruce up east side

Eastern Baltimore County Task Force looking to spruce up east side
Overgrown weeds in alleys - as seen here behind the CVS on Eastern Boulevard at Taylor Avenue - and graffiti in front of and behind buildings were two of the things the new task force identified that could make a noticeable difference in the area if removed. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 8/9/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Local community activists have had enough of the economic depression and sad aesthetics in some areas of eastern Baltimore County, and they aim to do something about it.

They feel if something is not done now, the area could miss out on the positive effects of the revitalization beginning to happen nearby.

The Eastern Baltimore County Task Force has already begun to survey problem areas and identify the problems - as well as solutions - at first concentrating on the Eastern Boulevard corridor between the Back River and Middle River bridges to move forward on improving the aesthetics, safety and quality of life in that area.

The goal of the task force, members said, is to begin with small, achievable improvement projects that will be noticeable and make an immediate difference in the community.

Leaders of the group include several recognizable names with long histories in the Essex area: Gary Jennings, owner of Jennings Transmission; Sam Weaver and Karen Wynn of the Back River Restoration Committee (BRRC); well-known judge Bob Ramadka; and Cliff’s Hi-Tech/Cliff’s Direct Effect owner Cliff O’Connell, along with his daughter Jillian.

The group began by making a list of what they saw as the 10 most achievable projects that would make a big difference in the appearance of Essex’s business corridor to restore pride and interest in the area.

Bob Bendler, president of the Essex-Middle River Civic Council which voted at its Aug. 2 meeting to support the task force, said there have been other “flash-in-the-pan” efforts and streetscape initiatives for Essex and Middle River in the past that went nowhere, but he has more confidence in this one.

“This effort is being initiated by active individuals from the Essex community, and it has the strong support of the [Chesapeake Gateway] Chamber of Commerce,” Bendler said.

Chamber President John Gontrum said the task force began as an idea to try to “dress up” Essex and Middle River, but he was cognizant of similar, “tired” efforts that have failed in the past.

“These aren’t tired ideas,” Gontrum said. “These are doable solutions to problems that we can attack and make a change for the better.” Communities can then use them as a spring board to even more positive ideas and efforts, he added.

First on the task force’s list is regular emptying and maintenance of the public trash cans that line Eastern Boulevard through much of Essex. Some of the cans do not have the hard plastic or metal liners in them anymore, O’Connell said, because they have been removed or decayed away.

The cans are also not always being emptied often enough, and as a result, some begin to attract rats.

They found out that the regular county trash collection employees are responsible for collecting this trash, but also want to discourage businesses from using the cans for their own in-house trash.

Next, they want to trim or remove overgrown or dead trees along the streetscape that block business signs or create tripping hazards by pushing up the sidewalk.

“There’s actually a medical supply store [in the 400-block of Eastern Boulevard] that I never knew was there,” O’Connell said. “You can’t see the signage at all.”

The BRRC has already volunteered to come behind the county’s tree removal and replant trees that will remain smaller and easier to manage.

They also want to replace the rotted or missing wooden bench planks around the flower boxes along the streetscape, O’Connell said. Many planks are currently missing, leaving behind only the exposed and rusted metal brackets.

Smaller projects on the list are repairing the brick wall around the bus stop at Eastern Boulevard and Mace Avenue, which has fallen apart with age, and fixing several deep potholes in alleyways.

Rounding out the list are some larger projects including cutting back the overgrown weeds in alleys, cleaning up the appearance of the government building at 439 Eastern Blvd., cleaning up graffiti all along the boulevard, and a full code enforcement sweep and rat extermination for the area.

O’Connell acknowledged that many of the issues they want to tackle are related to code enforcement. But he said they would rather just do the work themselves or have the county do it in the interest of faster progress instead of going through the code enforcement bureaucracy.

“Let’s clean it up right now,” he said, “and then we’ll start dealing with the property owners after that.”

A full code enforcement sweep would help to get the ball rolling, he said, by assessing violations for things like unkempt dumpsters, abandoned or otherwise junk vehicles and unsafe building structures. This would take away shelter and food sources for rats, as well as go a long way toward improving the look of things.

“It’s small things, but they’re very achievable,” said Jillian, O’Connell’s daughter. “It’s a starting point, and then we can move on to the more grandiose things.”

O’Connell noted that the group has counted more than 30 vacant buildings along Eastern Boulevard between the bridges, many of which are in the main commercial area.

“Nobody is going to rent one of those buildings with this mess,” he said.
Weaver said that now is the time for this revitalization work to start with other economic improvements happening in the region.

“You have [MD-43] down there and all the jobs that are going in there... you’ve got Tradepoint Atlantic, you’ve got Port Covington. Now is the time to jump on the wagon and start cleaning up,” he said, adding that with county and state help they will keep the effort going.

“Nobody wants to take their business, eat, do anything in a dumpster,” Weaver said, remarking about the area’s beauty, especially with the waterfront. “And it’s like the gateway to the dump if we don’t fix it up and do something.”

“This will take hold, there is no doubt,” Bendler commented. “It’s something we can get our teeth into, something we can support and encourage.” But he wants the county to see this as “only the first step” toward the greater Essex revitalization, he said.

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Miele campaign for State Senate combines old school with new school

Miele campaign for State Senate combines old school with new school
Delegate Christian Miele (right) speaks with Linover resident Mike Gerber about his platform. Miele’s door-knocking campaign will be in full force through November, utilizing new technology that puts a modern twist on grassroots mobilization. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 8/9/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

When Delegate Christian Miele (R-8) first ran for office in 2014, he was running a relatively simple campaign that focused on meeting the community and getting his face out there. While he had people working to create algorithms on likely voters and who to target, he primarily worked from sheets of paper on a clipboard, knocking on doors whenever he had the chance.

But now, Miele is looking to harness the power of data and technology as he looks to unseat incumbent State Senator Kathy Klausmeier (D-8). The morphing shape of his campaign was on display Sunday, Aug. 6, as Miele and a group of about 20 volunteers - including Councilman David Marks (R-5), Delegate Kathy Szeliga (R-7) and District Six Council hopeful Glen Geelhaar - visited precincts in Fullerton and Perry Hall, guided by a phone app to help target specific voters.

On Sunday, Miele was looking to target “low propensity Republican voters.” As Patrick O’Keefe, political director for the Maryland Republican Party, put it, these are voters who don’t necessarily turn out every election or voters who don’t have a tendency to vote along party lines. And in Miele’s district, a lot of voters fall into the latter category.

“This is an area that doesn’t really go one way or another, which is actually a good thing because it means there are a lot of votes at play,” said Miele. “In this district, party affiliation isn’t everything.”

While party affiliation may not be the deciding factor in how someone will vote in the Eighth District, knowing someone’s tendencies gives campaigns a leg up in targeting. Enter Advantage GOP, an RNC-approved mobile app that provides access to precinct data and voter information to give candidates and their respective campaigns the best idea of who to target.

Miele and his campaign already had a strong idea of the type of people they wanted to target, but the data is necessary for actively seeking those voters out. In particular, Miele noticed that there were a large number of voters who voted for both Hogan and Klausmeier. Miele estimated it was around a 10,000-vote disparity between Hogan and Republican candidate Erik Lofstad.

Now, the freshman delegate is armed with plenty of information - as well as an endorsement from Gov. Larry Hogan - and he’s looking to draw some of those Klausmeier voters his way, arguing that Hogan’s agenda can’t get traction without more support in the State Senate.

“If we can get half of what the last candidate had, we’ll be in good shape,” said Miele.

In particular, there are 12 precincts, mostly in Perry Hall, that Miele plans to hit hard between now and Novemeber. On Sunday, Miele and his cast of volunteers were active in three of those precincts. He wanted to get started earlier in the year, but was studying for the Maryland General Bar exam.

“We want to be out as much as we can before it gets too cold out,” said Miele. “Also, with a baby on the way, I’ll need to spend time with my wife and child.”

With an important legislative session around the corner as well, Miele needs to make the most of his available time. He noted that the app helps keep things moving, allowing him to get to more doors. In total, he personally visited about 35 houses Sunday, with five or six people answering. While that isn’t a great percentage, he was also able to engage with more people who happened to be out in the neighborhood. In total, his volunteer team visited a staggering 763 residences on Sunday.

Using the app, Miele asked people he spoke to a few simple questions: “If the election were today, would you vote for Christian Miele and Larry Hogan, and who did you vote for in the last election?” The information gathered may seem innocuous, but it’ll all be analyzed to help Miele target those on the fence.

One of the first people Miele spoke to, Perry Rose, said that he didn’t know much about Miele’s policies but liked him as a person. Rose noted that he was a registered Republican when he lived out in California, but he feels as though “the party has left [him]” in recent years.

Later, Miele came across a gentleman named Mike Gerber who told him he has voted for Republicans in presidential elections since John McCain in 2008, but that he often votes for Democrats at the local level. Both Rose and Gerber expressed interest in learning more about what Miele had to offer.

“This is why you knock on doors, especially in this district,” said an enthused Miele. “That was valuable information we just got.”

For Miele to pull off a win, he’ll need to knock on as many doors as he can. Klausmeier, a formidable opponent, has enjoyed consistently strong support in her community since she started in the House of Delegates in 1994. She is a skilled fundraiser who also enjoys broad bipartisan support within the General Assembly.

Miele also has bipartisan support, and with Hogan’s endorsement comes ample money from donors looking to push the Republican governor’s agenda. And pushing Hogan’s agenda is a big part of Miele’s campaign.

“The Republicans need to take five seats in the Senate in order to prevent a Democratic super-majority from blocking Hogan’s agenda. If we can take five seats, we can actually start to have a discussion about legislation,” said Miele.

Aside from being tied to a wildly popular governor, Miele has a few other things working in his favor, most notably a feeling of voter fatigue.

“I didn’t know we had an option,” said Linover resident Valerie Moorman. “But I think it’s time for a change, she’s been there forever.”

With the Maryland GOP sensing vulnerability in the Eighth District, they’re hoping they can take not just Klausmeier’s seat, but Delegate Eric Bromwell’s seat as well. As it stands, the plan is for Delegate Joe Cluster, former Delegate Joe Boteler and newcomer Joe Norman to form a ticket while Miele takes on Klausmeier. The GOP are hopeful they can get a swing like they had in the Sixth District in 2014, which saw a historically blue area flip red.

But comparisons with the Sixth don’t quite hold up, considering the Eighth District hasn’t been a single-party district since 1986, when the Democrats held all three seats in the House and the lone Senate seat. Since then, there has always been at least one seat held by both Democrats and Republicans.

Despite the swell of excitement around Miele, there are concerns he’s looking to make the jump to the Senate too soon. One prominent Republican official, requesting anonymity, speculated that had Miele held off on a Senate run, Bromwell would likely be the one left behind next year. But that would mean Klausmeier would hold her seat for another four years.

“Christian was the top vote getter last election in his district, and he has a lot of strong support. But he doesn’t have a lot of experience and I only wonder if this jump isn’t coming too soon,” the source said before adding that there weren’t really any other serious challengers the Republicans could put forward to challenge Klausmeier.

Miele noted multiple times throughout the day on Sunday that while some might see him making a run too soon, he’s learned a lot in his first few years in Annapolis. He said that while he isn’t flashy, he’s always working for the betterment of his constituents and he’s gotten a reputation for working in a bipartisan manner behind the scenes. And in his district, bipartisanship is key.

“Take the fracking issue, for example. I heard back from my constituents, and about 55 to 60 percent wanted it banned, so that’s the way I voted,” said Miele. “Within the party it might have hurt me a little, but I have an obligation to my constituents, not the party.”

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Proposed Perry Hall medical cannabis site in limbo

Proposed Perry Hall medical cannabis site in limbo
The future of a medical cannabis dispensary proposed for the former Seifert florist building is now uncertain after the bill to block it was withdrawn. This will allow more time for the county and community to negotiate with the dispensary operator. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 8/9/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

A bill introduced by County Councilman David Marks (R-Perry Hall) to block the opening of a medical marijuana retail store on Ridge Road in South Perry Hall was withdrawn from the County Council’s voting agenda on Monday, Aug. 7.

Marks was not immediately available for comment after the meeting but Tom Peddicord, the council’s attorney, said Marks’ decision to pull the bill allows time for negotiations.

“It was to try to work something out with the community,” Peddicord said.

Marks’ Bill 44-17 would have blocked the state-regulated dispensary with a provision that such a facility could not be within 800 feet of a proposed public school site.

Planned is a public elementary school near the intersection of Gum Spring Road and Rossville Boulevard, which is within 750 feet of the site.

The bill was drafted in response to a plan by a group of investors called LMS Wellness, Benefit LLC that proposed leasing the former Seifert florist business at 4741 Ridge Road for use as a retail outlet for medical marijuana, which can now be legally sold to registered customers as part of a state-regulated program.

Members of the South Perry Hall Improvement Association objected to the plan, saying the site, which already has the needed zoning to move forward, is nonetheless bordered by residences and would be more properly placed in a commercial area.

Attorney William Huber, one of the partners in the LMS Wellness group, did not return a request for comment on Monday about the project.

State law allows two medical marijuana dispensaries in each of the state’s legislative districts.

A total of 102 investor groups received pre-approvals last December from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission with the expectation that they become operational by December 2017, pending local approvals.

If the pre-approved licensees encounter local opposition with resultant delays opening their centers, they are not automatically denied a final license for failing to meet the December deadline, said the commission’s executive director, Patrick Jameson, in an email.

As of now, the commission has not made any decisions on granting extensions past the December deadline but may address the issue in the near future, he wrote on Monday.

Collection bins now need permits
In other business Monday, the County Council members unanimously approved Bill 43-17, which now requires that groups that place outdoor collection bins in shopping centers, gas stations and other privately owned locations to collect donated clothes, shoes and other donatable items must now get a permit from the county.

The bill initiated by Councilman Tom Quirk (D-Catonsville) came about because of problems with overflowing and unsightly outdoor bins that are poorly serviced by operators.

People also sometimes drop off unsolicited items next to the bins, and attempts to contact owners through phone numbers on the bins can sometimes lead nowhere.

Collection bin operators will have 90 days from the bill’s Aug. 18 effective date to apply for a permit to the county’s Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections. The bill does not specify how much the permit will cost.

“They’re popping up all over the place… and this will enable permitting and enforcement,” Quirk said. “This will basically weed out the bad actors who are collecting materials.”

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Judge denies permission for White Marsh cannabis dispensary

Judge denies permission for White Marsh cannabis dispensary
Chesapeake Health Sciences, which seeks to operate a medical cannabis dispensary in White Marsh, is asking the county’s Board of Appeals to overturn a lower judge’s decision and grant them the zoning special exception they need. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 8/9/17)

- By Devin Crum -

A Baltimore County administrative law judge last week issued an order that a special exception application to allow a medical cannabis dispensary in White Marsh be denied.

Judge John E. Beverungen issued the order on Friday, Aug. 4, following a hearing on the matter Monday, July 31.

The contract purchaser of the property, 5512 Ebenezer Road, LLC, had proposed to establish a medical cannabis dispensary to be operated by Chesapeake Health Sciences (CHS).

The subject site, which has an existing building on it, is located at 5512 Ebenezer Road at the intersection with Red Lion Road. The building was most recently occupied by the Dave’s Deals music and pawn shop which has moved.

The site is zoned BL, a commercial zone which normally allows a cannabis dispensary. However, a special exception is needed because the site is located within the Cowenton-Ebenezer Commercial Revitalization District.

Shannon Hexter, a representative of CHS, said they chose the White Marsh site for its visibility while still not being located directly on a busy highway, such as the nearby US-40/Pulaski Highway. She also said it was appropriately located in a commercial/industrial area, away from residences.

Hexter noted that she and other company representatives have already reached out to community members as well via the Greater White Marsh Community Council and the Essex-Middle River Civic Council and knocked on doors to educate area residents and nearby business owners.

“But we’re also committed to working with those neighbors to address any concerns,” she said.

The business would function as a retail store for medical cannabis patients registered with the state to purchase the product after receiving a recommendation from a registered doctor. They also planned to offer counseling for patients.

David Martin, a landscape architect, testified on behalf of 5512 Ebenezer Road, LLC that the new business would be a vast improvement over what exists there now, particularly with regard to ingress and egress from the site.

He noted that they planned to remove some of the impervious surface in the front of the building and replace it with landscaping to improve the appearance. In addition, all of the parking, along with the entrance to the building, would be moved to the back. There would also be “several levels of security” such as cameras, fences, an alarm system and security guards.

Martin explained that the plan met all of the requirements for a special exception and emphasized that the medical cannabis dispensary would have less of an impact on the area than would other uses permitted by right in the BL zone.

He pointed out that medical clinics and pharmacies are each permitted by right in that zone and would have a greater impact than the proposed dispensary.

Only one community member, Keith Randlett, attended the hearing, expressing his opposition to the plan on the grounds that it would adversely affect traffic in the area and cause a public safety hazard.

“The guitar shop that was there previously did no business, so traffic wasn’t a problem with them. But this sounds like it will be a hit,” Randlett said. “I’m just concerned that this will lead to more traffic and car accidents.”

He took no issue with the type of business, however, acknowledging that it could likely help people in need.

Ultimately, Judge Beverungen decided to deny the special exception due to what he saw as a lack of adequate reasoning in favor of it.

“While I do not dispute the validity or accuracy of [Martin’s] testimony,” Beverungen wrote in his order, “it is insufficient as a matter of law to sustain the applicant’s burden under the above case law.”

Hexter declined to comment on the judge’s order Monday since she had not yet seen it herself. And their attorney, Patricia Malone, did not return a request for comment on whether they plan to appeal the decision.

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Pointer teacher chosen for cooking challenge with Oriole Adam Jones

Pointer teacher chosen for cooking challenge with Oriole Adam Jones
Kelly Karwacki. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 8/9/17)

- By Marge Neal -

As an educator, Kelly Karwacki strives to teach her students to take chances, seize opportunities and stretch their personal limitations.

So when the Sparrows Point High School family and consumer science teacher heard sports network MASN was once again holding its Fan Challenge cook-off with Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, Karwacki tossed her toque in the ring.

She prepared her signature panini and, with the help of the school’s Culinary Club members, produced a short video challenging Jones to a showdown in the kitchen.

A self-described behind-the-scenes person, Karwacki said she entered the contest mainly to follow through on the message she sends to her students to put themselves out there and to take chances.

“I didn’t expect to win,” she said. “So when I heard I was selected, I thought, holy cow, now I really need to do this.”

Karwacki said she was pleasantly surprised to be on the receiving end of a conference call from Sparrows Point Principal Emily Caster and Assistant Principal Caitlyn Brennan, who broke the news of her selection.

MASN had posted the announcement on Twitter and tagged the school system and SPHS, causing the news to hit the community with a bang, Caster said.

And she was “thrilled” to call Karwacki with the news.

“This is a great event that the entire school can rally behind,” Caster said. “And I’m so so excited for Kelly and the kids in the Culinary Club - this is great recognition for them for all the good things they do for the school.”

Because Karwacki  isn’t online as a habit, she had no idea how quickly and extensively the news was sweeping through the neighborhood.

“I’m not into social media; I don’t do Facebook or Twitter,” Karwacki said. “But my husband told me I was blowing up Facebook.”

She and her husband live in the Edgemere community that Sparrows Point High and Middle schools serve, so she often bumps into students and their families when shopping and running other local errands.

“I was in the grocery store and a student rushed up to me to congratulate me and I said, ‘How did you know?’” she recalled with a laugh. “I had no idea it was already all over social media.”

It’s fitting that she was selected, given the big role baseball has played in her life, she believes.

“I met my husband at Memorial Stadium 35 years ago, and he introduced me to the Orioles; we’re really big fans,” she said. “When I heard the announcement about the contest, I said, ‘Oh, I am so doing that.’”

The 21-year teacher started her career at Edgemere Elementary School but has spent the past 16 years teaching the “big kids” across the street at Sparrows Point.

In her family and consumer science courses, students are surprised to discover that the class involves much more than learning how to bake a pie.

“When the kids leave my class, they are prepared to cook in their own kitchens,” she said. “But that’s really a by-product of the class, not the main purpose of it.”

Each class has lecture time and food lab time. The curriculum is science-based and focuses on nutrition and healthy foods, chronic food-related diseases and illnesses, obesity and how to make healthy decisions when grocery shopping, among other topics, according to Karwacki.

“I think the kids are surprised at the amount of reading, writing, research, explorations and presentations the class requires,” she said with a laugh. “And another important part of my class is teaching common courtesy - to be polite and respectful of each other.”

The Culinary Club, an extracurricular activity, was created to allow interested students the opportunity to “cook for the enjoyment of cooking,” she said.

The group of student foodies often prepares food for school events and enjoys the “incredibly supportive” efforts of the school’s Alumni Association, according to Karwacki.

MASN hasn’t yet set a date for the showdown, according to Caster and Karwacki, but both are hoping to be able to involve the club members and their parents.

“I’m very excited about the honor to meet some of the Orioles,” Karwacki said. “But because I prefer being behind the scenes, I’d be thrilled if I can take the children with me - I’d prefer to do the facilitating and let the kids show off their skills.”

While Karwacki and her young foodies plan to wow the judges with a panini, Jones is keeping the details of his signature dish “close to the vest,” according to a MASN statement announcing this year’s contest.

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Communities show support for emergency services at National Night Out, First Responders Day

Communities show support for emergency services at National Night Out, First Responders Day
A member of the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company shows a potential future volunteer how to work the hose. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 8/9/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Last week had a theme - celebrating the brave men and women who serve as emergency responders.

The festivities kicked off with Tuesday night’s National Night Out and wrapped up Sunday afternoon in Kingsville at the third annual First Responders Day.

Block parties, cookouts, games and more provided regular citizens a chance to mingle with law enforcement officers and other members of the community to show support for one another and learn about ways to fight crime. In some areas, like in Turner Station, party-goers got the opportunity to learn more about the Aviation Unit and police k-9 crews.

“This is my first year here, but it’s just such a great atmosphere,” said Kaylee Thomas. “I don’t really have many interactions with police, but you see a lot of negative stuff in the news these days. This type of thing helps show that cops are just people too.”

Elsewhere in Dundalk, the North Point Village Civic Association celebrated with an ice cream social and craftmaking, while the Civic League of Inverness held a potluck meal. In Essex and Middle River, community picnics were held in the Aero Acres Community Association and others. In Fullerton, the Linover Improvement Association held a block party.

National Night Out has been around since 1984 and is celebrated in all 50 states by more than 37 million people annually.

But the celebration and community building weren’t finished just yet, as the third annual First Responders’ Day was celebrated on Saturday afternoon at Jerusalem Mill in Kingsville.

The Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company, Maryland State Police, Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company, Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Park Service and more converged in Kingsville to celebrate first responders. Hundreds poured into Jerusalem Mill throughout they day to eat, see the MSP helicopter up close and partake in games and activities. While everyone came for largely different reasons, one main reason stayed the same.

“First Responders Day reminds us of the importance of volunteerism - not only the heroism of our volunteer firefighters and other public safety personnel, but also those who have worked tirelessly to restore Jerusalem Mill,” said Councilman David Marks, who represents the area.

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Henrietta Lacks immortalized with street dedications

Henrietta Lacks immortalized with street dedications
Members of the Lacks family and those gathered released white doves at the unveiling of the highway dedication in memory of Henrietta Lacks. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 8/2/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Tuesday, Aug. 1, was the day the Lord made.

It was also the 97th anniversary of the day the Lord made Henrietta Lacks, and many family members, friends and elected leaders gathered in Turner Station to rejoice and be glad in it.

For the second time in four days, the Turner Station community celebrated the life and legacy of the unwitting medical research pioneer by dedicating a stretch of roadway in her honor.

Baltimore County officials on Saturday, July 29, dedicated Main Street and New Pittsburgh Avenue, where the Lacks family once lived, as Henrietta Lacks Place.

On Tuesday, the community joined state officials in dedicating a portion of Broening Highway in Lacks’ memory.

Under a beautiful, bright blue, mid-summer sky, several speakers cited the 118th Psalm as they rejoiced in the life and legacy of Lacks and her many contributions to local, national and global communities.

Lacks, 31, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951 and was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Cells from biopsy tissue were cultivated in a laboratory, becoming the first human cells to be successfully grown in a lab. She died in October of that year, just eight months after her diagnosis.

The prolific and hardy cells soon found their way to research labs across the globe, where they contributed to many medical discoveries and advancements, including the polio vaccine, in-vitro fertilization, cancer treatment drugs and human papilloma virus vaccines.

Lacks’ cells, known as the HeLa cell line, became the “first immortal line of cells,” said State Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who sponsored the state bill that enabled the highway dedication.

“It is a wonderful, wonderful day to come out to celebrate the life of Henrietta Lacks,” she told a crowd of about 75 people.

Earl Lewis Jr., Maryland’s deputy transportation secretary, greeted the crowd by introducing himself as a “son of Turner Station.”

He said he spent a portion of his youth in the community and his grandmother, who will soon turn 100 and was a contemporary of Lacks, still lives in the neighborhood.

In calling Lacks a “Maryland icon,” Lewis said the pioneer lives on in a legacy of healing and hope. She lives on not only through her cells but also through her children and grandchildren, he said.

Several speakers acknowledged the many ways that Lacks’ contributions to science are finally being acknowledged, but added much more can be done to spread the word of those contributions.

Many more people have learned about Lacks through the publication of author Rebecca Skloot’s book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and the HBO movie of the same title.

But Devin Brown, a former corrections administrator with ties to the community, said he believes every school in the state should teach the legacy of Lacks and every medical school should tell her story to address medical ethics, morality and best practices.

Alfred Lacks Carter, a grandson of Henrietta, spoke of the “global impact” of the woman many refer to as the “mother of modern medicine.”

He heads the Henrietta Lacks House of Healing, an effort that provides transitional housing and assistance to former prison inmates. He said he has chosen to continue his grandmother’s legacy through helping incarcerated men upon their release from prison and working to lower the recidivism rate.

He and other family members are lobbying the U.S. Postal Service to have Lacks’ likeness on a commemorative stamp, while members of the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group are raising money to create a wax likeness for the Great Blacks in Wax Museum.

In his remarks, grandson Lawrence Lacks Jr. reminded the crowd that Henrietta Lacks was much more than just a line of cells, a book or a movie.

He cited her humble upbringing and elicited laughs from the crowd when he told the story of his family relocating from Virginia to Baltimore to take advantage of job opportunities at the Bethlehem Steel plant in Sparrows Point.

At the time, the Lacks family was living in a small, three-bedroom rowhouse on Biddle Street in Baltimore. They informed their cousins in Virginia of job opportunities, and the cousins came to Baltimore - all 22 of them. It made life in that tiny house a challenge.

In putting a human face on his grandmother, he referred to her as “an angel looking over us today.”

“God puts people in our lives for a reason, either for a season or a lifetime,” he said. “God chose my grandmother to be here for a lifetime.”

Because of the immortality of her cells, some might even say for infinite lifetimes.

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County parks board recommends merger of two eastside recreation councils

County parks board recommends merger of two eastside recreation councils
Although administratively merged with Middle River, Back River programs will retain preferential use of local facilities. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 8/2/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Citing a number of failures to comply with regulations on the part of Back River Recreation and Parks Council, the Baltimore County Board of Recreation and Parks has recommended the merger of the group with its Middle River counterpart.

The recommendation was made at the board’s July 19 meeting, according to Charles Munzert, board vice chairman and Sixth Councilmanic District representative.

The Back River council has struggled both financially and in volunteer strength in the aftermath of a theft of about $36,000 from their coffers, according to Munzert. Former council treasurer Shane Gleason was convicted of the crime and in June 2016 was sentenced to five years in the Baltimore County Detention Center, with all but 18 months suspended, according to online court records.

“I personally have been working with Back River to help them get back up and running,” Munzert told the East County Times. “They have been on probation for many, many issues and were doing good, but then after about six months, they fell apart again.”

The local council has been unable to recruit a permanent treasurer, has difficulty gathering a quorum of officers for meetings and is behind in filing tax returns, according to Munzert.

Based upon these violations of county board policies and others, the group recommended the merger as the best possible solution to save the local programs, according to board chairman Eric van den Beemt.

“We made the recommendation but it is not something we can demand,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a potential remedy to the problem - our purpose is trying to provide the best possible recreational opportunities for the citizens of Baltimore County and a merger would preserve those local programs.”

The volunteer recreation and parks board is an advisory group that oversees the governance of the local volunteer-run recreation councils, according to van den Beemt. All recreation councils must be recertified by the board every two years, which is accomplished by meeting a number of standards as set forth by the board. While a merger cannot be mandated, the county board can decertify a local council when it is determined that a group will not be able to meet the standards.

Decertification would effectively put a council out of business.

“Obviously, decertification is a last choice option,” van den Beemt said. “We as a board want to give every possible chance to fix problems before we would resort to that.”

In the past 15 years, only two councils have been decertified, and only one of those was during the chairman’s seven-year tenure on the board.

At this point, nothing is off the table in the effort to fix Back River, according to van den Beemt.

The council still can work on building its volunteer base, catch up on its necessary paperwork and fix other problems to remain an independent entity; it can merge with Middle River to utilize that council’s strong organizational leadership; or it could face decertification if it does not comply with board policies and refuses the recommendation of a merger.

Back River, though stunned by the theft of substantial funds, is not failing for financial reasons, according to the chairman. Volunteers held fundraisers to rebuild their treasury and have been continuing with their programs.

“The problem is an absence of control - that’s just a fact,” van den Beemt said. “The council needs to be better run than it is today and we want to help them accomplish that.”

While a merger would preserve all the local programs and allow volunteers to continue being the priority user of recreation and parks facilities, one group is worried its future hangs in the balance.

The Ballestone Preservation Society is a volunteer group that was founded to restore and preserve the historic Ballestone-Stansbury House near the Rocky Point Golf Course in Essex. While the society has its own officers and maintains its own treasury, it operates under the umbrella of the Back River council and its nonprofit status, according to society President Cas Groth.

Baltimore County officials approached the preservation society a couple of years ago and encouraged the group to obtain its own nonprofit status, Groth said.

“Our members didn’t want to do that at the time,” she said. “We’ve always been connected with the council and always send a representative to their meetings; we want to continue supporting the Back River Council.”

For his part, van den Beemt said he does not know how this situation will play out but added that the board will not give up easily in attempting to work with the council for the best possible outcome.

Munzert, as the board’s representative for the Sixth Councilmanic District, will work closely with Back River to reach a resolution, according to the chairman.

Munzert said he has spoken with the council’s president and vice president about the board’s recommendation and said he will schedule a meeting with the local board to map out a plan for where the group goes from here.

“We are going to sit down with them before our board meets again in September to figure out what they want to do,” Munzert said Tuesday. “And we’re still waiting to hear what the county department’s vision for this is. But it’s been two years that we’ve been dealing with this and it’s time to do something.”

Board chairman van den Beemt echoed those thoughts.

“The recommended merger isn’t something that’s imminent,” van den Beemt said. “We’re going to work with the group, and we won’t reach a decision and we certainly won’t decertify without lots of warnings, lots of guidance and many opportunities to fix what’s wrong. We haven’t shut the door on the Back River Council, but things definitely need to get better there.”

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Dundalk marijuana dispensary site denied parking variance

Dundalk marijuana dispensary site denied parking variance
A Baltimore County administrative law judge has denied a parking variance for a proposed medical cannabis dispensary at 7458 German Hill Road. Nearby are rowhouses and the Speedy Mart convenience store. State law allows the opening of more than 100 similar facilities around the state. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 8/2/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary on German Hill Road in Dundalk could be delayed following a recent ruling to deny the project a variance from county parking and landscaping requirements.

Testimony provided at the hearing did not satisfy the requirements under case law that the site must be unique and that denying it would cause practical difficulty or hardship.

“In the absence of such evidence, the petition for variance must be denied,” wrote county Administrative Law Judge John Beverungen in a two-page decision  following a July 10 variance hearing in Towson.

CGX Life Sciences, which bought the former barber shop located next to the Speedy Mart convenience store for $500,000, has until mid-August if it wants to file an appeal in the Baltimore County Circuit Court.

A company representative did not respond by press time to multiple requests for comment about the ruling or possible appeal.

Councilman Todd Crandell, who represents Dundalk and Essex, also did not respond to a request for comment by late Tuesday morning.

CGX, which plans to operate the store through GreenMart LLC, is one of 102 investor groups pre-approved by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to open retail medical marijuana stores by late December, pending local approvals and final inspections.

Already allowed in 24 other states, the highly regulated new industry in Maryland is expected to help people suffering from chronic pain and other ailments using a variety of marijuana-based products in the form of buds or flowers, oils, tinctures and lotions sold to state-registered customers certified by doctors.

The commission has also pre-approved 15 growers and 15 processors, one of which will be in Baltimore County. Curio Cultivation and Curio Manufacturing is redeveloping a former Pall Corporation warehouse on West Aylesbury Road in Lutherville. Final inspections are expected by mid-August.

Regarding the German Hill dispensary in Dundalk, which is in Legislative District 6, no one from the Berkshire neighborhood bordering the site spoke against the requested variance during the hearing.

Nora Baublitz, president of the Berkshire Community Association, said on Monday that she could not attend the hearing but opposes the store location because it borders a community of rowhouses.

“It’s six feet from a residential neighborhood, and it backs up to Berkshire Park, which has a playground,” she said.

Baublitz said she sees the need for medical marijuana and did not oppose working with Bryan Hill, president and CEO of Charm City Medicus LLC, who contacted her earlier this year to involve the community in finding a mutually acceptable location.

“I see the need for the dispensaries,” said Baublitz, who worked with Hill to find a building to lease at 717 North Point Blvd. in a commercial strip across from Eastpoint Mall.

Baublitz said Hill will have tight security and improved lighting in the building, which is next to a long-shuttered McDonald’s that is being redeveloped into an automotive center.

“It’s a win-win for all of us,” she said.

Two investor groups have also been pre-approved in District 8, including one with a site in the Festival at Perry Hall shopping center off East Joppa Road, and another who is leasing a former florist business on Ridge Road off Perry Hall Boulevard.

County Councilman David Marks, who represents Perry Hall, has introduced a bill to block the Ridge Road site because of neighborhood opposition. A Council vote is expected at its Aug. 7 meeting.

The two sites in District 7 include a building on Ebenezer Road west of Pulaski Highway and another planned off Pulaski Highway just across the Harford County line.

For a list of pre-approved investor groups, customer registration requirements and other industry information, visit

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SHA to replace Pulaski Highway bridges over Big, Little Gunpowder rivers

SHA to replace Pulaski Highway bridges over Big, Little Gunpowder rivers
This map shows the location of the bridges to be replaced. Image courtesy of SHA.

(Updated 8/2/17)

- By Devin Crum -

In the next two years, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) will replace and widen the four bridges which carry traffic across the Big and Little Gunpowder rivers along US Route 40/Pulaski Highway.

But in order to safely complete the project, the busy highway will need to be narrowed and traffic constricted during part of construction.

The two bridges in each direction across the Big Gunpowder in White Marsh and the Little Gunpowder, which acts as the line between Baltimore and Harford counties, were each built in 1935, according to SHA records.

And while the 82-year-old spans remain structurally safe, said SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar, the driving surface on top is “pretty bad.”

“It’s been patched and patched and patched,” Gischlar said. “Everything has a shelf life, and it’s right there at its shelf life.”

He noted that SHA has done remedial work on the bridges in the past, such as paving over the concrete deck with asphalt to improve the smoothness of the driving surface.

“But that’s just to keep it [drivable] until the project is advanced, which is coming,” he said.

The replacement project will consist of reconstructing the bridge decks which constitute the actual driving surface, according to Gischlar, who said the piers and abutments making up their sub-structure, as well as the concrete and metal beams making up the superstructure, will remain intact.

The agency will also widen the bridge decks to provide outside shoulders which will match with the existing profile of Pulaski Highway.

“Right now it’s a bridge [for the driving lane only], and once you cross it there are shoulders and through lanes on Pulaski Highway itself,” Gischlar explained.

He added that bicyclists will also be able to use the shoulders.

“That will provide them some safe opportunity to use that as well,” he said.

The project cost is estimated between $13 million - $13.5 million for all work, using a combination of state and federal funds, Gischlar said. But it still needs to go through the competitive bid process and the exact cost will not be known until they receive the bids.

Gischlar said SHA will soon enter the bid process for the project, and they anticipate advertising the project in February 2018 to solicit contractors. Crews will then likely begin work in early summer 2018, and the project will take about two years to complete from start to finish.

“We’re trying to do this as quickly as we can while minimizing the impact to commuters and residents in the area, realizing it’s a busy area,” Gischlar commented.

An estimated 27,000 vehicles per day travel the corridor, according to SHA analysis.

Gischlar confirmed that SHA had considered the possibility of completely closing the bridges in one direction on Pulaski Highway during construction and having the other side function with two-way traffic. But the agency ultimately decided against it.

Instead, likely sometime in summer 2019, they will keep both separate sides of the highway open, but narrow them down to one lane in each direction, Gischlar said.

He noted that for the first part of the project, crews will be able to maintain all four lanes open for traffic.

“But starting two summers from now, we’re going to limit it to one lane on each bridge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for about two months,” he said.

He said they chose to do the narrowing during the summer because schools are not in session and people go on vacation, so the traffic volumes are lower.

“It’s still going to be a little bottleneck there,” Gischlar said. “But it’s the only way we can get that done expeditiously and safely for both the travelers and our construction personnel.”

He also said using the narrowed highway option eliminates the possibility of head-on conflict between drivers traveling in opposing directions.

Additionally, crews will be out in advance to let drivers know of the changes and allow them to use alternate routes if necessary.

Gischlar named MD-7/Philadelphia Road and US-1/Belair Road as usable alternatives for drivers.

“That’s the fortunate thing about this - we have great parallel alternate routes, and everybody around that area knows how to navigate around things,” he said.

Other work in the area
For the past several months, SHA crews have also been working on a slope reconstruction and drainage project on both sides of Pulaski Highway in White Marsh between Allender Road and the Big Gunpowder River.

“The roadway slope was deteriorating and needed repair,” Gischlar explained. “There are also drainage projects at this site to prevent further roadway slope erosion and to improve overall drainage in that area.”

The spokesman noted this is a $1.7 million project that began last year and is on target for completion in early to mid-August, weather permitting.

The work includes stabilizing the roadway slopes on both sides of the highway, shoulder repair and reconstruction, guard rail and traffic barrier replacement, and general drainage improvements.

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Liquor board dismisses claims against TGI Fridays

Liquor board dismisses claims against TGI Fridays

(Updated 8/2/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

The Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners dismissed allegations of serving an intoxicated person against TGI Fridays in White Marsh after a hearing on Monday, July 31.

A woman who was vomiting and smelled of alcohol was taken from the restaurant on Campbell Boulevard to MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center early on the morning of May 6, according to a police officer who testified before the board during the hearing in Towson.

However, an attorney for the liquor license holders argued that there was no evidence presented to show that the woman was intoxicated when she was served liquor in the bar earlier in the evening.

The restaurant manager on duty said that the woman was served two drinks over three hours and left the bar about 12:30 a.m. She later returned to the location but did not get further into the restaurant than the vestibule, he said, before police were called because of her condition.

In other business, the board approved a request by Tavern in the Quarters, a neighborhood bar on Bowleys Quarters Road in Middle River, to make deliveries of liquor to nearby marinas.

Bars can do so provided that delivery drivers complete a training course and that locations receiving deliveries do not have their own liquor licenses, board members said.

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Money for Under Armour linked to job growth

Money for Under Armour linked to job growth
A conceptual design for Under Armour’s e-commerce distribution warehouse released with Under Armour's announcement of the facility in August 2016. Image courtesy of Tradepoint Atlantic.

(Updated 7/25/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Under Armour must employ at least 800 full-time workers within five years under terms set for a conditional loan from the state to help pay for construction of its planned e-commerce warehouse and distribution center in Sparrows Point.

The loan, which does not need to be paid back if certain conditions are met, also requires support from the County Council.

The Council is expected to discuss a resolution in support of the project at their work session on Tuesday, Aug. 1, followed by a vote on Monday, Aug. 7.

As part of the effort, Baltimore County is also providing Under Armour with a $200,000 conditional loan intended for the purchase of equipment such as racks for storing inventory.

The 1.3 million-square-foot building is expected to open in summer 2018 and eventually generate 1,000 jobs.

The $2 million loan, announced last August by the Maryland Department of Commerce, is coming through the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund.

The money can be used to cover costs associated with the project, including acquisition and construction; leasehold, site and infrastructure improvements and the purchase of equipment, according to the resolution.

To receive the MEDAA money, Under Armour must employ at least 800 full-time employees at the former steel mill site by Dec. 31, 2022, according to Karen Glenn Hood, director of media relations and public affairs for the Maryland Department of Commerce.

Per the agreement, the company must pay 150 percent of whatever is the prevailing federal minimum wage for the job categories and area of the state, she wrote in an email.

The company must file annual employment reports and also keep a minimum of 800 employees for five years after the 2022 deadline.

Under Armour is leasing its site from Tradepoint Atlantic, which is redeveloping the 3,100-acre peninsula with a mix of industrial, retail and marine-related tenants.

Under Armour must verify that it has spent $75 million on equipment and verify that landlord Tradepoint Atlantic has spent $90 million on real property and construction costs, Hood wrote.

Another $2 million
In addition, Under Armour is set to receive an additional $2 million through the Maryland Economic Development Corporation for real property and infrastructure improvements, according to the Maryland Department of Commerce.

“It’s part of the overall incentive package,” said Robert Brennan, executive director of MEDCO, which also provided funding for the Owings Mills Metro Centre garage.

The money must be spent on public infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines and roads to serve the site, including a section of Sparrows Point Boulevard and the access road to the distribution center.

MEDCO is coordinating the infrastructure work with Tradepoint contractors and will use the money to pay the contractor bills when submitted, Brennan said.

The arrangement will help Tradepoint Atlantic lower capital costs, which will in turn result in “a more attractive lease” for Under Armour, Brennan said.

Meanwhile, Baltimore County does not have to pay for the infrastructure work, but it will be responsible for the maintenance of what will become a public road and utilities in the future.

Brennan said Under Armour originally planned to open a new distribution center in Tennessee, but after talks with the Maryland Department of Commerce the company decided to build it in Sparrows Point.

The 3,100-acre Tradepoint Atlantic site at the mouth of the Patapsco River is versatile and is drawing a lot of interest not only from distribution centers but also industrial and manufacturing companies.

“It’s a big site with a lot of potential,” Brennan said. “Redeveloping all these assets is very important.”

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BCSC’s annual youth regatta a ‘rousing success’

BCSC’s annual youth regatta a ‘rousing success’
The Club 420 fleet headed back to shore Wednesday due to an impending storm after completing just one race. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 7/25/17)

- By Devin Crum -

More than 500 people descended on the beautiful shores of Rocky Point Park in Essex last week during the Baltimore County Sailing Center’s 2017 Summer Junior Regatta.

The annual event hosted more than 150 competitors from five states to participate in a variety of sailboat races over two days last Wednesday, July 19, and Thursday, July 20. As a qualifier event for both the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association (CBYRA) and the United States Sailing Association (US Sailing), the event also allowed participants to jockey for position in regional as well as national championship series, said George Good, BCSC’s chairperson for the event.

In regional competition, the regatta counted toward CBYRA’s Junior High Point standings. On the national level, it served as an Area “C” US Sailing regional qualifier for the Chubb U.S. Junior Championships in pursuit of the Bemis and Smythe trophies, according to a press release for the event. Area C consists of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia.

“A lot of these kids that were coming to our event were there to help build their qualifying status for those nationals that happen at the end of the season in fall or winter,” Good said.

Holding the races over two days this year allowed the sailors to participate in as many races as possible and drop their lowest scores to improve their standings. And despite some weather issues, Good called the overall event a “rousing success.”

County Councilman Todd Crandell, who represents the area, also participated in the opening ceremonies.

Sunny skies, calm seas and a steady breeze made for a nearly ideal first day of racing Wednesday. But an approaching storm forced the event into postponement after just one race for each fleet. Races were able to resume after the weather passed, however, and the respective fleets squeezed in two more races to make for a solid day.

Then Thursday brought its own challenges in the form of a lack of wind in the morning, Good said.

“So the competitors arrived between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. [Thursday], we had the skippers meeting at 9 a.m. and immediately put up the postponement of race flag,” he said.

Good noted that the sailors had to sit on-shore until about 11:30 a.m., but were able to get back on the water with “great conditions” after eating lunch. The last fleet came off the water at about 4:30 p.m. after each group put in three more races, he said.

“Despite some weather non-cooperativeness from Mother Nature, we were able to work with what she was giving us and we got in a six-race regatta in each fleet,” Good commented. “So that’s considered a very successful event.”

He said BCSC received a lot of positive responses from participants about Baltimore County and the sailing venue. Some visitors to the event from outside the area were even able to enjoy some of the local flavor while in town, such as visiting Pizza John’s in Essex or catching an Orioles game.

“It was really great, because all these people came from out of town and they got to experience Baltimore,” Good said. “So it was very rewarding for us as a board, and myself as the regatta chairperson, to see so many happy, smiling faces on the kids and to get so many great, positive comments from the parents of the participants.”

Although most visitors were from the five Area C states, Good mentioned he saw license plates in the parking lot from farther away, such as Florida, Missouri, Texas and even Colorado, and at least 30 different sailing clubs were represented at the event.

The participants, aged 8 to under 18, competed in three different classes of sailboats during the regatta: the Club 420s, the Laser Radials and the Optimists, nicknamed “Optis.” The event saw around 40 Club 420s, more than 40 Laser Radials and 48 Optis sailing, according to Good.

The youngest Opti sailors compete in the “green” fleet, then move up to the white, blue or red fleets based on their age, Good said. They can sail in the Opti class until their 15th birthday, and the Optis raced on a course about a half-mile in legth.

The Laser Radial class, a larger boat, does not have the lower age limit but accommodates sailors up to age 18.

The Club 420s have the same age range as the Laser Radials but are larger and have two sails (a jib and a main) and two sailors (a skipper and a crew) while the Lasers only have one of each.

The Laser Radials and 420s all used the same roughly mile-long course, and both courses were set up between the Rocky Point Park shore and Hart-Miller Island.

Along with the competitors, the regatta saw about 30 coaches, more than 100 parents, roughly 50 volunteers and the participants in BCSC’s summer sailing camp, making for a sizable crowd at Rocky Point.

Good stressed that BCSC is an almost all-volunteer organization, functioning as a self-sufficient recreation council of the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks, and called the sailing camp the BCSC’s “bread and butter.”

“A lot of our programs are entirely run by volunteers,” he said, “including when we host a special event like this.

“[The camp is] where Baltimore County Sailing Center gets its sustainability,” Good said, because the income from it helps pay for their other programs and events.

BCSC’s mission is to introduce children and adults to the joy and challenge of small boat sailing through affordable learn-to-sail and seamanship programs, the press release stated. As a tax-exempt, charitable organization, they depend on fundraising activity to sustain their unique programs and continue to provide seamanship excellence to the community.

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Medical marijuana stores set to open locally by year’s end

Medical marijuana stores set to open locally by year’s end
Charm City Medicus LLC has renovated this building on North Point Boulevard for a marijuana dispensary. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 7/25/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

People living with chronic pain stand to soon benefit from a new state program that will allow the regulated sale of medical marijuana at more than 100 retail outlets around Maryland, including six stores serving the eastern Baltimore County area.

State law allows two dispensaries in each legislative district, and more than 100 pre-approvals have been granted by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, subject to final inspections later this year.

In the works are two dispensaries in Perry Hall for District 8, one in White Marsh and one in Joppa for District 7, and two in Dundalk for District 6.

Pre-approved applicants have until late December to find locations, secure local zoning and permit approvals and pass final inspections before opening.

The federal government does not sanction the sale of marijuana, but 24 states now legally allow it, including Maryland. The cost of products is not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or insurance companies, and customers will be expected to pay in cash, although some locations are looking into additional forms of payment.

The  Maryland commission has also granted pre-approvals to growers who produce the plants, including a site in Lutherville, and to processors who make the oils, salves, tinctures and creams that contain the pain-relieving marijuana.

Products are not sold in smokable form and they cannot be passed along to anyone except registered patients who have been certified by registered doctors.

Perry Hall
Blue Ridge Wellness LLC, a private investor group, hopes to open a dispensary in the Festival at Perry Hall shopping center on E. Joppa Road just west of Belair Road in November.

The center is managed by Kline Scott Visco, a commercial real estate company based in Frederick.

“We’ll be applying for building permits in the next few weeks,” said Edward Scott, one of the principals, about plans to renovate a vacant space.

Scott said the project is allowed under current zoning according to a letter he received from the county.

County Councilman David Marks,who represents Perry Hall, said he plans to meet next week with the Perry Hall Improvement Association and the Perry Hall Business and Professional Association about the group’s plans.

Marks said there are possible concerns about exactly where the store will locate in the center, which is also home to a daycare.

Scott said he also hopes to meet with local community associations and businesses about the business. He said a management company will handle the day-to-day operations. The store will employ five people, not including security guards.

Also pre-approved in District 8 is LMS Wellness, Benefit LLC, which plans to lease a vacant florist building at 4741 Ridge Road near the intersection of Perry Hall Boulevard.

Located in a residential area, the site is about half a mile southwest of White Marsh Mall.

Attorney William Huber, a Perry Hall resident and one of the principals in the venture, spoke about the project at a meeting of the South Perry Hall Improvement Association on July 17.

He said one of his goals is to dispel some of the stigma associated with marijuana. Although illegal under federal law, more than 20 states allow it to be used as a medicine to relieve pain, and some view it as a good alternative to opioid medications.

“It’s an amazing, viable option for people,” Huber said.

The current plan is to be open every day except Sunday, from 9 am. to 8 p.m., he said. The facility would employ 15 people and contract with a security firm for guards.

A video surveillance system will be installed, and rooms within the building will be secured, he said.

However, some residents oppose the location in a residential neighborhood, and Marks has proposed a bill that could block the project.

The Baltimore County Council is set to discuss the bill during a work session on Tuesday, Aug. 1, followed by a vote on Monday, Aug. 7.

Current county regulations say that a medical marijuana dispensary cannot be within 500 feet of a school site, and Marks’ bill would increase that boundary to 800 feet.

The bill could affect the project because within 750 feet is a heavily wooded, developable school site at Gum Spring Road and Rossville Boulevard. Design money has been approved, and an elementary school is set to open there in 2020, Marks said.

His bill would also require that marijuana businesses notify council members when they ask for a special exception or apply for permits.

Huber said the group has already invested more than $75,000 in a new roof and has plans to install new flooring and upgrade the parking lot. He said he hopes to meet with Marks before the work session, but Marks said the group has had plenty of time to contact him before now.

Marks said he supports the therapeutic use of marijuana but believes stores should be located in more heavily traveled areas. He also said that locating two stores in Perry Hall means none can be located in Parkville or Carney.

White Marsh
In District 7, Chesapeake Health Sciences plans to open a dispensary just west of Pulaski Highway at 5512 Ebenezer Road, at the Red Lion Road intersection.

Formerly a Sprint mobile phone store, the building was most recently occupied by the Dave’s Deals pawn shop, which has also now moved.

A representative of the group did not immediately return a phone call and email request for comment.

The applicants have asked the county for a special exception under the zoning regulations, and a hearing before a county administrative law judge is scheduled for Monday, July 31, in Towson.

Also pre-approved for the district is Meshow LLC, which is in the process of buying a site off Pulaski Highway in Joppa just across the county line in Harford County.

“It’s a standalone building with room for expansion,” said managing member Paul Michaud, a retired banker who presently lives in Monkton.

Michaud considered leasing a site but found that some landlords are concerned that doing business with entities that sell marijuana could violate provisions in mortgage documents.

Already at work renovating a leased building at 717 North Point Blvd. in a commercial area across from Eastpoint Mall is Charm City Medicus LLC, a group of private investors.

President and CEO Bryan Hill, whose grandparents lived in Dundalk, said the group plans to open the store in late October or early November and operate Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The group will employ a licensed pharmacist to run the store and will employ students at the University of Maryland pharmacy school to work with clients.

The business will be hiring people for administrative and inventory work.

“We’ve gotten a lot of inquiries,” said Hill. “They believe in the industry and they want to know how to get involved.”

Customers will need to pay in cash, but the group is also looking into systems that automatically debit accounts.

Hill said marijuana oils have helped older people with arthritis and children with epilepsy, as well as his father who is living with esophageal cancer.

Also pre-approved to operate in District 6 is GreenMart of Maryland which is affiliated with CGX Life Sciences, a division of a Canadian company.

The group purchased a site at 7458 German Hill Road next to a convenience store and recently asked for relief from certain county parking and landscaping regulations at hearing on July 10.

The group plans to open by mid-December and operate from 9 am. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

A list of growers, processors and dispensaries, along with registration requirements for customers and other information is posted on the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission website at

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Dundalk residents use Dumpster Day as occasion to help neighbor in need

Dundalk residents use Dumpster Day as occasion to help neighbor in need
Susan Rayba (back) and Bob Compton (front) helped Mario Carlucci to his new scooter. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 7/25/17)

- By Devin Crum -

During the West Inverness Community Association’s second annual Dumpster Day Saturday, July 22, community members not only provided a way for residents to get rid of their trash and junk, but also presented a disabled neighbor with a new mode of transportation.

The recipient, Mario Carlucci, has lived in the West Inverness community in Dundalk for around 40 years and was born with a spinal cord condition that prevents him from walking, according to WICA President Susan Rayba.

“He owns his home and never asks for help with anything, but he’s always there to help others,” Rayba said.

She added that neighbors often give Carlucci rides in their cars to take him where he needs to go, and they try to help him however they can. And when no one is available to provide transportation, he simply pushes himself in his manual wheelchair to his destination.

But the recent wave of summer heat over the past few weeks and Carlucci’s increasing age have made it more difficult to push himself in his old wheelchair, Rayba said.

Lucky for Carlucci, however, his neighbors used an unfortunate situation to help better the life of someone they care about.

A friend of WICA Vice President Bob Compton recently passed away, leaving a motorized scooter chair behind. And although it needed a little work, he and others decided it would be perfect for Carlucci.

Cliff O’Connell of Cliff’s Hi-Tech and Cliff’s Direct Effect in Essex volunteered to perform the needed work free of charge, fixing any problems with the scooter and giving it a fresh coat of paint.

Rayba said it was funny to see O’Connell, who usually works on cars, working on a motor scooter instead.

Nevertheless, she said those are the kinds of things she and others like her are doing to try to bring the community together and move it forward.

“We’re hoping this is going to change Mario’s life,” she said.

“This is real nice,” Carlucci said after receiving the scooter, adding that it was fun taking it for a test drive. “This will certainly be faster to get to the store.”

Rayba and O’Connell, along with O’Connell’s wife Debbie, Lynne Mitchell and Nora Baublitz - all of whom attended the event - comprise of group of community activists known as the Core Group. They came together from the southeastern Baltimore County communities of West Inverness, Middlesex, Berkshire and Eastwood, respectively, after realizing their communities face many of the same problems including trash, rats, crime and issues with homes and properties in their neighborhoods.

Rayba noted that the presentation and the community Dumpster Day - which the Back River Restoration Committee also helped with - were all part of the Core Group’s mission to better communities in Essex and Dundalk.

“We’re bringing more people into our vision and making our community a better place to live,” she said. “We’re all about quality of life issues and making things better and working together.”

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Henrietta Lacks to be honored with Turner Station street dedication

(Updated 7/25/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Henrietta Lacks, a Turner Station resident and unwitting medical pioneer, will be honored Saturday, July 29, in a street-renaming ceremony scheduled at the Fleming Community Center, 641 Main St. in Turner Station.

The tribute program will begin at 10 a.m. and will include a free screening of the movie, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” starring Oprah Winfrey, according to a statement from Baltimore County officials. The movie is based on the book of the same title by Rebecca Skloot.

New Pittsburgh Avenue, where the Lacks family lived at the time of Henrietta’s death, is expected to be dedicated to the woman whose cancer cells became the basis for numerous medical research projects that led to medical advancements, including vaccines, in-vitro fertilization techniques and cancer-fighting drugs.

County officials told the East County Times in May of their plan to dedicate a street in Lacks’ honor, shortly after state legislation was passed to dedicate a portion of Broening Highway, a state road, to Lacks.

Lacks, who died of cervical cancer in 1951 at the age of 31, was being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital when her cancer cells were harvested and then cultivated in a laboratory. The hardy cells were the first human cells to be successfully grown outside the body. Known as the HeLa cell line, the prolific cells made their way into labs around the world where they were used for various research projects.

Many organizations, including the Lacks family, the Henrietta Lacks House of Healing, the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group, the Turner Station Conservation team and the Fleming Senior Center Council, are working together on the event, according to the statement from the county.

The public is invited to attend the free event.

Destiny fulfilled as community gathers to rededicate Aquila Randall monument

Destiny fulfilled as community gathers to rededicate Aquila Randall monument
Ed Seufert, an 1812 historian and member of the Todd's Inheritance Historic Site preservation group, read excerpts from Capt. Benjamin Howard's speech delivered at the 1817 dedication of the Aquila Randall monument. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 7/22/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Little could Capt. Benjamin C. Howard have known in 1817 that eight simple, yet prophetic words from a speech he delivered would serve as an invitation for others to gather at the same spot exactly 200 years later.

On July 21, 1817, on a little patch of land along what is now North Point Road in Dundalk, members of the First Mechanical Volunteers dedicated a war memorial in honor of Pvt. Aquila Randall, the first man killed in the Battle of North Point during the War of 1812. After erecting and dedicating the monument, Howard spoke poignantly of the "melancholy event which has caused our assemblage at this spot."

"We commit this monument to destiny and time," Howard told those gathered.

So it was destiny that another crowd would gather on that small patch of land 200 years later to the day to rededicate the memorial and remember not only the dead but the survivors of that battle and the important role they played in protecting Baltimore from invading British forces led by Gen. Robert Ross.

Ross, who was leading the much larger, better-equipped British forces, was killed in the skirmish in which Randall died. Also killed were Daniel Wells and Henry McComas who, according to local legend, were credited with firing simultaneous gun shots, one of which felled Ross.

"It was his leading from the front that would lose his life," re-enactor Ed Seufert said of Ross.

With a solemn ceremony of prayer, patriotic music, the recitation of news articles and speeches from 1817 by men in period costumes and the presentation of modern-day proclamations by 21st-century elected leaders, the memory of Aquila Randall was once again committed to destiny and time.

A crowd of about 75 people representing a variety of local organizations, including the Maryland National Guard, the Maryland Society of the War of 1812 and the Wells McComas Citizens Improvement Association, gathered under canopies on a swelteringly hot day to remember Randall, as well as honor to the area's role in helping to secure the freedom and independence of Maryland and the fledgling nation.

Jean Walker, president of the Dundalk Patapsco Neck Historical Society, said after the event that she believes it is important to remember and honor Dundalk's role in vital events that helped shape a young nation.

"We knew so little about the Battle of North Point when we were in school because they just didn't teach about it," she said. "Most of us didn't learn a lot about it until we got involved with the society."

Events such as this one help keep people educated as well as keep the memory of those early heroes alive, she believes.

The desire to tell another generation the story of the monument was a major reason for planning the event, according to local resident Patricia Paul, who coordinated all the participating organizations.

"We wanted to tell the story in a meaningful manner, so that when people left they had the back story of the monument and a better understanding of the battle," Paul said after the event.

At the request of "a friend from across the pond," the ceremony also made a point of showing "dignity and respect" for Ross, according to Paul.

Lt. Col. John McDaniel, commander of the 175th Infantry Regiment, Maryland National Guard, said his unit "proudly carries the pride and lineage" of the First Mechanical Volunteers unit, which was part of Maryland's Fifth Regiment.

He spoke of the soldiers who gave the last of their devotion and sacrificed their lives for state and country.

"Maryland's Dandy Fifth honors them today," he said. Citing a unit slogan, he added, "We are 'always ready, always here.'"

Friday's gathering honored Howard's words as much as it honored Randall.

"We owe something to those who are dead - something to those who are yet unborn," Howard told his volunteers at the original dedication in 1817. "So strongly do I feel this, that my imagination at this moment flies forward to the future, and my memory to the past. I can picture to myself sensations of those who in far distant days will contemplate this monument, while my memory brings before me the scene which was exhibited here and the melancholy event which has caused our assemblage at this spot."

In those far distant days that Howard envisioned, on July 21, 2017, on that small parcel of sacred land, another generation gathered to remember that melancholy event, most probably with their own thoughts of far distant days when yet another generation will again gather in a show of respect for a slice of local history.

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Ravens’ John Urschel visits Dundalk to talk math and science behind ice cream making

Ravens’ John Urschel visits Dundalk to talk math and science behind ice cream making
Of course, a lesson about ice cream wouldn’t be complete without enjoying some. Aside from receiving plenty of ice cream for their participation, the students were also gifted a brand new calculator courtesy of Texas Instruments. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 7/19/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

John Urschel, guard/center for the Baltimore Ravens, is widely regarded as the smartest player in the NFL, and for good reason. When he is not opening up lanes for the run or protecting Joe Flacco on the field, Urschel spends his time working toward his Ph.D. in mathematics at MIT.

And on Tuesday morning, Urschel stopped by Dundalk High School to teach the students in attendance at the Baltimore County Public Schools Summer Math Academy the science and math behind making ice cream.

One may wonder why learning the math behind ice cream making is important, but Urschel saw the lesson as a way of showing how math is applicable in basically every line of work, be it fashion design, art, athletics or even making ice cream. Ultimately, though, ice cream was chosen because “it’s delicious,” he said.

“We’re just trying to show kids some of the importance of math in careers where they might not see it,” said Urschel. “To show them that even if they don’t become a scientist or mathematician, that math is important in a whole range of careers. No matter what they do, believe it or not, they’ll use math in their career.”

The lesson began with Urschel showing the students a video he made at an ice cream shop in Texas. There, the employees talked about how ice cream works its way through different states - from liquid to solid - and the math that goes into making the product.

From there, Urschel got into more detail about the measurements and specific timing that needs to be followed in order to churn out the best product. If one aspect of the process is off, be it temperature or time spent spinning, the end result won’t turn out the way you want it.

When the oral lesson was over, Urschel put the students to work, having them fill out a worksheet utilizing the information they just learned.

While the lesson was an important one for the students, it was also important for Urschel as a way to get his feet wet in front of a class. When his career as a football player is over, he plans to teach.

“When I’m done playing football, I’m going to be a math professor and this is my life’s passion - trying to inspire young people to show them that math matters and is useful in their life and try to actually make an influence and an impact,” he explained.

All in all, Urschel thought he did fairly well for a beginner, giving himself a B-plus.

But there was an even deeper lesson for the students, one that carries over to professional athletes. Urschel stressed that it isn’t enough to devote yourself to a single passion, that a person needs to be well-rounded in order to reach their potential. For him, that means smacking players around for a large portion of the year, but staying dedicated to math in his off time.

“I think the balance is very useful. If you’re an athlete you need to realize that even if you play professional sports, your career won’t last you the rest of your life and you’ll need academic skills to get you to the next career and beyond,” said Urschel. “And if you’re an academic I would actually really stress the importance of physical activity.”

Of course, the students loved being able to work on math with a member of the Ravens.

Michael Dannenfelser, an attendee at the camp, said that he never imagined the first Raven he’d have the pleasure of meeting would be teaching him about ice cream.

“I actually didn’t know that there was so much that goes into ice cream, so much into making the product,” he said. “I really enjoyed the lesson.”

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Status of former Seagram’s property unclear after hearing

Status of former Seagram’s property unclear after hearing
The building formerly occupying the space at the right of this photo, and similar to the building in the center, has now been completely demolished as a result of the most recent conflagration on July 3. According to Code Enforcement Chief Lionel van Dommelen, the remaining buildings must also come down by the end of next month. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 7/19/17)

- By Marge Neal -

When a fire swept through one of the remaining buildings on the former Seagram’s property of Sollers Point Road in Dundalk on July 3, Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell said “enough is enough.”

That same day, at Crandell’s request, a code inspection was performed and a code violation notice was issued to the property’s owner, according to Doug Anderson, senior council assistant to Crandell.

An expedited administrative hearing was held last Wednesday, July 12, to address the violations, Anderson said, and an immediate order to raze the building was issued.

“The wrecking ball was out there July 13,” Anderson said.

Crandell posted a picture on his Facebook page of a crane of some sort on the property July 13. At that time, the only thing that remained of the latest burned building looked to be a reinforced column of some sort such as a stairwell or elevator shaft. The rest of the building had already collapsed as a result of the blaze.

The property had been plagued by fires, with at least 12 occurring since 2008, according to online reports.

Questions remain regarding the order to raze and whether it pertains to only the building that burned or all remaining structures on the 12-acre property.

Anderson said he did not know the specifics of the order, and the official administrative hearing order document has not yet been written, according to county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler.

“The [Administrative Law Judge] will write an order (not written yet) detailing the terms of the county’s agreement with [property owner] Sollers Inverstors LLC - the main building will be [razed] within two weeks and remaining cleanup will be completed by the end of August,” she wrote in an email to the East County Times.

The phrase “main building” refers to the building mostly destroyed by the July 3 fire, according to Code Enforcement Chief Lionel van Dommelen.

“It’s my understanding that the building that burned must be down within two weeks and all other buildings must be down by the end of August,” van Dommelen said in a phone interview. “The only things that are to be left standing by the end of August are the smokestack and water tower.”

Those two structures are designated by Baltimore County as historic landmarks and must be preserved.

The only thing that could extend the deadline is if it is determined that extensive asbestos abatement is needed before demolition can continue, according to van Dommelen.

“And that’s only if he is making a full and good-faith effort to get the work done,” he said of partner owner John Vontran. “He’s not going to be able to wait around for six weeks and then say he needs more time - that won’t fly here.”

A Maryland Department of the Environment asbestos survey done in 2009 found the toxic material in several samplings of insulation, tar paper, wall board and floor tiles, among other building elements.

The county also imposed a $100,000 fine, which could be waived at the discretion of the county’s director of Permits, Approvals and Inspections “if there is a full and good-faith effort to complete all the work within the allotted time frame,” according to Kobler.

Vontran had applied for a demolition permit before the fire, and had submitted all the necessary paperwork, including a letter from a certified exterminator stating that rat eradication had been carried out on the property, according to van Dommelen.

While a wrecking crane was on the site on July 13, it was gone July 14 and no additional demolition activity took place that day or Monday, July 17. The only visible work done on the property was the demolition of the reinforced column remaining from the collapsed, burned building.

The property that at one time had 13 buildings, now has only three structures visible from the street. The property is overgrown with trees and brush and is secured by a dilapidated gate that is patched with assorted pieces of chain link fencing held together with a series of padlocks. The remaining buildings are heavily tagged with graffiti, have most of their windows broken out and one has a large chunk of brick facade knocked out of it.

An approved development plan exists for the property which allows for the construction of 185 townhomes to be known as Foundry Station. The owner of the land - Vontran, along with partners Jeffrey and Mark Powers - have entered into a voluntary cleanup agreement for the property. Approved and accepted by the Maryland Department of the Environment, the plan spells out the remediation that must be done on-site to remove and/or cap ground pollutants and toxins.

Once the housing development is constructed, groundwater use and excavation deed restrictions will be placed on the property to prevent any future disturbance of contaminated areas. The property’s groundwater may not be used for potable or non-potable purposes, according to MDE.

None of the owners responded to requests for interviews by press time to answer questions about the status of the housing development and a potential time frame for remediation and new construction.

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Liquor board fines Christina’s strip bar $2,000

(Updated 7/19/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

The Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners imposed a fine of $2,000 against Christina’s Female Revue in Sparrows Point after a hearing on Monday, July 17, in Towson.

The adult entertainment bar at 4508 North Point Blvd. was charged with violating two board rules. One requires that dancers cover their nipple areas with pasties, and the other prohibits them from accepting tips between their breasts.

The vote was 2 to 1 to impose the maximum fine, with board members Charles Klein and  Bob Page voting in favor and Les Pittler voting against. Pittler  said after the hearing that he supported the fine but voted no because he favored suspending the license, a tougher penalty, due to the bar’s history of violations from  2007 through 2011.

Detectives from the county Police Department visited the bar on April 14 and observed the violations, according to their incident report. The report states that they visited the bar in response to an anonymous complaint about possible prostitution at the site, but the allegation was not verified during the visit.

In other business, the Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille located in White Marsh Mall has appealed a $2,000 fine imposed on June 12 by the board for allegedly serving alcohol to an intoxicated person.

The Greene Turtle paid the fine and filed the appeal in Baltimore County Circuit Court on June 28, according to liquor board files. The appeal will be reviewed by a Circuit Court judge.

Staigerwald announces run for State Senate

Staigerwald announces run for State Senate
Buddy Staigerwald announced his run for State Senate in the Sixth District last Thursday, July 13, in front of a packed house at the Sail Inn. He was surrounded by a wealth of supporters from both the community and the Democratic Party. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 7/19/17)

- By Devin Crum -

To say the Sail Inn, in the Jones Creek community near Sparrows Point, is an intimate venue would be an understatment. But Buddy Staigerwald managed to pack the building last Thursday, July 13, with a standing-room-only crowd for his campaign announcement and first fundraiser.

Staigerwald officially threw his hat in the ring for State Senator in the Sixth Legislative District (Dundalk, Essex). He filed as a candidate on Tuesday, July 11.

The event turned out a wealth of support for the Democratic candidate, who emphasized his connections at the state level as a way to get things done for the district. That support included current and former elected officials and candidates, as well as dozens of community members and leaders.

Staigerwald told the crowd it will take hard work to win the Senate seat. “It’s not a given that we’re going to get it back,” he said.

The seat is currently held by Republican Senator Johnny Ray Salling.

“But I know the people of this district, the people of this county and the people of this community will do that [work],” Staigerwald continued, predicting it will be a “hot” campaign.

He said his campaign, though, is not about Democrats or Republicans, but “working a commitment to the community.

“In order to get work accomplished, it’s all about community commitment and involvement,” Staigerwald noted. “And the one thing that I’ll stand behind is my résumé of working with the community, for the community, through different avenues.”

Staigerwald has been a volunteer firefighter with the North Point-Edgemere Volunteer Fire Company for 27 years and headed the Baltimore County Volunteer Fireman’s Association for four years. He also has worked for several different community organizations, was volunteer chair of the Sky is the Limit community theater and sits on the Southeast Area Education Advisory Council to the county school board.

The candidate told the East County Times he hopes to bring to the office the ability to work within the framework of the political system.

“I understand how the Senate operates,” he said, adding that he has worked to fight the sale of the North Point Government Center and headed the BCVFA, a quasi-government entity, where he worked with county budgeting. “While I haven’t been elected, I have knowledge of how the system works.”

Staigerwald said he also already has a network of relationships within the state legislature that he could draw from to help accomplish his goals for the district. He named Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder and Comptroller Peter Franchot as examples of beneficial relationships he has, along with former delegate and Dundalk resident Bob Staab, who brings knowledge and experience to his campaign team.

He also said the “gem” that is Sparrows Point is “an economic engine waiting to start.

“You need real people with real ideas to make real jobs and real prosperity come back to this community,” he said.

Staigerwald and others supporting him said the elected officials currently representing the Sixth District do not know how to work in the state capitol and make gains for their communities.

“And for that reason, nothing’s getting accomplished for us in Annapolis,” Staigerwald charged. “They went to Annapolis, they’ve brought nothing back.”

“We have a state senator in this area... who really hasn’t done very much,” said Del. Steve Lafferty (D-Towson).” He added that during the election, Staigerwald will bring to the forefront the most important issues for the community which have been ignored.

Del. Pat Young (D-Woodlawn) drew similarities between his own southwestern Baltimore County district and the Sixth District, noting that the people in both areas are proud and do not elect “empty suits.”

“He ain’t no empty suit,” Young said of Staigerwald. “You don’t want an empty suit who’s a Republican, you don’t want an empty suit who’s a Democrat. But right now you’ve got an empty suit who’s a Republican, who would do anything the governor says without question.”

The sitting senator balked at being called an empty suit, noting that he and the Sixth District’s delegates have worked together with Governor Larry Hogan on initiatives to benefit the district.

Sen. Salling said they have worked with Hogan to make sure no taxes were raised, as well as to reduce tolls and fees where possible.

Salling did not name any projects or funding specifically geared toward his district that he has brought home, instead pointing to statewide efforts he has worked on that benefit his constituents such as tolls reduction and school funding.

“Anybody in this district that goes south has to pay a toll. Well, the tolls aren’t as much as they used to be,” he said.

Salling, who sits on the state Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee, noted that education funding levels are at their highest in history, adding that school construction funds particularly benefit the Sixth District, which has more schools without air conditioning than any other district in Baltimore County.

Additionally, he said he has met directly with school officials and students from 23 of the district’s 24 schools and has been told that is more than any previous state senator or delegate for the district has done.

Staigerwald last ran for political office in 2014, when he finished third in the Democratic primary for Baltimore County Council District 7. He stressed the crowded field in that campaign and called it a “transitional” year while admitting he had no real connection to Essex, a sizable part of that Council district.

But he did learn from the campaign and determined that he could be more effective at the state level.

Staigerwald said the 2014 election was an election of change, and that is what many were seeking with their votes. But he pointed out that the majority of voters in the district are still registered Democrats.

“I’m not what you rejected last time,” he said, stressing that he is a moderate to conservative candidate with the tools and knowledge to get the job done.

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Ceremony to mark bicentennial of Aquila Randall Monument

Ceremony to mark bicentennial of Aquila Randall Monument
The monument will mark its 200th anniversary on Friday, July 21. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 7/19/17)

- By Marge Neal - 

The bicentennial celebration of the Battle of North Point isn’t quite over yet.

The Wells-McComas Citizens Improvement Association invites the community to attend a ceremony Friday, July 21, to mark the bicentennial of the Aquila Randall Monument, erected in 1817 near the spot where the soldier died in the same skirmish that killed Major Gen. Robert Ross, commander of the invading British forces.

“A lot of people call it the General Ross monument, but that isn’t the case, obviously,” association President Rob Zacherl said.

Randall was one of a handful of citizen soldiers from the First Mechanical Volunteers sent ahead of the Battle of North Point to scout the British and to provide a distraction, according to Zacherl.

“They were sent there to be a pain in the butt,” he said of the group of advance soldiers that also included the famous sharpshooters Daniel Wells and Henry McComas. “General Ross, after hearing gunfire, rode his horse to the front of the line, where he was shot and mortally wounded - he died several hours later.”

Randall, Wells and McComas were all killed in the conflict.

Local legend gives credit for shooting Ross to Wells and McComas, though many historians believe there isn’t sufficient proof to back up that claim.

Zacherl laughed when he mentioned the word-of-mouth accounts of the battle that have been passed down from generation to generation.

“I know there are a lot of different stories out there,” he said. “But this is what has been handed down and this is what we’re going with.”

The monument erected in Randall’s honor was constructed and dedicated on July 21, 1817, according to an article by Scott S. Sheads published on Capt. Benjamin C. Howard’s First Mechanical Volunteers marched six miles to the battlefield on what is now North Point Road, accompanied by wagons hauling the blocks that would be assembled to create the marker, according to the article. The monument was constructed and whitewashed before being dedicated in a ceremony that included a speech by Howard.

“We have a copy of the speech that Major Howard gave the day of the dedication,” Zacherl said. “It’s an unbelievable speech - very, very moving and at the end, he takes a shot at General Ross.”

Zacherl said he hopes to have a member of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing - a descendant of the First Mechanical Volunteers - read the speech at Friday’s ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m.

The program will include presentations by local historians, Zacherl said. Local elected leaders and members of the 175th ANG Wing have been invited to participate in the free event that is open to the public.

The monument is situated on North Point Road near Old Battle Grove Road in Dundalk, on a small piece of county-owned land in front of a private residence, according to Zacherl.

“There’s not a lot of room to park or stand, so we expect the police will close a small portion of the road off for the ceremony so people can stand out in the street,” he said.

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