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.

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
Dredging is planned to occur inside Tradepoint Atlantic's marine terminal turning basin at the southern end of the property, around the former ore pier and in the approach channel which connects it to the Port of Baltimore's Brewerton Channel. 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
Dredging is planned to occur inside Tradepoint Atlantic's marine terminal turning basin at the southern end of the property, around the former ore pier and in the approach channel which connects it to the Port of Baltimore's Brewerton Channel. 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 many times 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
Dredging is planned to occur inside Tradepoint Atlantic's marine terminal turning basin at the southern end of the property, around the former ore pier and in the approach channel which connects it to the Port of Baltimore's Brewerton Channel. 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 is currently renovating 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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Davis promises to be a ‘voice of the people’ in bid for County Council seat

Davis promises to be a ‘voice of the people’ in bid for County Council seat
Richard Davis posed with supporters at his gathering in Edgemere. The Dundalk native wants to focus on jobs, health and education. Photo courtesy Richard Davis.

(Updated 7/19/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Two years ago, lifelong Dundalk resident Richard Davis lost his girfriend to cancer. They had been dating for five years and the loss put Davis on his back.

Davis took refuge in group counseling sessions and grief therapy, and things are looking a lot more different for him.

“I went to group session for therapy, grief counseling, for 10 to 15 sessions,” said Davis. “I got healed and decided to take what I learned and help others. So now I work as a counselor and help others who went through what I went through.”

While helping others through their hardships, Davis said he was approached by a gentleman who suggested a run for County Council. The gentleman told Davis that “because you’re honest, you try hard, you’re caring and you’re trustworthy, you’d make a good candidate.”

Davis took some time to mull it over before ultimately deciding to throw his hat in the ring for a run at the District 7 County Council seat, currently held by Councilman Todd Crandell (R). Davis, a Democrat, feels that the county government isn’t doing enough to help the people they’re supposed to serve - especially the youth, elderly and those dealing with drug issues.

“I’m offering a listening ear as someone who wants to help,” said Davis. “Help our young people and give them hope. I want to hear the voice of the community and help the people.”

Davis has taken issue with the workings of the County Council over the last few years. In 2014, the council voted to increase the County Executive’s salary by $25,000, while boosting the salaries of the councilmen and women by $8,500. He also pointed to the recent debate over whether or not the Department of Corrections should be utilizing the federal 287(g) program that would see county correctional officers work more closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The bill to utilize that program was introduced by Crandell but ultimately tabled.

“I feel it’s not [the county’s] responsibility, and it’s a good thing it was tabled. Crandell introduced that bill and a lot of people were happy when it was shut down,” Davis said.

He went on to note that if Crandell wanted to work with the federal government, he shouldn’t have turned down the opportunity for a school meals program that would have seen breakfast and lunches provided to the students for free. Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) took up the government on its offer when Crandell refused.

“If the federal government is going to give you something, we need all the help we can get,” said Davis. “There are families struggling, working multiple jobs and still struggling to put food on the table. Any help we can get for kids is necessary.”

Davis also took issue with the handling of the North Point Government Center, saying the decision should have been made by the community. Davis maintains that the space is vital for providing public services that help educate and keep people off the streets. A lack of options, according to Davis, can lead people down the wrong path, like drug use.

And when it comes to the main issues Davis wants to focus on, the opioid problem is at the top of the list. The Democratic hopeful takes an empathetic approach, positing that a lot of addiction issues stem from a sense of hopelessness.

“I feel that they feel nobody cares, and they’ve lost hope. I want to give them a chance of hope and show them someone does care,” said Davis.

Davis wants to see more treatment centers set up, and he wants to see 30-day programs extended to 60-day, saying that 30 days doesn’t seem to be enough to keep people off drugs. He also floated the idea of businesses getting tax breaks for hiring those who go through a 60-day treatment plan.

“Best case scenario, you help get someone off the street and working to become a productive member of the workforce, and worst case scenario you get a tax break,” he said.

He went on to praise Gov. Larry Hogan for his efforts to curb the problem, citing a $50 million commitment over five years to tackle the issue from multiple angles.

“I praise Governor Hogan for releasing money to help fight the epidemic,” said Davis. “I think it’s a great thing. He’s a caring governor who really wants to help and it’s a blessing he’s willing to help.”

Going forward, Davis knows he has a lot of work to do. He stated he’s going to be visiting every part of the district, knocking on doors and listening to what people have to say. Last weekend he held a campaign event at the Edgemere VFW, which he said was well-attended.

“There were about 70 people there and they were excited,” said Davis. “They heard that I want to help seniors and kids and everyone who needs a hand. And I’m going to be taking that message all over the district.”

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State Park Service finalizing plans for North Point Heritage Greenway Trail

(Updated 7/19/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Plans for a mile-long pedestrian and bicyclist trail meant to connect communities on the North Point Peninsula to each other, as well as with historic sites, are nearing completion and the Maryland Park Service anticipates sending the project out for bid later this year.

MPS Chief of Planning LeeAnne Chandler explained at last month’s North Point Peninsula Council (NPC) meeting that the trail, known as the Heritage Greenway Trail, is planned to extend from a parking lot in North Point State Park - near where the North Point Spur meets Bay Shore Road - down North Point Road to Fort Howard Veterans Park.

Chandler noted that the project will likely be phased due to budget constraints, but the first phase would run from the park to the Todd’s Inheritance historic site and the second would cover the remainder of the distance, about one mile in total.

“This is the [Department of Natural Resources] and Maryland Park Service mission,” she said. “We are trying to get folks to appreciate our natural environment, and in this area especially, the cultural and historical surroundings that you have here.”

The planning chief noted that changes have been made to the trail pathway plan to accommodate issues that have come up, including high construction costs and dealing with drainage problems related to the existing trolley rail bed, which forms the base of much of the trail. MPS also had to meet requirements for stormwater management (SWM), she said.

“So there have been some modifications as to where exactly the trail will go,” she said.

Chandler pointed out that the new plan minimizes tree clearing along the trail route, decreasing it from about 1.2 acres to only about a quarter-acre.

“But there still will be a significant amount of landscaping to beautify the area,” she said, adding that the plan also increases separation between the trail and the roadway for much of the route.

The trail will include a crosswalk across North Point Road just before Avenue C to allow trail users to get to the Todd house, according to Chandler. It will have a pedestrian crosswalk and signage both painted onto and placed to the side of the roadway alerting drivers to the crossing.

Chandler said the most expensive part of the project will be dealing with drainage through the installation of drains and pipes along the trail.

“Given that it’s a peninsula close to the bay, that’s what we end up with,” she said.

The trail is planned to be 10 feet wide and will have a stone dust surface with graded aggregate beneath for an eight-inch bed depth.

The total area of disturbance has increased in the plan, Chandler said, mostly due to added curving of the trail itself. But she reiterated that more trees are being saved with this plan.

Areas around the path will be “heavily” landscaped with a variety of native trees and shrubs, Chandler said, and existing forested areas will remain intact as much as possible. She said the construction will actually help to clean up the areas, which are currently “overrun” with vines and invasive plant species.

The trail plan has already gone through internal review by other resource agencies and was approved by the state’s Critical Area Commission in June 2016, according to Chandler. She said changes to the plan are likely not such that they will require reapproval by the CAC.

The plan will now go to the Maryland Department of the Environment for approval of its SWM and sediment and erosion control aspects. But because of its cost, it will then have to go to the Department of General Services to be bid out through the state process, Chandler explained.

“We’re hoping that the plans get finalized and get to DGS by the end of the summer, and the hope is to get it out to bid in the fall,” she said.

Chandler said they will know more about the phasing of the project and how much can be done with the current funds on-hand at the bidding stage.

Mary Owens, also with MPS, said a $270,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation will fund much of the project’s cost. However, a concern with the grant is that they will have to ask for an extension on its use, and then request a second extension to finish the project.

“But we can demonstrate progress, and that’s the main thing with these grants,” Owens said, calling the extension requests a “formality.”

“They really don’t want to take the grant away because they won’t have any other project [to use it for]. This project is queued up and ready to go,” she said.

NPC President Fran Taylor said he thinks the Todd’s Inheritance site will be a destination for a lot of people using the trail.

“But I think the long-term goal and vision for the trail is going to be as a transportation link from Fort Howard to Todd’s farm, to the park and to the community,” he said.

Taylor also sits on Baltimore County’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee which recommends projects to improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity for communities throughout the county.

Bob Iman, chief ranger for North Point State Park, said people visiting Todd’s Inheritance will also be able to park in NPSP’s parking lot, then use the trail to get there since the historic site has limited parking.

Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company breaks ground for upgraded station

Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company breaks ground for upgraded station
Several county, state and federal representatives helped the volunteer firefighters break ground for their station's addition. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 7/12/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

After years of fundraising, the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company (KVFC) broke ground, Tuesday, July 11, for a new renovation and construction project that will see the facility on Bellvue Avenue install additional engine bays and updated kitchen facilities, bunk beds and locker rooms.

The KVFC has been operating since 1954, and the last capital improvements to the station were made in 1985. According to State Senator J.B. Jennings (R-7), representatives at the state level have been working to secure funds for the last 11 years. This past legislative session, Jennings and State Senator Kathy Klausmeier (D-8) worked together to get $400,000 worth of bonds secured for the company.

In addition to funding from the state, $2.5 million has been pledged by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who was on hand with a group of local officials and representatives for the ground breaking ceremony on Tuesday morning.

“For 63 years now [the KVFC] has served in all capacities, whether it’s a swift-water rescue team trying to help extract some overzealous teenager who’s in the lower gunpowder falls or the medic unit responding to someone’s grandfather who has chest pains or the engine rushing to save a family’s home, each of you personify that meaning of selfless public service,” said Kamenetz.

Back in 1954, the local Lion’s Club called a public meeting to discuss the possibility of a fire station in Kingsville, and four years later the building was erected. Jennings noted that back in those days the firefighters were known as “foundation savers” because oftentimes that was all that was left of structures when the company arrived.

That is no longer the case, with the KVFC responding to 1,700 calls per year.

Those who spoke took time to recognize the effect the fire station has on the community outside of their heroic feats. Public meetings are often held in the building, and every year the Fourth of July parade kicks off from the station.

“This fire station is in many ways the heart of this community,” said Councilman David Marks (R-5), adding that the renovations will “enhance Kingsville and the surrounding areas.”

“Over the past three years, our office has worked to advance two major projects in Kingsville - the air conditioning at the elementary school and reconstruction of this fire station,” said Marks. “I am delighted that the first project is almost done and we are breaking ground on the second, an essential initiative for the Kingsville community.”

Jennings also noted that volunteer fire companies are a great way for younger men and women to get involved in their community from an early age, a sentiemnt that was also expressed by Kamenetz. Fittingly, Kamenetz also took time to recognize the new Baltimore County Fire Chief Kyrle Preis, who got his start as a volunteer in Kingsville at the age of 16. Preis, a Kingsville resident, was confirmed as Chief on July 3 by a unanimous County Council vote. He’s a 27-year veteran who was named assistant fire chief in 2012.

“You grow good stock here, and I’d like to offer a note of special congratulations to one of your lifetime members, our brand new Baltimore County Fire Chief Kyrle Preis. You all should take pride that Kyrle got his start right here on his 16th birthday.”

Preis started his career with the Baltimore County Fire Department in 1990 as an emergency medical technician (EMT) at the Fullerton fire station. Throughout his more than 26 years, Preis has held numerous positions including Fire Captain, Battalion Chief and Director of Emergency Medical Services, and in 2012 he was promoted to Assistant Fire Chief.  He earned a master’s degree in public safety administration from Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in fire service administration from the University of Maryland. He holds the highest level of fire officer certification from the University of Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute.

Preis takes over for Chief John Hohman, who retired on June 30 after 40 years of service to Baltimore County. “Chief Hohman has done an outstanding job throughout his distinguished career and I wish him and his family all the best in his well-earned retirement,” Kamenetz said.

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Latest Seagram’s fire reignites community discussion about abandoned property

Latest Seagram’s fire reignites community discussion about abandoned property
The Seagram's site, vacant since 2008, has suffered several fires and structural collapses, as well as a rat infestation. The property will need to undergo an environmental cleanup before it can be developed with a new townhouse project. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 7/12/17)

- By Marge Neal -

A recent early-morning fire on the former Seagram’s Distillery campus in Dundalk has brought the status of the abandoned eyesore property back into the spotlight.

Baltimore County firefighters responded to a call at about 5:20 a.m. Monday, July 3, for a fire at the site owned by developer John Vontran. About 30 firefighters worked for about an hour to contain the blaze that caused the complete destruction and collapse of one of several buildings on the property, according to county officials.

The fire was so intense and involved that residents reported seeing the flames from the Key Bridge and from various vantage points in Baltimore City, including Canton and Curtis Bay.

It did not take long for social media users, including Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), to take to the web to weigh in on the fire, as well as the property’s long history of fires and code enforcement violations.

“And yet another fire at [the] Seagram’s property,” Crandell wrote on his Facebook page. “Enough is enough! The owner clearly has no regard [for] public safety and has been given more than enough chances. I’m going to need your public support moving forward.”

Crandell did not respond to requests for comment and Vontran could not be reached by press time.

Community members quickly responded to Crandell’s comment. As of Tuesday, July 11, 238 people had “liked” or otherwise reacted to his post, while a conversation of nearly 160 comments took place. While a few residents defended Vontran, the bulk of the comments supported holding the owner responsible for securing the property, razing the remaining buildings and questioned the status of the property’s voluntary environmental cleanup agreement and the approved PUD that calls for the construction of more than 180 townhouses on the site.

“I think the owner has been wanting to tear down those buildings for years, but has run into numerous roadblocks,” David Rader wrote in response to Crandell’s comment. “Maybe we could support getting it torn down safely... ground contamination can be dealt with after the buildings are dealt with, right?”

“Progress and growth are happening throughout the community,” Chris Haffer wrote. “We need to strengthen and support revitalization. No more business as usual!”

Many residents chimed in simply to tell Crandell he has their support in addressing the issue.

Public support for first responders was mentioned several times.

“Please do something,” Mike Sherba wrote. “Why put our firefighters at risk?”

“Please do something about this,” Tracy N. Johnson wrote. “My son is a firefighter and I fear every time that place [goes] up something bad is going to happen to our boys.”

The most recent fire is just one of at least 12 fires on the property since 2008, according to online research. At least two people have died in incidents on the property and one man was critically injured in a three-alarm fire in July 2013.

The site, visible from the Connelly Funeral Home of Dundalk and Sollers Point Technical and Dundalk high schools, has a storied past.

The distillery was built in 1933, shortly after the repeal of prohibition, according to an online history of the property. It was sold to Joseph E. Seagram and Sons in 1942.

Seagram sold the property to Brewery Station Inc., headed by local developer and apartment complex owner Frank Scarfield, in November 1994 for $425,000, according to Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation online records.

Scarfield sold the land and buildings to VO LLC, headed by Vontran, a real estate developer and former amusement company owner, in October 2008 for $2.1 million.

When VO LLC filed for bankruptcy, the property transferred to Sollers Point LLC, also headed by Vontran, for no financial consideration, according to assessment and taxation records.

Throughout the ownership of Scarfield and Vontran, the property has been plagued by fires - most of which are thought to be arson, according to county officials - illegal squatters and other trespassers on the land and code enforcement violations, including open dumping, electrical and plumbing violations and renting space to commercial entities without occupancy and other required permits.

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Tires again being stored outside Middle River Depot

Tires again being stored outside Middle River Depot
As seen from atop the MD-43 bridge, large masses of tires are being stored behind the main Depot building closer to the MARC train station and in the distance closer to residents' homes on the far end of the property. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 7/12/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Nearly a year after area residents expressed concerns about tires sitting outside the Middle River Federal Depot, the giant black masses have returned to the area behind the main warehouse building on the site.

First discussed by the Essex-Middle River Civic Council at its June meeting more than a month ago, the tires remained in several large piles outside the Depot as of Monday, July 10.

Community members expressed concerns about the potential for rats and mosquitoes to breed in and around the tires, as well as it being a fire hazard.

After hearing the concerns, the office of Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents the area, initiated a code enforcement complaint for the site.

The Baltimore County Code states that it is a violation to store scrap tires outside for any period of time, no matter the surface they are on top of. Following the complaint, a county code inspector visited the site and issued a correction notice for the tires, which online records show was mailed to the owner and its “resident agent,” listed as attorney Jeffrey Spatz of Gordon Feinblatt, LLC, in Baltimore.

Spatz did not respond by press time to a request for comment on the correction notice or the status of the tires.

“The issue is that large piles of tires and debris are sitting outside the building in the open and uncovered,” said an employee at the county’s Office of Code Enforcement.

This, because of rain water collecting inside the tires, can create a breeding ground for mosquitoes, leading to a potential health hazard for nearby residents, according to the code inspector’s report.

Mosquitoes breeding in the tires can potentially spread diseases such as encephalitis, West Nile Virus and Zika Virus, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment’s website. Tires can also provide breeding grounds for rats, snakes, ticks and other vectors, the site says, and present a fire hazard when improperly stockpiled. And if they are burned illegally, tires emit dangerous oils and soot into the air and water.

The tires were originally slated to be used for a competitive go-kart racing venue inside the Depot called Summit Point Kart which hoped to open this past spring, according to posts on their social media.

The business had signed a five-year lease with the Depot owner to use 200,000 square feet of space inside the building and had planned to use the tires as barriers around their tracks. Following the complaints about them sitting outside last year, the tires were moved inside for that purpose.

However, due to difficulties obtaining permits for operation of the business, the lease was terminated and the tenant vacated the space. The tires were subsequently moved back outside.

In preparation for opening, SPK had designed and laid out four tracks inside the leased space, installed a new ventilation system in the building, ground and prepped the floor surface, along with other improvements to bring the building in line with modern building safety codes, according to the company’s most recent post on its Facebook page.

It has been rumored in the community, though, that the business could not get a use and occupancy permit from the county because the fire suppression sprinkler system still needed to be updated or replaced, which was cost-prohibitive.

The electricity to the building is also rumored to be shut off, which community members suggested could be because of the sprinkler system not being operational.

A representative of Depot owner Middle River Station, LLC, was not available to confirm or deny the rumors.

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Medical marijuana group buys site in Dundalk for dispensary

Medical marijuana group buys site in Dundalk for dispensary
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 7/12/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

A division of a Canadian company plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Dundalk by mid-December, pending county approvals.

CGX Life Sciences recently bought the two-story building and garage at 7458 German Hill Road across from the St. Andrews cemetery in May for $500,000, according to state property records.

The dispensary, scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, will be one of more than 100 facilities set to open soon around the state, which now allows marijuana to be grown, processed and dispensed for medical use by registered patients.

A one-time barbershop, the CGX location is bounded by rowhouses to the east, a park to the north and the Speedy Mart convenience store to the west.

At a zoning hearing on Monday, July 10, representatives said they had met with County Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), who represents Dundalk and Essex, and Nora Baublitz of the Berkshire Community Association about the project.

They said they expect to also meet with Berkshire association members in the fall.

The dispensary is allowed by right under county zoning regulations but will need relief from some landscaping and drive aisle requirements. A decision from a county administrative law judge is expected within the week.

CGX representatives also said they expect to employ 20 to 25 full-time employees, some of whom will work one-on-one with qualifying clients, who will need to register with the state and get certificates from participating doctors.

State law allows two cannabis dispensaries per legislative district, and the Dundalk location falls within District 6, encompassing Dundalk and Essex.

Going through the approval process in legislative District 7 is a group called Chesapeake Health Sciences, which met in May with community leaders regarding plans to open a dispensary at 5512 Ebenezer Road in White Marsh, just west of the Pulaski Highway intersection at Red Lion Road.

Formerly a Sprint mobile phone store, the building was most recently occupied by the Dave’s Deals pawn shop which has now moved.

District 7 stretches from Bowleys Quarters on the Chesapeake Bay waterfront and north to the Pennsylvania line.

Councilman David Marks, R-5, has proposed a bill (Bill 44-17) that would prohibit a facility within 800 feet of a future public school site, restrict cannabis facilities near schools and require that companies notify County Council members if they apply for a permit or special exception under zoning regulations. The bill is set for discussion at the Council’s Aug. 1 work session.

A list of growers, processors and dispensaries going through the state approval process can be found  along with information about registering to use medical marijuana, at the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission website at

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MDE gives update on Sparrows Point cleanup progress

MDE gives update on Sparrows Point cleanup progress
This map, provided by MDE, shows the status of the different parcels making up the 3,100-acre Sparrows Point former steel mill property.

(Updated 7/12/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Over the past three years, tremendous progress has been made in the effort to clean up industrial pollution at Sparrows Point, according to Barbara Brown, who has overseen the operation for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

MDE, along with environmental consultants and representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and property owner Tradepoint Atlantic (TPA), held a meeting late last month to update the public on just how much progress has been made at the 3,100-acre former steel mill property.

Brown said the current process started in September 2014 with an administrative consent order and a settlement agreement that laid out the pathway by which Sparrows Point would be cleaned up and moved forward with redevelopment.

“There is a lot of activity that has taken place in these last few years with assessing and conducting investigations on a large percentage of the property,” she said, adding that they had just gotten started with investigating some of the parcels in 2015.

Brown first highlighted documents that showed nearly 70 percent of the acreage under investigation on the peninsula has at least a work plan approved by the relevant government agencies, meaning work can move forward to determine exactly what must be done. A smaller percentage of that acreage, though, is further along in the process, having its investigation completed or even a final cleanup plan approved.

MDE is investigating each parcel individually, looking for soil, groundwater and soil gas contamination that needs to be addressed. But what has been helpful, Brown said, is the availability of historical documents showing where pollutants were buried and where certain steelmaking processes were carried out.

“We still have access to a number of very detailed historical records that show where on the property there were processes that were likely to cause releases - things like oil tanks, sumps, pits, machine shops - anywhere chemicals or petroleum could potentially be used as part of the process,” she explained.

Additionally, where there is redevelopment potential, if there is a large building in the plan, it may itself be part of the environmental remedy because the concrete poured over the soil will prevent anyone from coming in contact with it.

“So there’s a number of sites that we’ve received response and development work plans for which also act as an interim measure under the EPA classification,” Brown said.

Specifically, Brown discussed the former site of the Rod and Wire mill toward the northwest of the property. Used for that mill from the 1940s - 1980s, the site is now proposed for a large warehouse structure. But it is also a hot spot for petroleum- and lead-contaminated soil, along with zinc and cadmium. She noted, though, that the site has been studied for a long time, with a pump-and-treat system to treat the groundwater there in place for several years.

“So there was a lot known about this site when we began this process of looking at it for redevelopment,” she said.

Brown also addressed areas near the former location of the blast furnace to the south of the property and the current TPA offices to the northeast, which are also proposed for a series of large, bulk storage warehouses.

The blast furnace location has high amounts of heavy metals, posing a cancer risk. Therefore, the building location was determined by the distribution of the metals so that it can act as an environmental cap for those materials, Brown said.

Likewise, the large area near the TPA offices, which is contaminated with petroleum and some lead, will be capped by the warehouse building. However, there are also some pits in that parcel that must be sampled and closed.

The future site of the massive Under Armour distribution warehouse, also toward the northeast of the property, will similarly be part of that parcel’s environmental remedy, with the floor slab currently being poured acting as an environmental cap.

Additionally, Brown said, the storm water generated from the site during construction is being pumped to the Humphrey’s Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant for treatment. The new stormwater management facilities being built will be lined and routed to new or existing stormwater piping.

“The game plan for as this development proceeds is that there will be a separation of clean stormwater from the parking lot and building runoff and it will not be infiltrating into the ground and will be separated from the groundwater,” she said.

Regarding Coke Point to the southwest of the property, EPA representative Luis Pizarra said there are interim cleanup measures underway in the former Coke Oven area. He called it “legacy” environmental work because it is taking place under the consent decree signed in 1995.

Work there consists of continued sampling of the groundwater and working to increase its pH level so the dissolved heavy metals and other contaminants will precipitate out and can be removed.

Pizarra said 53 extraction wells in the area have also helped to remove 12,000 pounds of hydrocarbons from the groundwater, which has been under investigation since the 1980s.

Shifting northward, Russ Baker, a consultant with EnviroAnalytics Group, said he has been working with TPA to investigate and address contamination in the Tin Mill Canal.

The canal, which is about 7,500 feet long and ranges from 30 to 50 feet wide, was orginially constructed from steel mill slag and intended to act simply as a swale to direct stormwater from the site, Baker said. It was constructed between the 1950s and 1969 and reaches about 15 feet in depth.

Primary contaminants found in the canal’s sediments, he said, are polychorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are industrial solvents, and oil and grease.

“It’s expected that how they got there was some significant period of time ago,” Baker explained, because of their depth between four and five feet into the sediment.

He added that the highest concentration of contaminants in the canal were found, not surprisingly, in four 50-foot sections adjacent to the former site of the tin mill.

Extensive investigations are also taking place for the offshore areas surrounding the property.

Greg Ham, the on-scene coordinator with the EPA for the offshore investigations, said they are using Superfund money to study what contamination is present in the offshore sediments, as well as how to remedy it and identify funding sources for the actual cleanup.

Ham specified that he is in the "removal" program as opposed to the "remedial" program, working on "non-time critical" removals - "any project that will take more than six months, but still presents a risk that needs to be addressed," he explained.

The offshore investigations are focused on three major areas: the northwest, the southeast and around Coke Point.

Workers have completed their assessment of the northwest area, Ham said, showing that there is an ecological risk because of contamination from oil and grease, PCBs and metals such as nickel and zinc. But the area poses no real direct human health risk; they would simply advise people to limit the amount of fish they consume from the area.

He said remedy options would include variations of dredging and capping of contaminated areas, and he estimated that the remainder of the process for the northwest - including options and cost analysis and plan development - would be complete by the end of this year.

In the southeast area, Ham said the first round of sediment sampling was done last summer and the second round was planned for this month.

Surface samples found mainly metals contamination, including copper, chromium and lead, but with nickel and zinc again being the highest concentrations.

This month's sampling will be sub-surface, reaching up to four feet down into the sediments to see how deep the contamination goes.

Samples will be taken "pretty much all the way up Jones Creek," Ham said, adding that they will be taking stormwater outfall samples from the area as well.

Regarding Coke Point, Ham said the area was looked at by the Maryland Port Administration in the past, but there is no work taking place there currently.

"So there's a pretty good characterization of that area," he said, adding that it will be done sometime in the future.

All work plans for the Sparrows Point cleanup are available on MDE’s website at

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Bill battles split Council along party lines

(Updated 7/10/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

At the last Baltimore County Council meeting on July 3, members voted 7-0 to set into law a longstanding policy that prohibits them from accepting campaign contributions during the politically charged Comprehensive Zoning Map Process.

But the unanimous vote for that bill proved to be only a brief lull in the action, as the Democratic majority of four voted down several other bills supported by the three Republicans.

The tone of the meeting was unusual because Council votes don’t typically split so cleanly along partisan lines.

The Democrats defeated Bill 41-17, sponsored by Republican David Marks, who represents Perry Hall and Towson, that would have put warning devices on roads to slow down speeding drivers.

Neighborhoods that don’t qualify for the county’s traffic calming program would have been eligible through an application process. Marks said residents from Towson had tried asking the county administration for the devices without success.

Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6), who represents Middle River and White Marsh, questioned money for the devices coming out of county’s speed camera revenues, which fund the police body camera program.

Council Chair Tom Quirk (D-1), who represents Catonsville and Arbutus, said he’d be willing to work with Marks to find alternative funds, but voted with the majority to defeat the bill.

Public input bills
The Council also voted four to three along party lines to defeat two bills by Councilman Wade Kach (R-3), who represents northern Baltimore County. Kach said he submitted them in hopes of encouraging more public input into county government decisions.

Bill 40-17 would have required the county executive to hold two public budget hearings before submitting the annual spending plan to the County Council.

A debate ensued between Republicans and Democrats about ways to pitch the county executive for money in the budget for projects and services.

“Your agenda becomes his agenda and your communities are made whole,” said Bevins about Council members working with the county executive.

Kach replied by noting the practice of speaking at public hearings: “What’s wrong with people addressing the county executive directly?”

Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), who represents Dundalk and Essex, said Council members, with the help of advocates, had succeeded in getting additional money from the Kamenetz administration to fight neighborhood rat infestations.

But Crandell also agreed with Kach and Marks about the value of encouraging public input into the county budgeting process.

“[It’s] good government, considering the budget is more than $3 billion,” he said.

Kach’s second bill voted on during the meeting would have rescheduled the Council’s Tuesday-afternoon work sessions from 2 p.m. to the evening, making it easier for people who work during the day to testify on bills before final Council votes.

Democrats argued the shift could add to staff overtime costs and that it wouldn’t help people who work in the evenings. They defeated the bill with another 4 - 3 vote.

Ethics training
Meanwhile, a fourth bill introduced by Democrat Vicki Almond, who represents Reisterstown, Pikesville and part of Owings Mills, won majority Democratic support.

The bill requires that certain elected county officials and appointed employees, as well as lobbyists registered with the county, complete ethics training for matters such as financial disclosure and conflicts of interest.

Maryland counties are required to pass legislation that is at least similar to state ethics legislation.

Bevins said the Campaign for Liberty, a group founded by Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul, had been “all over social media” opposing the bill and arguing that it threatened to interfere with citizens’ right to free speech.

“[T]hey want to increase the costs and legal risks of citizen activism in hopes that we'll run and hide,” according to a July 4 post on Facebook by the group’s Baltimore County chapter.

Marks and Kach asked if citizen activists are considered lobbyists who must resister with the county and take the training, and if yes, whether that might put a damper on citizen involvement.

“I don’t want community activists caught in this,” Kach said.

Crandell made a motion to table the bill, which was quickly voted down by the four Democrats.

Quirk ended the debate by asking the County and Council attorneys if they thought the bill would affect citizen groups. They said no, and Democrats voted 4 - 3 to pass the bill.

The County Council is scheduled to meet again for a work session on Aug. 1.

Starting in August, the Council staff will also begin live streaming both the Council’s work sessions and Monday legislative meetings. Work sessions  taped so far are archived at

In addition, Comcast’s public access Channel 25 reruns the most recent Council legislative meeting once a day on Mondays through Fridays. The start times, which vary depending on the day, are posted in a calendar at

Johnny Olszewski Jr. officially kicks off county executive campaign

Johnny Olszewski Jr. officially kicks off county executive campaign
Approximately 100 people attended Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s campaign rally at the Battle Grove Democratic Club in Dundalk on Tuesday, June 27. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 7/5/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Four years after losing the District Six State Senate race to Senator Johnny Ray Salling, former Delegate Johnny Olszewski Jr. is firing up another campaign, this time for county executive.

Seeking the Democratic nomination, Olszewski, 34, announced his candidacy at a campaign kick-off event in Woodlawn last Tuesday, June 27, before ending the day with a rally at the Battle Grove Democratic Club in Dundalk.

Olszewski is the first to officially announce his campaign for the Democratic nomination, and he wasted no time in laying out a progressive platform consisting of universal pre-kindergarten, expanding free breakfasts and lunches and making the Community College of Baltimore County tuition-free.

“There’s no better investment in education, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat. If making pre-k and college open and feeding our kids is progressive, I’m happy to have this race being decided on whether that’s the right move,” said Olszewski in an interview with the East County Times.

Olszewski, a former teacher at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, acknowledged that education is his highest priority. He highlighted the need to continue with the county’s school construction plan but added that more needs to be done to ensure the county’s children have the tools they need to grow. For Olszewski, that means prioritizing.

He noted that, should he be successful in his campaign, a comprehensive spending audit would be done to see where funds could be shifted. Olszewski pointed to the STAT program, which puts tablets in the hands of students, as something that could be done away with.

“There’s certainly some value [in STAT], but for me, if it came down to investing in one versus the other, having taught in classrooms where kids haven’t had a meal or they’re trying to learn in sweltering heat, I know that there’s no bigger priority than feeding our kids and making sure they’re in a safe, comfortable learning environment,” said Olszewski. “No curriculum or other program is going to be as useful if kids don’t have foundational needs met.”

Olszewski also noted that there were other ways to get funding, including through the federal government and through public/private partnerships with non-profits and businesses.

In Baltimore County, four schools already take part in a free meals program, while two take part in a free pre-kindergarten program.

“We’ll go and we’ll find partners, be it the federal government, or whoever, to help fund things like meals for kids,” Olszewski said. The former delegate also noted that he still has strong relationships at the state level that could be useful in bringing more money into the county.

Olszewksi’s relationships at the state level were on display at his campaign kick-off events, with Delegate Pat Young (D-Woodlawn) and Senators Kathy Klausmeier (D-Perry Hall) and Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-Woodlawn) putting their support behind Olszewski.

“I want Johnny Olszewski Jr. to be the next county executive,” said Klausmeier at the Battle Grove Democratic Club. “For the sake of Baltimore County, we need him in county government. We’ve had many conversations and I’m excited to support him.”

“We’re strong in the county... because we have advocates like Johnny Olszewski Jr.,” said Young. “He invests in people, he invests in neighborhoods, he invests in people’s ideas of what they want their community to be, and he helps them with that.”

Pulling in early support from elected officials at the state level could prove to be a huge push for Olszewski. While Councilwoman Vicki Almond (D-Reisterstown) and State Senator Jim Brochin (D-Towson, north county) weigh the decision to run, Olszewski has gotten out ahead of the curve.

But the young Democrat, who is telling constituents to refer to him by the more folksy “Johnny O.,” knows that he’ll need his campaign to be more of a grassroots effort if he wants to come out on top, and that’s exactly what he’s working toward.

Over the last year, Olszewski has been working his way around the county with his group, Better Baltimore County, building relationships and partnerships. He’s spent a lot of time building up support in the heavily Democratic Woodlawn area, which Young and Nathan-Pulliam represent.

Keeping in line with a grassroots movement mentality, Olszewski stressed that he would like to see campaigns in Baltimore County utilize public funding to keep special interests at bay. Similarly, Brochin has called for a ban on developer contributions to county candidates.

“What I like about a public finance system is it’s the voters who fund your campaign and vote, so it’s solely for them,” said Olszewski. “There’s no question about whether or not there was influence coming from somewhere else.”

Olszewski highlighted Governor Larry Hogan as a successful example of a politician utilizing public funds. He also stressed that his position wasn’t a shot at developers or business, but one that’s focused on individual citizens.

“I’m not anti- or pro-development, I’m smart development,” said Olszewski. “If a project makes sense, grows and strengthens our communities and we can pull it off financially, I’m all for it. I don’t want to chase off anyone. But development needs to be citizen and community centered, and the best way to do that is recognize there are all kinds of special interests in the county.”

Despite losing in his last race in 2014, Olszewski is hopeful for his chances this time around. While he only lost his race by 2.8 percentage points, former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, now a Congressman, lost Baltimore County to Hogan by just over 20 points. Hogan remains highly popular in the county, and statewide he has an approval rating of 65 percent as of March.

“If you’re investing in good schools and job creation, that’s something that resonates across party lines,” Olszewski stated.

While Olszewski hasn’t officially filed his campaign, he still has plenty of time. When asked when Olszewski plans to file, Olszewski’s campaign manager, Tucker Cavanaugh, responded, “Before Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, at 9 p.m.,” which is the deadline to file with the State Board of Elections.

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McDonough compares campaign initiatives to former Governor Schaefer’s

McDonough compares campaign initiatives to former Governor Schaefer’s
Del. Pat McDonough at his first county executive campaign breakfast event at Jad's Caddyshack restaurant in February. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 7/5/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Following his declaration as a candidate for Baltimore County Executive, State Delegate Pat McDonough embarked on a “listening and learning” tour of the county to find out what people think are the most important issues they face.

After speaking with community and business leaders all over the county, as well as four county government agencies, McDonough said at a campaign event on June 24, “people are in agreement from Catonsville to Dundalk” that the top issue is that the county is rapidly moving in the wrong direction.

He believes 2018 will be a “keystone” election because the county is “at a crossroads.”

“If we make a mistake and elect the wrong person, we will go for another four years in the wrong direction and at that point in time the county will be lost,” McDonough said.

He pointed to growing crime and poverty rates and escalating violence in schools as major problems in the county.

“We need a leader who is going to address these problems and try to find solutions to move this county in the right direction,” he said.

McDonough has been labeled “the Donald Trump of Baltimore County” in the media and has since embraced the title. But his model and narrative for this campaign is not Donald Trump, it is Donald Schaefer, he said, referring to former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer.

McDonough said Baltimore County today can be compared to Baltimore City circa 1971 - a lot of issues that need to be solved, but also a lot of unfulfilled potential.

The delegate noted that there has been a 35-percent increase in incidents involving weapons in Baltimore County Public Schools over the last two years for a total of 311 incidents. He said BCPS this coming year will surpass the number of such incidents in the city’s schools.

For its part, BCPS has responded to the claim with their belief that much of what people are seeing is either old videos resurfacing on social media or things happening in areas outside the school board’s jurisdiction.

However, the school system has admitted to seeing an increase in anonymous reporting of such incidents by students.

McDonough also said there has been a 38-percent increase in poverty in the county over the last eight years. “Which means we have more people on poverty-level status in the county than we’ve ever had,” he said.

He said there is also a growing problem of vacant houses in the county.

McDonough also commented on the “enormous” drug problem in the county, particularly with heroin and other opiates, along with a growing crime rate, which he said is “mostly unreported.”

Baltimore County officials have touted in recent years a decrease in overall crime and especially violent crime, seeing their lowest numbers since the 1970s. However, unreported crimes would not affect those numbers.

The second-biggest issue in the county, McDonough believes, is insider politics and the influence special interests have on county government.

He said the previous three county executives - Dutch Ruppersberger, Jim Smith and Kevin Kamenetz - spanning the last 24 years, all had the “same operation.”

“They listened to the powerful insiders, collected the money and did what they were told to do,” McDonough said. “If you wanted a deck built onto your house, you could get it. If you wanted a 10-story condo [building] built in a neighborhood where it didn’t belong, you could get it.”

He asserted that they did not care about the people, but McDonough is offering his “Put People First” contract highlighting many of the issues he wants to address as county executive, such as crime, schools, special interests and illegal immigration without going into partisan politics.

“What that means is that the corruption and the neglect in Towson will be over when I’m sworn in,” he said. “It’s about saving the county and building a great future.”

Regarding illegal immigration, McDonough said Baltimore County is second only to Montgomery County in the state for its acceptance of undocumented immigrants.

McDonough criticized the Baltimore County Council for rejecting legislation last month that would have seen Baltimore County work more closely with the federal government on illegal immigration via its 287(g) program.

The program reports to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when undocumented immigrants commit crimes and finish their prison sentences here, giving ICE the opportunity to pick them up for deportation.

Baltimore County Council members, in their tabling of the measure, expressed concern over added costs the program could bring to the county and stressed that the county’s corrections officials already report to and cooperate with ICE on a daily basis. They also maintained that Baltimore County is not a “sanctuary county.”

“On my first day in office, I take out the red pen,” McDonough said, “all immigration policies gone.” He added that he has a close relationship with the White House and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “There are numerous programs we will bring into Baltimore County, including money.”

While McDonough stressed the link between himself and Schaefer, rather than Trump, he touted his closeness with the Trump administration on several issues, particularly with regard to obtaining federal funding for his initiatives.

He stated he wants to institute a “sector policing” method of law enforcement which would see police in every neighborhood and who have close relationships with residents.

McDonough would also seek to initiate what he called “project exile” for offenders who commit crimes using firearms in the county. The program would see those convicted serve their time at a federal penetentiary across the country rather than close by.

To complement the crime initiatives, McDonough said he would seek to have a strong community association in every neighborhood and a community liaison in every County Council district to report back to him with any issues.

He also said sitting County Executive Kamenetz has neglected to sign an executive order which he claimed could bring up to $100 million to the county from the federal and state governments for such community-strengthening programs.

“Unless we reverse the trend in our communities, we’ll be in trouble because they are the foundation of our entire county,” McDonough said.

In the realm of education, McDonough noted he would pursue phasing out of the Common Core standards, using his control of the county’s budget as leverage.

He also criticized former Superintendent S. Dallas Dance for how much he has spent on technology in the classroom.

“Computers are great, but every grade does not need computers,” McDonough opined. “We shouldn’t be spending $200 million on computers.”

The delegate said he would cut that number in half and use the savings to finance rebuilding of aging school facilities around the county.

He lamented that the state gives millions of dollars to subsidize transportation and schools in the city while the county gets very little. And even Baltimore County contributes millions from its budget to arts and entertainment in the city.

“Like Schaefer loved the city, I love this county,” McDonough stated, adding that he wants to spend more to promote tourism in the county. “When I’m county executive, it’s no longer a love-fest for Baltimore City. They’re competition.”

Regarding his potential competition in the race, he said the Democratic primary could greatly affect his chances in the general election, noting that Senator James Brochin and former Delegate John Olszewski Jr. could each cut into his voter base in northern and eastern portions of the county, respectively. But County Councilwoman Vicki Almond would only get votes that McDonough would not get anyway, he said.

Olszewski Jr. officially announced his candidacy last week while Brochin and Almond continue to explore runs for the office. None has filed officially.

McDonough predicted that Brochin and Olszewski will split the vote, allowing Almond to prevail in the primary and paving the way for McDonough to defeat her in the general election.

He also had sharp words for his potential Republican rival for the office, Al Redmer, currently the state’s insurance commissioner.

Although Redmer has not publicly declared his candidacy, McDonough said Governor Larry Hogan is supporting Redmer for the office. But McDonough said Redmer cannot win in the general election because of his political baggage, including that he is currently weighing a requested major increase in rates from insurance companies.

At least one company has requested a 58-percent increase in their rates, and McDonough said Redmer as the insurance commissioner would likely grant in the range of a 30- or 40-percent increase, which could cost him votes.

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Growth issues dominate charter review hearing

(Updated 7/5/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Checks on development and more transparency in government again surfaced as important issues for organized community groups at a recent hearing about proposed changes to the Baltimore County charter.

Several people spoke about the need for preserving the legal weight of the county master plan in land-use disputes and for maintaining the independence of the People’s Counsel, who represents the public in such cases.

“Independence is crucial,” said Elizabeth Wilmerding, a board member with the Valleys Planning Council, during a hearing on Wednesday, June 21, in Towson.

The hearing was hosted by the Charter Review Commission, which is nearing the end of its public discussion of proposed changes that the County Council may approve for the election ballot in November 2018.

Recommendations are due to the Council in October, and Commission Chairman Ted Venetoulis has asked Council attorneys to draft language in time for the commission’s next meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 10 a.m. in Towson.

The meeting is open to the public and minutes are posted on the Council website.

Most of the 11 speakers at the June 21 hearing were from the central and northern parts of the county. In addition to development issues, they advocated for more time for public comment about bills and last-minute amendments during the Council’s current 40-day process of passing laws.

George Harman, a past president of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Coordinating Council, suggested a tiered system that would allow a short turnaround time for emergency measures, but 70  to 75 days for more complicated issues.

More time is needed to discuss amendments, said Beth Miller of the Green Towson Alliance, referring to last-minute changes made to bills involving development in central Towson and open space requirements.

“When there are substantial amendments, there is no opportunity to comment,” said Eric Rockel, president of the Greater Timonium Community Council.

Harman and others also advocated for more conservative fiscal management by lowering the debt limit, which they said has risen steadily in recent years.

The county charter currently states that the county’s general obligation indebtedness cannot exceed 10 percent of the assessed value of all real and personal property.

Master Plan
Speakers concerned about development and its potential effect on property values advocated for strengthening the county’s master plan.

Planning power is granted to counties by the state legislature, and in years past, legally binding zoning changes approved by the County Council would sometimes prevail in court over community plans, which are created with citizen input and accepted into the county master plan but considered only guides.

In 2009, however, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Smart and Sustainable Growth Act, which requires consistency between a master plan and local zoning ordinances.

The Baltimore County charter says the zoning maps should be “consistent” with the master plan, but the master plan is referred to as a “guide.”

“It needs more teeth,” Rockel said.

Commission member  John Gontrum, a land-use attorney, suggested including a reference in the section to whatever the state law is.

People’s Counsel
Also raised as a subject for ongoing discussion by the commission is the role of the Baltimore County People’s Council.

Currently part of the Department of Planning and staffed by two part-time attorneys, the office was created in 1974 to defend the county zoning maps approved by the County Council and also advocate for the public interest in zoning and development cases, including appeals to higher courts.

Unlike other county employees, the People’s Counsel does not directly report to anyone - a status created intentionally to help insulate him or her from political pressure.

The position is also not subject to reappointment every four years like some other higher-level county employees. However, the County Executive, who initially appoints the People’s Counsel, can remove him or her with confirmation by at least five of the seven council members.

Access to Information
Speakers also said residents should have an easier time getting requested information from the county when researching issues that could affect their communities.

Constituents can ask for help from their elected representatives but that potentially dips into the relationship between the County Executive and the County Council.

Known as the charter’s separation of powers section, it states that Council members can make requests “for the purpose of inquiry or information” but they cannot “order” or “influence” employees in the performance of their duties.

Speakers said responses to requests for information can be inconsistent and in some cases hostile, with citizens being shuffled between departments or being told they must file a Public Information Act request.

Specific information that is not exempt under the law can be requested by the public in writing, but speakers said the process can take time and money, with information coming back too late to participate in a legislative debate or land-use hearing.

Speakers said when they ask their Council member for help, results can vary depending on the Council member’s standing with the county administration, which can make the process political.

County Attorney Michael Field, who sits on the 11-member charter commission, said he spends about 20 percent of his time dealing with PIA issues. He also said he recently trained 200 county employees in how to respond to requests.

Last updated in 1990, the county charter broadly defines the powers and responsibilities of the County Executive, who prepares the budget and controls county government, and the County Council, which votes on zoning changes and enacts legislation reflected in the County Code.

The charter has been referred to as the skeleton of county government, while the code has been referred to as the flesh on the bones.

The 51-page charter is included at the beginning of the Baltimore County Code at To find it, search for “County Code.”

Minutes of the Charter Review Commission meetings and information about past charter revisions are posted on the county website at council under “Boards and Commissions.”

Dundalk Concerts in the Park series kicks off with No Drama

Dundalk Concerts in the Park series kicks off with No Drama
No Drama front man Michael McClaskey. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 7/5/17)

- By Marge Neal -

There’s a changing of the guard this year with Dundalk’s Concerts in the Park series, but concert-goers will only notice the same great chance to hear some good, free music.

Angel Ball, who has chaired the music series for the past several years, handed the organizational keys over to Joe Buccheri, a broadcaster and promoter well known in local entertainment circles.

“I am very excited about the Concerts in the Park this year,” Ball wrote in a Facebook post advertising this year’s lineup. “Joe Buccheri is the new chairman and I am his trusty sidekick.”

The organizers, through a network of contacts, keep the concerts free to the public by asking bands to perform for free - no easy feat in this economy.

The program also receives financial and in-kind support from the Dundalk-Eastfield Recreation Council, American Media Entertainment, Dunmanway Apartments, Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society, Costas Inn, Chick-fil-A of Eastpoint and Kim’s Dessert Island.

Buccheri, who has worked in radio broadcasting and music promotions for many years, praised the generosity of the local music community.

“These guys are so wonderful. It doesn’t matter if its a car show or a benefit concert - whenever I need music, I call upon this group of gentlemen and they are always there for me,” he told the East County Times.

The Dundalk summer concerts have become mini-music festivals, with food trucks and vendors, photo props and spontaneous contests and other activities.

This year, an added element will be a guest performer who will begin each concert with “God Bless America” as the colors are being presented, and then lead the crowd in The Pledge of Allegiance before introducing the main act, according to Buccheri.

The new concerts chairman, whose life was saved by an organ transplant 11 years ago, has embraced his new duty as a way to give back to a community he loves.

“I died on the table during the transplant and they paddled me back,” he said. “Going through something like that, your whole perception of life changes abruptly.

“Anything like this volunteer position that allows me to help others while doing something I love is a gift.”

The annual series of Thursday-night concerts kicks off at 6:30 p.m. July 13 with a performance by No Drama, an acoustic classic rock band.

The band bills itself as a “four-piece acoustic-based amplified group with an electrified kick that plays all greatest danceable classic rock from the 60s, 70s and 80s,” according to its listing on the Maryland Party website.

Established in 2014, No Drama boasts veteran musicians Michael McClaskey (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, harmonica and vocals), Mike Soukup (guitar and vocals), Greg George (bass, vocals and keyboards) and Jay Wise (percussion and vocals).

The band is well-known to eastern Baltimore County audiences, having played at restaurants, pubs and marinas in Essex, Middle River, Dundalk, Parkville and Perry Hall.

Concert organizers encourage attendees to bring the entire family, blankets or camp chairs and enjoy an evening of free, live music.

Complete schedule:

July 13: No Drama (acoustic classic rock)
July 20: Russ Greene Blues Band
July 27: Chris Presley (Elvis tribute)
Aug. 3: Point Boys (classic rock)
Aug. 10: Family Tradition Band (country rock)
Aug. 17: Funktionality (rhythm and blues)
Aug. 24: Pet Rock (classic rock)

All concerts begin at 6:30 p.m.

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County Council to vote Monday on important bills

County Council to vote Monday on important bills
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 6/30/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

A resident from Bowleys Quarters journeyed to Towson this week to express his opinion about several significant bills up for a vote by the County Council on Monday, July 3.

“It doesn’t solve the problem, it just changes the timing,” said Allen Robertson about a bill that would prohibit campaign contributions during the Council’s rezoning process.

Prohibitions on accepting money are currently in place as a policy but not as a law.

Robertson, who heads the Bowleys Quarters Community Association, said he was speaking as an individual because the association’s board had just recently met and had not yet taken a formal position on the bills.

Scott Collier from the Dundalk TV YouTube channel also attended the work session on Tuesday, June 27, where Council members heard as well from the public about additional bills addressing ethics training, public hearings, speeding in residential neighborhoods and commercial solar panels on farms.

The proposed bills are posted at under County Council/legislation. The Monday meeting is set to start at 6 p.m., and Council members could introduce amendments to the bills before voting.

Campaign contributions
Bill 36-17 introduced by Vicki Almond, (D-2) would prohibit council members from holding fundraisers or accepting campaign contributions during the year-long Comprehensive Zoning Map Process.

Held every four years, the CZMP is when Council members are sometimes heavily lobbied to change the zoning on land through a legally binding vote that can significantly affect development projects and neighborhood property values.

Robertson argued the bill prohibits fundraising and contributions during the CZMP, but not before or after the year-long review.

“There has to be a change in the process; let’s address the real issue,” he said, arguing that there is a perception that contributors will get something in return for their money.

Robertson mentioned a project in Bowleys Quarters, which he claimed exceeded the allowable number of houses, a claim that Cathy Bevins (D-6) who represents the area, sharply disputed, citing a document issued by the county.

“I didn’t get a dollar from that person,” Bevins said.

Almond also took exception to the implication that council member decisions are influenced by campaign contributions.

“[People] just assume we don’t have any integrity,” she said. “It bothers me when people assume the worst when it’s not true.”

Ethics training
Bill No 35-17, also introduced by Almond, is similar to state law and would require that certain county employees and appointees, registered lobbyists and the elected County Council complete at least two hours a year of ethics training, such as disclosure about conflicts of interest, by the county Ethics Commission.

“There are no provisions for noncompliance,” said Robertson, noting that the bill as posted on the Council website does not specifically mention the county executive position.

Bevins replied that wording in the bill refers to “elected officials.”

Council work sessions
Bill 39-17 introduced by Councilman Wade Kach (R-3) would reschedule work sessions, which are currently held on Tuesdays at 2 p.m., to 6 p.m. or later in the  evening.

“It’s about openness, transparency and giving the public another opportunity to participate in our system,” Kach said.

Other council members said it would make it more difficult for people who work in the evening and that it could mean additional overtime costs for staff. They also noted that constituents already make good use of phone calls and emails to communicate with council members.

Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), who represents Dundalk and Essex, suggested scheduling some of the work sessions in the evening and keeping some during the day.

“We could stagger some and see how it works,” he said.

Robertson suggested starting work sessions at 4:30 or 5 p.m. with other council business, which would give speakers more time to arrive before the end of the meeting.

Budget bill hearings
Bill No. 40-17, also proposed by Kach, would require the county executive to hold at least two public meetings so that residents could voice their spending priorities the to county executive before he or she presents the annual budget to the County Council for approval.

“It’s more than $3 billion,” said Kach about the capital and operating budgets. “This is the people’s money. All the council can do is cut, not set priorities.”

Budget hearings are currently held early in the budgeting process by the Planning Board and Board of Education, but hearings are not held by the county executive.

“It’s also going to benefit the county executive to [hear from] people, who have good ideas, there’s no question about it,” Kach said.

The county executive presented the budget in early April, which was followed by a County Council hearing on April 25. The council then spent several weeks reviewing the budget department-by-department before voting to approve it in late May.

Speed warning signs
Bill 41-17 introduced by David Marks, R-5, who represents Perry Hall and Towson, would place two solar-powered speed monitors in each Council district to remind drivers of how fast they are going.

The solar-powered devices, which council members said are popular with constituents, are not cameras and do not generate speeding tickets.

“I think it’ll be a deterrent,” said Marks about the speeding problems common to many neighborhoods in the county.

He said the initial cost for 14 devices, which he sees as a pilot project, would cost $42,000. He said that is less than 1 percent of the $7.3 million a year that speed cameras generate for the county.

Crandell said he could think of at least 10 streets in his district where the devices would be helpful. “What’s the criteria for deciding who gets what?” he asked.

Marks said the devices would be available to neighborhoods that don’t qualify for the county’s traffic calming program, which installs things like speed bumps to slow down drivers.

Neighborhoods could apply and the placement of the monitors would be up to the county Department of Public Works, he said.

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Registration ‘explodes’ for annual BRRC golf tournament

Registration ‘explodes’ for annual BRRC golf tournament
The Back River Restoration Committee’s annual golf tournament at Rocky Point Golf Course overlooking Back River, although delayed slightly by the rain, still saw an increase of about 50 golfers over last year. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 6/28/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Despite the persistent rain before the start, excitement was in the air Friday, June 23, for the sixth annual golf tournament hosted by the Back River Restoration Committee at Rocky Point Golf Course in Essex.

“Rain or shine, people still turn out to support Back River,” said BRRC President Sam Weaver.

With the shotgun start scheduled for 8 a.m., golfing only had to be delayed by about a half-hour on what turned out to be a beautiful day, according to BRRC Executive Director Karen Wynn.

The event had enjoyed mostly good weather in its previous five years with only a quick spat of rain in 2016, she said. And its reputation has apparently grown with 130 golfers registered for this year’s tournament.

“This year exploded,” Wynn said of the number of golfers, noting that last year only saw about 80.

BRRC also listed 67 sponsors for the day, counting 62 tee sponsors - including the East County Times - and five others. For instance, Brewer’s Landing donated the beer and liquor for the event, Rocky Point Golf Course sponsored by hosting the event, Joe McGee and Advantage Signs donated all the signage, Bimbo Bakeries supplied the bread for the bull roast that followed, and the Porter family was the event’s breakfast sponsor.

The Porter family is connected to the BRRC via Weaver’s sister, who lives on Kent Island across the Chesapeake Bay, but sees the trash that ends up there if it is not caught at Back River, according to Wynn.

“Trash comes from here and goes over that way. She’s seen it, she grew up here,” Wynn said of Weaver’s sister, adding that she “quite frequently” makes both equipment and monetary donations to BRRC.

The Carroll Motor Fuels team came in first place on the day and opted to donate their entire $400 pot of winnings back to BRRC. The second place team similarly donated $50 of their winnings to the organization.

While final numbers were not yet available Monday for how much funding the event brought in, the golf tournament is one of three major events each year that benefit BRRC, the largest being their annual rockfish tournament held in September and the third being the Rockin’ on the River music festival.

“It was a beautiful day along the banks of the Back River,” said David Sikorski, director of Maryland’s arm of the Coastal Conservation Association and who competed in the tournament.

He joked that he and his team could have played better, but still had fun while supporting the BRRC.

“We’re happy as a fellow conservation and environmental-based organization to help support Back River and the work they do,” Sikorski said. “And as fishermen and boaters, our members are proud to support them. We’re all in it together and it’s a shared resource. Every group has got to help out their allies.”

Weaver stressed that all funds raised will be used to support clean-up efforts throughout the river’s watershed.

“It’s a great event considering all the funds are being used to clean up Back River, which we were playing on,” he said.

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Independence Day in Dundalk means strolling the fair, striking up bands, cueing fireworks

Independence Day in Dundalk means strolling the fair, striking up bands, cueing fireworks
Well-known artists, such as Joan Jett, have long provided entertainment for the Heritage Fair crowds. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 6/28/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Dundalk is throwing a $300,000 Independence Day party and you’re invited.

The gathering starts with an open house of sorts at 4 p.m. Friday, June 30, when the 42nd annual Heritage Fair kicks off at Heritage Park in downtown Dundalk. The three-day festival features a non-stop schedule of live music acts, carnival rides and attractions, food and beverage stands, business vendors, community organization booths, craft tents and a beer garden with karaoke.

The festival runs through Sunday, with a day of recuperation before the Independence Day parade at 8:15 Tuesday morning, July 4, and the fireworks at dusk the same day. Parade early birds can cheer on the participants in the Dundalk Heritage 6K road race beginning at 7 a.m. The 3.72-mile run starts at CCBC Dundalk  and follows the parade route before ending at Dundalk Middle School on Dunmanway.

This year’s fair includes time-honored traditions as well as some new attractions, including a few new bands, an increased business vendor area and a new starting time for opening day, according to Heritage Association of Dundalk President Joe Falbo.

“For the first year, we will be opening at 4 p.m. Friday instead of noon,” Falbo said in a phone interview. “Friday is a work day for most people and attendance is low until later in the day - it just makes it easier on everyone involved.”

Headlining musical acts this year are KIX (8 p.m. Friday), Hotel California, an Eagles tribute band (8 p.m. Saturday) and .38 Special (8 p.m. Sunday). Other popular acts include The Gigs, Dean Crawford and the Dunn’s River Band and The Mahoney Brothers with their Beatlemania production. The Sparrows Point High School steel drum band will also appear again this year.

Asked if he’s looking forward to any particular acts, Falbo laughed.

“Honestly, I’m usually stuck in the trailer,” he said of the fair office. “I’m taking care of  lots of paperwork, trouble-shooting and putting out little fires that pop up here and there.”

Heritage Fair is similar to Thanksgiving dinner in that there is a lot of preparation for an event that seems to come and go in the blink of an eye.

Volunteers work pretty much year-round on the effort, with planning intensifying each January with the main selection of musical acts, according to Falbo. Many fair volunteers take vacation time from their jobs to install fencing, provide security, keep the fair grounds clean and the trash cans emptied and work as parking attendants, Falbo said.

Fundraising is a constant, with money coming from three major sources -  corporate donations, contributions from individuals and smaller local businesses and ticket money at the gate.

“We hope to break even each year, and any profit that we might make gets us started on the next year,” Falbo said. “When we book the acts in January, many of them require a 50-percent deposit to sign them.”

The fair is an expensive party to throw, according to Falbo, with many hidden costs, such as those for sound equipment and truck rentals, liability insurance and portable toilets in addition to more obvious expenses like entertainment.

“We have a $7,000 bill for spot-a-pots alone,” he said. “It all adds up.”

Promotions and fundraising chairwoman Angel Ball has been busy soliciting donations from the community and is especially excited about Weis Markets agreeing to be the fair’s main sponsor.

“Weis stepped up and essentially replaced Mars as a major sponsor,” she said of the grocery store chain that bought several former Mars stores, including two in Dundalk. “They donated $20,000, which is a major donation for us, and we really appreciate them supporting us like that.”

The grocer will also provide reusable shopping bags that will be given out at the gate Saturday and Sunday, while supplies last, Ball said.

Ball said a campaign to get businesses to buy sponsorship banners that will hang on the fair’s perimeter fence throughout the weekend has been successful, and a recent quarter auction raised $3,000 in three hours.

“Dundalk really came through for the auction,” she said. “They packed the house and everyone had a great time. I was very pleased with the results and proud of Dundalk.”

While the gates will open at 4 p.m. Friday, the opening ceremony will begin at 7 p.m and gates will close at 10 p.m. Fair hours are noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Daily admission, which includes all concerts, costs $8. There is no charge for children 12 and younger. Carnival rides and midway games have their own additional costs.

The 83rd annual Fourth of July parade, with the theme, “Dundalk - Our Patriotic Town,” will kick off at about 8:15 a.m. July 4 after organizing at the Logan Village Shopping Center on Dundalk Avenue. The procession will leave the shopping center and travel north on Dundalk Avenue, east on Belclare Road and wind through many Old Dundalk streets before disbanding near Dundalk Elementary School. The complete route is available at the fair website,

The fireworks, which are launched from the athletic fields between Grange Elementary School and the North Point Government Center, are scheduled to begin about 9:15 p.m., according to the association’s website. Parking is available at Grange and the government center, as well as CCBC Dundalk.

The complete schedule of events, fair rules and regulations and other relevant celebration information, including for the fireworks, parade and race, is also available on the website.

The festival that started out as a one-time affair to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial in 1976 has grown to become a holiday tradition for generations. Many people take vacation to work the events while others take time off to return home to meet up with friends from the past or to share a childhood memory with their own children.

Throwing the party takes its toll on workers, including Falbo, but seeing the end result and knowing how many people look forward to the annual event makes it all worthwhile, he believes.

“I close my business down for two days so I can be there the entire weekend,” he said. “I’m one of the first ones in each morning and one of the last ones to leave each night and it takes a good three days to get my body back when it’s all over. But we all look forward to doing it again next year.”

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Cardin hosts health care town hall in response to Senate bill

Cardin hosts health care town hall in response to Senate bill
Cardin interacted with and took questions from the audience at Franklin Square for over an hour at the event. Some audience members told Cardin their personal stories about how Medicaid saved their lives. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 6/28/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

A day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) unveiled the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) - his chamber’s version of the House’s American Health Care Act - Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) stopped by Franklin Square Hospital in Rosedale to host a town hall.

A crowd of approximately 50, including health professionals, advocates and regular citizens, expressed their concerns and fears about what passage of the Senate bill would mean for them.

“We’re not angry, we’re fearful,” said one member of the audience.

The 142-page bill, which was drafted solely by a group of Republican Senators behind closed doors, would see massive cuts made to Medicaid over the next 10 years.

In Maryland, approximately 1.2 million people utilize Medicaid, including 83,000 seniors and more than 600,000 under the age of 21, according to a recent study by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. Their study, which was released in March in reaction to the American Health Care Act (AHCA), found that if the state intends to keep Medicaid benefits at current levels, it will need to pay $145.7 million in fiscal year 2020, $696.6 million in fiscal year 2021 and $1.092 billion in fiscal year 2022. While there are differences in the AHCA and the BCRA, those numbers are likely to stay the same for the Senate version of the bill, the study shows.

“The state budget is already strapped, so the question becomes whether or not they’ll be able to pick up the bill,” Cardin said. “And the answer is ‘no.’”

According to early estimations from Cardin’s office, Maryland could lose between $11 billion and $13.5 billion in Medicaid funding over the next 10 years.

“I don’t know what options I’m going to have next week, but I’m going to use every option I have,” Cardin told the crowd.

But Cardin, who floated the possibility of continuously adding amendments to make the process drag for months, may not have to take any additional steps. After the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their score for the bill, a few Republican Senators, including Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), have all said they would vote “no” on a motion to proceed, leaving the bill in limbo. The Republicans hold 52 seats and can only afford to lose two votes on the bill.

Due to the bill being put forward as budget reconciliation, the Republicans need a simple majority to push it through. A tied vote would mean Vice President Mike Pence would be the tiebreaker.

“You’re not gonna get 49. You’re either gonna get 50 or probably 35,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters Monday.

Cardin stressed to the audience at his town hall that health care is an issue that needed to be worked on in a bipartisan fashion, alluding to the fact that no Democrats were asked for input on the Senate bill. He also noted that the process for implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) stretched months and included dozens of committee hearings and markup sessions, and that Republicans added over a hundred amendments to former President Barrack Obama’s signature piece of domestic policy.

“The process for implementing the Affordable Care Act was not without controversy, don’t get me wrong,” said Cardin. “There was a great deal of angst regarding why we couldn’t get a bipartisan bill done,” he added, noting that not a single Republican voted for the health care overhaul.

According to the CBO score released Monday afternoon, 15 million more people would be uninsured by 2018 than under the ACA, with that number rising to 19 million in 2020 and 22 million in 2026. The bill would, however, reduce federal deficits by $321 billion over the next decade.

Most notably, the bill would roll back Medicaid expansions. Under the expansion included in the Affordable Care Act, over 300,000 Marylanders have enrolled in Medicaid. They would likely lose coverage under the BCRA.

Where Cardin expressed a lot of concern was with the opioid epidemic. Last year saw Governor Larry Hogan institute a State of Emergency over the health crisis, while dedicating $50 million over the next five years to help with treatment programs and other measures.

According to Cardin, a hard cap on yearly Medicaid spending, which is proposed in the Senate bill, would “have a major impact on our ability to deal with opioid abuse.”

A recent study published by the Associated Press found that “Medicaid expansion accounted for [59] percent of total Medicaid spending on substance abuse treatment in Maryland.” When asked for a response to the article, Christopher Garrett, a representative from Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, stated that “The Hogan Administration and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene remain focused on preserving the level of healthcare coverage the federal government promised to our residents. For this reason, Maryland continues to fight to save waiver funds tied to Medicaid expansion. Those funds have played a big role in serving our residents’ needs, and we continue to pressure Washington to maintain that funding.”

Amelia Chase, the deputy communications director for Gov. Hogan, released a statement deriding the bill, saying “the proposals that are being considered in Congress do not work for Maryland. Congress should go back to the drawing board in an open, transparent and bipartisan fashion to craft a bill that works for all Americans.”

Andy Harris, the Republican representative from Maryland’s First Congressional District, voted for the passage of the AHCA. While he didn’t comment on the BCRA, he did note that “the opioid epidemic claims thousands of lives per year in Maryland” and that “saving those lives is a top priority.”

As of press time, no date had been set for a vote on the bill. And while Republicans in the Senate have expressed concern, it should be noted that many in the House expressed similar concerns before the passage of the AHCA.

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MCM seeks permit to expand processing of slag, other materials at Sparrows Point

(Updated 6/28/17)

- By Devin Crum -

MCM Management Corporation has applied for a permit to expand the amount of equipment they have at Sparrows Point which is used for processing slag left behind by steelmaking processes.

The slag, once processed, is used to make material for Tradepoint Atlantic’s (TPA) development projects on the property, as well as backfill material for any excavation done or foundations of demolished buildings.

After being processed, the slag sets up “almost like concrete,” according to Brandon Bonanno, vice president of operations for MCM, to create a solid building pad material for new construction.

MCM has been working at the former steel mill site since 2012 as a tenant of TPA under a 10-year lease and has performed all of the site’s demolition. They have been operating crushing and screening equipment on-site since 2015 under an air quality permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment processing the same types of materials they do today.

The permit, if granted, will make permanent the equipment they already have in place - currently permitted on a temporary basis - while adding new crushers, screening plants and other equipment to essentially double MCM’s processing capacity, Bonanno said.

“They’re all basically the same units, but you need enough of them to be in different areas,” he said.

The company currently has two processing sites for recycling slag on the 3,100-acre property: one in the Ore Yard area near the Lafarge plant and one in the Coke Point area. Both of these plants and all of the new equipment are designed to be mobile so that they can move as needed to where the material piles are, Bonanno explained.

A third site, located near the shipyard and the water tower, is used for demolition debris processing and is stationary.

Richard McFadden, MCM’s operations manager for the slag processing, said average production with the three current facilities is between 400 - 500 tons per hour of material.

He noted that occasionally they will have higher numbers with cleaner material loads, but there are generally a lot of challenges to processing the material which sometimes has scrap in it.

“There aren’t many days when we go out there and work 100 percent on all three plants,” McFadden said, adding that if they did, they may get as high as 8,000 - 9,000 tons of material processed per day.

Bonanno pointed out that the stepped-up operations still will not make them a major source of pollutant emissions and diminished air quality, as explained in their permit application.

He noted that the emissions estimates given in their application are based on “maximum throughputs” of each piece of equipment, meaning if they ran it all at full throttle, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“That is not how we operate,” Bonanno assured, adding that only the plant on the Coke Point side runs at night while all other operations are during the day.

He said that MCM’s emissions and modeling of toxic air pollutants are in compliance with MDE regulations. And, in fact, the company has had no air quality violations since the issuance of their permit.

“We’re an experienced operator of this type of equipment,” Bonanno added. “We have a lot of the ex-Kinder Morgan employees [who formerly did similar work on the property] that we took on when they left,” along with some of their trucks and equipment.

Additionally, Bonnano said, his company often works toward material orders from TPA, through which they tell MCM how much they will need for an upcoming development.

“We’re almost at the crest of what they think they’re going to need shortly,” he said. “We then will drop off, and then our production will kind of ebb and flow because we can’t make material if there’s no demand.”

Fugitive dust control was high on the list for many at the public input meeting for the permit June 14, and Bonanno noted it is a constant concern for them as well.

“Being down here for decades, it’s always been an issue,” he said, noting that they have two 8,000-gallon-capacity water trucks used for wet suppression. “They run constantly. They do roads, they do piles, they do whatever we need them to do, both for the reclamation operations and for other operations that we have on-site.” They also wet down all of the haul roads they use daily, he said.

Bonanno also revealed that, with approval from MDE, they have been testing a new dust-suppression chemical that he said so far has been able to keep the dust down a lot longer than water.

“You put water down on a hot day, it’s gone almost instantly and we have to keep coming back,” he said. “This, at least in the initial stages, has shown that almost for multiple days you still have wetness on the roads.

Bonanno said use of the chemical, which he described as a “commonly used, non-hazardous” calcium chloride solution, is widely used in the industry and they are trying it on their heavily used areas.

Steven Lang, with MDE’s Air Quality Compliance Program, also noted that TPA has gotten approval to put down asphalt millings, which come from road repaving off-site, where they plan to eventually pave on the property.

Lang noted that the slag becomes “almost like talcum powder” when it is crushed. Therefore, they can put the millings down over the slag in certain areas to help control dust because the asphalt does not break down as fast.

Bonanno concluded that the material processing the company does is “a beneficial re-use of something that, had we not done something with it, it would just sit out there and who knows what would happen with the product.”

Merritt Station to be first apartments built in Dundalk in four decades, developer says

Merritt Station to be first apartments built in Dundalk in four decades, developer says
Workers are currently laying the groundwork for the new complex, located behind AutoZone and Denny’s on Merritt Boulevard. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 6/28/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Construction began this month for the $22 million Merritt Station apartment complex on an undeveloped five-acre parcel of land next to the Giant grocercy store on Merritt Boulevard in Dundalk.

The parcel was a “residual” piece of the German Hill Center shopping center behind AutoZone and Denny’s and was already zoned for a mix of retail and commercial uses, according to Brian Lopez of Osprey Property Companies, the developer for the project.

Lopez told members of the Eastfield-Stanbrook Civic Association on June 5 that, excluding senior housing, the project will be the first general occupancy apartments built in Dundalk in over 40 years.

The project will consist of two four-story buildings for a total of 72 residential units, with 10,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor of the buildings. Lopez noted that rents are anticipated to start at about $1,000 per month for a two-bedroom unit and $1,200 for a three-bedroom. They will also range from 800 - 1,000 square feet per unit.

After the developer pointed out that traffic studies prior to the project’s approval did not warrant any new traffic improvements, some attendees expressed concerns that rush-hour traffic on Merritt Boulevard in the area is already bad, and to add more cars with no improvements will cause issues.

“I don’t see how we can’t be at capacity now,” one man said.

Lopez responded that the site was originally slated entirely for commercial uses, which would have involved higher traffic volumes than residential. He acknowledged that retail uses generate a lot of traffic, but said “relatively speaking,” his is a small development.

Lopez also addressed the argument that Dundalk has enough apartments, noting he lived in the area for six years.

“I saw a ton of people move to White Marsh because there was no good housing for people who want to rent,” he said.

He also remarked about the trend of younger people who want to rent first rather than buying houses right away, saying those people want to rent somewhere that is clean, nice and professionally managed.

“And if that’s not here, they’re going to go somewhere else,” Lopez said.

While the developer will receive tax credits from the federal government, which they then sell to investors to help finance the project, Lopez stressed that the apartments are not federally subsidized housing, commonly known as “Section 8.” He said nothing is subsidized on the rent side.

However, if renters come to them with federal, Section 8 housing vouchers, they can accept them.

Lopez said the company that manages most of their 3,500 apartment units throughout Maryland and nothern Virginia does criminal and credit background checks and job verifications on residents, along with quarterly inspections of the units.

“Having a Section 8 voucher holder is not what’s bad for communities; it’s bad management,” he said, pointing to several area properties that are victims of bad management and have become problematic.

Lopez also noted that Tradepoint Atlantic is anticipated to bring a lot of jobs to Sparrows Point and that is the target market for this project - “younger people that want to live in Dundalk and be convenient to everything,” he said.

When asked about building new retail in an area that already has a lot of retail vacancies, Lopez said it has been a big topic of discussion for the company. But from what they have seen, people want to go to new spaces.

He said many of the older, empty spaces do not have things like handicap access, high ceilings, newer technology or higher-capacity electrical wiring.

“There’s a lot of space, but not new space - not higher-end space that people want to move to,” Lopez said.

He noted that their retail space has seen significant interest already, particularly from medical uses such as a dentist’s office, and will get a lot of attention because it is new and is right on the “main drag” of Merritt Boulevard.

He mentioned they are also looking to have a type of coffee shop.

“That would be ideal for us because we like that type of complimentary use,” Lopez said.

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Delegate Metzgar is on a mission to beautify Essex

(Updated 6/28/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Delegate Ric Metzgar (R-6) wants to revitalize Essex, but before he can do that, there’s cleaning to be done.

“I’m just fed up now,” Metzgar told the East County Times. “If you go in some of these alleys you’ll find dead rats, trash, litter. We have got to do better than this as a community.”

Two weeks ago, Metzgar and community activist Kevin McDonough walked along Back River Neck Road, and what the two saw dismayed them both. They observed overflowing garbage, litter accumulating at bus stops, uncut grass, rats and a host of other issues. In his capacity as an elected official, Metzgar stressed to multiple business owners the importance of keeping their properties clean.

“We need [Baltimore County Code Enforcement] to do a sweep through on businesses, because they are getting way out of hand,” said Metzgar.

Metzgar stressed that this isn’t an attack on businesses, but a way to help.

“It’s no attack, it’s just... take pride in your business,” said Metzgar. “A clean business will always do better than one that’s dirty.”

A former small business owner himself, Metzgar knows the importance of keeping a business clean. He said that it used to be commonplace for shopkeepers to sweep up storefronts and hose down the sidewalk before and after a work day, and he’s urging for a return to the practice.

It’s a simple practice but an important one. McDonough echoed Metzgar’s sentiments, noting that businesses that keep things tidy, like Pizza John’s, can thrive. He referred to Pizza John’s as the “gold standard” of cleanliness, and noted that others in the Back River Neck business corridor could learn something from the restaurant.

“[Pizza John’s] has invested a lot of money into renovating that property,” said McDonough. They clean up daily and keep the lawn mowed and tidy. They have neighbors down the street that have untagged vehicles piling up one their properties and two-foot high grass, but that doesn’t deter them because they have pride in their business.”

Both Metzgar and McDonough praised Code Enforcement for their efforts, but McDonough noted that due to a tight budget and understaffing, the agency is largely reactionary and reliant on others reporting issues. And when an agency is reliant upon individuals reporting issues, the bystander effect comes into play.

“It’s hard to get the first person to speak up,” said McDonough. “There’s the assumption that someone else will pick up the litter or someone else will call code enforcement.”

McDonough went on to praise Metzgar for not falling prey to the bystander effect.

“He’ll be the first person to take a step,” McDonough said.

Metzgar praised community leaders like McDonough, Sam Weaver and Cliff O’Connell for the work they have done with bringing awareness to the issue and leading cleanups, but he noted that people should have more pride and not be reliant on the kindness of others.

“It’s just irresponsible,” said State Senator Johnny Ray Salling (R-6). “People just don’t care, but the thing is they have to care. When you care and you’re being responsible and accountable, all of that together makes a difference.”

With the hope of major growth in the area due to the redevelopment of the old Bethlehem Steel property in Sparrows Point, among other projects, Metzgar and Salling see a prime opportunity to attract new businesses to the area, and they don’t want to see the opportunity wasted due to litter.

“It’s just awful that we’re adults that have to talk to other adults about cleaning their business,” said Metzgar. “Parents tell their kid to clean up their bedroom; well I’m going to play the role of parent here and tell businesses they need to clean up.”

And according to Metzgar, this isn’t an issue that’s relegated to the Back River Neck peninsula, but one that stretches across the district.

“It’s a problem in the business corridor of Back River Neck Road, but it’s also a problem in Middlesex and across the river,” said Metzgar.

One possible solution to the problem that Metzgar floated is bringing back two days of garbage pickup, though that may be difficult since garbage collection was scaled back to one day to accommodate recycling.

“If you check out some of these dumpsters on garbage day, you’ll notice they’re overflowing a lot of the time. Or you have houses with two full cans and multiple bags that wouldn’t fit sitting next to the containers,” said Metzgar. “How many trash cans can you ask a household to buy?”

Metzgar also floated the idea of getting businessmen together to help take care of the issue. And while he is looking to help in any way he can, there isn’t a whole lot he can do as an individual.

“We need more residents and business leaders to take pride in their property and community,” said Metzgar. “It’s as simple as that.”

Todd’s Inheritance offers open house, volunteer opportunities

Todd’s Inheritance offers open house, volunteer opportunities
Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 6/28/17)

- By Marge Neal -

After its official ribbon-cutting in April and a rehearsal open house weekend with free admission on Memorial Day, Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site is now open for business, although on a limited basis.

The historic homestead at 9000 North Point Road in Edgemere will get in on Dundalk’s Independence Day celebration by opening from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 1 and 2, according to Carolyn Mroz, president of Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site.

Volunteer members have continued to work on exhibits and outside projects, including landscaping, since the house opened for its tours in April.

“And we will be changing the exhibits on a regular basis to keep the displays new and exciting for all visitors,” Mroz said.

The house that played an important role in the Battle of North Point during the War of 1812 has a variety of exhibits that pay homage to different aspects of the area. With just the first floor renovated and open to the public, exhibit rooms are dedicated to the War of 1812 as well as to general life on the North Point peninsula. The entrance hallway is dedicated to the history of the Todd family, descendants of which lived in the house for more than 300 years.

Because the house was continually lived in until the 1980s, the house is not decorated in any one period. The building was continually changed and updated for modern life of the day, according to Mroz. As a result, the house is an eclectic mix of construction, plumbing, electrical and finishing techniques that span three centuries, starting with the 1800s reconstruction after the original structure was burned by the British during the War of 1812.

In addition to displays of artifacts, photographs, household items, tools and clothing, portions of the house’s older construction techniques have become displays. A portion of the entrance hallway’s ceiling is deliberately open to allow a glance at the progression of electrical and plumbing materials used over the years. Part of the hallway wall has been covered with modern drywall while another section exposes original brick.

In the gift shop, visitors can see the chimney of a fireplace in the next room. The chimney was encased in clear plastic rather than walled off to allow visitors to see the primitive brick and mortar work. In the corner of the gift shop, a stairwell is similarly encased to enable the view of the floor joists and other construction methods.

“We believe being able to view the construction habits and materials of the day are just as valuable as any other display we could put together,” Mroz said.

While many years of sweat equity and hundreds of thousands of dollars have put the house in its current condition, much remains to be done, Mroz said. The second floor, now closed off, still needs to be completely renovated.

To raise money for the next phase of work, the organization is offering annual memberships, ranging from $30 to $1,000. Membership at all levels of giving includes unlimited free admission to the house and its events.

For those without a membership, daily admission will cost $10 for visitors 16 and older, $7 for senior citizens and free admission for children 15 and under.

The organization is also looking to boost its board and committee membership and offers many different volunteer opportunities to fit a variety of interests, including facility maintenance, grounds and landscaping, displays, fundraising and public relations.

Donations and membership fees can be made by mailing checks, payable to Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site, to 4979 Morning Star Drive, Dayton, MD 21036.

Future open houses are scheduled for Aug. 5 and 6, Sept. 9 and 10, Oct. 28 and 29, and Dec. 2 and 3.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Mroz at or 443-803-0517.

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Bromwell named Legislator of the Year by hospital association

Bromwell named Legislator of the Year by hospital association
Delegate Eric Bromwell (at podium) led the fight in Maryland to keep pharmaceutical costs from skyrocketing while providing transparency for citizens. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 6/28/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The Maryland Hospital Association announced recently that is has chosen Delegate Eric Bromwell (D-Perry Hall) as its 2017 Legislator of the Year for his advocacy in the state legislature in the realm of health care.

“The award recognizes an outstanding legislator  who, through his or her efforts in the Maryland General Assembly, promotes legislation that helps ensure health care access for every Marylander, demonstrates support of the Mayland Hospital Association’s legislative goals, supports the work of Maryland’s hospitals to transform the delivery of health care and who is recognized throughout the health care community through hospital and health system activities,” said MSA President and CEO Carmela Coyle in a statement.

In particular, MSA spokesman David Simon said there were two large initiatives in which Bromwell was a key player that were drivers in him being chosen for the award: the bipartisan HOPE Act to address the state’s opioid addiction crisis and his longstanding support for a birth injury fund in the state.

“I consider it one of the biggest recognitions of my career,” Bromwell told the East County Times. “We’re in a unique area in the country and in the world where we have one of the greatest health care delivery systems, and to be recognized by the association that represents Maryland’s hospitals is a really big accomplishment for me.”

The HOPE Act was a comprehensive package of measures which establishes around-the-clock treatment for individuals experiencing substance abuse and mental health crises, and requires hospitals to establish new protocol for discharging patients treated for substance abuse. It also increases access to naloxone, and overdose-reversal drug, and sets greater funding for community behavioral health providers.

“He was instrumental, I would say, in working on both sides of the aisle to bring folks together on some common-sense solutions,” Simon said of Bromwell, “and what we hope will be effective measures to try to mitigate something that has been getting pretty nasty over the past few years.

Bromwell has supported the birth injury fund for years, “but in particular, this session,” Simon said, trying to enhance and augment support among other legislators for a no-fault fund system.

Although the fund legislation did not pass the legislature this year, Simon said, “what [Bromwell] did this year was really build more traction toward its passage.” He added that MSA remains hopeful Bromwell’s efforts will pay off for next year.

In the case of an injury suffered at a hospital, such as a birth injury, according to Simon, the injured party or their family will typically hire a lawyer, the hospital brings in its attorneys and they go through what can be years of litigation.

“And depending on the sympathies of a jury, you may get an award or you may not get an award for what occurred,” Simon said, depending on determination of fault or if there were pre-existing conditions or other circumstances related to the injury.

He said there are “a handful” of cases each year in the state when significant neurological damage occurs to a child during the birth process.

MSA has proposed for several years to establish a no-fault birth injury fund paid for by hospitals so that when these birth injuries occur, rather than going through the courts, “we simply say fault is irrelevant - we want to get compensation to the family as quickly as possible,” Simon explained.

He noted there are similar funds in Virginia and Florida by which families are granted compensation within six to eight months through an administrative process to give lifetime care and assistance for the victim.

“It’s this idea that, rather than play the litigation lottery for these horrific injuries, let’s get people compensation quickly,” Simon said.

“It’s an opportunity to change a broken system in the state of Maryland,” Bromwell said of the fund. “I’ve been proud to sponsor it in the past [despite its failure]. That’s an ongoing battle in Annapolis.”

Bromwell serves as vice chairman of the Health and Government Operations committee in the House of Delegates, playing a crucial leadership role in getting the legislation passed, MSA recognized.

But Simon said Bromwell has functioned in his leadership of the committee to assist new members of the committee to understand the state’s complex health care policies.

“[He is] a delegate who models best practices when it comes to making sure that the body of knowledge is there around health care policy,” he said.

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Engine builder, community activist Brad Wallace dies

Engine builder, community activist Brad Wallace dies

(Updated 6/28/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Bradley L. Wallace, a renowned race car engine builder and precision machinist turned community activist, died suddenly June 20. He was 72.

Wallace was the second generation owner of Wallace Engine Co. in Essex. Founded by his father, Bob Wallace, the company was widely known and respected for its precision work and for mentoring generations of local and not-so-local “gearheads.”

When the engine company property at 1801 Eastern Blvd. was targeted for takeover through a controversial eminent domain law ushered through the Maryland General Assembly in 2000 by then-Baltimore County Executive C.A. Ducth Ruppersberger, Wallace sprang in to action to protect his rights and those of other targeted property owners.

“That issue really sparked a fire in him,” longtime friend and customer Jason Smith said of Wallace. “When he discovered that his family property, the business that his father started, was under attack, he got extremely fired up to do something about it.”

Bradley Wallace recalls his father rallying a community to save itself from what was often referred to by area residents as a “land grab” by Ruppersberger.

“It was David taking on Goliath and David won,” Bradley said of his father. “My dad just wouldn’t lay down.”

The elder Wallace was one of the original activists who organized a movement, gathered signatures and ultimately overturned the law by way of voter referendum.

Wallace was born and raised in Essex and was a 1963 graduate of Kenwood High School.

“He spent 66 of his 72 years in Essex and the other six all over the world,” Bradley said. “He only left Essex for the Vietnam War.”

When Smith first got involved in auto racing, he was introduced to Wallace by an uncle who told him that Wallace was the guy to go to with any problem or question having to do with an engine.

“And what many people don’t know is that Brad didn’t just know racing engines,” Smith said. “Whether it was a garden tractor engine, a boat, a race car, even an airplane engine, Brad and his dad were the guys to go to.”

Wallace was just a “regular guy” who looked out for and was well-liked by other regular guys, according to Smith.

Many local racers are hobbyists who work full-time and pursue racing as weekend recreation, he said.

“Brad freely shared his expertise and showed guys where to spend money and where not to spend money to help us compete with the guys who had the bigger budgets,” Smith said. “A lot of us didn’t have those big budgets and he helped us get the most out of what we had to spend.”

He recalled the “little block building in Essex” being a beehive of social activity because of Wallace’s magnetic personality. Customers were known for stopping by with a cup of coffee for the owner and sitting for hours chatting the day away.

“He had time for everyone “ Smith said. “He’d open the shop at 9 a.m., he’d work on an engine, answer the phone, stop for a cup of coffee and make time for anyone who stopped by.”

Often, Wallace wouldn’t get all of his work done because he couldn’t turn people away, according to Smith. When that happened, he would close the shop at 5 or 6 p.m., go home and have dinner and then return to the shop, where he would work uninterrupted until 9 or 10 p.m.

Smith said he will remember Wallace for his great sense of humor and his enjoyment of playing the part of practical joker.

“He also was one of the smartest people I knew,” Smith said. “If I was going to put together a dream team of smart people, he’d be near the top, if not at the top, of my dream team. I’d like to know what his IQ was because it had to be up there.”

Bradley Wallace said he would remember his father as a man of integrity, loyalty and devotion.

“He was simply the greatest man I have ever known,” he said.

Wallace is survived by son Bradley G. Wallace and his wife Kelley and daughter Heather Strine and her husband Adam; siblings Pam Arnett and her husband Dave, Dawn Opie and the late DeWayne Wallace and his wife Jane; five grandchildren; and many extended family members and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Bob and Freda Wallace.

A memorial service will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 1, at Columbus Gardens, 4301 Klosterman Ave. in Nottingham.

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Soldier killed in Afghanistan remembered by eastside communities

Soldier killed in Afghanistan remembered by eastside communities
The family of Sgt. Eric Houck mourned his loss at a wreath-laying ceremony at Perry Hall Elementary School on June 15. Houck, who attended Perry Hall High School, was one of three servicemen killed in an attack for which the Taliban has claimed responsibility. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 6/20/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Governor Larry Hogan ordered all flags at half-staff on Tuesday, June 20, in memory of Army Sgt. Eric Houck, who lost his life in the Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan on June 10.

Since Houck’s death, the Perry Hall community has banded together to honor the local hero. A wreath-laying ceremony was held at Perry Hall Elementary last Thursday, June 15, while the Gunpowder VFW in Middle River held a memorial service the following Sunday. At the VFW event, Houck’s family was presented with a Gold Star flag.

“We know the fathers, the mothers that are awake at night, waiting for their loved ones to come home,” said Jack Amrhein, president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association. “The people who served with him respected him, loved him, knew the kind of man he was and that his family was the most important thing to him.”

Houck, 25, leaves behind a wife and two children. His name will be added to the newly-dedicated war memorial in Towson, the first addition to the memorial since it was dedicated last year.

Two others were killed along with Houck in an attack that the Taliban has since taken responsibility for. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Houck attended Joppa View Elementary School before moving on to Perry Hall Middle School. He graduated from Perry Hall High School in 2009. He married his high school sweetheart, Samantha, just three years later.

“Our hearts are filled with sorrow as we learn of the passing of Sgt. Eric M. Houck, a native of Baltimore, who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country in Afghanistan,” Hogan wrote last week. “Our sincere prayers go to his wife, Samantha, their children and all of their family and loved ones in this time of grief.”

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Diamond Point shopping center flea market on, off, on again

Diamond Point shopping center flea market on, off, on again
Mounds of trash on the Diamond Point Plaza parking lot on June 12 spurred Dundalk community leader Angel Ball to complain about the operation of the Diamond Point Flea Market. On June 19, after a weekend of market business, the lot was neat and orderly. Photo courtesy of Angel Ball.

(Updated 6/20/17)

- By Marge Neal - 

The organizer of the Diamond Point Plaza flea market rode a roller coaster of emotions and bureaucratic maneuvering last week as he faced criticism about the unsanitary conditions of the shopping center’s parking lot and the subsequent revocation, then reinstatement of his outdoor sales permit.

Tony Sapanero, who rents the shopping center and lot on Eastern Avenue at Diamond Point Road from property owner Global Trading LLC, was defiant on Friday, June 16, and said he would open the market over the weekend despite the ruling because he said the letter revoking his permit was served to the wrong party.

“Right now, at this time, I have my lawyer involved and I plan to open,” he told the East County Times that day. “They told me I would get fined $100,000 if I open; that’s ridiculous.”

Sapanero luckily didn’t have to test the seriousness of that threat since Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7) announced later the same day the permit had been reinstated by Code Enforcement Chief Lionel van Dommelen.

The latest round of debate about the flea market began June 12, with an online discussion about the trash problem. Dundalk community leader Angel Ball, who visited the center’s Chuck E. Cheese franchise to solicit a donation for the Heritage Fair, took to Facebook to register her concern about the mounds of trash left by market vendors.

The online discussion led to Ball and Sapanero talking on the phone. Their conversation ended with Sapanero agreeing to have his trash contractor clean the lot on Sundays after the market closes instead of on Mondays, according to both parties.

“I tell them every week to take their trash with them,” Sapanero said of his vendors. “They fill the trash cans and then leave stuff all over the ground around the cans.”

Sapanero said he “can’t be a warden” every minute the market is open, so he takes care of the problem after the fact.

“By 4:30 Monday afternoon, it’s always all cleaned up,” he said. “But I understand the problem with the trash sitting there overnight, so I agreed to start cleaning up on Sundays. I thought the problem was solved.”

Ball said she thought the problem was solved as well. Both she and Sapanero were surprised when Crandell on June 14 posted to social media a copy of the “cease and desist” letter sent by van Dommelen to Global Trading, ordering the closure of the flea market, effective immediately.

“I’m sorry for the fans of the flea market, but due to repeated violations of County Code and zoning regulations, Code Enforcement honored my request and issued an order that flea market operations must cease immediately,” Crandell wrote on Facebook.

Crandell did not respond to a Times request for an interview.

Van Dommelen told the Times on June 19 that the decision to revoke the permit was based on “repeated violations, complaints and personal observations, both by myself and others, and I decided enough was enough.”

He said he has the administrative authority to revoke the permit and that an additional hearing was not required.

Global Trading, as the land owner, has been cited by Code Enforcement several times for a variety of violations, including open dump conditions, having trash cans without tight-fitting lids and leaving storage trailers on the lot, which is a violation of the permitted use, according to van Dommelen.

The company was most recently cited in November 2016. The hearing judge, after finding the company guilty of the violations, fined Global Trading $3,000 while waiving  $1,500 of it, van Dommelen said.

On Friday, June 16, van Dommelen met with Sapanero and his lawyer and made the decision to reinstate the permit after Sapanero promised to have a contractor pick up trash on Saturdays and Sundays after the market closes each day.

One community member who would like to see flea market vendors be more respectful of the community is Sam Weaver, a local marina owner and president of the Back River Restoration Committee.

“We’ve cleaned up so many times around that area, it’s pitiful,” Weaver said of the section of Eastern Avenue near the shopping center and the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. “Nothing against the flea market, but they need to clean up after themselves.”

BRRC volunteers most recently cleaned the area April 2, according to Weaver, and said there was “no question” that much of the trash lodged against the treatment plant fence originated with the flea market.

Early Monday morning, June 19, the parking lot was spotless, with empty trash cans and clusters of portable bathrooms neatly corralled. “No dumping” signs were posted in several places.

Van Dommelen said he hopes the situation is solved once and for all. Satisfied that Sapanero realizes what’s at stake for him and his vendors, the chief said he is not inclined to ask that the remainder of the November 2016 fine be reinstated.

“But if he falls out of compliance again, I will go back and ask for the reinstatement of the remainder of the fine and issue a new citation,” van Dommelen said. “And I will tell you this: If his permit is revoked again, it won’t be reinstated.”

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Fundraiser for Governor Hogan set for Conrad’s Ruth Villa

Fundraiser for Governor Hogan set for Conrad’s Ruth Villa
Hogan was the keynote speaker for Del. Miele's Senate campaign kick-off on June 8. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 6/20/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

On July 9, Governor Larry Hogan will hold a fundraiser at Conrad’s Ruth Villa in Middle River.

For weeks, a welcoming committee, which consists of County Councilman Todd Crandell, local marina owner Sam Weaver, area activist Karen Wynn, Buddy Redmer, Conrad's Ruth Villa owner Fred Conrad, Carl Hobson and Don Crockett, worked to make the event a reality.

“We just want to show the Governor that he has the support of Baltimore County,” said Crockett. “He’s been doing a great job in office and we want to make sure that he has another term in office.”

The event is slated to take place from 1 - 5 p.m. on July 9, with a VIP reception taking place from 1 - 2 p.m. General reception tickets are $50 apiece, while VIP tickets are $250 per couple.

Local musicians Strait Shooter will provide entertainment throughout the day.

Hogan was recently in Perry Hall to help launch Delegate Christian Miele’s (R-8) campaign for State Senate. The event brought in more than $50,000 for Miele.

Hogan is likely to bring in a whole lot more at his own event, where sponsorship ranges from $1,000 to $6,000.

“We hope that this event can be big enough that Hogan will want to keep on coming back,” said Crockett. “He’s a rock star in these parts, and we’re very much looking forward to giving him that type of welcome.

Characterizing Hogan as a rock star isn’t much of an embellishment, considering he’s one of the most popular governors in the nation despite being a Republican in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one. According to Crockett, that’s one of the big reasons why the committee is throwing their collective weight behind the incumbent.

“It’s a nasty political environment right now, but [Hogan] manages to stay above the fray,” Crockett said. “He’s proven himself to be a capable leader and he deserves a second term in office.”

While it’s unclear who Hogan will be facing in next year’s gubernatorial election, he’ll enter the race as the overwhelming favorite, barring any sort of collapse over the next year.

One potential adversary is Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Kamenetz has not officially declared his candidacy but has been exploring the possibility. He has also been working to visit each county in Maryland in his capacity as Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) president.

In the 2014 election, Hogan claimed over 12,000 more votes in Baltimore County than Kamenetz did in their respective races.

Tickets can be purchased online at You can RSVP for the event by calling Olivia Weber at 443-333-9162.

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Victory Villa boundary recommendations approved by school board

(Updated 6/20/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

After months of heated debate, the Baltimore County Board of Education approved a compromise redistricting plan on June 13 that will keep all Orems Elementary students where they are, while cutting the number of transplants from Shady Springs Elementary from 129 to just over 90.

The boundary plan passed by a 7 - 4 vote and will go into effect at the start of the 2018 school year when the new Victory Villa Elementary School opens. Victory Villa, which currently hosts approximately 430 students, will see their building capacity increased to 700. The addition of seats at Victory Villa will help alleviate overcrowding in the southeast region.

Eight schools were involved in the process and no school was left with the same boundary lines, but students were not dispersed evenly. With the new boundaries, Orems, which is located in Essex within the Aero Acres community, will remain at 111 students over capacity while Middlesex Elementary will be 100 students under capacity.

An independent consulting firm, Cropper GIS out of Cleveland, was brought in to work with representatives from each of the eight schools to come up with palatable plans. At one point there were nine different boundary maps considered before the number was ultimately whittled down to two.

The favored map originally proposed shipping 64 Orems Elementary School students to Middlesex, but parents protested, arguing that Orems was built specifically for Aero Acre residents and moving students wouldn’t be fair.

Under the original plan, the Orems population would have seen an increase in minority students from 28 percent to 45 percent. The compromise brings that number down slightly to 40 percent.

Another option had been proposed by Orems parents which would have moved a small group of their students to Middlesex while accepting 25 students from Shady Springs. That option was not considered by the board.

County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents the area and whose office monitored the redistricting proceedings, also weighed in on the results of the process. Read her comments here.

Golden-agers to celebrate Ateaze’s golden anniversary

Golden-agers to celebrate Ateaze’s golden anniversary

(Updated 6/20/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Ateaze Senior Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a gold-hued multigenerational extravaganza, and the public is invited to attend.

The center’s roots date to August 1966, when a group of Dundalk senior citizens began meeting at Dundalk Methodist Church, according to an online history. The establishment of the senior center was officially recognized in March 1967. The group was affiliated with the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks by February 1969 and transferred to the county’s Department of Aging when that agency was created in 1979, according to the online summary.

Fifty years from those humble beginnings, the group is throwing a free community party to mark its half-century of service to Dundalk-area “golden-agers.”

Housed in the former Patapsco Neck Elementary School building at 7401 Holabird Ave. in Dundalk, Ateaze has 1,050 members on the books, with daily attendance averaging 175 members, according to center director Beckie Ebert.

“We have a very active center and we want people to know that,” Ebert said in a phone interview. “We do more than bingo and knitting - we do have both of those but we offer much, much more.”

Membership is open to Baltimore County residents aged 60 and older and their spouses, regardless of age. There is no fee to join, but there are costs involved with certain activities. In addition to fun and games, the center also offers services like helping residents maneuver Medicare and Social Security application processes and informative seminars on a variety of topics. The center also offers meals to encourage socialization.

The anniversary celebration, set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, June 24, will include a petting zoo, pony rides, face painting and many other activities designed to thank the community for its support over the years, as well as to let prospective members take a look at the many opportunities the center offers, according to Ebert. The center’s general fund is picking up the entire tab and all activities are free to the public.

Center council members recently started a Facebook page to interact with the community at large more and to better share what’s happening at the center, according to Ebert.

The club kicked off its celebration by painting and hiding 50 golden rocks throughout the community. Jumping on the Dundalk Rocks bandwagon, center members and staff painted the rocks and hid them throughout the area. Each specially painted stone has a label on the back identifying it as an Ateaze rock, with instructions on how to claim a prize pack.

Golden rock finders can take a picture of their rock and post it to the Facebook page and then re-hide it for someone else to find, or they can take it to the celebration to claim their prize.

“We made extra prize packs so we’ll have enough to give out even if some rocks are found twice,” Ebert said.

The golden anniversary celebration will include indoor and outdoor activities for all ages. For more information, call the center at 410-887-7233.

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Liquor board fines White Marsh Greene Turtle $2,000

Liquor board fines White Marsh Greene Turtle $2,000

(Updated 6/20/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

The county Board of Liquor License Commissioners recently levied a second maximum fine of $2,000 against the Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille in White Marsh for allegedly serving an intoxicated person.

A police officer testified at a June 12 hearing that he responded to a call on April 30 about 2 a.m. and found a woman vomiting as she lay on her side in a booth. He said he called for an ambulance, which took the woman to the Franklin Square Medical Center in Rosedale.

The officer testified that he detected the odor of alcohol, that he had been an officer for 22 years and that he was trained in dealing with the effects of alcohol and drugs.

However, a lawyer for Greene Turtle argued that there was no direct evidence presented that indicated the woman’s nausea was the result of being overserved liquor in the establishment that night.

The owner testified that, according to staff, the woman did not appear to have been intoxicated after being served no more than three drinks over three hours. An employee also speculated that woman might have taken medication that caused her to vomit, according to staff reports in the case file.

The three-member liquor board, however, decided to impose the fine, citing the officer’s testimony as a reason for its decision. The board had previously fined the Greene Turtle $2,000 in April after an intoxicated patron was stopped by police after drinking in the establishment.

In a second case on June 12, the board dismissed an allegation of serving an intoxicated person against Dick’s Famous Halfway Inn, 8013 Philadelphia Road in Rosedale, after an officer failed to appear to testify.

In a third case, the board voted 2 to 1 to take no action on a similar charge involving an allegedly intoxicated woman on April 25 at the North Point Liquor and Bar at 1108 North Point Road in Dundalk.

The police officer who responded to the call said the woman was “clearly intoxicated” and offered her a ride home, but an employee testified that the woman and a friend with her were each served only one drink. An attorney for the bar also argued that there was no evidence to show the condition of the woman was directly related to alcohol.

A week later, on Monday, June 19, the liquor board fined the North Point Liquors store, 3838 North Point Blvd. in Dundalk, $500 for violating a board rule that prohibits customers from drinking what they purchased inside the store or on the property.

This article was updated to include information on the board's reasoning for fining the Greene Turtle, as well as information about their more recent North Point Liquors store ruling.

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Delegate Miele kicks off State Senate campaign with endorsement from Gov. Hogan

Delegate Miele kicks off State Senate campaign with endorsement from Gov. Hogan
Delegate Christian Miele (center) was joined on stage by his wife and Gov. Larry Hogan as he announced his candidacy for State Senate. The freshman Delegate is looking to take Kathy Klausmeier’s seat an Annapolis, a seat she has held since 2002. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 6/14/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Delegate Christian Miele put months of speculation to rest last week, officially announcing his candidacy for the District 8 State Senate seat currently occupied by Kathy Klausmeier (D).

Miele was joined by Governor Larry Hogan, Congressman Andy Harris and a slew of local officials at the launch party at Columbus Gardens in Perry Hall, which saw hundreds turn out in support of the young delegate.

“Our campaign is going to be a campaign about ideas, solutions and people - not parties or political agendas,” said Miele. “And make no mistake, it’s going to be a generational contest where you get to decide between looking back toward the past or charging ahead toward the future.”

Hogan spent his time on the stage touting economic improvement in Maryland under his administration before turning his attention to Miele.

“We’re just getting started on our effort to turn Maryland around and change Maryland for the better, but I can’t do it without good members of the Senate like the gentleman we’re here to support,” said Hogan. “There’s no question in my mind that he will do an excellent job as your next senator.”

Hogan’s endorsement of Miele comes as no surprise, considering the first-term governor has been vocal about picking up more seats in the Senate in order to put an end to the Democrats’ veto-proof majority as well as help advance Hogan’s agenda. An increase of five seats would see the Democrats lose their supermajority, and the Republican party is looking to capitalize on a successful 2014 election which saw them pick up nine legislative seats - seven in the House of Delegates and two in the Senate - plus the governor’s mansion.

Besides Klausmeier’s seat, the GOP is looking to take State Senator Jim Brochin’s seat in Towson, as well as seats in Anne Arundel, Frederick and Worcester counties.

In order for the Republican party to grab those seats, they’ll need an influx of money and excitement - and Hogan brings just that.

According to Miele, his campaign kickoff brought in approximately $50,000, more than doubling his cash on hand in a single night - and that number could climb based on pledged donations. In order for Miele to beat Klausmeier, he’ll need the donations to keep pouring in. But where Miele will really need Hogan’s help is drumming up excitement.

That is not to say that Miele isn’t excitable - quite the opposite, actually. Councilman David Marks (R-5) described Miele as a “whirlwind of energy,” and those sentiments were echoed minutes later by Hogan. But Hogan’s endorsement gives Miele instantaneous legitimacy, which could be a problem for Klausmeier considering her previous opponents haven’t had the name recognition of Miele or backing of someone as powerful as Hogan.

Since 2006, Klausmeier’s numbers have slightly improved in the district, jumping from 58.2 percent to 61.3 percent in 2014. However, Miele was the leading vote-getter in the 2014 House of Delegates race, and Hogan carried District 8 with 68 percent of the vote. Add to that Hogan’s immense popularity in the state (he currently has an approval rating of 65 percent) and Miele could have a serious shot at taking Klausmeier’s seat.

But Klausmeier, the Senate’s deputy majority leader, doesn’t seem to be fazed by Miele’s challenge.

“This is not the first time they’ve targeted me,”she told The Washington Post. “I just have to keep doing what I do. I try to be in as many places as I can be and help as many people as I can.”

Miele spent his time on stage also promising to help as many people as he can. He spoke of supporting small businesses, tax relief for seniors and state funding to alleviate overcrowding in Baltimore County Public Schools. He spoke of the need to end gerrymandering in the state, noting that “politicians shouldn’t be picking their voters; voters should be picking their politicians,” a line that received thunderous applause.

Considering the makeup of the General Assembly, Miele and those who spoke of him stressed his ability to reach across party lines and reach bipartisan agreements.

Miele running for the Senate means he will have to give up his seat in the House of Delegates. Last gubernatorial cycle, former Delegate John Olszewski, Jr. gave up his seat in the House of Delegates to take a run at the Senate, but lost to Republican candidate Johnny Ray Salling. When asked about potentially having to sit out a few years should he lose to Klausmeier, Miele wasn’t concerned.

“I don’t really think along those lines,” he told the East County Times. “We have a positive message about bringing people-driven, good-government reforms to Annapolis, and that will remain our main focus throughout the campaign. We want the citizens of northeastern Baltimore County to know that they have the power to vote for real change next November.”

The 8th District has long been one whose delegation is split among Democrats and Republicans. But Republicans are feeling reenergized after the 6th District went completely red in 2014. For many Republicans in the area, they see an 8th District takeover as the next logical step. While Delegate Eric Bromwell (D) and Klausmeier are well-liked and respected across party lines in the Baltimore County Delegation and in Annapolis (Hogan referred to Klausmeier as a “nice lady”), the Republican party thinks it’s time for a change.

Miele spoke of meeting Hogan three years ago and sign-waving on the corner of Joppa and Belair roads in Perry Hall. The two men, unknowns at the time, weren’t sure they had a real chance at winning. Now, both men are rising stars within the Republican party.

“Back then, I said to myself, ‘here’s a guy I can vote for,’” said Miele of Hogan. “Three years later, here we are.”

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Fullerton Fireworks organizers hope display doesn't go up in smoke

Fullerton Fireworks organizers hope display doesn't go up in smoke
More than just a fireworks show, the Fullerton event also features live music, along with great selections of food, beer and wine. Courtesy photo.

(Updated 6/14/17)

- By Marge Neal -

It seems everyone enjoys a good fireworks display.

But while the masses look forward to the pyrotechnic celebrations, few people may understand how expensive and labor intensive the productions are.

Last month, Middle River Fireworks Committee leaders announced this year’s Independence Day display is canceled, citing rising costs and a decrease in community fundraising support.

Now, organizers of the Fullerton fireworks fear they might not be far behind.

“Our display costs about $30,000 to do each year,” Fullerton Fireworks Committee Vice President Rick Swinder told the East County Times. “It’s about $1,000 a minute for our show.”

The Fullerton group has been doing the annual fireworks display for more than 50 years. Thousands of people stake out space from which to view the spectacle, but few step forward to help with the effort and corporate sponsors have become harder to come by, according to Swinder.

“We do this every year without any kind of government assistance or support,” he said. “We depend on individuals and businesses to donate and it’s just getting harder and harder to come up with the big money needed to do this every year.”

George Stover, in his second season as president of the group, stepped up and volunteered to save the fireworks display that means so much to him.

“The previous president and vice president had been doing it for so long and they were tired,” Stover said. “They couldn’t get any more help so they said if no one stepped up, it was just going to shut down.

“It just wasn’t an option after 50-some years to let these fireworks go, so I said I would do it.”

In just the first year under Stover’s leadership, the fireworks event expanded. Vendors previously sold typical fair eats, including pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers. But the committee beefed up the food offerings last year, adding Tex-Mex and pit beef. Beer and wine will be available for purchase this year, and the menu will expand again with the addition of Greek food, according to Stover.

The new leadership hopes to eventually build a day-long festival with the fireworks as the evening’s crowning glory.

“This year, we want people to come at five when the live music starts, instead of coming at 8:30 for just the fireworks,” Stover said. “Bring the family, set up a picnic on the lawn, have dinner and enjoy the day.”

He’s still working hard to recruit new volunteers, however. The event attracts between 7,000 and 10,000 people each year. Given that popularity, Stover said he doesn’t understand why it’s the same five or six people sitting around the table at monthly meetings.

Recruiting volunteers and raising money remain the two hardest tasks, Stover said. While the group is grateful for the generous support from Jerry’s Toyota, some corporate sponsors have decreased their contributions.

“Here’s the big thing - we need volunteers,” Stover said. “If they want this to continue, they need to help and they need to throw a couple bucks in the bucket.”

To help with financing this year, the group held a golf tournament June 10, at the Wetlands Golf Course in Aberdeen. The event raised about $5,000, according to Stover.

Raffle tickets are also being sold, with a bushel of crabs, five pounds of shrimp and a case of beer, all courtesy of Skipjack’s, going to the lucky winner. Tickets cost $1 each or six for $5.

The group will accept cash donations from individuals and local business owners as well. The Overlea Fullerton Business and Professional Association has placed coin jars at local businesses in the community.

To buy raffle tickets or to place a coin jar in your business or other location, contact Donna Bethke at 410-665-6551 or; or Renee Smith at 410-812-2971 or

Checks made payable to the Fullerton Fireworks Foundation can be mailed to P.O. Box 19535, Baltimore, MD 21206. Online contributions can be made through PayPal by visiting the group’s Facebook page or its website,

“What’s really sad about this is that we know people really want these fireworks and look forward to them for months,” Swinder said. “They just have no idea how expensive they are and we really hope they step up and support us so these fireworks can continue.”

If you go: The Fullerton Fireworks will be held at Fullerton Park at Belair Road and Fullerton Avenue on Tuesday, July 4. Live music kicks off at 5 p.m. Food, beer and wine will be sold. Spectators may bring their own food but outside alcohol is not permitted. Fireworks will begin as it gets dark. The rain date is July 8. In the case of postponement, the groups will notify the public via its Facebook page and website.

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As deadlines pass, Route 43 athletic field complex looking less certain

As deadlines pass, Route 43 athletic field complex looking less certain
The subject site, located on MD-43 at Tangier Drive, would feature seven fields and some buildings making up the complex. Image courtesy of Pinkard Properties.

(Updated 6/14/17)

- By Devin Crum -

After at least four years in the works, a proposal to build a sports complex as part of the Baltimore Crossroads development on MD Route 43 in Middle River is now looking questionable.

Organizers of the project have apparently had difficulty lining up the needed financing to move the complex along, according to Mike Caruthers, principal of Somerset Construction.

Somerset owns and controls most of the developable land along the MD-43 extension between US-40/Pulaski Highway and MD-150/Eastern Boulevard and is the master developer for the entire Baltimore Crossroads development.

The athletic complex, dubbed 43 Fields, as proposed would see six artificial turf fields, along with a smaller training turf, constructed over roughly 42 acres of land in its first phase. The fields would be lined mainly for soccer and lacrosse, but would have the potential to be used for football as well.

The second phase would consist of enclosed buidlings for indoor sports such as gymnastics, along with pools for swimming.

The complex would be marketed to sports organizations to host things like regional tournaments, with possible use by professional teams. But it would have built-in time for local school and recreation council teams to use the fields as well.

Initially presented to the community in 2013, the project was warmly received and enjoyed support from numerous community, sports and business organizations, as well as governmental bodies.

But without funding to purchase the land, the project’s developer, Pinkard Properties, has no way to move forward with the plan.

While Caruthers did not say definitely that the project is dead, he admitted at a Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Thursday, June 8, that he had sent Pinkard a letter of denial for the property the previous week.

“So that is, in my mind, not going to happen,” Caruthers said.

News of the project’s status came as a surprise to community members, especially since Pinkard’s executive vice president, Athan Sunderland, said in a March 1 visit to the Essex-Middle River Civic Council that he was “handicapping” himself at 95 percent certain the project would start construction this spring.

Sunderland assured, though, that he and his team are still focused on bringing the project to fruition.

“Our contract has expired, but we are working as hard as possible to make the Fields project at Crossroads a reality and are in discussions with the land owner,” he told the East County Times.

He noted that he recently received letters of support for 43 Fields from the Maryland Sports Commission, US Lacrosse and the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association.

“There’s a lot of people who want to see this thing happen,” Sunderland said. “By no means are we done working on this.”

Caruthers told the Times if the project falls through, his “plan B” for the site would be simply more of what is currently being built in the area - single-story flex buildings and office space.

“We’re out of ground for the flex,” he said. “We’ve built 400,000 square feet and it’s 97 percent leased.”

Caruthers said while he still supports the fields, he is investigating alternative uses for the site.

“We have to do something with that property that makes sense for everybody,” he said, adding that Pinkard is scheduled to close on the property in August and has until then to get the financing.

“My thing is that the fields, I think, are just good for the whole community, both Crossroads and the community at large,” he continued. “So I really hope upon hope that the fields come in.”

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CCBC captures F. Scott Black’s legacy in lights, endowment

CCBC captures F. Scott Black’s legacy in lights, endowment
F. Scott Black with the mural depicting his image. Photo credit: Rachel Rock Photography.

(Updated 6/14/17)

- By Marge Neal -

They say the neon lights are bright on Rossville. And there’s a new magic in the air at CCBC Essex now that F. Scott Black’s name is up in lights over the campus theater.

To honor the longtime theater arts professor, summer stock co-founder and college dean, local philanthropists Robert and Eleanor Romadka challenged the community to match their donation of $150,000 to put Black’s name on the facility to which he dedicated his 41-year professional career.

“The college has something called the Legacy program,” Bob Romadka told the East County Times. “They honor people who have served the college over a period of many years.”

Through the Legacy program, it was first suggested the theater be named after the couple, but Eleanor balked at the idea.

“Her first thought was, ‘What about Scott?’" Romadka said. “She wouldn’t feel comfortable having the theater named after us - that should be Scott.”

After much discussion, the decision was made to name the College Community Center after the Romadkas and they offered the challenge donation to “buy” the theater’s naming rights for Black.

The theater and college communities responded with gusto and the challenge, which was cast in June 2016, was met in less than a year.

“If you live long enough, anything can happen,” Black said of the honor with a laugh.

The dedication held June 7 was the culmination of a life’s work that began in 1972 when Black was hired at then-Essex Community College to develop a theater major and build the performing arts program.

“When I came here, I thought this was a place to get started, pay back some loans and get some experience before moving on with my career, possibly going to New York,” Black said. “But there was a certain spirit, a great atmosphere here and before I knew it, 10 years had gone by.”

Those 10 years morphed to more than four decades before Black retired in 2013 as the academic dean of the School of Liberal Arts.

In addition to creating a theater arts major, Black was one of three co-founders - along with Robert Stoltzfus and William Ellis - of Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this summer.

Throughout his undergraduate college years, Black had been heavily involved in summer theater. With his first summer approaching at Essex, he asked his colleagues what they planned for the season. When the answer was “nothing,” Black put forth a proposal to his boss.

“They advanced me $2,000 for that first summer,” Black said. “And I was told, ‘if you fail, we won’t fire you and if you succeed, we’ll talk about the future.’”

On a shoestring budget, the three men presented a three-show offering, with “The Importance of Being Ernest;” “Celebration,” a “much lesser known” musical by the same folks who wrote “The Fantastiks,” according to Black; and a musical review called “Joyce and Rejoice,” featuring Joyce Stoner.

History tells us the men succeeded, no one was fired and funding was established for future seasons.

The dedication ceremony was attended by about 300 people, most of whom were donors, former students, colleagues and community theater actors and patrons, according to Black.

The timing created a little more stress on the veteran performer, director and producer who is directing “Arsenic and Old Lace” for Cockpit in Court.

“It’s the first time I’ve directed anything in probably 10 years, and then there was the extra pressure to have it show-ready two days ahead of time,” he said of the production. “The audience saw what would normally be one of the final dress rehearsals so we had to be ready.”

Anne Lefter, CCBC’s director of performing arts, said the naming honor was well-earned.

“Working with Scott was always an adventure,” she said. “We were always trying to find new ways to expand our horizon, asking what more could we do, what could we do better - and almost always, regardless of the request or suggestion, the answer was yes.”

If there was a singular accomplishment that defines Black’s passion as an educator, Lefter believes it is the decision to bring the Maryland Children’s Playhouse to the Essex campus.

“Scott always said the arts are a civilizing influence,” she said. “Exposure to the arts expands horizons, promotes personal growth and Scott worked hard to expand the influence and impact of the arts on all students, whether or not they planned to major in theater or make a career of it.”

The presence of the children’s theater on the campus brought about “an energy, an enthusiasm, an optimism that stretched us in unexpected ways and opened up many more educational opportunities,” according to Lefter.

With all of his accomplishments, from performing and directing to educating, from dinner theater ownership to college administration, Black also singled out the adoption of the children’s program as a pivotal accomplishment.

“One of my passions is to give children the opportunity to participate in the arts, to grow as artists,” he said. “Regardless of what they choose to do professionally, participation in the arts makes them more well-rounded and prepares them for many things, and it has been wonderful for us to be able to provide that opportunity to so many.”

There will be no mistaking who the theater is named after. At the dedication ceremony, a large portrait of Black and a bronze plaque were unveiled.

“And over the entrance to the theater, in illuminated letters, is my name,” Black said with a laugh. “So my name truly is up in lights.”

While Black said he is “deeply honored and humbled” to have The F. Scott Black Theatre named for him in recognition of his career, he is more proud of the opportunities the accompanying endowment will provide.

“The naming is great, but what is so much more important is the $300,000 endowment that will be totally dedicated to the performing arts,” he said. “That money will take care of maintenance of the theater, provide scholarships and fund new performing arts programs. That’s the real honor.”

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Hotel, specialty gas projects move ahead

(Updated 6/14/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Plans are in the works to tear down a one-story office building at 8219 Town Center Drive in White Marsh and replace it with a five-story Hilton Homewood Suites hotel.

The now vacant building, located on 3.3 acres between the Avenue at White Marsh and Interstate 95, was formerly occupied by the American Cancer Society. Plans for the project were reviewed by the county’s Development Review Committee on Tuesday, June 6.

A representative of the developer, Blenheim Companies based in Newark, Del., did not return a call for comment about a timetable for construction and possible job openings.

The hotel is one of five in the works on the east side of Baltimore County.

Presently under construction is a SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel in the Greenleigh at Crossroads mixed-use project being built off MD Route 43 in Middle River. Envisioned for the entire Greenleigh development is a mix of around 1,500 residences, plus offices and retail stores.

Two more hotels are planned near the intersection of Route 43 and Philadelphia Road in White Marsh, and another hotel is proposed near a retail center off Bethlehem Boulevard planned by Tradepoint Atlantic, which is redeveloping the former steel mill property in Sparrows Point.

The DRC also reviewed plans June 6 for a new Airgas facility to be built on an undeveloped lot at 9104 Pulaski Highway northeast of the Martin Boulevard/MD-700 intersection.

Plans presented to the DRC indicate a showroom, warehouse and storage yard. A company  spokeswoman said an existing Airgas facility will relocate to the site but did not provide further details because the project, which needs to file a more detailed development plan, is still being reviewed by the county.

Owned by the French company Air Liquide, Airgas is a nationwide specialty gas distributor that operates seven stores in Maryland, including locations in Halethorpe and Rosedale, according to its website.

The company sells gases and equipment used by welders. It also sells process chemicals, refrigerants, ammonia,  oxygen, carbon dioxide, dry ice and nitrous oxide, some of which are used in the dental and restaurant sectors.

Charter change hearing set for June 21 in Towson

Charter change hearing set for June 21 in Towson
Councilman David Marks (R-5) sponsored the legislation that created the charter review commission. File photo.

(Updated 6/14/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Should Baltimore County residents have more time to review and comment on County Council bills before the bills are voted into law?

And should there also be more time for public review of last-minute amendments that can change the original intent of the legislation?

These are only two of more than a dozen issues raised so far about possible changes to the Baltimore County Charter that could come before voters in the November 2018 election.

The county’s recently appointed Charter Review Commission is hosting a hearing to accept public comment on the issues Wednesday, June 21, at 6 p.m. in the County Council chambers in Towson. Speaker sign-in starts at 5:30 p.m.

The commission is set to meet again on Sept. 6 in Towson to work on its final recommendations to the County Council, which are due by the end of October.

Last updated in 1990, the 51-page county charter outlines the basic structure of county government and explains how it is set up and operates. Like the U.S. Constitution, the charter reflects a balance of powers.

For example, the county executive controls the budget and departmental operations, while the seven-member County Council controls zoning and enacts legislation.

Some county residents see the review process as a chance to create more transparency in government operations, especially in the review of high-stakes building projects, where multi-million-dollar investments can affect neighborhood property values.

The Green Towson Alliance has said it is looking for changes “that will increase transparency and open government and will protect the public interest, especially with regard to the environment, in the development process,” according to its April 27 memo to the commission.

Other constituents want more County Council control over the budget, which is generated and controlled by the County Executive. Right now the council can only cut the budget; it cannot add to it or shift money around.

Fewer than a dozen citizens have attended the review commission’s nine public meetings held so far in Towson, Perry Hall and Arbutus. Commission Chairman Ted Venetoulis, a former Baltimore County Executive, has invited visitors to comment and ask questions on an informal basis.

Among the issues raised and discussed by citizens, commission members and council attorneys is whether to change how the County Council processes its bills, which is addressed both in the charter and in the Baltimore County code.

Right now the council must act on a bill within 40 days or it dies. It can be reintroduced, but that involves starting the process again from scratch. One idea is to lengthen the span to 60 days to give communities more time to review and comment on development issues.

The Green Towson Alliance and others also want more time to comment on amendments attached to bills just before a council vote.

“On more than one occasion, we have found hard-fought legislative advances negated by last-minute amendments to legislation,” according to the GTA memo. “[A]mendments to bills should be published and subject to the same opportunity for public review and comment as the original bills.”

Some argue that such proposed changes are more appropriately handled by the County Code, which addresses legislative procedures in more detail.

The GTA has also proposed other changes, such as:

* Holding Council work sessions, where pending legislation is discussed, in the evening instead of Tuesday afternoons so that more people can attend.

* Requiring more public notice of county road work, tree trimming and other county projects that potentially affect residents.

* Adding to the charter’s Preamble a statement of citizens principles and goals for the document.

Councilman David Marks, R-5, who represents Perry Hall and Towson and initiated the bill to create the Charter Review Commission, has also raised other issues for consideration. They include:

* Increasing the size of the council from seven members to nine. Because of population growth, part-time council members now represent about 115,000 constituents each, which is more than the number represented by state delegates. Some have argued it would be cheaper to fund additional staff members to existing council member offices.

* Allowing council members to work in state or federal jobs. Marks, who once worked for the state Department of Transportation, argues that it would broaden the field of people running for the council. Others question whether if could become a problem if a council member is faced with choosing between county or state interests.

* Implementing term limits. Right now there are no limits for council members, which potentially means less turnover on the council.

Information about past charter changes, the 11 appointees to the review commission and minutes of most of its meetings are posted on the county website at under Boards and Commissions.

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Ateaze kicks off 50th anniversary celebration by hiding golden rocks

Ateaze kicks off 50th anniversary celebration by hiding golden rocks
A variety of golden rocks have been placed around Dundalk. Photo courtesy of Beckie Ebert.

(Updated 6/14/17)

- By Marge Neal -

No one can say the Ateaze Senior Center doesn’t keep up with trends.

To celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary, club members are jumping on the Dundalk Rocks bandwagon and channeling the spirit of Willy Wonka at the same time.

Fifty gold-painted rocks have been hidden throughout the community, with a label on the back identifying them as Ateaze rocks and instructions on how to claim a prize packet, according to center director Beckie Ebert.

“We heard about the Dundalk Rocks project and we wanted to participate,” Ebert said in a phone interview. “With our 50th anniversary celebration coming up, it just seemed to fit.”

All golden rock finders will receive a prize. Several extra prize packs were made in case some of the treasures are re-hidden by the original finder, Ebert said.

“They must post a photo of the rock or bring it in to claim their prize but we’re prepared if the same rock is found more than once,” Ebert said.

The Ateaze golden rock project kicked off a publicity campaign to alert the public to the center’s free golden anniversary celebration set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 24, at the center, 7401 Holabird Ave.

“We’re putting out a lot of money on our celebration so we’d like a lot of people there,” Ebert said. “We hope the rocks being found in the community gets people excited to come to our event.”

Golden rock finders can collect their prizes at the festival, according to Ebert.

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Bevins hosts STEM fair, announces winners

Bevins hosts STEM fair, announces winners
Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) held the seventh annual Sixth District STEM Fair Awards Ceremony at Parkville High School on May 31. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 6/14/17)

Sixth District County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins held her seventh annual STEM fair on Wednesday, May 31, at Parkville High School.

The fair recognizes exceptional fourth- and fifth-grade students involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs at elementary schools in her district. The winners from the fair are as follows:

Elmwood Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Aethan Logatoc, Francis Paloma, Samantha Maramag, Chloe Edano

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Rachel Pacis, Laelah Lewis-Amis, Jolene Pham

Fullerton Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Allen Lin, Josiah Charles-Alleyne, Gavin Little
 * 2nd place: Hollie Harlow, Cole Burns, Maliyah Pringle, Andrea Green

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Mikko Persia, Cadence Scott, Angela Chen, Anthony Copes
 * 2nd place: Matthew Goad, Chloe Wilson, Ricky Owens, Owen Peer, Makenzie Munk

Glenmar Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Victor Orellena, Dillion Hopkins, Bryan Alvarez, Leon Johnson
 * 2nd place: Christian DeJesus, Mya Dixon, Talia Brown

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Makia Lewis, Adedayo Adedeji
 * 2nd place: Alvin Nwalor, Daniyal Ahmad, Scott Umberger

Halstead Academy
Fourth Grade Winners: N/A

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Brooklyn Hairston-Neverdon, Lyric Monk, Martha Onyilokwu
 * 2nd place: Sahara Charlton, Allen Walker, Anaija Watford

Hawthorne Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Madison Thompson
 * 2nd place: Kyle Morgan

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Joslyn Tharp, Emma Brooks

Martin Boulevard Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Parker Goldstraw, Landon Williams
 * 2nd place: Dylan Davis

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Karlin Fertig
​ * 2nd place: Ariana Wiggins

Oliver Beach Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Ethan Howard
 * 2nd place: Michael Amaral

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Sarah Briggs, Elise Meyers
 * 2nd place: Rhiley Baugher, Madalyn Cardarelli

Orems Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Jayden Simmons, Allison Oats, Sydney Szczepaniak, George Czyia
 * 2nd place: Wesley McNeal, Nora Karsche, Janaya Nauman, Johnny Regalado

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Luke Wanless, Denver Dettmer, Kevin Goedeke, James Mowery
 * 2nd place: Dakota Heckler, Ellie Struble, Salvador Sanchez, Baraka Kaguamba

Redhouse Run Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Ava Boyd
 * 2nd place: Collin Stark

Fifth Grade Winners: N/A

Seneca Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Josie Torsani
 * 2nd place: Jack O’Conner

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Juliana Mills
 * 2nd place: Faith Olabsisi, Excellence Aregbesola

Shady Spring Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners: N/A

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Adim Ani, Michael Muchai
 * 2nd place: Ahmad Chaudhry, Kobe Keomany, Precious Morris-Adiegwu

Victory Villa Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Chidima Emekekwue, Abby Johnson, Joceline Hernandez, Shanya Smith

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Madison Pack

Villa Cresta Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Ethan Lewis
 * 2nd place: Emily Heller

Fifth Grade Winners:
​ * 1st place: Shelly Callender
 * 2nd place: Greyson Robinette

Vincent Farm Elementary School
Fourth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Drew Noll
 * 2nd place: Franchesca Badrina

Fifth Grade Winners:
 * 1st place: Dakota Demosiuk, Sophia Clark
 * 2nd place: Sydney Huber, Magdalen Ruth, Ella Sotaski

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Immigration bill tabled by County Council

Immigration bill tabled by County Council
Although a sponsor of the initial bill, Republican Councilman David Marks (right) voted with the majority to table it. Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (center), a Democrat, also voted to table the legislation. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 6/7/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Legislation that would have seen some Baltimore County Department of Corrections officers undergo federal training to take part in the Immigration and Customs Enforecment’s (ICE) 287(g) program was effectively killed in the Baltimore County Council on Monday night, June 5, as the council voted 5 - 2 to table the bill.

The four Democrats on the council were joined by Republican Councilman David Marks (R-5) in voting to table the legislation. County bills have a shelf life of 45 days, and the County Council will not meet again before that time is up. Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), the bill’s chief sponsor, said he plans to meet with members of the council before re-introducing the bill in the fall.

Crandell was joined by fellow Republican Wade Kach (R-3) in voting against tabling the bill. Marks, who co-sponsored the bill with Crandell and Kach, said that he voted to table the bill after “the County Council was not allowed to vote on three amendments that would have greatly strengthened this legislation.”

“Most importantly, we needed an audit to make sure that this program was actually being implemented and in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Marks.

Marks added that the program “should have focused on those with the most serious criminal offenses.”

The 287(g) program has been in existence in some form since 1996. Crandell stated at the council’s work session for the bill on May 30 that he viewed it as a “very simple way to codify our involvement with ICE.”

“It’s a matter of public safety,” Crandell added. “It’s also important to recognize what the program is not. It is not about Baltimore County police pulling people over based on racial profiling. The bill as it stands does not ask the police to do anything. It doesn’t add to overtime, it doesn’t add to anything Department of Corrections officials aren’t already doing.”

Councilman Julian Jones (D-4) questioned whether the bill served any practical purpose before reiterating Crandell’s point that the Department of Corrections already notifies ICE when they have a prisoner who is in the United States illegally.

Crandell called into question the assertion that ICE has been receiving notifications in a timely manner, but that assertion was rebuffed by Baltimore County attorney Michael Field.

Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) first asked Field if Baltimore County is considered a sanctuary jurisdiction. Field responded that Baltimore County is not considered a sanctuary jurisdiction, per President Donald Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order that outlined the definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction.

“I’ve never heard of anybody accusing the county of refusing to convey information to ICE or receive information from ICE,” said Field.

Field also noted that ICE receives a daily report from Baltimore County’s Department of Corrections that outlines who is being detained and why they are being detained, as well as immigration status.

Bevins pointed out that the Baltimore City jail, which falls under the purview of Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, does not participate in the 287(g) program. The councilwoman was also quick to note that costs would fall to the county, not to the federal government.

“Passing bill 32-17 would just add a costly extra layer of federal bureaucracy on the Baltimore County Detention Center,” Bevins said in a statement. “The funds to implement this program would not come from the federal government but would rather come from Baltimore County’s budget. That is an expensive proposition considering the Department of Corrections already successfully works with ICE to enforce federal immigration laws. Additionally, if forced to participate in the 287(g) program and any and all future changes and mandates, the Department of Corrections would be put under a tremendous burden that in my opinion would not improve outcomes or make Baltimore County safer.”

When Bevins brought up the issue of cost at the work session, Crandell stated that he was happy to have the program audited after a few months to see what the cost to the county is.

At the County Council session on Monday night, Marks stated that he would like to try it as a pilot program. But he also noted Tuesday that, if the legislation had passed, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz would have oversight of the program’s implementation, as the county executive oversees the Department of Corrections.

“If you support screening for illegal immigration, do you trust Kevin Kamenetz to do it? Because I think we should have audits, accountability and oversight if this program is put in place,” Marks said.
He stated that he and his constituents “want a bill that works,” but that the proposal in its current form left some room for concern.

The bill had little chance of making it through the County Council, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans. And even if a Democrat had flipped, the bill would have still needed one more Democrat backer to override a veto from Kamenetz. Kamenetz stated multiple times leading up to the vote that he would have used a veto had the bill come across his desk.

“The Republican council bill was more about bringing [President] Donald Trump’s divisive politics to our county than doing what is best for our residents,” Kamenetz said. “I’m glad the council didn’t move forward with this legislation.”

The work session proved to be somewhat contentious, with over 50 people signed up to provide public input. Of those that spoke, approximately 60 percent were against the implementation of 287(g) while 40 percent voiced support for Crandell’s proposed bill. The public input portion of the meeting lasted nearly two hours.

Nick Steiner, an ACLU attorney from Catonsville, voiced his opposition to the bill, claiming that such legislation is less about public safety and more about discrimination. He noted that 80 percent of those flagged by ICE in Frederick County‘s jail - one of two Maryland jurisdictions to implement the program - had committed minor offenses.

“Let’s be clear on what this bill is: It is a part of a broader political climate to target immigrants,” Steiner said.

Others, including Catonsville resident Peina Shr, expressed frustration with the County Council. She stated that those who come to America through the proper channels, as she did, have nothing to fear.

“We are against illegal immigrants,” she said. “I don’t appreciate people who come here illegally.”

Crandell echoed those sentiments.

“It’s not about deportation, it’s about due process of law,” he said. “And I’m not sure when we got to the point in our country when we said it’s ok to break the law.”

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Dundalk time capsule appears to have done some time traveling

Dundalk time capsule appears to have done some time traveling
Dan Minnick holding a menu for his former restaurant pulled from the capsule. Photo courtesy of Angel Ball.

(Updated 6/7/17)

- By Marge Neal - 

Dundalk’s mysterious time capsule, with its instructions not to be opened until May 30, 2017, has been opened.

But while its contents have been duly unveiled and celebrated, much of the mystery surrounding the box and its genesis remains.

Members of the community gathered Friday, June 2, at the Sparrows Point Country Club to celebrate the centennial of the creation of downtown Dundalk and to witness the opening of the wooden box with a metal plaque attached to its top that stated, “Do not open until May 30, 2017. Contains semi-centennial celebration material.”

The 50th anniversary of the creation of downtown Dundalk was celebrated with events in 1967-68, according to newspaper clippings.

Members of the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society and Museum discovered the box stashed away in a far corner of shelf storage space in the museum’s basement, according to member Shirley Gregory. It came to the society some years ago by way of the Community College of Baltimore County, which apparently had custody of it for some time, she said.

Combing through old copies of the Community Press, the Dundalk newspaper of the time, members found an article that described a copper box that would be installed in the new war memorial being built at what is now called Veterans Park but was known as Dundalk Park in 1967, according to Gregory.

The article also appealed to members of the community to submit letters containing the names and relevant military information about residents who had died in combat.

When the wood box was opened June 2, it was found to contain the copper box described in the Community Press article.

In addition to old newspaper clippings, Memorial Day parade programs and Dundalk Company brochures advertising the new homes being built in what is now known as Old Dundalk, the box contained the still-sealed letters memorializing the war dead, submitted by residents as requested by time capsule organizers at the time.

“We did not open them,” Gregory said. “We haven’t finally decided, but tentatively, the plan is to give the letters to the American Legion to open on Veterans Day.”

Curiously, the box also contained Memorial Day parade programs dated as recently as 1979, and it’s unclear whether the contents were gathered and sealed considerably after 1967 or if it was opened after being sealed to add items.

Society President Jean Walker believes someone had the box at their home and opened it at some point to add items.

“It’s still a mystery,” she said.

Historical society member Debbi Zimmerman thought the contents of the box “were a little disappointing” after all the hype leading up to the opening of the capsule.

“To me, the most interesting things were the menus from Minnick’s and the Brentwood Inn,” the 1971 Dundalk High School graduate said. “I remember going to the Brentwood after my senior prom.”

Dan Minnick, former owner of Minnick’s Restaurant and a former delegate representing Dundalk, attended the celebration and a picture of him holding the menu from his now-closed pub was posted on social media.

Historical society members will inventory the items found in the box, and are also busy planning a subsequent memory box to be sealed and opened in 2067, according to Gregory.

“We have a couple of teenagers on the committee and we’re looking for more,” she said. “That way, they will be around in 50 years to be able to tell the story of this capsule.”

They also plan to install a plaque at the museum to alert future members to the existence of the capsule to be opened 50 years from now.

“We want to leave a trail so it doesn’t get lost, so that people know about it,” Gregory said. “We think putting a plaque on the wall might be the best way to do that.”

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Sixth installment of Rockin’ on the River a wild success

Sixth installment of Rockin’ on the River a wild success
Rockin’ on the River veterans Kanye Twitty (pictured above) played a raucous set on Sunday afternoon at Rockin’ on the River in front of its largest crowd yet. Rockin’ on the River has now raised approximately $120,000 for charity over six years. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 6/7/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

For the sixth straight year, thousands descended upon the beautiful Conrad’s Ruth Villa to partake in Rockin’ on the River. And for the sixth straight year, the festival delivered in style.

Five bands - Rising Tide, Kanye Twitty, Awaken, Strait Shooter and Marshall Law - took the stage on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and all five acts kept the crowd moving as they worked their way through their respective sets.

For Rockin’ on the River founder Don Crockett, this year’s installment was something special.

“Somehow it just seems to get better every year,” said an elated Crockett. “This was, no question, the biggest crowd we’ve ever had. And everyone seemed to be having the time of their life.”

While Crockett was more than pleased with the performances from the acts, he was even more pleased that this year’s gathering pushed Rockin’ on the River over the $100,000 milestone with regard to money raised for local charities over the last six years. The numbers aren’t quite set yet, but Crockett said he expects the total amount to reach approximately $120,000 when all is said and done.

What started out as a festival to bring the community together for a day of fun has shifted a bit in recent years. While the music is the main draw, the effect of the festival cannot be overstated.

Last year, half of the funds raised went to the Back River Restoration Committee (BRRC), and they used that money to fund a summer internship program for environmental students. This year, a generous donor fully-funded that program, so the money the BRRC receives from Rockin’ on the River will go toward purchasing a mini excavator to help remove larger items from Back River.

“People have to understand that all that money, it’s a big shot in the arm for the BRRC,” said BRRC President Sam Weaver. “To have an event of that size with that impact, it’s so important. The people had a great time, and the big, whole $10 they spent goes to cleaning up the bay.”

This past legislative session, Delegate Bob Long had a bill passed and signed into law that will allow the Department of Natural Resources to adopt regulations for the removal of abandoned or sunken vessels. Previously, Weaver and his team were unable to do anything about those vessels, but with the passage of Long’s bill, coupled with the imminent purchase of a mini excavator, the BRRC will be able to begin to tackle the issue.

“We can’t handle that stuff with the equipment we have now,” said Weaver.

Given the charitable spirit of the day, it should come as no surprise that, yet again, there were no issues with fights or anything of that nature. Considering the spirits imbibed at the event, it’s refreshing to Crockett that he doesn’t have to worry about that.

“I’m proud of the fact that year after year we’re able to put on a family-friendly event without any incidents,” said Crockett. “Part of that is the security team, part of it is the general vibe cultivated by the bands.”

Crockett praised Rob Baier of  Starliegh Entertainment (and Kanye Twitty) for assembling a set that never fails to deliver.

“We always try to get in some new acts each year, and each year Starleigh delivers,” said Crockett. “The five acts that we had this year, from opener Rising Tide to closing act Marshall Law, really kept the energy up and kept things going.”

From classic rock hits like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” to more modern hits like “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars, the bands covered all conceivable ground. And in between sets the crowd had DJ Jon Boesche of 106.5 to keep things light. Of course, there were plenty of giveaways throughout the day as well.

When asked why they attended the festival, most people the East County Times spoke with had the same response - “We don’t want to miss this party.”

While the mood of the afternoon was largely celebratory, a moment of silence was held for Jack Deckelman, a man known widely in east Baltimore County for his work on the waterways, who passed away last year.

“Jack was a great man who touched a lot of lives, and we owed it to him to show the respect he deserves,” said Crockett.

Crockett also confirmed to the East County Times that next year’s installment will take place the first weekend of June.

“I’d like to have some time off, but that’s not realistic. We’ve alerady started planning for next year,” Crockett said.

He also noted that he is looking for charities that could use a little extra funding. Last year, money from Rockin’ on the River went to charitable organizations like Shop With A Cop, the Baltimore County PAR Fund, Franklin Square and more. Charitable organizations looking for a boost can send information to All applications will be considered by the Rockin’ on the River Committee.

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Sixth District Democratic delegate candidate Mioduszewski ‘in it to win it’

Sixth District Democratic delegate candidate Mioduszewski ‘in it to win it’
Megan Ann Mioduszewski.

(Updated 6/7/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Megan Ann Mioduszewski already has one “first” accomplished in her campaign to get elected to the Maryland House of Delegates next year.

The first candidate from Legislative District 6 to officially file with the Maryland State Board of Elections, Mioduszewski now has her eye set on two more firsts - to top the ballots in the 2018 primary and general elections.

The district’s three incumbent delegates - all Republicans - have each filed for reelection as well.

“I’m in this race to win it and I’m in it to stay,” the Democratic candidate told the East County Times in an interview June 2. “But I’m not in this for me or to express my views. I‘m running to make sure someone in office represents what the district needs and wants.”

Mioduszewski, 22, graduated last month from Stevenson University with a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science. She believes her two passions - medicine and politics - will serve the Sixth District well.

With the health insurance debate on national and state stages, the Sinai Hospital employee believes she will bring a knowledge of health care issues to the local political table that others might not be able to provide.

Though young in years, Mioduszewski already has one successful political campaign to her credit. She was elected to the Democratic State Central Committee for the district in 2014. In addition to her tenure on the state central committee - she co-chairs the fairs and festival committee and pitches in on a variety of projects and efforts - she also is a member of the Heritage Parade Committee, volunteers with Gold Invite (an organization serving children with cancer) and supports local animal rescue efforts.

She is the third generation of her family to get involved in local politics, serving alongside father Mike Mioduszewski Sr. on the local central committee, and her grandfather, David “Ski” Mioduszewski, is a member of the Seventh District’s Democratic central committee.

At this early stage in the campaign, with no declared Democratic opponents, Mioduszewski is making the community rounds, attending political club and community organization meetings and neighborhood special events, mainly to listen to residents. She said she wants to hear first-hand the issues residents are most concerned about so she can research those problems and formulate a platform based upon constituent concerns and possible solutions.

She’s holding her first fundraiser later this month and she’s currently looking for a campaign manager.

“I’m still working on figuring out what this district is most concerned about,” she said. “I’ve lived here all my life and I know there are many ways we need to improve as a community but I want to hear that from our residents.”

The Dundalk native attended Bear Creek Elementary and Parkville Middle schools before graduating from Dundalk High in 2013. She also completed the allied health program at Sollers Point Technical High.

As an environmentalist, Mioduszewski said she is concerned about the amount of local dumping that feeds trash into local waterways. In the political realm, she supports term limitations and campaign finance reform.

She believes too many state legislators champion bills that are self-serving or give the perception of involving conflicts of interest and said she wants to become an elected leader who will put her constituents and their needs first.

“I know this isn’t going to be easy,” she said of the race. “I’ve already had many people tell me I’m too young and, believe it or not, I’ve had people tell me to my face that we don’t need any women to run.”

Mioduszewski said she grew up with parents who encouraged her to listen to all sides of a story to be the most informed she could be on any issue. She also learned to have thick skin and to stand up for herself.

“I’m going to give this race my all and I’ll let the negative stuff roll off my back,” she said. “I believe I have something to offer the community and I’d be honored to have the chance to work for the area I grew up in and love.”

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Baltimore County prepares for active hurricane season

(Updated 6/7/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

The Atlantic hurricane season is officially underway, and residents of eastern Baltimore County know just how devastating this season can be.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and other government officials stopped by the Bowleys Quarters Volunteer Fire Department last Thursday, June 1, to make the public aware of the importance of emergency preparedness.

“We all remember [Hurricane] Isabel, which caused significant flooding right here in Bowleys Quarters, and along our entire Baltimore County waterfront,” Kamenetz said. “It’s still fresh in our minds, even if your house wasn’t flooded. We all experienced blackouts for days.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including two to four major hurricanes. A “major hurricane” is defined by winds 111 mph or higher. An average season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. So this season could be more active than normal.

Kamenetz stated that emergency personnel have the best equipment available, and the Baltimore County government agencies will be working in conjunction to help county citizens through whatever Mother Nature throws our way.

“In Baltimore County we take storm preparedness seriously and we train all year long for these emergency threats,” Kamenetz said. “We provide our first responders with the best equipment that’s available, but also the best training. We work together with neighboring jurisdictions, and when an emergency threatens us here in the county it’s all hands on deck.”

Aside from highlighting the importance of proper equipment, Kamenetz also plugged the county’s Emergency Management Twitter feed, @BACOemergency, which provides citizens with the latest storm and other updates. He also plugged the county’s new Stormfighter web page which allows people to self-report storm-related issues.

The Stormfighter page allows county officials access to real-time visual data to assist the Department of Public Works and emergency managers in responding to localized emergencies. Kamenetz noted that this type of reporting will help emergency managers figure out the scope of an issue, such as power outages or water main breaks.

Kamenetz and other officials also encouraged citizens to plan for the worst. That means stocking up on water and food, as well as making sure prescriptions are full. They also stressed checking up on neighbors, especially those who are elderly, live alone or struggle with a disability.

And, of course, it isn’t just people that need to be worried about hurricane season. All too often an emergency hits and people don’t have plans for their pets.

Besides setting aside food and water for their pets, county officials also recommend citizens put together a supply kit. Health and Human Services Director Dr. Gregory Branch urged citizens to find shelter - whether it be with friends, family or a boarding facility - for their animals before a storm hits, as many shelters won’t accept animals.

“We can keep your pets safe, but we can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to stay with them through the storm,” said Branch.

During certain small-scale emergencies, Baltimore County emergency managers do have the capability to open a “pet friendly” shelter at Eastern Technical High School in Essex. This shelter allows pet owners to bring leashed and crated dogs, cats and other pets weighing less than 80 pounds (excluding exotic pets). The animals are not allowed to intermingle with human evacuees in order to protect citizens with pet allergies or a fear of animals. They will be housed elsewhere on the school site, and pet owners will be able to visit and care for them.

A supply kit for your pet is a must if you need to take your pet to a pet-friendly shelter. The kit will help you if you need to evacuate but also in case you need to get through an emergency - such as a hurricane - which is a far more likely scenario. The kit should include:

* A leash and a carrier. A pet friendly shelter will require your animal to be leashed or crated. The pet carrier should be large enough for the animal to stand up and turn around in. You should familiarize your pet with the carrier before you need to utilize it during an emergency.

* Pet identification. Your pet should wear an identification tag, license and rabies tag.

* Contact information and a photo of you and your pet. The county’s Animal Services will require these.

* At least three days worth of food and plenty of extra water.

* Extra medications, if your pet takes them. If your pet has a special diet, discuss with your veterinarian what to pack.

*Make sure your pet’s vaccinations and medical records are written and up-to-date. Most boarding facilities require proof of current rabies and distemper vaccinations. Have documentation of medications with dosing instructions and name and phone number of the veterinarian who dispensed the drugs.

* Your pet should be licensed, as required by county law. And consider micro-chipping; you can have your pet micro-chipped at the Animal Services in Baldwin or at a veterinary hospital.

Though first responders are here to help pet owners and their animals, pet owners need to take responsibility for their animals by planning how they will care for them during an emergency.

Other recommendations from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency include:

* Stock up on newspapers, plastic bags, cleanser and disinfectants to properly handle pet waste.

* Stock up on dry pet food. This type of food is generally unpalatable and will prevent overeating.

* Get non-spill food and water bowls.

In the event of disaster or evacuation, you need to take special precautions for your livestock (including horses and other pleasure animals) and fowl. Here are some resources for farmers:

* The Center for Agro-Security and Emergency Management is a collaborative effort between University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Maryland Department of Agriculture to coordinate communication and education efforts for the agricultural community to insure the agricultural and food security of the state and the nation.

More information can be found online at

Martin Farm townhouse project advances

Martin Farm townhouse project advances
This concept drawing of the proposed Martin Farm plan shows the property's location along Rossville Boulevard in Rosedale immediately east of its crossing of I-95. Image courtesy of Klein Enterprises.

(Updated 6/7/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Plans for 77 townhouses known as the Martin Farm project in Rosedale generated some questions and comments but no significant opposition at a public meeting last week.

Traffic on Rossville Boulevard is already fast and heavy and adding more could be a problem, commented one woman at the community input meeting for the project on Wednesday, May 31, at the Boumi Temple which was attended by three people.

An access road to and from the 12-acre former farm at the southwest corner of Rossville and Interstate 95 would connect to the existing signalized intersection on Rossville at the entrance to the Community College of Baltimore County-Essex campus.

A study will be done to predict the expected increase in traffic, and changes can be made if necessary to the phasing and timing of the traffic light, said representatives of the developer, Klein Enterprises.

Planned for the Martin Farm site are 52 units with one-car garages and 25 units with two-car garages. The plan includes noise barriers between townhouses close to Rossville and I-95.

Klein is also developing the adjacent Overlook at Franklin Square complex of 356 high-end apartments now under construction just south of Martin Farm.

Access to the 25-acre site will be via an extension of Franklin Square Drive west across Rossville Boulevard that will also serve the existing Ridge Road Medical Center offices bordering the new apartments.

The extension, which includes a median, will bisect existing Ridge Road.

As a result, Ridge Road north of the extension will become one way going north, while Ridge Road south of the extension will continue to serve the Fuller Medical Center, the Evangel Cathedral church  and existing houses on Trumps Mill Road.

One woman at the input meeting said she is concerned about truck damage during construction.

“There are 10-wheelers sitting on Trumps Mill coming out of Deerborne,” she said. “My daughter had to move over and two tires busted.”

Klein representatives offered to help her contact a county agency about the problem.

Also in the works in the immediate area are 64 townhouses being developed by Sage Homes to complete the Point at Deerborne project off Trumps Mill Road which was interrupted by the economic recession.

Now that the community input meeting for Martin Farm is over, Klein Enterprises has 12 months to submit a detailed development plan to Baltimore County’s reviewing agencies.

That will be followed by a public hearing before a county administrative law judge who will also accept citizen input and either approve, reject or apply conditions to the development plan.

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Update: Middle River Depot tax bill paid in full

Update: Middle River Depot tax bill paid in full
The main building on the depot property has been largely unused since the current owner purchased it in 2007, despite a major redevelopment plan for the entire site on file with Baltimore County. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 6/6/17)

- By Devin Crum -

After being included on Baltimore County’s list of properties with delinquent tax debts, the owner of the former Federal Depot, 2800 Eastern Blvd. in Middle River, has paid the balance.

The depot, which was purchased for $37.5 million in 2007 and has an assessed value of $9.1 million, had an unpaid tax bill of $194,210.94 for the period between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017. The owner risked the property being sold at auction if the balance remained unpaid.

However, an employee in the county’s Office of Budget and Finance said records showed the balance had been paid in full shortly after the East County Times went to press with its article on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 23. A receipt obtained by the Times showed the amount was credited on Thursday, May 25.

The depot site consists of a nearly 2 million-square-foot storage warehouse built in 1941 on roughly 51 acres of land near the intersection of Eastern Boulevard and MD-43/White Marsh Boulevard.

Five separate properties owned by C.P. Crane LLC, which include the C.P. Crane coal-fired power plant in Bowleys Quarters, had also been included on the county’s list for unpaid taxes but have now been removed and their balances paid in full, according to county records.

The property tax bills for the C.P. Crane properties totalled $28,628.11, but records showed the bill for the smallest of the five properties was paid on May 22, while the bills for the remaining four were paid on May 25.

Also intially included but now removed from the tax sale list is the building in the 500-block of Eastern Blvd. in Essex, known as the former site of the Essex A&P grocery store and a massive fire which gutted the structure in 1957.

The building, now owned by Allentown, Pa.-based 8725 Acquisitions, LLC, currently houses the East County Times offices.

The owner had accumulated an unpaid bill of $19,480.74 on the property which is assessed a value of about $2.7 million, but county records showed that all but $235.15 had been paid on May 25. The remaining balance was still outstanding as of Wednesday, May 31.

Other notable east-side properties remaining on the tax sale list with unpaid balances after the May 26 deadline to pay include the property occupied by Silver Spring Mining Company in Perry Hall ($21,870.66), the Big Falls Inn in White Marsh ($11,264.70), Skipjacks Crab House in Fullerton ($19,957.45), the Oliver Beach Hub in Middle River ($10,338.29) and the main building of the Essex Gateway shopping center ($12,304.90) which is occupied by a ZIPS Dry Cleaners, an Easyhome Furnishings store and a 7-Eleven.

Each tax bill remained unpaid as of Thursday, June 1, and will be subject to tax sale the following day, June 2.

The owner of a property sold for taxes has six months from the date of the sale to redeem the property or a foreclosure action for nonpayment of taxes can be filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

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Fort Howard Memorial Day service remembers fallen sons 

Fort Howard Memorial Day service remembers fallen sons 
PHES students assisted with placing the wreath on the monument at the base of the school’s flag pole. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 5/31/17)

Perry Hall Elementary students learn history of the holiday

- By Marge Neal -

The somber tone of a bell tolled for each name called:

Sgt. Melvin Fryer.
Second Lt. Kauko Leino.
Pvt. Ernest V. Kessler.
Pvt. Joseph M. Darchicourt.
Pvt. Joseph Dudek.
Sgt. William A. Weis Jr.
Pvt. James H. Hubbard.
Leopold J. H. Rogers.
Joseph B. Beyers.

Members of the Fort Howard community and beyond gathered Monday, May 29, at Fort Howard Veterans Park to remember the seven men who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II as well as two founding members of Independent Order of Odd Fellows North Point Lodge 4 who perished in World War I.

The lodge has held a Memorial Day service for more than 50 years, according to member Dennis Brown, who served as master of ceremonies for the somber occasion.

The Odd Fellows serve as custodian of a World War II monument that recognizes 151 community members who served in WWII and memorializes the seven men who didn’t return home to their families.

Built with donations received from a door-to-door campaign, the monument was originally installed on the campus of the old Fort Howard School. It now serves as the centerpiece in the park created after the school was torn down.

While the monument pays homage to those who served in WWII, the North Point Peninsula has a rich history when it comes to citizens defending their country, from the days of the American revolution to the current war on terrorism.

Carolyn Mroz, president of Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site, reminded the crowd of the role citizen soldiers from the community played in the Battle of North Point during the War of 1812.

“The War of 1812 kind of got buried in our history,” she said at the event. “We need to tell the story and we’ve started.”

The historic homestead, which volunteers have been working to restore for about 20 years, now has the first floor completely renovated and is stocked with exhibits that tell many different stories about life on the peninsula, according to Mroz.

Lodge member Joe Labuda told the story of the Maryland 400, a group of soldiers called in by George Washington when American troops were being beaten badly by the British during the Battle of Long Island.

Despite the name, there were fewer than 400 soldiers in the group and while they were able to hold back the British long enough to allow Washington’s men to retreat to Manhattan, the Maryland 400 paid the price.

“When noses were counted the next day, there were 10 men left,” Labuda said. “They weren’t all killed; about 190 were killed and the rest were taken prisoner and held on a ship in the New York harbor for the rest of the battle.”

Col. James Davis, commander of the garrison at Aberdeen Proving Ground, read the poem, “In Flanders Field” to open his remarks.

“Memorial Day is not just about backyard barbecues, the latest sale at the mall or the unofficial start of summer,” he told the crowd after reading the famous poem. “We gather to honor the ultimate sacrifices made by so many.”

After acknowledging the sacrifice of Gold Star families who have lost a loved one to conflict, he reminded the audience to leave their flags at half-staff until noon and encouraged them to participate in a moment of silence and remembrance at 3 p.m.

The National Moment of Remembrance was created by Congress in 2000. The mid-afternoon time was selected with the thought that many people would be enjoying family time or attending professional sporting events and other events, according to online records. Major League Baseball games halt for a moment of silence at 3 p.m., while hundreds of Amtrak trains blast their whistles in remembrance.

The Rev. Don Warner Jr., pastor of Edgemere’s Penwood Christian Church, delivered the invocation and benediction for the ceremony.

He noted that two men listed on the monument are still living: his father, Don Warner Sr., and Nevin Gintling. He introduced his father, who attended the event, and the audience responded with a spontaneous standing ovation.

The younger Warner, choked up with emotion, told the crowd that Gintling “is doing about as well as can be expected and he is in our thoughts and prayers.”

And while many speakers reminded the crowd about the somber reason for the holiday, after the final bell tolled for the fallen sons of Fort Howard, the crowd was invited back to the lodge for a cookout.

“I hope I told them to start cooking,” MC Brown joked. “I knew there was something else I was supposed to do.”

On Friday morning, May 26, at Perry Hall Elementary School, students and faculty gathered in front of the school to honor those who sacrificed their lives. They were joined by State Senator Kathy Klausmeier, Perry Hall Improvement Association President Jack Amrhein and others to learn about the history of the day and what the students can do to honor those who paved the way for the freedoms we cherish.

Amrhein suggested to those in attendance that they engage in Red Shirt Fridays as a way to honor those who are deployed. Red was chosen as it’s an acronym for “remember everyone deployed.”

“We need to remember those who are deployed because they sacrifice so much, sometimes including their lives,” Amrhein said. “And that’s what brings us here this weekend, remembering those...who gave their lives in service of this country.”

He noted that while the holiday brings sadness remembering those who gave up their lives, we should be happy that they lived and “gave up everything so that we could carry on with our way of life, and be happy and free everyday.”

Klausmeier echoed Amrhein’s sentiments, encouraging the students to go home and learn about those who gave their lives. She added that they should reach out to family members and neighbors who have served.

“Maybe you’ll run into [a veteran], and if you do, you can run up and give them a big hug and say ‘Thank you for your service,’” Klausmeier said.

The celebration concluded with a moment of silence as a wreath was laid at the foot of the school’s flagpole out front.

Patrick Taylor contributed to this article.

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‘Dundalk Rocks’ spreads igneous acts of kindness

‘Dundalk Rocks’ spreads igneous acts of kindness
Laura Quintano, Tiffany Lockemy and Angel Ball have gone full bore into the Dundalk Rocks trend, painting and placing the stones all around different communities. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 5/31/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Imagine the squeal of glee from a young child who has just found an unexpected treasure. Or the ear-to-ear smile as the little explorer holds up his or her newly found prize. Or the more subtle smile of a senior citizen who finds a gift on top of the local mailbox.

Such are the rewards for participants in a trending crafts project of painting and hiding rocks for others to find.

Following in the footsteps of similar projects across the state and nation, two Dundalk women have launched “Dundalk Rocks” as a chapter of the The Kindness Project and are inviting everyone to participate.

“I saw a Facebok page created by another group and I immediately thought, ‘I love Dundalk; we should do this for Dundalk,’” local business owner Tiffany Lockemy said. “So I called Laura [Quintano] and she said, ‘I love it.’”

Lockemy owns Zallies Boutique and Quintano owns Little Crystal Bijoux in the historic Dundalk Village Shopping Center in the heart of Old Dundalk.

Both admittedly “artistic” types, the women immediately decided to create Dundalk Rocks and started spreading a little unexpected happiness and kindness around town, one painted rock at a time.

Lockemy started a Dundalk Rocks Facebook page to get the word out about the project and has been amazed at how quickly folks have joined. In less than two weeks, the new Facebook community had grown to 861 members, as of May 30.

“We’ve been posting and sharing to the page and it just keeps growing and growing and growing,” she said.

The concept of the project is simple. Participants paint small rocks and then hide them around a particular community. The rocks can be decorated with cartoon characters, made to look like bugs, painted solid colors or be inscribed with an inspirational word or phrase.

Rock artists are asked to label the back of each rock with Dundalk Rocks Facebook, where the finder can get more information on the project.

Angel Ball, property manager of Dunmanway Apartments and a former Dundalk Citizen of the Year, jumped on the bandwagon and strong-armed her husband, Nick, to get involved as well.

“And now he’s obsessed,” she said with a laugh. “He paints rocks every chance he gets and doesn’t want to stop.”

A portion of the family’s dining room table has become a semi-permanent rock painting station, with rocks, paints and brushes stowed at one end and room for the couple and their daughter to eat meals at the other end.

A rock finder has several options open to them when they find one of the little gems, according to Ball.

“If you find a rock you absolutely love, then keep it,” she said. “But we ask that you find a rock and paint it and then hide it to spread the kindness out again.”

The person can also take a photo of the found rock and post it to the Facebook page and then re-hide the rock for someone else to discover.

In the short time that Dundalk Rocks has existed, participation has exploded out of the gate. Girl Scout troops, church groups, community organizations and individual families are all getting in on the kindness action.

Over Memorial Day weekend, picnickers, walkers, bikers and shoppers reported finding rocks decorated in patriotic themes. Two rocks, one emblazoned with the word “hope,” found their way to the base of the World War II monument at Fort Howard Veterans Park.

Folks from Essex, Middle River, Hamilton and Harford County have expressed an interest in spreading the effort to their own communities, which is just what organizers hoped for, according to Facebook conversations.

While there are no rules or regulations and participants are free to exercise their creative muscles, Dundalk Rocks organizers do ask that people use common sense when hiding rocks.

“We ask that people don’t put rocks in the grass at a park; we don’t want the lawn mowers to hit them,” Ball said.

Organizers suggest not putting rocks on private property, on cars or inside retail stores.

“And don’t put them in the middle of a step when someone could fall,” Lockemy said. “Tuck them away in a corner if you put them on steps.”

The rock painters have placed many of the small treasures in plain view, on top of posts and mailboxes, on the edges of sidewalks and tucked around trees.

As word spreads, more and more people are participating, either by finding a rock and checking the Facebook page to get more information or by being a creator and hider.

Lockemy has rocks at her shop that she will give to folks who want to participate, and paintable pond and other small rocks are available by the bag at local home supply and garden shops.

On Facebook, artists are trading information on the best types of rocks and paints to use, as well as to spread the word on paint sales.

“It really has become a community in a short time,” Lockemy said. “I’m amazed at how quickly it has grown.”

The benefits of the project seem to be endless. The painter gets to fulfill an artistic need while feeling like Santa Claus at the same time, the finder gets a little bit of joy that could very well brighten an otherwise bad day and everyone feels a little bit better about their community, the organizers believe.

“I’m much more outgoing than my husband and I’m usually the one doing things in the community but he is so into this project,” Ball said. “He was absolutely gushing when he saw a picture posted of a little boy who found a rock he painted.”

“It’s art therapy for the masses,” Quintano said.

So get hunting. It’s finders keepers - or givers. Your choice.

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County budget cuts funding for trash disposal; more trash to be landfilled

County budget cuts funding for trash disposal; more trash to be landfilled
Eastern Sanitary Landfill in White Marsh, seen here from above, is the county's ultimate assurance that it will be able to handle all of its solid waste for the next 10 years, according to the draft Executive Summary of the 2019 - 2028 Solid Waste Management Plan.

(Updated 5/31/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The Baltimore County Council voted last Thursday, May 25, to approve the county’s $3.5 billion Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

Included in that budget was a cut of nearly $3 million to the county’s Refuse Disposal appropriation under the Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Solid Waste Management (SWM).

“There were budget cuts this year to Solid Waste, but only to reduce the transfer tonnage, i.e. the refuse taken out of the county,” said DPW spokeswoman Lauren Watley in an email. “No trash haulers were cut, canceled or terminated which would result in an interruption in normally scheduled trash pickups.”

The budget allocates $33,552,236 specifically for refuse disposal in the county, which is a decrease of $2,990,255 from what was allocated for FY 2017.

SWM Bureau Chief Michael Beichler said there is always “give and take” with the budget and how waste is disposed of in the county, but that the cuts will “absolutely” affect things.

“We’ll be putting more tons in the landfill,” he said, referring to the Eastern Sanitary Landfill in White Marsh, the county’s only operating landfill.

Most of the county’s trash does not go into the landfill, and in fact, one of SWM’s key goals is to minimize the amount of material that is landfilled. This is done largely through increased recycling efforts and the county’s contract with Baltimore City to take at least 215,000 tons of trash each year to the Wheelabrator waste-to-energy facility. As a result, only 12 percent of the county’s residential trash was landfilled in 2015, according to the county government website.

But landfilling can be done at a lower cost since the county owns the site and does not have to pay to have trash hauled elsewhere for disposal. The drawback is that the landfill has a limited capacity.

According to Beichler, ESL has a remaining capacity of about 3.9 million tons, “which we are trying to increase,” he said. He calculated that the added tonnage being put into the landfill in the coming year will decrease its lifespan by 168 days.

And Watley noted that the landfill’s remaining life is now calculated at 34 years, but that it can vary greatly year to year depending on circumstances, budget and policy changes.

“More refuse will be temporarily landfilled, but the cumulative impact is less than half a year of landfill life,” she said.

Projected over ESL’s remaining 34 years, the increase could cut the landfill’s operational life by 15.6 years.

But Beichler stressed that the budget cut is only for this year and one cannot assume that the added tonnage would continue being put in the landfill year after year because the budget changes every year.

“They could decide next year to put nothing in the landfill,” he stated. “It’s a one-year adjustment.

“They decreased the life by 168 days in this budget cycle,” he continued. “If they decide to double the amount they take out next year they could add 30 years of life to it too, which they’ve done in the past.”

Other ways the county can extend the life of its landfill are to prevent as much material from being generated as possible through promotion of conservation practices like grasscycling and home composting, and recycling as much of the generated material as possible.

The county’s website notes that residents can recycle 50 percent or more of what they regularly set out for trash collection.

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Educators hope CCBC/JHU collaboration opens doors for local students

Educators hope CCBC/JHU collaboration opens doors for local students
Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 5/31/17)

- By Marge Neal -

Eight Community College of Baltimore County honors students are about to embark on a summer of study they won’t soon forget.

Thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the students will participate in a summer course at Johns Hopkins University, where they will also experience residential living and enjoy all the amenities and resources the Hopkins campus has to offer.

“This is an amazing opportunity for our students,” Rae Rosenthal, CCBC’s honors program director, said. “They will participate in a 10-week research program while living in a beautiful new building with the latest technology and state-of-the art facilities.”

The selected students will be the inaugural beneficiaries of the three-year, $1.725 million Mellon grant that will fund the “Humanities for All” collaboration between the two schools. CCBC received $980,000 to “enrich the academic experience within the humanities,” according to a statement from the school, while Hopkins will receive $745,000.

The partnership will foster “a more dynamic learning experience and improve transfer success for students,” according to the statement.

The Humanities for All effort will also offer incentive programs to encourage students to enter CCBC’s Honors Program, which enjoys higher graduation and transfer rates than the general education program, according to school officials.

Rosenthal is hopeful the collaboration will lead to a better pathway to Hopkins for CCBC students.

“In past years, we have had students transfer to Hopkins, and some with very large scholarships,” she said. “But we have never had the red carpet rolled out to us by JHU like we’ve had from Cornell, Yale, Smith, Goucher and other highly respected schools. We’re hoping more students will apply and get the dollars they need to attend.”

Joel Schildbach, vice dean of undergraduate education for JHU’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, said regardless of what happens with transfers, programs like the summer research program will show CCBC students they can succeed anywhere.

“We don’t accommodate many  transfer students because of structural and capacity issues,” he said in a phone interview. “But this program will show top CCBC students that they would very much be at home at a place like Hopkins, that they absolutely belong.”

Hopkins enjoys a high retention rate, which means few openings exist for transfer students, he said.

The collaboration between the two schools is a two-way street, according to Schildbach.

“This is meant to be a partnership and we are very committed to that,” he said. “There are very definitely benefits to both sides.”

While CCBC students will benefit from trips, guest lectures and efforts like the Mellon Scholars Program, JHU faculty will enjoy a collaborative relationship with CCBC faculty, with the opportunity for professional development between the groups of educators.

By virtue of its open door policy, CCBC accepts all students who apply. That philosophy makes for a much more diverse student population across many levels than that of Hopkins, which is a highly selective and competitive school, according to Schildbach.

“The CCBC faculty is going to provide training for our faculty to make sure they are better prepared to teach to a wide diversity of students,” he said. “This is very much a two-way street here and we’re very excited about the possibilities.”

Hopkins graduate students will have opportunities to lecture through the program, giving them much needed teaching experiences, according to Rosenthal.

During this summer’s Mellon Scholars research program, the selected students will do a “deep reading” study of a Shakespeare play. They will perform an intensive, word-by-word analysis of the selected work and present their findings in a mini-symposium at the end of the program.

Rosenthal is excited about the doors that will be opened for CCBC students, many of whom are “high-ability, hard-working, diverse, first generation students” with economic challenges that may make them automatically assume certain four-year schools are out of reach.

“This is a fabulous opportunity for our students, the college and JHU,” she said. “We’re very much looking forward to this three-year collaboration and beyond.”

Both institution presidents are enthusiastic about the new partnership.

“Thousands of CCBC students will benefit from Mellon’s recognition that the democratization of the humanities in America does indeed begin with the community college,” CCBC President Sandra Kurtinitis said in a statement.

The effort reflects “Hopkins’ sustained commitment to building bridges so that all students have access to the transformative power of higher education,” according to JHU President Ronald J. Daniels.

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DNR message to boaters: ‘Ride Inside’ or be fined

DNR message to boaters: ‘Ride Inside’ or be fined

(Updated 5/24/17)

- By Marge Neal -

As Memorial Day weekend approaches and thoughts and actions turn to outdoor activities, particularly boating, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ police division is gearing up to patrol local waters in an effort to make the summer season as safe as possible.

The tragic 2016 death of a 9-year-old boy who fell in the water while riding on the front of a boat is serving as the inspiration of a renewed effort to educate and cite boaters for practicing the popular but illegal activity of bow riding.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) this week kicked off its new safety awareness campaign called “Ride Inside.” Through notices and signs at popular boat launch sites, marinas and boat rental businesses, marine law enforcement officers hope to educate boaters about the danger of letting passengers ride not only on the front of a boat, but also along the side rails and the stern, according to NRP spokeswoman Candy Thomson.

“We all realize bow-riding, or sitting along the gunnel rails or on the swim platform is like a fun day at the amusement park, but fall in and you risk not only being hit by your own boat but perhaps someone else’s,” Thomson told the East County Times. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

The risk of serious injury or even death is much higher on pontoon boats, according to Thomson.

When a passenger falls off the front of a pontoon boat, the pontoons serve as channels, with the victim being directed down the middle underneath the vessel, leading straight to the propeller. Such accidents lead to particularly gruesome injuries and deaths, she said.

Such was the case last summer when New Jersey resident Kaden Frederick, 9, was riding on the bow of a rented pontoon boat while on vacation with his family in Ocean City. Kaden fell from the boat and before anyone could even react, he had been struck by the propeller, according to news accounts of the incident.

There were numerous trained medical personnel and first-responders on other boats in the immediate area, according to Thomson, but Kaden’s injuries were so catastrophic nothing could be done to save him.

“We’re asking people to use common sense here,” Thomson said. “You wouldn’t let your kid ride on the hood of your car - why would you let them ride on the front of your boat?”

In eastern Baltimore County, with the lion’s share of the county’s 232 miles of shoreline, NRP will be working closely with the Baltimore County Police Department’s marine unit and the Coast Guard to ensure water safety this summer.

Marine law enforcement officers can board private boats at any time to perform routine safety inspections, according to Thomson. Officers check to ensure boats have a life jacket for every passenger on board, as well as flares or other visual signaling devices, a horn or whistle and a fire extinguisher, among other items.

It’s important that life jackets are readily accessible if passengers aren’t wearing them, and that flares and extinguishers are up to date and not expired.

Thomson has more than a few stories to tell about her experiences of accompanying officers who patrol local waters.

“We boarded one boat with our checklist of equipment,” she recalled. “While the boat operator eventually was able to produce the required life jackets, they certainly wouldn’t have been any help in the case of an emergency.”

The jackets were stowed in a storage cabinet below the deck, and not only were they still in the packaging they were sold in, they were still in the retail store bag from where they were bought.

The officers made the owner take the devices out of the packaging and told him the importance of having them more readily accessible.

Officers will use these on-the-water inspections to spread the word about the dangers of bow-riding, according to Thomson.

Bow-riding is a specifically listed infraction of DNR’s regulation regarding reckless and negligent operations, Thomson said. Officers will cite offenders, who will face up to a $500 fine for the first offense if cited by NRP officers and up to $5,000 if stopped and cited by the Coast Guard.

Other infractions, such as boating in a swim area, operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol and speeding also fall under the realm of reckless and negligent operations, Thomson said.

The past few summers have been particularly dangerous, she said. With about 180,000 registered vessels plying Maryland’s waters, popular areas can become quite crowded and, therefore, potentially more dangerous.

Last summer, 17 people died in boating accidents, while the summer of 2015 was the worst in 20 years, with 21 deaths, Thomson said.

As could be expected, the months of July, August, June, September and May, in that order, were the most dangerous in 2016, as measured by number of accidents and deaths. In 2016, a total of 163 reportable boat accidents caused nearly $3.4 million in property damage in addition to the loss of life.

“Law enforcement officers aren’t out to ruin anyone’s day,” Thomson said. “We just want to make sure they have many more boating days in the future.

“And this summer, that especially means everyone should ride inside.”

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Middle River Depot property listed for tax sale

Middle River Depot property listed for tax sale
The main building on the depot property has been largely unused since the current owner purchased it in 2007, despite a major redevelopment plan for the entire site on file with Baltimore County. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 5/24/17)

- By Devin Crum -

With an unpaid tax debt to Baltimore County of nearly $200,000, the former Federal Depot site in Middle River has been placed on the county’s annual list of tax sale properties.

If the balance remains unpaid by the owner, the county may auction the property to the highest bidder at its annual tax sale next month. The auction price starts at the open tax lien amount, according to county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler, and if it fails to sell at auction it will default to the county.

The total tax lien amount on the property, accrued during the period from July 2016 to June 2017, is $194,210.94.

A representative of the site’s owner, Middle River Station Development LLC, had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

But County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents the area, said the owner, Sal Smeke, has disputed his taxes since purchasing the property a decade ago, claiming they are too high. Bevins has had several conversations with the owner regarding a planned massive redevelopment of the site.

The Depot site, 2800 Eastern Blvd. in Middle River, consists of roughly 51 acres of land and a nearly 2 million-square-foot storage warehouse built in 1941. It was previously owned by the federal government, but leased to the Glenn L. Martin Company for manufaturing of airplanes during World War II.

Although the entire property’s assessed value is listed at just over $9.1 million, according to state real property records, the current owner purchased it at auction for $37.5 million in 2007.

A development plan on file with Baltimore County shows a complete overhaul of the site to create a new shopping center dubbed Town Square at Middle River Station. The plan calls for a mixture of apartments and townhomes for more than 1,100 new residences, as well as office, retail and restaurant space, all anchored by a Walmart.

The plan also features a sports and entertainment complex, various pockets of recreational open space and a concert pavillion.

However, community members - namely members of the Essex-Middle River Civic Council - have expressed concern about this plan because, while it has stalled over the years, nearly all of those uses have been created elsewhere in the surrounding area, leading to questions of if the plan is still viable.

But according to sources who have had conversations with Smeke, he still plans to move forward with the plan on file.

According to documentation provided by Councilwoman Bevins’ office, permits for the project have been issued from the county’s Soil Conservation District, Environmental Impact Review, Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, Department of Public Works and Development Plans Review, as well as the Maryland Aviation Authority because of its proximity to Martin State Airport, the State Highway Administration and landscape and lighting permits from both the county and the Maryland Historical Trust because of its historical designation with the state.

They have also been given a demolition permit and according to Bevins, Walmart plans to break ground in June.

Walmart will be closing its Supercenter in the nearby Carroll Island Shopping Center in favor of a new Super Walmart in Middle River Station.

Other notable items listed on the county’s tax sale list are five properties owned by C.P. Crane LLC, which operates the coal-fire electrical power plant in Bowleys Quarters.

Together, the tax liens across the five properties total $28,625.11 while their assessed value combines for nearly $2.16 million. The parcels include the 10-acre site of the powerplant, as well as a nearly eight-acre plot along Keeners Road.

Real property tax bills are issued on July 1 each year, according to the county’s website.

Failure to pay in full or, if eligible, make the first semiannual payment by Sept. 30 will result in the account being considered delinquent. Interest will accrue until the taxes are paid in full. Unpaid balances due past Dec. 31 are subject to accrued interest, penalties and tax sale.

However, property taxes must exceed the threshold of $250 for non-owner occupied properties or $500 for owner occupied properties to be listed for tax sale, Kobler said.

On March 1, a Final Tax Sale Notice is mailed, allowing the property owner 30 days to pay the property taxes and accrued interest and penalties, the county’s website reads. If the owner fails to respond to this notice, the property may be sold at the annual tax sale.

Baltimore County posts properties to be sold on its website around the first of May. Properties are then advertised for four consecutive weeks in a locally circulated newspaper and on the government’s website, according to Kobler.

If a property is sold for taxes, the owner has six months from the date of the sale to redeem the property or a foreclosure action for nonpayment of taxes can be filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

For more information on the tax sale process or the complete list of county properties slated for tax sale, visit the county’s website at and search for “tax sale.”

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Hart-Miller Island opens for season, remediation continues in North Cell

Hart-Miller Island opens for season, remediation continues in North Cell
The island’s sandy beach, as seen from the observation tower, serves as a gateway to the South Cell. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 5/24/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The state park portions of Hart-Miller Island, including the beach, ranger station and South Cell, officially opened to the public for the summer season on May 13.

Those areas will continue to be open for public access Thursdays through Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., through September. However, the island is currently only accessible via private boat.

According to Bob Iman, lead ranger for the park, they originally planned to open the park on Memorial Day weekend, but decided to open it two weeks early because the weather had gotten warmer. Unfortunately, the weather changed again, he said, and they will likely push the opening back to the holiday weekend for next year.

As some may remember, the island’s South Cell was opened to the public for the first time last summer after completing its transformation from a dredged material containment facility to a restored wildlife habitat with public recreational access.

The roughly 300-acre southern section of the island provides nearly eight miles of hiking and biking trails, along with ample opportunities for bird watching, breathtaking views and educational signs for visitors to learn about the island. The park also supplies a limited number of bicycles to visitors for free to encourage exploration of the area.

According to information published in this year’s Waterfront Guide, more than 60,000 people visited HMI in 2016. Of those, about 1,300 attended ranger-led interpretive programs on the island and around 1,500 enjoyed bicycle riding or hiking in the South Cell trail system.

Iman noted at the May 16 meeting of the Hart-Miller Island Citizens Oversight Committee that the state Department of Natural Resources has replaced many of the signs around the island to keep everything looking nice, which helps keep vandalism down and gives a good impression for visitors.

“The first impression is your lasting impression,” Iman said. He added that they have also been busy installing more covered benches along the trails.

New this year is the plan to install a monument in honor of the HMICOC for their dedication and committment to monitoring the formation and impact of the island since 1981. They have also served as a voice for citizens regarding what is done on the island.

The monument, which the Maryland Environmental Service’s Amanda Peñafiel described as a small, cube-like, low-lying structure, will pay special tribute to Thomas Kroen, who was one of the original appointed members of the oversight committee and chaired it for several years prior to passing away in 2015.

Peñafiel described Kroen as a major advocate for recreation and environmental education.

“It’s a shame that he was not around to see the beginning of all this that he worked toward,” she said.

She noted that the monument was not yet in place as of Tuesday morning, but it would be safe to say it will be in place in June.

“It’s going to be in the South Cell at the first trail intersection,” she explained, near where the 18-foot road meets the cross-dike road which separates the North and South cells.

The HMICOC is also exploring the establishment of a “Friends of” volunteer group for the park, which would help with simple park maintenance and operation, as well as organization of any potential events on the island.

Peñafiel also noted that the broader Friends of Maryland State Parks organization is planning to hold a 5k race on the island in fall 2018 - “because it takes that long to plan an event like that,” she said.

In the much larger North Cell, remediation is ongoing with the mammoth task of using agricultural lime to raise the pH of the water and soil.

According to Roger Williams, also of MES, they are using lime at a rate of 20 tons per acre and have completed the process on 183 of the section’s nearly 800 acres.

Water in the North Cell is highly acidic and cannot be discharged from the island until it meets certain quality standards, such as a more neutral pH. And liming is difficult in wet conditions because the heavy equipment sinks in the mud, Williams explained. They have tried using lighter trucks for the project, but those cannot carry the larger loads they need.

“We have had our growing pains with this project,” he said.

Therefore, MES has discussed and now plans to carry out a pilot program to apply the lime by air using a helicopter.

While that method has a much higher cost, it may be necessary to move progress along.

Williams said the liming is currently at a stand-still because they need to get more of the cell dry before it can resume.

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Perry Hall diner deal sparks feud between elected officials

(Updated 5/25/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks (R-Perry Hall) announced on May 9 that the Double-T Diner at the corner of Joppa and Belair roads in Perry Hall would be closing on June 10 for approximately six months to allow for reconstruction of the corner and a new CVS pharmacy to be built on the site.

During that time, the diner will move east to a site at Belair and Brookfield roads, Marks’ announcement read.

While Marks recognized that it was not ideal, he touted the plan, which came about through negotiations with the developer, as a way to keep the diner - and the jobs that come with it - while improving the look of the intersection with the new business. He noted that CVS had the right to build at the location.

The news sparked outcry from some residents who said the area does not need yet another CVS. And that same day, State Delegate Eric Bromwell (D-Perry Hall) took to social media to air his own grievances with the decision.

“Every time Councilman Marks ‘negotiates’ with a developer, we get more development. And now, yet another CVS is coming to Perry Hall, the CVS capital [sic] of the world!?!” Bromwell’s Facebook post read. “Perry Hall is overdeveloped and our schools are overcrowded, yet I have not found a single constituent who feels we need another CVS.”

Two days later, Marks fired back with his own post criticizing Bromwell for his lack of involvement in addressing important community issues such as slowing development, building Angel Park and dealing with overcrowding at Perry Hall Middle School.

He also called Bromwell out for his vote against redistricting reform in the state and for the Home Act which critics say would “spread poverty around” the county, adding that Bromwell “popped out of hiding” to launch his criticisms.

“Maybe he felt the urge to attack. And he will attack again. He can’t help himself. I will keep working with others to improve our community...” he concluded.

When asked about the social media spat, Bromwell told the East County Times that the problems with the diner decision come from Marks having a relationship with developers.

“The point is, whoever the developer for CVS is obviously has a relationship with Councilman Marks,” he said pointing to Marks’ previous reclassification of the nearby intersection of Joppa and Harford roads to allow for a different CVS.

Marks defended the plan, however.

“When a new CVS threatened the future of the Perry Hall diner, I stepped in to save the diner and preserve 40 neighborhood jobs,” he told the Times. “Which is worse: a neighborhood diner that remains open or more Section 8 housing throughout our community, as preferred by Eric Bromwell?” he asked, pointing again to the Home Act vote.

“Councilman Marks ran on a platform of slowing development in Perry Hall,” Bromwell said. “I don’t think anyone who lives in Perry Hall can look around and say, ‘yes, development has slowed in Perry Hall.’”

But Marks countered that Bromwell was simply talking one way in the community while voting another in Annapolis.

“He acts like a campaign finance reformer, but has accepted tens of thousands of dollars from special interests over his 15 years in Annapolis,” Marks asserted. “And he didn’t seem to care about development when running in two elections with my Democratic predecessor, who zoned Perry Hall for almost all the homes that have been built over the past few years,” he said referring to former County Councilman Vince Gardina.

Marks said his record reflects his work in the community, having gotten four new parks, three new schools and protecting 2,800 acres of land from development.

Bromwell said his vote regarding redistricting reform was merely a procedural vote and did not mean as much as people might think. And he justified his support of the Home Act in that he was thinking of friends who he had grown up with who relied on housing vouchers.

He also questioned Marks’ downzoning of so much land in Perry Hall, calling it “interesting” when compared to what other Council members did.

“It’s a lot of property that would never be developed,” he said, noting some included stormwater management ponds public swimming pools or median strips. “These are things that, in my estimation, don’t need to be downzoned but it allows you to say, ‘look, I’ve downzoned more property than anybody.’

“Quantity, great,” Bromwell continued, “but I am interested in the quality of all these downzonings.”

Marks said while some of the acreage includes stormwater management areas, “we protected large public properties that could easily be sold off, and we downzoned private land like the Gerst Farm that was proposed for intense development.

“We even downzoned the land behind Eric Bromwell’s house, which now has the lowest level allowed for residential development,” Marks said. “I don’t see a stormwater pond there.”

But Bromwell suggested a need for a building moratorium in Perry Hall.

“Until we fix the process, I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” he said.

Neither elected official has indicated a desire to run for the other’s office in the next election, and this is not the first time the two have had public disagreements. But Bromwell said he will continue his advocacy.

“Part of it with me is wanting to make sure that there is an alternative voice,” he said. “I want to make sure that people are holding all of their elected officials accountable.”

Marks held that he is working for the community with their support.

“We are tackling the problems we inherited, with support from parents and community leaders of both parties,” he said, “but not Eric Bromwell.”

Edgemere student lands scholarship to CAP flight academy

Edgemere student lands scholarship to CAP flight academy
Wyatt Hartman

(Updated 5/24/17)

- By Marge Neal -

While many students are looking forward to a carefree summer of lounging and hanging out with friends, Wyatt Hartman was excited to be heading to the United Kingdom in July after winning a coveted spot in the Civil Air Patrol’s international ambassador program.

But that was before the Eastern Technical High School senior learned he also had been selected to receive a full scholarship for a residential summer aviation program that would lead to getting his pilot’s license.

Decisions, decisions.

After conferring with advisors, who told him the scholarship was a one-shot opportunity but that he could reapply to the ambassador program next year, the decision was easier to make.

He will report to Delaware State University on June 26 to participate in a self-paced course offering one-on-one ground instruction and flight training in a Piper Warrior plane.

The scholarship pays for room and board at the university, as well as instruction, materials and flight time. It’s worth up to $16,000, depending on how long it takes Wyatt to get his license. With one-on-one instruction, students control how long it takes them to complete the course.

“It lasts through July,” Wyatt said of the program in a phone interview. “Depending on how well I do, I can finish up early.”

Wyatt, who recently became an Eagle Scout, keeps himself busy. He’s a student in Eastern Tech’s business management and finance program and is looking forward to his graduation next month. While in high school, he got a head start on his college education by taking courses at the Community College of Baltimore County, where he plans to enroll full-time this fall.

“I plan to stay at CCBC with the intention of transferring to a four-year school,” he said.

He’s also looking at the Air National Guard and several federal agencies - the National Security Agency, the Department of State and Customs and Border Protection among them - for employment or internship possibilities that might help pay for his college education.

“It would be great to find something that offers help with tuition - that’s what I’m hoping for,” Hartman said. “And I think the Air National Guard has scholarships available.”

The ambitious, driven teen said he would like to pursue flying if he could be commissioned as an officer in the ANG.

Wyatt joined the Civil Air Patrol, the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, in 2011, when he was 12. He worked his way through the ranks of the youth cadet program and is now a cadet major.

Participation in CAP is a family tradition. His mother is Capt. Nadine Hartman, a member of the adult CAP squadron at Martin’s State Airport. The all-volunteer CAP organization offers support to many national and international efforts, such as emergency operations, natural disaster relief assistance, search and rescue missions and drug interdiction, according to Nadine.

The youth, or cadet, CAP program is open to youngsters from 12 until they age out at 21, and then they are welcome to apply to the adult program, she said.

Wyatt has taken advantage of the many programs and courses offered by CAP as he has moved up in the ranks.

His many highly selective accomplishments come as no surprise to former CAP cadet mentor Joe Mancini, now 23, who was involved in the youth program and served as a mentor to Wyatt when he was a new cadet.

“I can’t say enough good about Wyatt,” Mancini told the East County Times. “He has great moral character, is very driven and very capable. When I found out he’d applied for the two very selective programs, I didn’t think he’d have a problem getting into either one.”

For his part, Wyatt said he was a little surprised that he was accepted for both the international exchange program and the flight scholarship, given how competitive the process is. Both programs required applicants to have significant prerequisites fulfilled and offered a limited number of openings.

Just four students from across the country are participating in the flight academy course, and Wyatt was one of only 36 applicants offered a spot in the ambassador program.

If all goes as planned, the Edgemere resident will finish the month of July with his single-engine aircraft private pilot’s license in hand. He’ll have a few weeks to enjoy his summer break before heading back to CCBC for the fall semester.

He hopes to enjoy as many of his outdoor interests - boating, fishing, hiking and biking - as possible before school starts.

And just maybe, he’ll snag another spot to participate in the international exchange program next summer.

In any case, many of his peers, family members and CAP superiors are already proud of what he’s accomplished and how positively his actions reflect on CAP.

“I’m really proud of the work he’s done and will continue to do,” said Mancini, who now oversees the cadet program as a member of the adult squadron. “And his accomplishments reflect on the mentoring and training he’s received and makes us all feel like we’ve done our jobs.”

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Tuition, fees increasing at CCBC

(Updated 5/24/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Local students taking for-credit classes at the Community College of Baltimore County will see a $2 per-billable-hour increase in the tuition rate starting this summer, as well as fee increases starting in the fall.

Tuition for county residents will increase from $118 to $120, according to rates posted on the CCBC website.

The increase is intended to offset a decline in revenue-generating enrollment, a trend affecting community colleges around the country, said CCBC Executive Director Sandra Kurtinitis.

Demand for community college classes tends to rise during recessions and drop when economies heat up again.

“The more people that work, the less enrollment,” said Kurtinitis, who discussed CCBC’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget with the County Council on May 9.

The council is scheduled to adopt the budget on Thursday, May 25.

Also set to rise are tuition costs for out-of-county students, which will increase from $222 to $224 this summer and then to $226 per billable hour in the fall.

The biggest increases are for out-of-state students, whose rates will go from $337 to $339 this summer and then to $343 in the fall.

In the meantime, some fees will also increase, including the Activity fee, which will rise from $3 to $4 per billable hour for all students.

The per-billable-hour General Service fee will also increase by $3 for all students, going from:
* $12 to $15 for in-county students;
* $22 to $25 for out-of-county students;
* $32 to $35 for out-of-state students.

To boost enrollment, Kurtinitis said CCBC plans to expand online access to courses.

The system is also launching a pilot program this fall that will enable Woodlawn High School students to simultaneously earn credits toward graduation and toward community college credits.

The goal is to develop a similar program in a high school on the east side of the county, she said.

CCBC is also developing programs to train truck drivers, diesel mechanics, forklift operators and inventory control employees to accommodate expected growth at the Port of Baltimore and Tradepoint Atlantic’s growing list of tenants at Sparrows Point.

For a complete list of current tuition rates and fees, visit and go to Costs and Paying for College.

Governor signs bill to help solve problem of abandoned boats

Governor signs bill to help solve problem of abandoned boats
This boat, sunken in Northeast Creek which flows directly into Back River, is actually visible using Google's satellite images. Photo by Karen Wynn.

(Updated 5/23/17)

- By Devin Crum -

During the 2017 General Assembly in Annapolis, Sixth District Delegate Bob Long sponsored a bill to simplify the state’s process for removing abandoned boats from its waterways.

Long’s bill, which he said aims to solve the problem of abandoned or sunken boats that present navigational, health or environmental hazards in state waterways, particularly in Back River, passed unanimously in both houses of the legislature. It was signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan on May 4.

The Back River Restoration Committee has worked extensively over the last decade to clean up trash and other forms of pollution from Back River. But one issue they have had difficulty addressing is the removal of abandoned or sunken boats which litter the river.

Long told the East County Times that BRRC President Sam Weaver and Executive Director Karen Wynn approached him about the problem last year as well, but it came up too late in the legislative session to get a bill together to try to pass.

The delegate noted that one of the major obstacles in dealing with abandoned boats is identifying their owner.

State law requires that the owner of an abandoned vessel be notified and the boat must be kept for a certain amount of time to allow them to redeem it. But if the owner cannot be identified, the process gets held up.

“A lot of times what happens is, if someone abandons a boat, they get rid of all the serial numbers so it’s hard to identify,” Long said. He added that another problem is the state’s lengthy process spelled out in the current law which makes it difficult for anyone to address the problems.

The current law also contains a loophole whereby owners could potentially claim damages of their vessel if it was damaged in the process of being removed from the place where it was abandoned.

In testifying on behalf of the bill, Weaver, speaking as both the BRRC president and as the owner of Weaver’s Marina, stated that he and others have tried on many occasions to have derelict boats removed from waterways with no help.

“On certain occasions, we have been able to obtain titles to sunken boats to remove them at our expense, but on many other occasions we were met with too many restrictions to remove these hazards,” he said.

“Besides the obvious eyesore of these vessels,” Weaver continued, “these boats create a hazard to other watercrafts as well as continue to deteriorate and spread debris throughout our waterways.”

In addition to altering the definition of “abandoned vessel” in the law to include a sunken vessel, Long’s bill also extends liability protections for any damage to abandoned boats to any person that removes, preserves or stores the vessel on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources. It also authorizes DNR to adopt its own regulations for removing abandoned boats.

“It’s going to fix a lot of the problems that DNR has had with identifying and removal of some of these boats,” Long said. “I hope this works and fixes the problems. And if it doesn’t, we’ll try something else.”

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Board fines Middle River liquor store, dismisses two Essex cases

Board fines Middle River liquor store, dismisses two Essex cases
Beer Pump Wine and Spirits in Middle River. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 5/22/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

The Baltimore County Board of Liquor Commissioners fined one establishment, but dropped charges against two others during show-cause hearings in Towson on Monday, May 22.

Show-cause hearings are held to consider whether to suspend or revoke liquor licenses.

Beer Pump Wine and Spirits, a discount liquor store located at 3 Compass Road in Middle River, was fined $500 for violating the board’s Rule 29, which requires that liquor stores buy only from wholesalers.

It was the first violation for the store, but members opted to impose the fine based on a report by an inspector from the state Comptroller’s office claiming that a carton containing liquor had been tampered with.

Retailers in Maryland are required to buy from wholesalers only and advised to hold on to invoices to indicate their suppliers. They cannot buy liquor from or sell to other retailers.

Meanwhile, the board opted not to impose fines in two other cases involving bars in Essex.

They took no action in the case of the Breakaway Bar and Grill at 506 South Maryln Avenue, which the state inspector claimed had violated Rule 32, which prohibits refills.

Prohibited is the practice of refilling smaller one-liter bottles with liquor from 1.75-liter bottles. The rule is intended to ensure that the contents of the smaller bottle match what is shown on its label and do not actually contain a cheaper substitute from the bigger bottle.

In another case, the board dismissed an allegation that Sylvester’s Saloon, at 7326 Golden Ring Road in Essex, violated Rule 1, which prohibits selling liquor to an intoxicated person.

A bartender testified that the man was angry, but not intoxicated, when he left the bar and bumped into a car in the parking lot, precipitating a call to police officers, who went to his home two hours later.

The bar’s attorney also argued that the man could have drunk alcohol somewhere else during the two-hour time gap.

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Library system adding Chromebooks to bridge digital divide

(Updated 5/22/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

The Baltimore County Public Library system recently made nearly 400 Chromebook laptops available for public use at no charge and it plans to make another 200 available in the coming year.

The laptops, which can checked out for free just like books, are part of a multi-year initiative to close the gap between people who can afford to buy computers and those who cannot.

“Access to these devices will help to lessen the ‘digital divide’ by providing equal access to those that may not have the opportunity to learn and experiment with technology,” said BCPL Director Paula Miller in a statement.

Miller met last week with the County Council to talk about the proposed library budget for fiscal year 2018 which starts July 1. The council is expected to adopt the budget on Thursday, May 25.

Also in the FY 2018 budget is $240,000 for HVAC and related building upgrades at the North Point Library in Dundalk, as well as $800,000 for restroom and $200,000 for meeting room renovations system wide.

During the budget discussion, Miller also said that library branches in Title I areas will again offer free lunches this summer to children ages 18 and under through a program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ten branches participated last summer, including North Point, Essex, Rosedale and White Marsh. The lunches are provided Monday through Friday, and no registration is required.

Chromebook initiative
Funding for the first batch of 380 Chromebooks was part of a $500,000 allocation in FY 2017 through the county’s Office of Information Technology’s Enhanced Productivity Thru Technology capital project.

Another $200,000 is budgeted in FY 2018 for Phase II of the project, which includes the 200 additional devices.

The lightweight Acer laptops, which have 11.5-inch screens, can be used wherever there is a Wi-Fi connection to the internet. They don't retain information - all data is automatically lost when the laptop is closed - but they do allow patrons to store data on a flash drive or in an online cloud account.

The devices have been distributed to all 19 BCPL branches with the most active borrowing from the Essex, Pikesville, Owings Mills, Woodlawn and Catonsville branches, Miller said.

A survey of users indicates that patrons use them to check email and social media, work on school assignments, look for a job or practice their computer skills.

"It's cheaper than buying your own,” she said.

The devices can be used for up to two hours in a branch or taken out for seven days with two week-long renewals, depending on whether there is a waiting list.

Users must sign an agreement, and there is a $3 per day fine for late returns. The loss or damage charge for Chromebooks is $386, plus $30 for the charger and $17 for the zipped storage bag.

Also now available in branches are Playaway Locks, which are tablets that are pre-loaded with e-books organized by genre or theme. No internet access is required.

The library has available about 800,000 e-books, which reflect a growing percentage of its total collection of 11 million items, Miller said.

“We're currently living in both worlds,” she said about the mix of digital and print items.

Centers of Excellence
Another initiative now underway in three BCPL branches is the creation of “centers of excellence” that focus on providing materials and services about a topic unique to each branch.

The Hive in the recently renovated Hereford branch focuses on art and creative maker projects, and the branch is planning to kick off an artist-in-residence program in June.

The Co-Lab in the Randallstown branch, which is currently being renovated, will focus on computers and technology when it reopens in late June.

And in the planning stages for the Towson branch is a focus on business.

“We will not hire additional staff, but the spaces and the tools within [the centers] open up more opportunity for community engagement and free (of course) programming for BCPL customers,” wrote library spokeswoman Erica Palmisano in an email.

For more information about the system's digital devices, visit

Marijuana dispensaries eyed for White Marsh, Middle River locations

Marijuana dispensaries eyed for White Marsh, Middle River locations
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 5/17/17)

- By Devin Crum -

License holders are exploring locations in White Marsh and Middle River for the sites of new medical marijuana dispensaries in eastern Baltimore County.

Representatives of one of those license holders, Chesapeake Health Sciences, visited the Monday, May 15, meeting of the Greater White Marsh Community Council to explain their plan for the White Marsh location.

Greg Rochlin, an executive for CHS, noted that their plan is to open a medical cannabis dispensary inside the building at 5512 Ebenezer Road. Formerly a Sprint mobile phone store, it is currently occupied by the Dave’s Deals pawn shop.

Rochlin said along with being a businessman, he is the board chairman at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore and a two-time cancer survivor.

He assured that the company is not looking to open a shop for recreational use of marijuana.

“We are looking to open up a strictly medical, very secure, very well-run business,” Rochlin said. “For us, this is a medical issue. We are not drug dealers.”

He acknowledged the fear some local residents may have with something new and different coming in related to drugs. But he assured that CHS will have 24-hour surveillance on the property, adequate security, and a well-lit, fenced-in parking area and entrance at the back of the building rather than the front.

Rochlin noted the back entrance will be more secure and more discrete, since they will be dealing with medicine. Patients will also need their identification and medical marijuana recommendation card to get into the building.

Rochlin and his partner, Shannon Hexter, because of their familiarity with the business, said the other dispensary operator in the area is exploring a location in the Carroll Island Shopping Center in Middle River. However, that plan is not definite, and CHS is not affiliated with that operator.

State law allows for up to two dispensaries per legislative district, so up to four additional dispensaries may come to the east side.

State Senator Jim Brochin, who has said he is running for Baltimore County Executive and who also attended the GWMCC meeting, said the Maryland legislature had been working on the medical marijuana issue for a long time. They finally passed legislation creating cultivation and dispensary licenses in 2014 and updated it in 2015.

Brochin said the state chose people who were best qualified for growing and dispensing licenses based on safety and security plans and a number of other criteria, “so at the end of the day, we didn’t lose our mission,” which he said is “to take people who are in chronic pain and agony and give them relief.”

Rochlin explained that patients, upon entering the dispensary, will meet with a consultant to discuss their issues and what products may be best for them.

“We’re going to have professionals in-house... helping to figure out what the best product for that individual is,” he said, adding that all employees will undergo background checks. But while a doctor or pharmacist will have to be on-site, not all employees must have that qualification.

Rochlin pointed out that both patients and doctors must register with the state to be able to receive or recommend medical marijuana. “So they’re going to go through some education.”

Doctors must also renew their license every two years.

Patients can also visit any dispensary in the state, he said, but through the state’s tracking system they are limited to a certain quantity per month no matter where they go.

“It’s not like you can go to our dispensary one day and go to another one the next day,” Rochlin said. “We’re all linked through the same database.”

He also said they will work with local law enforcement to address any potential security or crime issues.

Products sold at the dispensary will range from the typical marijuana flower from the plant - which can be smoked or otherwise ingested - to tinctures, pills, capsules, oils and even topical creams, according to Hexter. However, they will not include edibles because they are not included in the Maryland law.

All transactions will be done with cash, Rochlin noted, partly because insurance plans do not cover medical cannabis. But they will not keep large sums of cash on-site, he said.

Regarding the price range of their products, Rochlin said it would be difficult to nail down a definite cost to customers.

“Nobody has started growing yet in Maryland, so I don’t know what they’re going to charge us,” he said. “But we think the average is going to be somewhere from $10 - $20 per gram.”

He assured, though, that it will still be cheaper to buy the drug illegally on the street than from a dispensary, so it is unlikely anyone will sell their medical cannabis to make money second hand.

Hexter added that the monthly purchase volume limits on patients will also help to control second-hand sales.

“The reason we [passed this law],” Sen. Brochin said, “is we don’t want to criminalize the behavior of [sick people]. It’s to offer relief to people who are in pain and are suffering.”

He acknowledged that there may be unintended consequences, but assured that the relief it will provide to sick people will outweigh the negative.

The site of the White Marsh dispensary is zoned appropriately for it, Rochlin noted, but they must first obtain a Special Exception approval from Baltimore County via an administrative law judge before they can move forward.

ALJ hearings are public and residents may offer testimony prior to the decision.

Rochlin said the case is scheduled to be heard by a judge in July, however, the county’s Office of Administrative Hearings had not yet scheduled a specific date.

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Dutch delivers Meals on Wheels, fights to prevent federal cuts

Dutch delivers Meals on Wheels, fights to prevent federal cuts
Carol Bath-Stehle (left) received her Meals on Wheels delivery from Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (right). Ruppersberger is currently trying to raise awareness of the program to prevent it from being the victim of deep cuts in the federal budget. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 5/17/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Back in January, Overlea resident Carol Bath-Stehle tripped over a chair and broke her hip. Without the ability to move and unable to call for help, Ms. Bath-Stehle laid on the floor of her living room in agonizing pain for 15 hours.

At 11 a.m. the next day, she was saved by a Meals on Wheels volunteer who was making her weekly delivery.

Five months and one new hip later, Bath-Stehle, 75, is thankful for Meals on Wheels for more than just the sustenance they provide.

On Monday, May 15, Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2) sought to bring attention to the Meals on Wheels program - and looming federal cuts - by joining with volunteers to deliver meals to those who utilize the program.

“Meals on wheels is not just about the food, which is nutritious, but it’s about providing safety,” said Ruppersberger.

Meals on Wheels, which is supported by federal funding under the Older Americans Act, serves more than 38,000 Maryland seniors.

Ruppersberger is fighting a proposal in President Donald Trump’s budget to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program - a $3 billion program started during the Ford Administration that is used by many states and cities to fund Meals on Wheels.

The President’s budget also calls for an 18 percent across-the-board cut to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is home to the agency that provides most of Meals on Wheels’ federal funding. That could cost Meals on Wheels in central Maryland as much as $1 million annually, or 56 percent of their budget.

“A 56 percent cut in anything is devastating, and this is a program that’s really working,” Ruppersberger said. “Taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.”

According to Stephanie Archer-Smith, executive director of Meals on Wheels for Central Maryland, the cost to feed a senior for a year is $5,000.

Ruppersberger stated that the price is worth it considering it costs approximately $5,000 for one day in the hospital. He also asserted that the program ends up saving money for the average citizen, a claim Archer-Smith said was backed up by a Brown University’s Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research study funded by AARP Foundation.

The study investigated the impact of meal service delivery on the health and well-being of adults 60 years of age and older and found that for those who live alone, particularly those who receive daily-deliveries, the program is incredibly beneficial. Specifically, the study found that those who lived alone but received Meels on Wheels were less likely to fall and more likely to experience improvement in mental health and self-rated health.

“Meals on wheels and this program are really important,” said Ruppersberger. “I mean, where would most of these seniors be if not for the program? This type of domestic spending is important.

“I understand people want cuts to things, I was Baltimore County Executive,” he said. “I had to balance the budget every year. But if you don’t invest in certain things, your whole country is going to have problems.”

For Bath-Stehle, she is visited Monday through Friday by set volunteers who drop off her food and do some catching up. Her daughter shops for her toiletries and other needs, but the Meals on Wheels volunteers, who average 74 years old, provide the nutrition and check-ins necessary to make sure that she, and others like her, are alright. And for people like Bath-Stahle’s daughter who are in caregiver positions, Meals on Wheels can relieve a lot of stress.

Without Meals on Wheels, Bath-Stehle’s situation could have been much worse, she said. She is thankful for their work and the company they provide, so much that she donates what she can to the program.

Ruppersberger joked that the meals looked so good he would eat one right there, for which he was quickly rebuked by Bath-Stehle.

“No! That’s mine,” she said with a smile.

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After two decades, Middle River fireworks canceled indefinitely

After two decades, Middle River fireworks canceled indefinitely
The Middle River fireworks, seen here as the backdrop for Eastern Yacht Club's flag mast, dazzled many thousands of spectators on boats and along surrounding shorelines over the last two decades. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 5/17/17)

- By Devin Crum -

The Middle River Fireworks Extravaganza has been an Independence Day staple for the communities of Essex, Middle River and beyond for the last 19 years.

But this year, the show has been canceled with no promise of its return in the future, according to organizers.

Middle River Fireworks Committee co-chairmen Gary Blankenship and Pete Beyrodt attributed the cancellation of the event largely to rising costs and faltering community support.

The co-chairmen explained that the event had cost an average of about $30,000 per year over the last four years that they have been putting on the show, and was funded solely through community and business donations.

Prior to that, the fireworks were put on by the Marine Trades Association of Baltimore County (MTABC) which did so for the preceding 15 years, also through donations. The MRFC was formed with the two Eastern Yacht Club members, Beyrodt and Blankenship, and local business owner Barry Devore who became the new title sponsor.

During the MRFC’s time at the helm, organizers raised a total of about $160,000, 75 percent of which was pure cost, Beyrodt said. Of the net proceeds, 75 percent was donated to the event’s main beneficiary, which was the Maryland-based charity benefiting wounded veterans, Project No Person Left Behind, for the last four years.

“And the other 25 percent went back to the community in various forms,” he said, noting that they also made donations to local fire departments, community associations, the NICU at Franklin Square Hospital and local scholarships for Queen of the Chesapeake.

But the show is a tremendous undertaking, and those involved began to lose interest in continuing with the task, the co-chairmen said. With ever-increasing costs and difficulty securing donations, those involved got more discouraged.

For MRFC’s first year running the show, EYC opened the club grounds to the roughly 3,000 people who viewed the fireworks from there every year, just as MTABC had always done.

“But that proved to be a nightmare,” Blankenship stated. He added that under MTABC, they had around 20 people to manage the parking and buses bringing people in, staffing the lot at Chesapeake High School, coordinating the traffic and other related tasks. The MRFC relied upon volunteers from the yacht club to handle all of those jobs.

“The EYC members who had hosted the event all these years got to see that, at the end of the day, the public attendance generated a tremendous amount of work - cleanup and support at the front end and back end,” he explained. So the next year, in 2014, EYC said “no more” to the public.

“That made some folks unhappy,” Beyrodt acknowledged, “but the fireworks still went on.”

However, they started seeing less financial support from the community as well, he said, “because we didn’t have the reach, I guess, that the entire waterman’s association has.”

Beyrodt pointed out that the biggest source of funds and energy for the show became Devore, president of Benjer, Inc., either personally or from his business contacts, some of whom had no connection to the area.

And even without the public attendance, he said, EYC membership still felt a significant burden from the event.

The co-chairmen also chalked the lack of community support up to public misconceptions about the event. They noted many had the perception that it was simply funded and put on by the county or a swanky yacht club that can afford it, while others believed the MTABC was still in charge.

“The reality of it is, at Eastern Yacht Club, we’re a blue-collar boat club,” Beyrodt said. “We all work. It’s not the Thurston Howell III with the blue blazer stuff.”

However, the co-chairmen addressed one particular rumor regarding the event’s discontinuation: that the fireworks were funding legal defense against development on the lower Back River Neck peninsula.

“It’s so far from the truth,” Beyrodt said.

He noted that one member of the Rockaway Beach Improvement Association had involved the whole group in fundraising from that community. And for that effort, he admitted they donated a small portion of the proceeds to the RBIA.

“Whatever we did get from the community, a tremendous amount of it was because of their input,” he said.

Beyrodt said he, Blankenship and Devore are all personally disheartened that the event has “run its course.”

“It’s a tough thing, and it was really a heart-wrenching decision for Barry to say, ‘ya know, it just doesn’t feel like we can continue,’” Beyrodt commented.

Blankenship said, however, they hold out hope that someone will be able to step up and bring it back.

“We would love to see it,” he said. “And we would be willing to help anyone who would be willing to take it on.”

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Offshore wind farm could mean windfall for Tradepoint Atlantic

Offshore wind farm could mean windfall for Tradepoint Atlantic
This image, courtesy of US Wind, shows the location of the planned wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, Md.

(Updated 5/17/17)

- By Marge Neal -

There are still a lot of maybes, coulds and woulds to be worked out, but Tradepoint Atlantic could be a big player in a huge, offshore wind energy project proposed for off the coast of Ocean City.

The Maryland Public Service Commission’s (PSC) recent awarding of energy credits to US Wind brings that company’s ambitious offshore wind farm proposal one step closer to reality.

If the wind energy project makes its way through its final permitting and approval processes, and US Wind agrees to all the conditions connected to the awarding of the energy credits, the opportunity exists for Tradepoint, the developer of the 3,100-acre former steel mill property in Sparrows Point, to play a major role in the fabrication and assembly of wind turbine components.

On May 11, the PSC conditionally approved the awarding of nearly 914,000 offshore renewable energy credits (ORECs) to US Wind, which will enable the company to build 62 wind turbines producing about 248 megawatts of renewable energy annually. The work is the first phase of a project that will ultimately see the construction of 187 turbines which will produce 750 megawatts of power.

Once completed, the project, slated for an area 12 to 17 miles off the coast of Ocean City, is expected to produce power for more than 500,000 homes, according to a statement issued by the company.

In its decision to award the ORECs, which can be sold to investors to subsidize the project, the PSC delivered about 30 mandates, including that the company use a port facility in the Greater Baltimore region as the “marshalling” port and one in the Ocean City area as the operations and maintenance port.

The credits will allow US Wind to be competitive and offer market-rate prices for the energy produced by the turbines. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to get approval for the project or sell the energy produced because of rates so much higher than those of more traditionally produced energy, according to Paul Rich, director of project development for US Wind.

The company must also locate a permanent operations center for the project in Maryland for the life of the project - expected to be 20 years - make significant financial investments in the construction of a Maryland steel fabrication plant (at least $51 million) and upgrades to the Tradepoint Atlantic shipyard or a comparable Maryland port facility (at least $26.4 million) and contribute $6 million to the Maryland Offshore Wind Business Development Fund.

Other requirements include the in-state creation of at least 1,298 direct development and construction period jobs and 2,282 direct operating period jobs, and to provide opportunities for minority investors and business owners.

The PSC decision also applied to a second, smaller project proposed by Skipjack Energy. Its project proposes the construction of 15 turbines 17 to 21 miles off the coast of Ocean City, capable of producing 120 megawatts of energy.

In accepting the ORECs awarded to it, Skipjack must comply with a similar list of conditions.

While wind energy company officials have toured the Tradepoint property and met with principals there, no deals have been made with either company, according to Aaron Tomarchio, vice president of corporate affairs for Tradepoint.

“We’ve been in discussions with both developers, who have visited and agree Sparrows Point is an ideal location for this project,” he said in a phone interview. “We believe we could provide the rallying point for all the components to come together for the assembly of the wind turbines.”

US Wind’s Rich said in a phone interview that, while he believes Tradepoint is a “unique property with 3,100 acres of permitted brownfields,” he emphasized his company would not be doing the manufacturing of turbine parts.

“There are two things in motion here,” he said. “Meeting our own requirements, and then those of the manufacturing and assembling of these turbines, which we do not own or control.”

Opportunities exist for steel, cable and tunnel section manufacturing, according to Rich. Turbine foundations - four-legged, latticed bases anchored to the ocean floor - will be made of steel, as will the tower sections to which the generators and blades will be attached, he said.

Concrete tunnels will house underwater cables that will carry the wind-produced energy to a power grid, according to Rich.

The companies selected for that work will make significant investments in facilities where they choose to locate, according to Rich: a minimum of $50 million for a steel fabrication plant and around $20 million for cable fabrication.

A facility like Tradepoint could become home to such facilities, which would require other upgrades. Some of these turbine components weigh up to 700 tons, so reinforcements would have to be made to piers, docks and roadways, Rich said.

And the Sparrows Point Shipyard property, owned by Barletta Industries, has previously been used by a contractor that made concrete tunnel sections for a tunnel project in Norfolk, Va.

While the production of this amount of clean, renewable energy would help satisfy Maryland’s goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, the PSC acknowledged in its order that project critics are concerned about the view from Ocean City. The turbines can reach as high as 500 feet about the water, according to Rich, which has critics concerned about the aesthetics of the resort area.

To minimize the impact on the resort’s “viewshed,” PSC has directed that the turbines be situated in the “eastern-most portion of the Maryland Wind Energy Area” that can reasonably accommodate the project, according to the commission’s order.

While no decisions have been made regarding a marshalling port, the decision will occur soon if all proposed timelines are met.

Rich said he expects construction of the turbines to begin in 2019 and energy production to begin in late 2020.

Tomarchio said that, while he does not see steel manufacturing coming back to the Sparrows Point property, he does see the possibility of it becoming “the hub for the delivery and assembly of turbine components manufactured elsewhere.”

“We see Tradepoint playing a role in some level of fabrication or gathering of the components for these turbines,” he said. “Maryland was first at the plate in this industry and is poised to become the hub for the entire eastern seaboard.”

US Wind and Skipjack both have until May 25 to accept the conditions on the ORECs and still have bureaucratic hurdles to clear before the final approval of the project.

The awarding of the ORECs is “contingent on approval by the federal government of the developers’ site assessment plans, construction and operations plans and other processes as required,” according to a PSC statement.

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Section of Broening Highway to further immortalize Henrietta Lacks

(Updated 5/17/17)

- By Marge Neal -

The end of the annual General Assembly brings on a frenzy of bill signings by the governor, effectively making laws of the many bills passed by the State Senate and House of Delegates.

Senate Bill 328, which was signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan on May 4, is of particular interest to the Turner Station community in Dundalk.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (Woodlawn) and cosponsored by Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (Dundalk), calls for a portion of Broening Highway to be dedicated as Henrietta Lacks Way.

“We’re very excited about it,” Turner Station activist Courtney Speed said. “Gov. Hogan gave me the pen he signed the bill with.”

Speed, the president of the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group, said a definite date for the dedication has not yet been set, but added her group has requested Saturday, Aug. 5.

The first Saturday in August is the date of an annual Turner Station celebration of Lacks, a woman who in death became an unwitting medical pioneer. Lacks, who died of cervical cancer in 1951 at the age of 31, was the source of the first human cells that were successfully cultivated in a laboratory setting. The proliferation of the HeLa cell line allowed it to be used in medical research across the globe and played a vital role in many medical advancements, including polio, HIV/AIDS and human papilloma virus vaccines, cervical cancer treatment and artificial insemination techniques.

Lacks’ contributions to medical science through the use of her cancerous cells have garnered significant high-profile national attention recently, first with the publication of author Rebecca Skloot’s book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and the subsequent HBO film adaptation of the book, which starred Oprah Winfrey as Lacks’ daughter, Deborah.

The Lacks dedication is one of four similar recommendations being sent by the Maryland Transportation Commission to Secretary of Transportation Pete K. Rahn for his approval.

The final approval of the roadway dedication is considered a formality, according to State Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar, and plans are moving forward for an early August ceremony.

The Lacks signs have been ordered and SHA employees are scouting the area to determine spots for sign placement, according to Gischlar.

“We’ll have two signs, one for each direction, and we’re scouting for areas to maximize visibility of the signs while also ensuring driver safety - making sure the signs don’t block anything for motorists,” he said.

The signs will be installed in advance and kept shrouded so local officials and community members can unveil them during the public ceremony, Gischlar said.

Battle Monument Elementary wins top prize in Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge

Battle Monument Elementary wins top prize in Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge
Kamenetz took time to applaud all of the volunteers who made the Clean Green 15 Challenge a success, including the men and women at Clean Bread and Cheese Creek. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 5/17/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Two years ago, Bear Creek brought the Clean Green Litter Challenge crown to Dundalk. After a year in Reisterstown, bragging rights have returned to Dundalk with Battle Monument Elementary recently named the Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge winner.

The win in the Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge, named for the way in which cleanups are conducted in 15 minutes, comes on the heels of Battle Monument being certified as a Maryland Green School for the first time. For their efforts in the litter challenge they received a $3,000 environmental grant, which can be used for things like installing a reading garden or rain garden, planting trees, diverting downspouts or environmental education projects.

On Wednesday, May 10, BCPS officials and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz stopped by Battle Monument to award the prize money and talk about the importance of the environmental effort. The day also served to kick off the next installment of the Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge.

Kamenetz encouraged the audience of students and faculty to think about where litter ends up. “The rain washes it into the storm drains, into our streams, and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay,” he said. “Litter not only looks bad in our neighborhoods, it also pollutes our waterways – and that’s bad for wildlife, fishermen, boaters and the environment.”

In total, 13 schools were honored for the hard work they did during the campaign. Aside from Battle Monument, honorees awarded prize money included Grange Elementary School ($500 grant), General John Stricker Middle School ($1,500), Perry Hall Middle School ($500) and Sparrows Point High School ($500). Other honorees, including Bear Creek, Edgemere, Colgate and Charlesmont elementary schools, received iPads for their efforts. All participating schools will have a tree planted on site.

The 2017 program resulted in more than 4,900 volunteers picking up some 4,679 bags of litter in 359 litter clean-ups around the county over the past year. In addition to litter, Clean Green 15 volunteers collected many tons of bulk trash items from parks, stream banks, schoolyards and other locations around Baltimore County. Clean-ups included schoolchildren as well as community-based volunteer activities.

One of the more active groups was Clean Bread & Cheese Creek, which held cleanups for Battle Monument, Stricker Middle and Grange, Bear Creek, Edgemere and Charlesmont elementary schools.

While the program has been running for four years, this was the first year the award ceremony was held outdoors, and those who attended couldn’t have asked for a better environment than the lush fields covered in sprouting trees that surround Battle Monument.

Kamenetz joked that it was fitting that Battle Monument’s mascot is Happy the Seagull, since cleaning littler “makes Happy and his friends happy.”

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New housing going up near Franklin Square hospital

New housing going up near Franklin Square hospital
The Overlook apartments, which are visible from I-95, are currently under construction. Photo by Virginia Terhune.

(Updated 5/12/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Construction is well under way for 356 high-end apartments off Rossville Boulevard near the Franklin Square medical center in Rosedale.

Pre-leasing for the units on 25 acres, called the Overlook at Franklin Square, is expected to begin in mid-July in the clubhouse, and the first units in one of the four-story buildings will be available in mid-October.

Full build out is expected to take about a year, said Matthew Allen, director of development for Klein Enterprises, which is developing the site formerly owned by the nearby Evangel Cathedral/Life Source church.

“It’s a luxury apartment rental product, and there’s not much of this there [in the area],” he said.

Partners within Klein are also developing the nearby 12-acre former Martin Farm with 77 townhouses across Rossville Boulevard from the Community College of Baltimore County-Essex.

South of the site on Rossville Boulevard, construction has begun on 64 townhomes off Trumps Mill Road being built by Sage Homes that will complete a complex called Franklin Point at Deerborne which was interrupted by the economic recession.

“I’m excited about it,” said County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) about the Overlook project. “It’s been a long time since there have been new apartments.

“White Marsh and Middle River are designated growth areas,” said Bevins, who represents the area and initiated rezoning on the Overlook and Deerborne sites in 2012 and the Martin Farm site in 2016 to enable development. “For me, it’s about putting the best projects in there.”

Martin Farm

Concept plans for the Martin Farm townhouse complex call for 77 units, with 52 having one-car garages and 25 having two-car garages.

A community input meeting for the project is set for Wednesday, May 31, at 7 p.m. at the Boumi Temple at 5050 King Ave.

A school impact analysis will be required, and affected schools include Shady Spring Elementary, Golden Ring Middle and Overlea High School.

Noise barriers are also proposed for part of the site, which is bounded by Interstate 95 and Rossville Boulevard.

Easy access to I-95 and proximity to two large employment centers - the college and the hospital - are two of the main attractions offered by the new housing units.

“People are looking for convenience because of where they work,” Allen said.


Monthly rents at the Overlook for one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, some with dens, will likely run in the $1,300 to $2,200 range, Allen said. Outdoor parking spaces are provided, but there will be an extra cost for garage parking.

Similar in number of units, cost and interior amenities is the Arbors at Baltimore Crossroads luxury apartment complex off the developing Route 43 corridor in Middle River.

The difference is that the Arbors units are in one building, and the Overlook units will be spread over eight buildings, he said. The clubhouse will include a swimming pool, fitness center, conference room, computers and pool tables.

Neither the Arbors nor Overlook discounts units as part of a workforce or affordable housing program, as Baltimore County does not require that a certain number of units be aside for that. However, the Arbors offers discounts to employees of some employers.

Allen said the Overlook expands the options for people who want to work in the Franklin Square area, as they still have the option of renting less expensive units in nearby older complexes.

“I think the older product turns into workforce housing as it ages; I think it’s already taken care of,” he said. “We’re trying to provide new, fresh choices for employees. If you want to offer growth in this area, you’ve got to offer this kind of product.”

Allen also said the Overlook project, which involves extending Franklin Square Drive into the site, will result in some changes to the existing Ridge Road, which parallels Rossville Boulevard. The intent is to improve intersection safety and allow better access to the two buildings in the adjacent Ridge Road Professional Center.

A new driveway will also be built that will lead to the rear of the nearby Evangel Cathedral/LifeSource church, he said.


Just south of the church off Trumps Mill Road is Franklin Point at Deerborne’s 64-unit townhouse project. The first six units are expected to be ready by late July, said sales manager Justin McCurdy.

The three-level units, some with walkouts, range in price from about $270,000 to more than $310,000, depending on options, according to marketing materials.

This article was updated to clarify remarks from Councilwoman Bevins and to specify when land was rezoned to allow the three projects.

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Bevins, Marks make ‘bold’ moves to address traffic issues

Bevins, Marks make ‘bold’ moves to address traffic issues
Traffic backs up heavily in the evenings approaching the intersection in White Marsh from both eastbound MD-7/Philadelphia Road (shown) and Ebenezer Road. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 5/10/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Baltimore County Council members Cathy Bevins (D-Middle River) and David Marks (R-Perry Hall) each moved on May 1 to block development near congested intersections in their districts until traffic improvements can be made.

The County Council votes each year on the county’s Basic Services Map which, among other things, shows the level of service (LOS) of traffic intersections around the county. This map is updated yearly, and the council members have the power to change the designated LOS for intersections as they see fit.

Bevins and Marks used this power to introduce amendments to the map which reclassified intersections in their districts from a LOS-C to an F (failing) and from a D to an F, respectively.

Bevins’ intersection was that of MD-7/Philadelphia Road at Cowenton Avenue, which sees about 16,000 vehicles per day, according to Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) evaluations. Her map amendment expands the commuter shed from the nearby F-rated intersection of US-40/Pulaski Highway at Ebenezer Road to include the intersection of Cowenton and MD-7.

By expanding the commuter shed, no non-industrial development can take place there until improvements are made to the subject intersection.

Currently, there is an approved plan for 300 apartments on the southwest corner of the intersection which the developer was preparing to build.

But because the developer, Keelty Homes, had not yet applied for their building permits, the move stops it in its tracks until improvements are made.

“The intersection is an absolute nightmare, especially during the rush hours of the morning and evening,” Bevins said. “This development project was approved in 2006 before I was in office, for 373 condominium units targeted to people 55 and older.

“The project recently changed to 300 apartments,” she continued. “This was done without any notice to the Council or any impact study on the schools or roads,” Bevins added, and if the apartments were built without any traffic improvements, it would be rated as failing.

“Therefore, I am being proactive in seeking improvements now before the intersection gets any worse,” she said.

Keelty declined to comment on Bevins’ action.

As part of the project, the developer must pay for a new right turn lane from Cowenton Avenue onto westbound MD-7, as well as restriping to extend the left turn lane from eastbound MD-7 onto Cowenton.

But that does not address problems of eastbound traffic backing up in the evenings, especially for those turning right onto Ebenezer Road.

Charlie Gischlar, an SHA spokesperson, said the agency is exploring a standalone concept to add a through lane on eastbound MD-7 at the intersection which would allow more traffic through per light cycle. It would also allow more traffic to turn right toward US-40. However, that concept is not currently funded for design or construction.

“It’s kind of in a planning stage right now,” Gischlar explained. “We did a big traffic study on it concurrent with the development coming through.”

He added, though, that there is a chance it could be funded in the next year or two.

Bevins said it has taken her as much as 50 minutes to travel the roughly six miles to her home from the area because of rush hour traffic. While she recognized the developer will likely challenge her on the designation, she stood by the decision.

“All I’ve done with this is delayed it,” she said. “So they have a year to make improvements and come back, and if it’s better then I’ll put it back.”

Councilman Marks made a similar move to block a supermarket from being built at the intersection of US-1/Belair Road and MD-43/White Marsh Boulevard.

“I made this change after reviewing the ratings issued by [SHA], which by the state’s calculation show the traffic to be worse,” Marks stated. “The state rates this area as having a D rating in the morning and an E rating in the evening. I have grave concerns about allowing this project to move forward here, an opinion shared by many residents of the Dunfield and Belmont communities.”

Marks also noted that there are at least four supermarkets within two miles of that intersection.

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Local legislators wrap up session with town halls, chamber of commerce session

(Updated 5/10/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

With the 2017 General Assembly finished, local legislators took the last few weeks to update their constituents on how the session went.

The District 6 Delegation held two town halls - one at the Victory Villa Community Center (attended only by two reporters) and one at the North Point Library - while representatives from the Seventh and Eighth Districts addressed the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce.

While each representative had both positive and negative takeaways, all were in agreement that the session was an overall bipartisan success, with the General Assembly’s willingness to come together on tackling the rampant opioid problem receiving high praise. Delegate Eric Bromwell (D-8) and Senator Kathy Klausmeier (D-8) led the charge on opioids, and both saw legislation they helped craft get signed into law.

Bromwell and Klausmeier helped lead the way on the HOPE Act, which will increase the reimbursement rate for abuse clinics, expands Drug Court programs and availability of nalaxone, and includes the implementation of a 24/7 crisis center and a statewide hotline to help those in crisis receive help.

“There probably isn’t one person in this room that hasn’t been affected by the heroin epidemic,” Klausmeier told the Chamber. “It gets worse and worse every time you open the newspaper.”

Klausmeier also touted legislation that provides $2 million for the Franklin Square surgical unit, as well as $1 million that will go to CCBC to provide grants for people who need job training.

Bromwell was also pleased with legislation that will open the door for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to sue pharmaceutical companies for price gouging on drugs.

“This is why I got into this job 15 years ago,” said Bromwell. “It’s why I asked to be on the Health Committee and it’s what I’m still trying to do - keep down the cost of drugs, specifically for seniors.”

While Bromwell was pleased overall, he highlighted three bills he deemed bad for business, including paid sick leave and a public accommodations law that would have opened up the doors to frivolous lawsuits.

Delegates Joe Cluster (R-8) and Pat McDonough (R-7), as well as Senators J.B. Jennings (R-7) and Johnny Ray Salling (R-6), thanked Bromwell and Klausmeier for their efforts in combating the opioid problem, but noted that there is still plenty of bad legislation that makes its way onto the floor. Cluster highlighted the HOME Act, which would have required landlords who own three or more properties to accept vouchers as payment. The bill did not end up passing.

“I really believe, as a landlord myself, forcing me to take something that could potentially financially hurt me with no support... it was a really bad bill, and thankfully it died in the Senate.”

Jennings portrayed the paid sick leave bill as a “horrible bill that became bad” after it passed through his committee. He also noted that, with regard to the opioid pandemic, heroin is being cut with other, more deadly drugs that are being shipped through USPS. USPS checks packages for bombs and ammunition, but not drugs. He stated that he’d like to find a solution to that.

McDonough began his address to the Chamber by reiterating that he will not be seeking reelection to the House of Delegates, focusing instead on the soon-to-be-open Baltimore County Executive seat. He stated that Maryland’s General Assembly has “become more radical” over the years, and pointed to the proposed Sanctuary State bill as evidence, as well as expanding Frosh’s power to sue the Trump Administration.

The District 6 town halls had much of the same tone, with Salling and Delegates Robin Grammer, Ric Metzgar and Bob Long heaping praise on Hogan for his work with the budget while deriding some of the more controversial bills like paid sick leave.

The delegation fielded a lot of questions from constituents regarding development at the former Bethlehem Steel site, now owned by Tradepoint Atlantic. Some in the audience questioned the amount of tax credits and cuts Tradepoint has received.

“We, as taxpayers, don’t want to be left holding the bag,” said one member of the audience.

The delegation somewhat assuaged concerns, however, by noting that certain criteria - including average wages for new jobs - had to be met in order for Tradepoint to receive certain tax credits. The delegation also pointed out that Tradepoint was collaborating with tenants to improve the infrastructure in and around the area, with Salling pointing to the recent $30 million collaboration between Tradepoint and Host, who recently took over terminal work at the facility.

“By this time next year they’ll have over 2,500 jobs. Home ownership will go up. Businesses will improve, and other businesses will want to come,” said Salling. “[Tradepoint] is very good for our area, and everyone in the state loves to see what’s going on here.”

Grammer highlighted efforts to curb commercial traffic through Dundalk. According to Grammer, traffic leaving the ports circumvents Broening Highway to avoid being hit with a toll and end up in downtown Dundalk. Grammer was told the toll facility will be reconstructed in 2019, and when that time comes a solution will be made that will allow drivers from the Port of Baltimore and Sparrows Point to get on state highways without being tolled.

Lockheed Martin to resume sediment removal this summer

Lockheed Martin to resume sediment removal this summer
During the first season of work, a barge was used to remove contaminated sediments from lower Cow Pen Creek. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 5/10/17)

- By Devin Crum -

According to Lockheed Martin Corporation’s environmental remediation schedule, the second round of excavation of contaminated sediments from the waters surrounding their Middle River Complex will begin next month.

While the first round, or season, of excavation consisted of dredging in the lower portion of Cow Pen Creek and Dark Head Cove close to their shoreline, the second season will feature excavation “in the dry” of Cow Pen Creek’s upper reaches.

The first season of work was done in the lower portion of the creek during the “environmental work window” when the fish are not spawning and the vegetation are not growing, according to Tom Blackman, a project manager with Lockheed Martin. That window lasted from last October until the beginning of March.

“It’s really the dead of winter when we’re allowed to do our work in the water,” Blackman said.

Workers dredged the sediment - contaminated with industrial solvents known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which are known to be carcinogenic - out of several areas, then placed a six-inch layer of sand over those areas.

The excavated sediment was combined with a product called Calciment, which creates an exothermic reaction to help dry the material before hauling to a landfill in Pennsylvania, he said.

According to Blackman, 2,000 truckloads of sediment were removed from the waterways, which equated to 36,000 cubic yards or 46,000 tons of material.

“And our samples confirmed that our cleanup goals were achieved,” he said.

Workers also repaired the steel sheet pile bulkhead around Dark Head Cove and stabilized some of the storm drains, Blackman explained, to prevent any further movement of contaminated soils into the water.

Mike Martin, a contractor for the project with Tetra Tech, noted that post-work monitoring of the water and sediments in the work areas showed concentrations of the target contaminants that were lower than their goals. As a result, a swimming or water contact advisory will not be necessary like was done for Frog Mortar Creek on the other side of Martin State Airport.

For the second season of work, teams will further excavate Cow Pen Creek where it became too shallow for the dredge to reach, according to Martin.

But rather than working in the water, the creek will be dammed off using bladder dams or sandbags to create dry space in the creek bed. They can then use standard construction equipment like excavators and dump trucks to pull the contaminated material out.

“We’ll use the dams to section off the creek as we excavate down,” Martin explained, “and then we’ll pump the creek water around the areas that are dammed off. So we’ll work in sequence down the creek as we go.”

The uppermost portion of the creek is a small, nontidal stream, he said. But the goal is to restore it to be similar to the way it looks today when work is finished.

Below that is currently a tidal flat at the top of the creek which will be made about three feet deeper. That area will also have a layer of sand placed on top.

As they did following the first season of work, Lockheed workers will be required to collect confirmation samples to ensure they have cleaned everything up satisfactorily, Martin said. They will then move into the restoration phase as they move down.

Restoration will include reconstruction of the meandering stream channel, bank stabilization, replanting of tidal marshes and re-establishing the aquatic vegetation that will be removed, according to Martin.

“These grasses will typically come back on their own, but we’re going to help them along,” he said, noting that they will seed the area with native wild celery harvested from as geographically close as possible to ensure a similar genetic population to what is there now.

“We’ll actually go out in the fall and collect the seeds, then we’re going to store them all winter,” Martin explained. “Then next spring, after the work is done, we’ll go out and broadcast these seeds.”

They will also put out some “exclosures” to protect the vegetation from geese and ducks while it matures.

After the excavation work, the project will involve in situ treatments of areas of Dark Head Cove where only lower concentrations of PCBs are present. Those treatments consist of the spreading of carbon pellets, similar to those found in water filters, which bind up the contaminants so they cannot build up in the food chain, Martin said.

“It’s added and the worms kind of work it into the sediment, and then the PCBs absorb to the carbon and it takes them out of the food chain,” he explained.

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Riverside Dems adopt Rosedale flag pole, ask for community help

Riverside Dems adopt Rosedale flag pole, ask for community help
The Rosedale flag, pictured with its pole and some surroundings for perspective of its size. Photo by Marge Neal.

(Updated 5/10/17)

- By Marge Neal -

For many years, a large American flag has proudly flown from a pole at the intersection of Pulaski Highway and Chesaco Avenue in Rosedale. The Stars and Stripes greeted motorists and pedestrians alike as they carried out their local business or traveled through the neighborhood en route to other destinations.

But when the last flag became too tattered to continue flying and was retired, the pole stood empty and forlorn, missing its banner that waved as a symbol of American values. The Rosedale Flag Committee, which was the caretaker of the flag pole, disbanded, leaving no one to provide upkeep for the local landmark.

To get the flag flying again, the Riverside Democratic Club, based in Essex, stepped in and agreed to adopt the flag. The club is now looking to the community at large to embrace the effort as well.

A replacement flag costs $392, according to Riverside President Al Welsh. The club bought a new flag but is appealing to the community for donations that will be set aside to keep the flag flying for years to come.

The 25-foot by 15-foot flag takes a beating by virtue of its size, Welsh said, and needs to be replaced about twice a year. The Rosedale group used to have the flag repaired to extend its life, but even that was expensive - about $125, according to the president.

According to American Flag Code, a flag should be cleaned and mended as necessary, and should be burned in a “dignified manner” when it is “no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country.” It is considered disrespectful to fly a flag that is tattered, torn or frayed.

“I think it’s a nice thing for the club to do,” Welsh said of Riverside’s decision to assume responsibility for the pole. “You don’t see the American flag fly too much like you used to, and it’s important.”

Welsh is asking local VFW, American Legion and Vietnam veterans posts and chapters, business owners, firefighters, police officers and individual citizens to make donations to keep the Stars and Stripes flying over Rosedale.

“It’s my goal that we could get donations in and have an account just for flag money so that any time we needed to replace the flag, the money’s there,” he said. “And everyone who donates would have a piece of ownership, be proud that the flag is there because of them.”

At a recent club meeting, visitor Jim Johnson, the former Baltimore County Police Department chief who retired in January, walked up to the head table, opened his wallet and handed Welsh a $50 bill.

“I’m pleased to make the first donation,” Johnson said.

Checks made payable to the Riverside Democratic Club, with the notation “flag donation” on the memo line, can be sent to the club at P.O. Box 34238, Essex, MD 21221.

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Land clearing begins for contested Essex development

Land clearing begins for contested Essex development
Workers began clearing the site Wednesday morning, April 26, to make way for an approved 180-apartment complex. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 5/3/17)

- By Devin Crum -

On Wednesday, April 26, workers began cutting down trees on a parcel of land in Essex in preparation for 180 new apartments along Back River Neck Road.

The action coincided with a “final attempt” by a different developer to get some community residents to drop their appeal of a townhome project that would replace the apartment plan.

Conor Gilligan, of Craftsmen Developers, proposed last year to modify the apartment plan, fully designed and approved for the site between Middleborough and Hyde Park roads, to one for 129 townhomes instead.

Some community members opposed the proposal and immediately filed an appeal to the county’s approval of the townhome project as a minor plan change.

Gilligan attempted to negotiate an agreement with the community members, offering to do more site work to improve aesthetics, as well as a $50,000 contribution toward a community benefit and other concessions to get them to drop their appeal.

In February, after being approached by the three local volunteer fire companies, he proposed to carve out a piece of the site for a new fire station for them following their planned merger.

And in his final attempt to come to an agreement, Gilligan offered to abide by the most current storm water management standards for his project, even though he was only being held to older ones.

Gilligan set a deadline of May 15 for the parties to come to an agreement, but told the East County Times that there is no significance to that date. He simply said he has asked multiple times for the community associations to review the proposal and make comments, “so that we can move on.”

“The issue I’m having is, I’m continuing to have meetings and I’m continuing to get support from basically the entire county with the exception of the folks down at Rockaway Beach,” he said.

Gilligan noted he has met or spoken with members of the Hyde Park, Middleborough and Rockaway Beach communities, the Essex-Middle River Civic Council and various other community leaders on and around the Back River Neck peninsula and all except Rockaway Beach have either supported it or had no comment, but preferred townhomes over apartments.

“I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that the majority of that peninsula would much rather see a community that has less density and is ownership housing,” Gilligan commented.

The Rockaway Beach Improvement Association, one of the parties to the appeal, held a closed meeting of its membership on Monday, May 1, ultimately deciding to press on with their appeal.

The other parties to the appeal are the New Haven Woods Community Association and the Bauernschmidt Manor Improvement Association, according to RBIA Vice President Kevin McDonough.

“Fundamentally, we don’t view this as a choice between townhouses or apartments,” the RBIA said in a statement. “It’s a choice between following the process or skirting the process. We simply are asking for the development to follow the traditional development process instead of granting it a limited exemption.”

That choice drew criticism, though, from members of the three fire companies and other community members who see the townhomes as the lesser of two evils. And many on the peninsula as a whole feel the RBIA is acting irrationally and with a personal axe to grind because of issues they have had with other Craftsmen projects on Cape May and Turkey Point roads.

One attendee of the RBIA meeting, who asked not to be named, confirmed to the Times that RBIA President Kim Goodwin stated she would have continued on with the appeal on her own and with her own money had the association voted not to.

Goodwin contended that she did not say that and clarified her statement, saying that she would donate money to appeal the permits for the apartment project if necessary.

Goodwin also commented on social media that beginning to clear the property was a “scare tactic.”

But Gilligan affirmed that he would not pursue his project if the residents do not drop their appeal, despite the other community support.

“It just takes one person,” he said. “I don’t want to fight an appeal because I’m already dealing with them on another appeal for 17 single-family lots and it has cost me close to $100,000 and it’s held me up for going on two years.

“And I don’t think [current site owner] Hendersen Webb wants to wait two years to sell their property,” he added, commenting on how long it could take to move his project through the development process from the beginning.

The presidents of the three VFCs each expressed similar sentiments of disappointment in the RBIA decision.

Hyde Park VFD President John Alban also said Hendersen Webb has been firm that they will build the apartments if they are not able to sell to Gilligan.

“Hendersen Webb apparently has a deadline on their permits, so they’re not going to let it sit empty,” he said. “In a perfect world, we could have a park or something there. But it’s going to be developed.”

Alban said by opposing the townhomes, the residents were hurting the fire companies because they would not get the land for a new station and apartments are a higher burden on first responders.

“I’m very disappointed that this group, knowing that it would benefit the fire companies and eliminate the apartments, continues their fight,” Alban stated.

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Community groups set out to clean up county’s east side

Community groups set out to clean up county’s east side
County Councilman Todd Crandell (center) volunteered to work the hot grill on a warm day to keep participants fueled up with food and drinks, as well as to keep the event fun and flowing.

(Updated 5/8/17)

- By Devin Crum -

Saturday, April 29, was a big day for the environment in eastern Baltimore County, with at least three major cleanup events taking place throughout the day.

Perhaps the most hyped of those events was the Back River Restoration Committee’s cleaning of roughly a mile-long stretch of Grays Road in Dundalk, from its intersection with Wise Avenue to about the fork at Wire Mill Road. The cleanup was sponsored by Key Brewing Company, which lies at the end of Grays Road.

Grays Road along the cleanup boundaries is bordered by Sparrows Point Country Club on its west side and mostly industrial properties to the east. That lack of residential or commercial activity creates ideal conditions for illegal dumping, which had been rampant along the stretch.

While much of the garbage and other discarded items would likely make its way to Bear Creek - not Back River - by way of local streams, the area is close to the Back River watershed, according to BRRC President Sam Weaver.

On top of that, the BRRC sometimes ventures outside its own boundaries to work with other communities and organizations to build a greater environmental awareness, said Karen Wynn, BRRC’s executive director.

Prior to the cleanup event, Grays Road had been littered along its edges and in storm ditches with all manner of discarded bulk items, as well as general trash.

Volunteers on Saturday got to work late morning pulling things like mattresses, construction scrap, household appliances and electronics such as vacuum cleaners and televisions, toilets, car parts, containers of used automotive oil and, of course, tires out of the wooded areas for collection and proper disposal.

Baltimore County supplied at least four dumpsters for use during the event along with several pieces of heavy trucks and other equipment.

Two of the dumpsters were designated specifically for tires and both were filled by day’s end.

Edgemere resident Dale Grimes, who was described by others as specializing in tires, joined the other volunteers in cleaning up the area and was happy to add some tires to his lifetime collection total.

Grimes said he keeps track of every dumped tire he has collected over the last decade or so, which has amounted to 1,550 to date. However, that total will increase to 1,660 once the county picks up the pile of 110 tractor trailer tires he removed near the I-695 overpass at Trappe Road in Dundalk.

He said he got started with the effort when he was a teacher in Rosedale and trying to instill an environmental awareness in his students. He has even created his own tool he uses - an S-hook made of rebar which he uses to hook tires to more easily pull them from the brush.

Grimes noted that he also travels around to different community environmental events to help raise awareness of the damage tires can cause.

“Not only are they a form of pollution, but a big problem is that when it rains, the water sits in them and creates problems with mosquitoes,” he said.

Another volunteer, Nora Baublitz, noted that they had picked up “thousands” of drink cups thrown by the roadside. She suspected they were all from the same person since they all had that person’s “signature” - a chewed piece of gum stuck to the lid.

Although the event officially lasted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Weaver said he got started preparing for the day at 6 a.m. loading up BRRC’s supply trailer, getting things ready for refreshments and other necessary work.

“There’s a lot that goes into this behind the scenes,” he explained.

BRRC treated their volunteers to grilled burgers and hotdogs, drinks and other snacks. And because of their sponsorship, Key Brewing offered participants the chance to unwind while enjoying a variety of their own refreshing adult beverages when the work was done.

The Hawthorne Civic Association also held its annual Bein’ Green environmental cleanup event, with Lockheed Martin Corporation volunteers joining in, along Cowpen Creek and throughout the Hawthorne community in Middle River.

Cowpen Creek separates Hawthorne from LMC’s Middle River complex.

The Bein’ Green event followed Lockheed’s “Show and Tell” outreach event at Hawthorne Elementary School the day before, which sought to educate local residents and children about the environmental remediation work they have done and are planning to do in Cowpen Creek and the adjacent Dark Head Cove.

Over the winter, LMC was involved in dredging activity in Cowpen Creek to remove contaminated sediments there, as well as a bulkhead replacement in Dark Head Cove to prevent contamination on land from seeping into the water. They also have more remediation activities planned for next winter.

Tom Blackman, a project manager for LMC, said they wanted to be sure they got the correct information out to the community, and holding the event at Hawthorne Elementary was a good way to reach children in the area.

“I know as a kid seeing construction, I’d be curious of what was going on,” Blackman said.

He mentioned that parents have also told him they better understood the remediation work after seeing their children work with different demonstrations.

The Show and Tell event functioned as a sort of open forum for the community and also gave them an opportunity to learn about other environmental conservation going on in area waterways, such as oyster reef restoration efforts by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Additionally, students from Stemmers Run Middle School’s science club worked with younger children to participate in educational demonstrations.

About three dozen residents on and around the Bird River also joined with volunteers from the Bird River Restoration campaign to clean up a large amount of trash and debris that had collected around the shorelines and marshes of the upper river.

Windy and stormy weather during the winter and spring had blown a lot of trash into the area, and volunteers were able to remove many of the same materials as the Back River group which might have caused problems in the ecosystem.

See more photos from the assorted events on the East County Times' home page.

This article was updated to correct who held the Bein' Green event in Hawthorne. A previous version of this article stated that Lockheed Martin Corporation held the event, but it has been put on by the HCA since 2003, with LMC volunteers and those from associated contractors joining in later years.

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White Marsh VFC gets $75k for new station, to start building this summer

White Marsh VFC gets $75k for new station, to start building this summer
A concept rendering of how the new station is designed to look when complete. Image courtesy of WMVFC.

(Updated 5/3/17))

- By Devin Crum -

The White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company is set to receive $75,000 from the state for planning and construction of their new station.

The recently concluded General Assembly session in Annapolis saw a bond bill passed in the State Senate to grant the funds to the fire company.

The senate bill, sponsored by Eighth District Senator Kathy Klausmeier, was cross-filed with a bill in the House of Delegates which was co-sponsored by delegates Eric Bromwell, Christian Miele and Joe Cluster.

The House and Senate bills each asked for $350,000 from the state to be used by WMVFC’s Board of Directors for “acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement and capital equipping” of their new building, according to the bill language.

However, the House bill was given an unfavorable report by that chamber’s Appropriations Committee, according to documents on the legislature’s website. And Del. Miele said it was instead passed through a reconciliation bill between the House and Senate allocating a negotiated $75,000 from the senate only.

Miele opined that the legislature gave only a fraction of the amount asked for because they had already given $150,000 to WMVFC through a similar bond bill two years ago. That 2015 bond money also came from the State Senate.

Because the funds from the senate are given through a matching fund program, the fire company must also spend $75,000 of its own money to receive the grant.

“We still have some work to do in our capital campaign,” said WMVFC Captain Rick Blubaugh. “We continue to meet with businesses who are rising to meet the call for both monetary and in-kind donations.”

When the company ceremonially broke ground for the new station in November, Blubaugh and other company officials explained that they had raised about $30,000 from residential donations and $300,000 from businesses. This combined with the proceeds from the sale of land owned by WMVFC across the street from their current station, which amounted to approximately $800,000.

Baltimore County has also allocated $1.7 million in its budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to help fund the new station’s construction, according to county auditors. But the budget does not specify when those funds are to be disbursed.

While Blubaugh noted the company has not physically received that funding yet, he said the county has made a “significant commitment to complete the project.”

The company thanked Sen. Klausmeier, who sponsored both bond bills passed by the senate, calling her a strong advocate for WMVFC.

Blubaugh said he expected construction on the new station to begin in July, and the bid process for the project was set to commence by the end of last month.

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School officials ‘bust myths’ about homework, grading policies

(Updated 5/3/17)

- By Marge Neal -

While children may have rejoiced when Baltimore County Public Schools opened this school year with the news that homework would no longer be counted toward grades, parents were less than thrilled.

Since the original announcement, the message has been tweaked and better communicated with education audiences.

At a recent Southeast Area Educational Advisory Council meeting, school system officials offered an updated explanation of some changes in philosophy regarding student grading and reporting.

The overall goal is to make sure that grades accurately reflect what students know as measured against course standards, according to Christina Byers, senior executive for curriculum operations.

In 2015, the Baltimore County Board of Education approved Policy 5210, the “heart and core” of which is to ensure that student grading is equitable, accurate, timely and specific, Byers said. In approving the policy, the school board also voted to wait a year until implementation in the 2016-17 school year, allowing time to provide training for teachers.

Byers said she and her colleagues are doing their best to communicate with parents to “bust the myths that are out there” regarding homework and other assignments that, when added to test and quiz scores, create overall grades.

For example, Byers talked of how well students have been trained to work for points. The points earned become the end goal, with students not getting the connection of why they are completing certain assignments and how they relate to the learning process.

Homework is assigned because it provides practice for lessons learned, and it offers immediate feedback as to how well the student has grasped the new material, she said.

Colleague Linda Marchineck, a coordinator of curriculum operations, agreed. “Homework really is an opportunity to strengthen classroom lessons,” she said. “Students now see its value beyond points - they have figured out if they don’t do their homework, they don’t do so well on the assessments. They’re finally making that connection.”

And students are learning there are  consequences to not doing homework - they forfeit that valuable feedback and they don’t know where they stand in regard to grasping new information.

In short, the educators said, homework is being given and it is being scored.

Another parental concern is the existence of “re-dos” in classwork. The myth exists that students get the chance to re-do an assignment or retake a test as many times as they want.

While that is not the case, Marchineck said the opportunity for students to get another chance at an assignment after receiving additional instruction and performance feedback only benefits the student.

“One of the highest levels of assessment a teacher can give is feedback,” she said. “And it’s only fair to give a child another opportunity to improve their achievement based upon that feedback.”

Another area that generated parental concern was the decision to not factor class behavior into the academic grade.

Acknowledging that effort, conduct and behavior are all important aspects of the learning process, Byers and Marchineck said the decision was made to make “conduct and learning skills” a separate measure of achievement to ensure the consistency and accuracy of grades.

A well-behaved, polite, compliant child with an average understanding of content could receive high grades that give a misleading perception of mastery of content, while a high-performing student could receive lower grades based upon poor behavior or study habits.

“With behavior and habits mixed in, it was hard to tell by the achievement grade what and where a student was lacking - was it behavior or content?” Marchineck said. “With those separated, we have a better understanding of where the students stand, and so do they and their parents.”

More information about the school system’s grading and reporting policies can be found at

Weis to open new supermarket in Fullerton Plaza this fall

Weis to open new supermarket in Fullerton Plaza this fall
An aerial view of the Fullerton Plaza shopping center, where a new Weis supermarket is set to replace a vacant former Kmart. Photo courtesy of Kimco Realty.

(Updated 5/3/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Weis Markets hopes to open one of its deluxe grocery stores along with a gas station to serve customers in redeveloping Fullerton Plaza in Parkville by Thanksgiving.

The Kmart store in the shopping center at Belair Road and Rossville Boulevard closed about 15 months ago, and Weis plans to use most of the old building for the new store.

New Weis stores typically hire about 200 people, said Jack O’Hara, vice president of legal affairs and real estate for the company.

He and other officials spoke at a hearing on Thursday, April 28, in Towson, asking for county approval for a setback variance to allow the gas station near a residential area and for a special hearing to allow fuel prices to be posted on an electronic canopy sign above the pumps.

Baltimore County Administrative Law Judge John Beverungen listened to testimony and will issue a written ruling soon.

Numbering six fueling stations, the proposed gas station would be built in the middle of the existing paved parking lot, which will still have room for 816 parking spaces to serve the new store and existing smaller tenants, including a Salvo Auto Parts store.

Gas station hours would coincide with those of the store, which are likely to be 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight, O’Hara said.

Speaking for Weis, attorney Caroline Hecker of the Rosenberg, Martin, Greenberg law firm, said the store will include a deli, café, indoor sushi bar and other amenities.

“It’s a catalyst for redeveloping the center,” Hecker said about the new store, which she added is part of a $13 million investment to revitalize the shopping center.

Kimco Realty, which owns the center, is expected to plant 138 trees on the site as part of an upgrade that will also include new store facades.

Plans call for 23 evergreens along the unnamed access road connecting Belair Road and Fitch Avenue that runs along the southwest border of the shopping center.

Across the access road are homeowners represented by the Fitch Avenue Community Association, who asked that the existing chain link fence along the road be replaced with a six-foot-high wooden fence, which Kimco agreed to.

"Overall, I'm very pleased with the renovations," said Councilman David Marks (R-5), who represents the area, on Monday. "It's very bare right now," he referring to the planting of trees and shrubs.

Marks said Kimco has also committed to putting in fencing in the rear of the former K-mart store to prevent dumping into what are the headwaters of Stemmers Run. The site drains downward from Belair Road toward Linover Park.

The site falls within the Overlea Commercial Revitalization District, which will enable Kimco to apply for tax credits available for eligible reinvestment projects.

One of two neighbors who attended the hearing, Donna Willis, said she is concerned that the gas station could  lower the value of several still undeveloped residential lots in their neighborhood, including hers.

“It’s my inheritance for my grandchildren,” said Willis, whose grandfather farmed the area decades ago and whose family built some of the houses in the neighborhood.

However, Willis said she thinks upgrading the shopping center will raise property values in the long run.

Local resident Gloria Kelly mentioned high traffic volumes on Belair Road, but Beverungen noted a letter from the State Highway Administration stating that the gas station is not expected to cause a problem.

Kelly also asked if a walkable path could be created linking the nearby Catholic Charities’ Village Crossroads complex for senior citizens to the shopping center.

“You take your life in your hands if you cross Belair Road to reach the Giant [in the Putty Hill Plaza],” she said about people walking to the Giant for groceries.

This article was updated to include more details about the project and comments from Councilman David Marks.

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New Royal Farms store in the works for Dundalk

(Updated 4/27/17)

Set to replace car business that will relocate

- By Virginia Terhune -

Royal Farms plans to build a new convenience store, gas station and car wash on a site at the southwest corner of Wise Avenue and North Point Boulevard in Dundalk.

The corner, across from Pop’s Tavern, is currently home to several automotive services that include GMP Auto Care Center, Thrifty Car Sales and Tint World.

The businesses are expected to relocate farther north to a former McDonald’s site on North Point Boulevard across from Eastpoint Mall.

A spokeswoman for Royal Farms declined to comment about the new store project, which was granted a limited exemption from the county’s Development Review Committee meeting on April 25 in Towson.

The limited exemption process enables commercial projects to proceed without a community input meeting providing they meet certain criteria.

Plans presented at the meeting of department representatives showed a 5,371 square-foot combination convenience store and restaurant in one building, a car wash on one side and space for 16 gas pumps, some of which will sell diesel fuel.

Plans indicate room for 70 parking spaces on the 2.4-acre site that also includes a former Bank of America branch.

The site is zoned Business Roadside-Automotive Services, which means Royal Farms is expected to apply for a special exception from a county administrative law judge for the proposed car wash before it can apply for permits to raze the existing buildings and build the new store.

Royal Farms currently operates a store at 4015 North Point Blvd. next to one of its major competitors, Wawa. At least two people have said that store is expected to close when the new store opens, but that information has not been confirmed by Royal Farms.

Founded in 1959 and known for its take-out chicken, privately owned Royal Farms currently operates more than 160 stores in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia, including a store at 18A Dundalk Ave. It also recently remodeled its store on Windlass Drive in Middle River.

Currently hiring, the company hosted a recruitment event on April 25 at the state’s American Jobs employment center near Eastpoint Mall.

The existing auto businesses on the Wise Avenue/North Point Boulevard corner are expected to relocate to the former McDonald’s site, which is close to other car dealerships that draw on potential customers from busy Eastern Avenue and the beltway.

Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), who represents Dundalk and Essex, and the rest of the County Council rezoned the McDonald’s site to allow automotive services last August as part of the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP) done every four years in the county.

They also rezoned more than half an acre on the new Royal Farms site on Wise Avenue to allow automotive services, according to the CZMP Log of Issues.

Norman announces candidacy; District 8 Republican slate taking shape

Norman announces candidacy; District 8 Republican slate taking shape
Norman, pictured with his wife and children, stated he wants to help Gov. Hogan push his agenda in Annapolis.

(Updated 4/26/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

With filing underway for the 2018 election season, the picture in the House of Delegates’ Eighth District race is starting to take shape.

So far, former delegate Joe Boteler - who lost his seat in 2014 after redistricting moved him to District 42A - and Joe Norman, who is running for the first time, have filed to run. Delegates Joe Cluster and Christian Miele, who currently serve the district, have yet to file. All four are Republicans.

Cluster is expected to file for the House of Delegates, while Miele is “strongly considering” challenging Kathy Klausmeier for her State Senate seat, which she has held since 2002. Miele expects to make a decision in the next couple of months.

Should Miele decide to take on Klausmeier - which looks likely, according to sources - the Republican ticket in the Eighth District would be the “All Joe Ticket.” Norman mentioned that other names have been floated, but so far no one else has filed.

“We’ll see if that’s how it turns out, but that’s the way it’s looking right now,” said Norman.

Norman, a Perry Hall resident, officially announced his candidacy on April 13. The self-described “moderate Republican” told the East County Times that running for office has been on his radar for a while, and the opportunity in the Eighth District is too good to pass up this time around.

A former vice president at the Perry Hall Improvement Association, Norman has been active in the community for some time and stated that he understands the concerns of the people he’s hoping to represent.

“What’s important to me is for Maryland to be a place where my kids are going to want to raise their families,” said Norman. “The way things have been going the last 10 years with the General Assembly just moving us further and further to the left... I would be hard-pressed to advise them that this is where they should put their roots down.”

Norman said that reducing the tax burden on businesses and families would be a primary concern. He also noted that he wants to “hold spending accountable.”

“[I want to make] sure our public education system stays strong and holding the money that we spend accountable, not using money spent as the metric. Just saying we increased education spending or spending on Chesapeake Bay programs, none of that means the Bay is getting cleaner or our schools are getting better. It just means we’re spending more money.”

Professionally, Norman works in real estate with Keller-Williams. During his time working in real estate, and working with the PHIA, Norman said he learned a lot about development and education, both of which happen to be hot-button issues in the Eighth District.

“Fortunately Councilman David Marks and I share the same goals when it comes to those issues of limiting future development of our area in the northeast, getting a new middle school built - which of course was funded but we have to see through to fruition - as well as the new elementary school.”

Norman, who graduated from Salisbury University with a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Johns Hopkins with a master’s in Electrical Engineering, got into real estate after he found work in his field to be too much time behind a desk.

“I prefer to be outside, talking to people,” said Norman.

Should the ticket end up with Norman, Cluster and Boteler, any concerns about inexperience would certainly be quelled. While Cluster only has a year under his belt in the General Assembly - he took the place of his father, John Cluster, who resigned last year to take a position in the Hogan administration - he has spent several years working with the Maryland Republican Party.

Boteler previously served in Annapolis from 2003 - 2015. The Maryland State Board of Elections site has him registered for an address in Perry Hall, rumored to be his son’s house. The Times reached out to Boteler for comment but had not heard back by press time.

During his time in the General Assembly, Boteler served on multiple committees, including the Health and Government Operations Committee, Ways and Means and Environmental Matters Committee. From 2007 - 2010 he served as the deputy minority whip for the House of Delegates.

On education, Boteler was vocal in his opposition to the Common Core curriculum, while he supported elections for school board positions. On economic issues, he often advocated for reducing regulations and the tax burden on businesses while opposing minimum wage increases.

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County accelerates funding for Berkshire, Colgate construction

County accelerates funding for Berkshire, Colgate construction
Berkshire and Colgate elementary schools, both in Dundalk, will have their funding and construction accelerated by two and three years, respectively.

(Updated 4/26/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Two Dundalk elementary schools - Berkshire and Colgate - received word Tuesday, April 25, that they would have their funding accelerated for replacement schools, moving up the deadline for each school’s opening by two and three years respectively.

Berkshire was previously scheduled to receive funding in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and open in 2022, while Colgate was set to receive funding in FY20 and open in 2023. Now, both schools are scheduled to open in 2020 with funds allocated in the FY18 budget.

The two schools had their funding accelerated after the Baltimore County Board of Education declined to vote on funding for a new Dulaney High School, according to Baltimore County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler.

Besides Berkshire and Colgate, a press release sent out by the county also noted that Bedford Elementary in Pikesville and Chadwick Elementary in Catonsville all will have their funding accelerated as well.

“With every school that we complete, we are one step closer to finishing the work we started in 2011,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in the release. “With our $1.3 billion Schools for our Future program, we are in the final stages of building 16 new schools, 12 additions and [seven] comprehensive renovations. I am very proud of this historic progress.”

Both Berkshire and Colgate are in dire need of new facilities. Colgate was originally constructed in 1924, with additions made in 1966. It has a capacity of 319 with a current enrollment of 432. Berkshire was constructed in 1954 with additions made in 1987. Like Colgate, it is well over capacity, with 511 students for 428 seats.

The replacement facilities for Berkshire and Colgate coincide with the Kamenetz administration’s plan to replace Dundalk Elementary, which received funding in the FY17 budget. Dundalk Elementary was constructed in 1925 and is approximately 100 students over capacity. Funding for the new school was approved in the FY17 capital budget.

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Perry Hall restaurant/bar fined $500

Liquor board dismisses two other cases

(Updated 4/25/17)

- By Virginia Terhune -

Lib’s Grill in Perry Hall was fined, and cases against two other establishments were dismissed after hearings before the county Board of Liquor Commissioners on Monday, April 24, in Towson.

The three-member board had scheduled three show-cause hearings to review allegations about serving liquor to intoxicated persons.

Lib’s Grill, at 5009 Honeygo Center Drive, was fined $500 based on a police report indicating that a 23-year-old patron had been drinking for several hours during happy hour on Feb. 22.

A police officer stopped him at Rexis and Cowenton avenues at about 8 p.m. and administered a blood alcohol breath test. The patron registered a .16 blood alcohol level, which is above the legal limit of .08, according to the police report.

The patron told the officer that he had left Lib’s Grill about 10 minutes before being stopped, the report said, and his attorney confirmed via email that it was the only place his client had been drinking that night.

Because it was the establishment’s first offense, the board imposed a fine of $500. The maximum fine for selling to intoxicated persons is $2,000.

In two other cases, the board dismissed allegations of serving intoxicated persons because there was not enough testimony or evidence to hold the bars responsible.

In one case involving Scoozzi’s bar and restaurant, at 7625 German Hill Road in Dundalk, a 27-year-old patron testified Monday that she visited the bar for an hour during the evening of March 3 and had one beer. Managers testified that she did not appear to be intoxicated.

However, the patron also testified that she had been drinking at a friend’s house that night. She was stopped by police at about 4:30 a.m. on March 4 and given a blood alcohol breath test, registering .13, according to the police report.

In the third case, the board dismissed allegations against the Bird River Inn, at 10529 Bird River Road in Middle River. Representatives did not appear as scheduled on Monday and the case was not heard because the alleged intoxicated patron called the board to say that he had also been drinking somewhere else that day.

Hearing dates and board decisions can be found at by searching for “liquor board.”

Republican councilmen announce legislative package taking aim at illegal immigration

Republican councilmen announce legislative package taking aim at illegal immigration
Republican County Council members David Marks (left), Todd Crandell and Wade Kach announced two public safety measures that will be introduced to the council on May 1. They will need at least two Democrats to vote with them in order to have a veto-proof majority. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 4/19/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

The three Republican members of the Baltimore County Council announced Tuesday, April 18, that they are preparing legislation that would see the Baltimore County Department of Corrections (DOC) collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as require businesses county-wide to verify the immigration status of prospective employees.

The announcement came less than two weeks after County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced an executive order instructing county law enforcement not to inquire about immigration status or hold detainees past their release dates at the request of federal deportation agents unless those agents have presented a judicial order.

“It’s a shame what has happened in the county since the county executive issued his executive order,” said Councilman Wade Kach (R-3). “We have a population more stressed than ever because you have a situation where people in the county are concerned after seeing news reports of people in this country illegally committing horrible crimes. And then on the other side of the coin you have people of different nationalities in this county concerned about retribution.”

Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), joined by Kach and Councilman David Marks (R-5), announced he is submitting legislation through which the DOC would utilize a section of the The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996. The section “authorizes the director of ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of ICE officers,” according to ICE’s website.

“Essentially what this proposed legislation would do, should it pass, it would deputize department of corrections officers to perform various functions of federal immigration statutes,” said Crandell. “What this would do is basically send a message that if you are in this country illegally, and are convicted of a crime and sentenced to incarceration at the Baltimore County Detention Center, that you would be subject to federal immigration statutes.”

The other measure, proposed by Kach, would require all businesses in the county to use E-Verify, an internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. According to Kach, E-Verify is correct approximately 96 percent of the time. And should you be a business owner who is being investigated for hiring illegal immigrants, you would simply need to show that you searched the E-Verify system to avoid penalty.

The Republican trio maintained that not only are these proposed measures good for public safety, they are also good for businesses and citizens looking for employment.

Democratic members of the council were made aware of their counterparts’ intentions Monday night, though specifics of the bills were not discussed.

While Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents the east side’s District 6, declined to comment on the bills without seeing them first, she noted, “I want to be proactive to find out what our Department of Corrections already has in place. I don’t want to react to comments made on a federal website.”

In order for these measures to pass with a veto-proof majority, two Democrats would have to sign on. Crandell stated that the Republicans on the County Council decided to unveil their intention two weeks before it will be submitted so that the other members of the council - and citizens of Baltimore County - will have time to mull over the legislation.

Kach and Crandell balked at the idea that the legislation was presented in response to Kamenetz’s Executive Order or to the Trump administration’s threats to withhold federal funding for jurisdictions providing “sanctuary.” Crandell told reporters he had been looking into the measure since he read recently in the media about other counties, including Frederick and Harford, utilizing the program.

Kamenetz released a statement following the announcement simply reaffirming his executive order.

The councilmen stated that they wanted to be proactive and noted that they currently would not be aware of crimes committed by illegal immigrants in Baltimore County due to lack of disclosure. But their aim is to stop trouble before it starts.

“We were all just horrified by what happened in Montgomery County,” said Crandell, referencing the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl by two illegal immigrants. “If we can do anything possible to prohibit that from happening in Baltimore County I think it’s incumbent upon us as elected representatives to do that.”

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Brochin takes message of campaign finance reform on the road

Brochin takes message of campaign finance reform on the road
Senator Jim Brochin, who represents Towson and northern Baltimore County, when he announced his bill to restrict campaign donations from developers back in January. Photo by Devin Crum.

(Updated 4/19/17)

- By Marge Neal - 

State Senator Jim Brochin has two campaign messages that could resonate well with Baltimore County voters, if the recent response from Riverside Democratic Club members is any indication.

Brochin, who is stumping around the beltway as he prepares to officially launch his candidacy for county executive this fall, talked to Riverside members on April 13 about his desire to put an end to pay-to-play politics in Baltimore County.

He’s particularly interested in stopping the influence of land developers’ campaign contributions and crafted state legislation during the recently concluded General Assembly that would have created a window of time during which developers could not contribute to any elected leaders who might have occasion to vote on issues involving the developers’ plans.

While public opinion greatly favored the bill, it failed to get out of committee, mostly because of singular opposition from building and development lobbying, according to Brochin.

“It got killed 6-2 in committee,” he told club members.

Brochin vowed to reintroduce similar legislation next year and said he would not let the issue drop.

“These developers shouldn’t be stuffing the politicians’ jackets and pants and pocketbooks and purses with cash to get what they want,” he said.

Noting that the pay-to-play system has been around since the days of Dale Anderson and Spiro Agnew - both disgraced former Baltimore County executives - Brochin believes that “massive campaign finance reform is needed to take developer money out of the equation.”

Brochin’s effort to introduce campaign finance reform was met with approval by those in attendance at the club meeting.

One member said he doesn’t believe the proposal goes far enough. He approved of the three-year window before any decisions were made concerning a particular developer but asked what happens after a decision is made; what’s to stop the developer from making a huge donation after a decision goes in his favor?

Brochin said he agrees but said the effort has to start somewhere. The more stringent an initial bill is, the harder it will be to get anything approved, he said. It’s important to get some sort of reform on the books and then modifications can be made, he said.

“Some of the things going on in Towson right now are repugnant,” he said of development proposals. “Something has to be done.”

He specifically noted the proposed sale of the North Point Government Center in Dundalk and the building of a Royal Farms store at the intersection of York Road and Bosley Avenue in Towson as projects that communities were vehemently opposed to but went through despite that opposition.

Brochin was accompanied by former Baltimore County Police Department Chief Jim Johnson, who was thanked by club President Al Welsh for his 38 and a half years of service to the citizens of Baltimore County.

Several club members applauded when Brochin said, “If I’m elected county executive, Jim Johnson is my chief of police.”

Johnson, a Kenwood High School graduate who worked his way from patrolman to chief, retired January 31 after County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced he was going “in a different direction” with police department leadership and named Terrence B. Sheridan to succeed Johnson. Sheridan previously served as the county’s police chief from 1996 to 2007 before being named superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

Riverside’s response to Brochin’s message about campaign finance reform and his choice of police leadership supports the senator’s belief that county residents are tired of politics as usual.

“The chief did an outstanding job and it would be an honor to have him serve as my chief of police,” Brochin said in a phone interview of Johnson. “And pay-to-play politics is pervasive across the county. I hear from people all the time who tell me, ‘I don’t understand - my entire community association was against this [project], why did it pass?’”

Brochin believes rank and file citizens are “treated like dirt” in the current political system and their needs take a back seat to big corporate interests.

“Someone needs to step in and do something about it, and of the three people running for executive, I’m the only one to do it,” he said.

Former 6th District State Delegate John Olszewski Jr. and current Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond (2nd District) have announced their intentions to run for executive.

Brochin believes this election cycle is a “once in a generation opportunity” for citizens to take county government out of the control of big money.

“I mean this from the bottom of my heart - this could be our last chance to get our county back,” he said at the meeting.

Another hot topic in Baltimore County and the state is the idea of creating sanctuary jurisdictions that offer protection to illegal immigrants.

“I’m with the Senate president on this - I don’t think Maryland should be a sanctuary state and I don’t think Baltimore County should be a sanctuary county,”  Brochin told the Times. “I disagree with the county executive on this.”

Brochin said that once an individual is arrested and charged with a crime, law enforcement officials should have the right to do a complete background check, including checking to see if there is an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer on the individual and to verify that the person is in the country legally.

“I agree with not being able to just grab someone off the street or approach someone and randomly ask to see papers,” Brochin said. “But once someone is arrested, it gets into public safety. If you have held up a liquor store or committed a sexual assault and you’re here illegally, we should have the right to deport you.”

The 15-year state senator believes so strongly about the need to clean up the way Baltimore County does business that he is giving up his senate seat to pursue the executive’s office.

“It’s understood that you can only become the Baltimore County executive with big money and developer money,” he said. “I’m going to fly in the face of that - I’m going to run a grassroots campaign with small donations from the people who want their county back, who want their needs treated as equally as anyone else’s.”

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Proposed budget heavy on education spending, public safety

Proposed budget heavy on education spending, public safety
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz delivered his budget to the County Council for approval last week. Photo by Patrick Taylor.

(Updated 4/19/17)

- By Patrick Taylor -

Keeping in line with recent years, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 is heavy on education and public safety spending.

With a total operating budget of $3.15 billion, 60.4 percent of it, or $1.9 billion, will be going towards education in the county’s public school system, the community college system and public libraries. The budget accelerates funding for the construction of three elementary schools in Dundalk, an elementary school and middle school in the Perry Hall area, an addition to Pine Grove Middle School in Parkville and funding for a new health center and technology building at CCBC Essex.

“One of my top priorities since being elected has been to reduce school overcrowding,” said Councilman David Marks, (R-5). “We lowered development on thousands of acres of land, preserved green space and pushed for two new elementary schools. I am delighted that the Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes funding to advance a new middle school in the Perry Hall area. As a Perry Hall parent, I know that we desperately need a new middle school, and I thank those advocates who have been working with us over the past year on this issue.”

Similar sentiments were offered by Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), whose district will see three replacement schools being built for Berkshire, Colgate and Dundalk elementaries.

“I’m very pleased that we’ll be moving forward with construction on these three elementary schools,” he said.

Aside from education spending, public safety upgrades are receiving a lot of attention in the 2018 budget. Funding is included for a new $27 million computer-aided dispatch and emergency communications system, as well as $4.39 million for the body camera roll out, including funding for additional evidence technicians in the state’s attorney’s office.

Once again, the budget does not raise property or income taxes for county residents.

A large majority of the county’s budget comes from property and income taxes. The property tax rate has remained unchanged for 29 years, with a rate of $1.10 per $100 of assessed value, while the local income tax rate remains at 2.83 percent for 25 years running.

Other items in the budget include $500,000 for improvements to Double Rock Park, funding for an indoor turf field replacement at the Northeast Regional Recreation Center, funding for new trails at Marshy Point Nature Center and funding for an artificial turf field at Perry Hall High School.

The Eastern Family Resource Center is receiving $1.2 million in funding to help combat homelessness in the county. The new shelter will open later this year with expanded health services, shelter beds for men and women, and resources for people in need. The expansion for the center will double the number of transitional housing beds for women and children who need shelter.

“Women and children who need shelter often are victims of domestic violence and need a safe place to stay for weeks before they secure permanent housing,” Kamenetz stated.

Countywide, Kamenetz is committing $470 million for water and sewer system upgrades and maintenance to go along with $38 million for road resurfacing projects.

Elsewhere, $10.4 million has been set aside for recreation, with $4.5 million dedicated to more than 90 maintenance and refurbishment projects throughout the county. Projects include resurfacing 31 tennis and multi-purpose courts and refurbishing 43 ball diamonds.

“We speak up for our priorities and what we stand for. That’s why we protect lives, build schools, expand job training and open new parks and animal service centers,” Kamenetz told the County Council. “We plan ahead and budget conservatively, so we can invest in what’s important to the people who live and do business here.”

A public input hearing on the budget will be held Tuesday, April 25, at 6 p.m. in the Historic Courthouse in Towson.

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