It's Just A Pile Of Dirt Near Bwi, But Romantics See More

ROUTE 2. A Weekly journey through Anne Arundel County

November 06, 1990|By Robert Lee

Ski Ferndale?

Speculation has been running wild in the newsroom as to why the State Highway Administration is building a mountain at the Dorsey Road/I-97 interchange.

Mount Ferndale, visible along southbound I-97 near BWI, has doubled in size in recent months and now stands 50 feet high with a very steep grade.

Add a rope lift and a few moguls and, Anne Arundel County Sun news clerk Debbie Toich says, it would make a great ski slope.

Reporter Elise Armacost, noting the more gradual slope on the mountain's southern side, is partial to the Masada theory -- a reference to the earthen ramp built to lay siege to a Jewish mountain fortress by the Roman army corps of engineers in 73 B.C. Could it be that the SHA, fearing the logistical nightmare of hand-to-hand combat in stairwells and elevators, is building the ramp in preparation for an attack on BWI's air traffic control tower?

And, if the SHA were to take over the air traffic control tower, how many years would planes have to circle before they could win permission to land?

Editor Candy Thomson figured they were going to use the dirt to fill in Lake Median -- the SHA's half-acre artificial sediment-control pond along the I-97 median strip that the agency has polluted to the approximate acidic content of Coca-Cola.

Reporter Sonny Goldreich and I guessed that the monolithic pyramid is to serve as the final resting place for our pharaonic governor. Entombed with an ample supply of precious minerals and servants (buried alive to serve him in the afterlife), the governor would be sure to make a big first impression in the land of the dead.

If any of these possibilities are true, the SHA is covering it up.

Ernie Hodshon, the SHA regional assistant engineer, says Mount Ferndale is a "dirt bank" of earth and rubble deposits from road projects in the area. The SHA has been making a lot of deposits lately as it digs out the path of Route 100 between I-97 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, but figures to make a few withdrawals in the near future to build ramps for the interchanges "For us, that big pile of material is like a bank account," Hodshon explained.

"A few people did get the idea to ski on it a couple years ago, but we try to discourage that because of the potential liability," he said, --ing any hopes for a local ski resort.

SOURCE: Robert Lee


If nothing else, school Superintendent Larry L. Lorton's letter denouncing the proposed tax cap certainly got people talking.

But more seem to be talking about his method rather than his message.

Lorton warned that the tax cap would lead to overcrowded classrooms, cuts in school programs and extracurricular activities and an overall tightening of the school budget.

If those things are true, it would seem that as overseer of the school system -- which represents the largest part of the county budget -- Lorton was within his role to voice his concerns. That's how school board president Nancy Gist and some county officials view it.

But other people -- especially Robert Schaeffer, president of Anne Arundel Taxpayers for Responsive Government -- are questioning whether it was appropriate for Lorton to send his message home to parents in the knapsacks and book bags of 65,000 county students.

Schaeffer, the tax cap guru, has asked the county's attorney to look into Lorton's actions because he fears Lorton's letters to parents, hospitals and various organizations may work.

While Schaeffer calls it a "misappropriation of county funds" and wants an investigation, he may be hard-pressed to get the kind of probe he is seeking.

And after today, will it matter?

Just maybe.

Perhaps we should be concerned, since next year Lorton will be in the final year of his four-year contract.

Will he use the same method and taxpayers' money to campaign for another term?

And if Lorton does choose to use students as his messengers, who will be called upon to police Lorton's actions?

David Plymer, deputy county attorney, said his office is not in the business of supervising the superintendent and suggested it was a matter for the school board and state Board of Education.

An attorney in the state special prosecutor's office said they would look into it if anyone asked, but they weren't sure that any rules were broken.

And the word from state school officials yesterday is that "it's a local matter that if anyone feels strong enough about it can contact the state's attorney.

"There are some restrictions on the use of public funds for campaigning, but this is not necessarily in the ball park at all," the spokesman said.

So parents, check your children's books carefully for future opinions from the desk of Larry L. Lorton.

SOURCE: Dianne Williams Hayes


The recession everyone's been dreading has already arrived for David G. Boschert, the Democratic councilman from Crownsville.

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