From: Jay Whitney
Menlo Park, Calif.
The front-page article headlined, "Urinalysis deal hurts prosecutors," by Deidre McCabe in your Nov. 6 (The Howard County Sun) editionrequires a response. I am the president of PharmChem Laboratories, the California laboratory referred to in the article, that provides drug-testing services for the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation. Coincidentally, until 1987, I was a resident of Howard County for more than 18 years.
PharmChem is one of the largest drug-testing laboratories in the country. We test more than 2 million specimens eachyear for clients located throughout the United States.
An essential part of PharmChem's service for our parole and probation clients is to provide technical support for these attorneys and probation officers when a positive test result is challenged. We provide this support through telephone consultations, sworn declarations or affidavits,litigation packages and expert witness testimony.
We deal with thousands of such cases each year at hundreds of different locations throughout the United States. In none of these cases has our out-of-state location interfered with our ability to provide whatever support is needed to sustain a test result. Our prompt technical support is one of the reasons we have never had one of our test results overturnedin such a case.
Clearly, there has been a serious breakdown in communications with the prosecutors quoted in the article, who said they dropped charges because of the difficulty in getting PharmChem to appear as an expert witness.
PharmChem has provided expert witness testimony more than 200 times this year at locations throughout the United States, in most cases on much shorter notice than mentioned in the article.
Our contract with the Maryland Division of Parole andProbation requires us to provide such expert witness testimony whenever it is needed and to pay all travel costs so that our location is not a factor in deciding whether to issue a subpoena for such testimony. Had we been requested to appear in the case cited in the article,we would have done so.
Although we have never been asked to appear in court for the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, we haveprepared for them more than 100 signed affidavits this year.
Although not mentioned in the article, there is another question that theattorneys cited in the article may be asking. I know I would be asking it if I were still a Howard County resident. Why is Maryland sending its drug testing business out-of-state in these difficult economictimes?
PharmChem was awarded the contract to provide drug-testingservices for the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation not only because we have more experience than any other laboratory in conducting this type of testing and in providing the technical support neededto sustain challenged test results, but also because we offered these services at the lowest price.
In this time of record budget deficits, all states are best advised to find the most cost-effective suppliers for the services they need, even if these suppliers are located in other states. To do otherwise only increases the already heavy tax burdens on everyone.
(Jay Whitney is president of PharmChem Laboratories.)
CONVERT RAILS TO TRAILS
From: Morris Warren
Recently, a field trip at the Rails To Trails Convention was to walk the abandoned No. 9 trolley line from Ellicott City to Catonsville. There we saw an abandoned railroad right-of-way that still existsto downtown Baltimore.
Baltimore County owns the trolley line andthe owners of the railroad want to give it to Baltimore County and Baltimore City for use as a hiker/biker trail. No doubt these could beconnected to Columbia via trails and existing good road shoulders.
I suggest the walking and bicycle clubs in the Columbia-Ellicott City area get behind the conversion of these abandoned rights-of-way toa hiker/biker trail for a safe, quick route to downtown Baltimore. Pat McDougall of the Baltimore County Recreation Department, at 301 Washington Ave., Towson, Md. 21204, is heading up this project.
Oncein Baltimore, a hiker/biker could turn east and ride the proposed bike trail along the new light rail to BWI, then to Annapolis on the completed B&A Trail.
Or in Baltimore, they could turn north on the proposed light rail trail to Towson and ride the completed Northern Central Trail to York, Pa.
The abandoned No. 9 trolley line could beHoward County's access to Maryland's exciting rails to trails program, where abandoned railroads are converted to commuter and recreational trails.
(Morris Warren is president of the WB&A Recreational/Commuter Trail Association.)