Howard Week

March 11, 2001

Police increase patrols in Font Hill after 3 burglaries

Howard County police have stepped up patrols in the Font Hill area of Ellicott City after three recent nighttime burglaries in the quiet neighborhood.

Police also are meeting with residents in Font Hill and nearby neighborhoods - which are part of the Centennial community - to warn them to be watchful and to lock their homes.

"The most significant thing to note about each of these three instances is that, in every case, the suspect entered through an unlocked, unsecured door or window," said police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.

Council members clash over redistricting

New census figures aren't out, but Howard County's politicians are feuding over who will draw new boundaries for County Council districts based on the new count.

Instead of what was supposed to be a routine vote Monday night to confirm a resolution creating a seven-member redistricting commission, the council split 2-2 along party lines, killing the measure. Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung, a west Columbia Democrat and the potential swing vote on the five-member council, was absent.

Curran says CA board erred on assessment cap

Maryland's attorney general issued an opinion last week indicating that the Columbia Association's board of directors needlessly did away with a long-standing protection for homeowners - a cap on the local equivalent of property taxes.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. found that, contrary to what the board was told before it voted in December to change the way it assesses property, the Truth in Taxation law does not apply to the association because it is a homeowners association, not a municipal or county government.

Pediatrician pleads guilty to felony Medicaid fraud

An Ellicott City pediatrician pleaded guilty to felony Medicaid fraud last week in Howard County Circuit Court as part of an agreement that could send him to jail for a year and a half. As part of the agreement, three counts of perjury against Dr. Alfredo Herrera were dropped in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

The plea agreement brings to a close the two criminal cases against the pediatrician. Herrera, 53, was accused last fall of lying on his 1996, 1997 and 1998 state tax returns. Last week, he was accused of performing $100,000 in tests that were not "medically necessary" from 1993 to 1998.

Januszkiewicz questions legal fees paid by CA

The Columbia Association racked up more than $300,000 in legal bills in the space of eight months, and Cecilia Januszkiewicz, a member of the Columbia Council, is asking how.

Since late December, she has been seeking copies of bills paid to the firm Piper, Marbury, Rudnick & Wolfe for legal work performed from May 1 to Dec. 31.

The bills show not just the amount charged - which the council knows - but also what work was done to generate those charges.

Day care provider convicted in child's death

A Howard County jury convicted North Laurel day care provider Kathleen A. Butcher of manslaughter, child abuse and assault in the death of one of her young charges, but deadlocked on a charge of second-degree murder.

Voting to convict Butcher, 37, of manslaughter, jurors agreed that she caused the death of 15-month-old Alexa Shearer more than a year ago. But the seven women and five men could not agree that she had acted with extreme disregard for the little girl's life, a requirement for a second-degree murder conviction.

Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. scheduled sentencing for May 22. Butcher, who is pregnant with her fifth child, faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for the child abuse conviction and 10 years for the manslaughter conviction.

Arts center replacing broken floor tiles

An emergency repair program to replace broken asbestos floor tiles at Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City is under way, after dozens of the tiles popped loose and broke apart in a first-floor hallway during the past several weeks.

Although a lower floor in a different wing of the 40-year-old former Rockland Elementary School building houses Head Start classrooms for more than 100 pre-schoolers, tiles there have broken infrequently and classes won't be disrupted, county officials said.

All ground-floor tiles will be replaced during the summer, when the building is scheduled for $400,000 in repairs, said county Public Works chief James M. Irvin.

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