Howard Week

April 01, 2001

Varied schedules at high schools are under study

The Howard County school system is finding out that drastically changing the district's high school schedules eight years ago ultimately turned more into less.

A report released by the district's director of assessment, Phyllis Utterback, shows that when high schools stray from the traditional six-period school day, students can lose up to 36 hours of instructional time per year.

With that information in hand, Utterback recommended at a recent school board meeting that the district standardize the schedules used by the high schools. No sooner had she said it than a half-dozen high school principals rose to denounce the idea, crying out for community choice and school autonomy.

Weapons suspect released, arrested on new warrant

An Ellicott City man accused of hoarding a cache of weapons in his house was back in court Monday, four days after his unexpected release from Howard County Detention Center left court officials scrambling to find a way to send him back to jail.

Richmond C. Laney, 44, was ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bond on a new warrant charging him with 15 explosives-related offenses; a 12-count indictment charging him in the same case was dropped two weeks ago because prosecutors said there was a problem with the wording.

In arguing for an even lower bond - Laney's bond on the original indictment had been $2 million - his defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Louis P. Willemin, noted Monday that much of the evidence in the case had been destroyed without being tested.

YMCA plans to sell 4 acres for Lowe's store

The Howard County YMCA plans to sell 4 acres of its Montgomery Road property to a developer for the future site of a Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, YMCA officials said Monday night.

At a membership meeting, YMCA officials said the deal with developer J. Chris Pippen will help finance about a third of a $9 million YMCA facility to be built on its remaining 8 acres.

Under the plan, Pippen will combine the YMCA's 4 acres with 13 acres acquired from homeowners and Bethel Baptist Church, west of the YMCA, to make room for Lowe's. The 17 acres for the store will include 680 parking spaces.

County Council decides against new church zoning

The Howard County Council informally agreed Tuesday night not to enact new zoning restrictions on large churches, but postponed until May a final vote on a 114-page bill that would revise county zoning regulations.

County officials decided to back away from the tighter rules for so-called "mega-churches" on the advice of officials from Executive James N. Robey's administration, who said a new federal law might have made such restrictions an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of religion.

"This is shaking its way out in the courts," county Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr. told the council at a work session that lasted more than two hours. He offered an amendment that removes all the new zoning language on churches.

Assault case may muddy Columbia Council race

If Robert E. O'Brien wins election to the Columbia Council next month, he probably will need to spend a lot of time with Rafia Siddiqui. But that could be a big problem: O'Brien was convicted last year of assaulting the senior Columbia Association official and ordered to have no contact with her.

In October, Howard County District Judge Alice P. Clark found that O'Brien assaulted Siddiqui after a public hearing in August on a disputed land-annexation plan. Clark granted O'Brien probation before judgment, which will erase the misdemeanor conviction for second-degree assault from his record if he successfully completes 18 months of supervised probation.

One requirement of his probation is that O'Brien have no contact with Siddiqui, the Columbia Association's chief financial officer, who routinely attends council meetings to brief members on financial matters. O'Brien also must attend an anger-management course and perform 125 hours of community service. O'Brien, 67, contends that he never assaulted Siddiqui and that serving on the council would not constitute a violation of his probation.

Jury recommends killer be spared death penalty

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A jury recommended Thursday that a man convicted of killing two Howard County men in April 1998 be spared the death sentence.

After deliberating for an hour, the 12-member jury recommended that Jonathan Trull be sentenced to life in prison without parole for the first-degree murders of Matthew Wichita and Kevans Hall II and for the attempted first-degree murder of Seth Qubeck. All three victims lived in Columbia.

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