Howard Week

April 22, 2001

New boundaries for County Council may be little changed

Despite the political fuss over redrawing the boundaries of Howard County's five County Council districts, census figures show changes could be minor.

Growth has occurred fairly evenly across the county since 1990, the numbers reveal, and only two of the council districts - the 1st and the 3rd - are more than 5 percent above or below the new ideal size of 49,568 residents. That compares with council districts containing about 37,000 people each a decade ago, county planner Jeff Bronow said.

"I expect all the changes to be pretty minimal. I don't anticipate any dramatic shift," said Ellicott City Republican Christopher J. Merdon, a freshman council member who is planning to run for re-election to his 1st District seat.

Government meetings inch toward technology

High-tech communications might seem ubiquitous, but for people who want to testify at local government public hearings in the Baltimore metropolitan area, not much has changed in recent decades. Although e-mail testimony is becoming more common, residents who want their say in person show up, sign their names on a paper list and then wait, sometimes for hours.

Other area jurisdictions use the same paper sign-up system, though Howard County's school board allows people to register by telephone weeks before a public hearing.

But now the Howard County Council is talking about taking a baby step toward change - by maybe next year letting residents type their names into a computer in the hearing room instead of writing on sheets of paper.

Robberies, auto theft fell sharply last year

The number of reported robberies and auto thefts in Howard County declined sharply last year while the number of juvenile arrests jumped significantly, according to year-end crime statistics released by county police Monday.

Robberies decreased by 30 percent and car thefts by 32 percent from 1999 to last year, police said. Juvenile arrests increased by nearly 24 percent during the same period. Overall, the crime rate in the county remained fairly static, even as the population continued to grow, police said.

Robey's budget focuses on schools, public safety

Using a combination of higher fire taxes and permit fees, Howard County Executive James N. Robey has proposed an $811.2 million budget calculated to push schools and public safety ahead without a general tax increase.

Robey is proposing to spend $44.9 million, or 7.3 percent, more in county funds than is being spent this year - with two-thirds of that extra money going to schools. Despite that increase, he described his proposal as a conservative "hold-the-line" budget.

Jury deadlocks in trial of murder defendant

After six hours of deliberations, an Anne Arundel County jury emerged deadlocked Thursday from a murder trial in which the defendant muddled through, representing himself against an experienced prosecutor who had evidence that some jurors found unconvincing.

Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. declared a mistrial, ending a four-day trial of reluctant witnesses, objections and bench conferences.

Defendant Gerald Carvell Wallace, 23, of Glen Burnie appeared stunned by Heller's words. But after Assistant States Attorney Kathleen E. Rogers requested that he be jailed pending a retrial, he quickly said he wanted to be out on bail. A bail hearing is likely this week, the judge said.

Wallace is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and related counts in the October shooting and robbery of Jerome Isaiah Johnson, 18, of Columbia.

Septic system at issue in development plan

A retirement community proposed for the junction of Route 144 and Marriottsville Road would rely on a "multi-user" septic system that would be the largest of its kind in Howard County, an environmental engineer said Thursday night.

Testifying for the developers, engineer Robert W. Cheesley told the county's Board of Appeals that the system would work fine, despite county Health Department warnings that a large septic system would have "extreme difficulty" at the site.

The "active senior" community proposed by Columbia-based Brantly Development Corp. and LDR International would occupy 73 acres and include 75 single-family detached homes and 72 attached units. It would be entered off Route 144 (Frederick Road).

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