November 18, 2001

Howard police brace for retirements tied to new pension offer

The Howard County Police Department is expected to lose a number of senior officers early in 2002 because of an improved retirement package that will arrive with the new year.

But Chief Wayne Livesay said he is prepared for a wave of departures, expected to include a number of captains, the third-highest rank on the force.

The pension plan, which was approved by the County Council last winter, allows police officers to retire with 75 percent of their salary after 25 years of service. It goes into effect Jan. 1, and four of the six captains have signed up for the deal, which many have called the best police pension in the area.

Tobacco inspectors to enforce new laws

Howard County's new tobacco sales inspectors hit the streets last week to begin enforcing two recently enacted laws aimed at helping prevent underage youths from smoking.

The two men, whom Health Department officials will not publicly identify, will inspect the 270 county businesses that sell tobacco to ensure that product displays are out of the reach of customers and that tobacco is not being sold to anyone younger than 18.

Compromise reached on Route 216 expansion

Striking what they believe is a good compromise on a hotly debated project, State Highway Administration officials have decided to expand a 2.6-mile stretch of Route 216 to six lanes but to initially limit traffic on part of the section to four lanes.

Proposals to widen the southern Howard County road from two to six lanes had attracted a great deal of opposition from residents, who showed up in force at two meetings this year to protest. Many objected to building six lanes because highway officials said the traffic wouldn't warrant it for years.

But highway planners preferred not to expand the road to four lanes because, they said, the road probably would have to be widened again in 15 years. Completing the expansion in phases would increase the cost and the frustration to motorists, they said.

Construction is expected to start next fall.

Opinions wanted on Columbia's future

The simple town meeting where folks say their piece and sway their leaders looked pretty good to Norman Rockwell, but it doesn't always cut it in Columbia.

The Columbia Council wants to know what residents think about the problems and challenges confronting the 34-year-old planned community as it approaches middle age. So from last week until early next month, the council will hold not one town meeting, but 11.

It has hired a national polling firm to record and summarize thoughts expressed at each one. It will follow up with a professional telephone survey of 400 homes. After all that, if some categories of Columbians are still falling through the cracks, the pollsters might pick their brains in focus groups.

Local leaders say they're making an extra effort to get residents' opinions - at a cost of $12,500 to $17,500 - because the subject is nothing less than charting the future of Columbia.

Bill would increase school board to seven

Howard County's education community came out Wednesday night to support a bill that would enlarge the school board to seven members while cutting members' terms.

The bill was among a dozen local measures offered for public comment at a hearing by the county's state legislators, who are preparing for the General Assembly session that begins in January.

The school board, the county's PTA council and individuals all testified in favor of the bill, which failed last year because of opposition from two of the county's three state senators. Local bills must be approved by both delegates and senators voting separately.

Mother disputes account of son posting death notice

The prankster who posted a false Internet report about a Howard County soldier being killed in the war on terrorism turns out to have been the soldier himself, police said Wednesday.

The soldier's mother, Cheryl King Craig of Frederick, was at the Howard County police station Tuesday night filing a criminal complaint about the hoax when her 19-year-old son, Army Pvt. Ryan King, who is stationed in South Korea, called her cell phone and admitted he was behind it, police said.

An officer phoned Craig on Wednesday to confirm the desk officer's account and make sure there was no need for an investigation. She told the officer that her son was responsible, a police spokeswoman said.

But Craig disputed that account in an interview Wednesday with The Sun, saying her son did not post the false report. She said she and her husband did go to the police station to file a report but decided to leave before doing so.

Identity-theft suspect ruled not competent for trial

A 32-year-old Baltimore man accused this year of assuming the identity of a Howard County resident with the same name - claiming that he owned the other man's company and home and withdrawing money from his bank account - was ruled not competent to stand trial Thursday.

During a brief hearing, Howard County Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure committed Frederick Scott Carter, who is being treated at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville, to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Carter, who claimed during the proceedings that he is president of SunTrust Bank and that he is being housed at Springfield under false pretenses, objected to Leasure's ruling and repeated, "There's no oath here," as deputies handcuffed him and led him out.

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