Howard Week

January 06, 2002

$310,000 townhouses, two-car garage, view of The Mall

Michelle and Jamie Dougal practically live at the mall, between visiting the shops and lounging at the Starbucks cafe. Now they want to set up housekeeping for good.

They're thinking about shelling out more than $310,000 for a townhouse being built beside The Mall in Columbia. People are lining up to buy what will be some of the most expensive townhouses in Howard County - the only ones with sweeping views of Nordstrom and L.L. Bean.

To critics, it's a make-believe city, a monument to a car-and-mall culture masquerading behind faux-Georgetown facades. But to others, it's a better city, the best of 'burb and urb, designed for people who like the idea of dense downtown living but still want a two-car garage.

Crash in Pa. snowstorm claims life of Howard girl

A 13-year-old Ellicott City girl was among those killed in a series of snow-related highway accidents Dec. 28 in Pennsylvania.

Kelsey Mizerak, a seventh-grader at Bonnie Branch Middle School in Ellicott City, was killed in a crash on Interstate 81 near Hazleton that left her father seriously injured. The family and other travelers were caught in a sudden series of blinding snow squalls.

According to Nancy Watts, a Mizerak family friend trying to organize support in Howard County for the family, Kelsey was sitting behind her father, Ronald J. Mizerak, who was driving. Watts said the family was going to visit relatives in Binghamton, N.Y., when the squall sent multiple vehicles sliding into each other in a series of crashes.

Precious metals salvaged from discarded computers

Scott Wilson is mining gold. Not to mention silver and palladium. Every computer he breaks down in his warehouse in Jessup - removing hard drives and circuit boards and wires and belts - contains enough precious metal to make this new approach to the junk business worthwhile.

Ancient computers, relics of an Information Age that often seems to be advancing at the speed of light, are taken to Subtractions - the business Wilson and his wife, Sarah Manning, own - by the truckload. State and local governments are looking for the best ways to keep old computers and the dangerous lead, mercury, arsenic and other substances in them out of landfills.

CA projects a surplus, but expenses are rising

The Columbia Association would grow $3 million richer under a proposed operating budget that projects $47.9 million in income and $44.9 million in expenses in the coming fiscal year.

The anticipated surplus - which officials at the nonprofit homeowners association prefer to call an "increase in net assets" - would be used for capital projects, said Columbia Council Chairman Lanny Morrison of Harper's Choice.

Despite the projected surplus, expenses at the huge homeowners association are rising faster than income. Expenses are expected to rise nearly 30 percent between fiscal years 1998 and 2003, while income would go up less than 24 percent during the same period, budget projections show.

A proposed capital budget also under consideration includes $7.8 million in projects, including money to keep the ailing Swim Center afloat and to improve drainage at a soggy Columbia Association golf course.

Fire on New Year's Day displaces 10 families

Damage from the New Year's Day fire at Columbia's Reflections Apartments topped $800,000, the state fire marshal's office said Wednesday.

Fire officials have identified the cause of the blaze as a chimney malfunction, said Capt. Gary Jones, a spokesman for Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. The state fire marshal's office and local fire officials are continuing their investigation, he said.

Ten families from two apartment buildings had to be relocated, Jones said. The blaze began about 10 a.m. in the attic area of a building in the 11900 block of Little Patuxent Parkway. It took about 90 minutes to extinguish, the fire marshal's office said.

County projects shortfall of $18 million for fiscal year

Howard County's tax revenues are projected to fall $18 million short in the current fiscal year that will end June 30, likely forcing the first ever use of the county's decade-old Rainy Day Fund to help close the gap.

A sharp decline in income tax collections was revealed Thursday by Raymond S. Wacks, the county budget director, at a meeting of the county's Spending Affordability Committee.

Wacks said it appears that this year will be the first since 1964 that Howard County income tax revenues will decline from one year to the next. The county collected $169.8 million in fiscal year 2001, but expects to collect $168 million in fiscal 2002, the current budget year.

Judge Leasure appointed to 2 administrative posts

Howard County Circuit Court Judge Diane O. Leasure took over the administration of both the Fifth Judicial Circuit and Howard's Circuit Court effective Friday, making her the first woman to hold either post.

Leasure, appointed in 1995, replaces Anne Arundel Judge Clayton Greene Jr. as fifth circuit administrator and Howard Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. as Howard administrator.

Greene was named recently to the Court of Special Appeals. Kane, who has overseen the Howard court since 1991, stepped down last week in accord with Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell's decision to name just one supervisory judge for each courthouse.

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