Howard Week

February 17, 2002

Redistricting plan could take county away from Bartlett

Congressional redistricting soon might deprive Howard County voters of an opportunity to endorse the unconventional political perspectives of U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett Jr., Maryland's most conservative Republican congressman. Gov. Parris N. Glendening's latest redistricting plan - released Feb. 8 - would whipsaw Bartlett's Howard constituents across the political spectrum into the arms of either of Maryland's two most liberal Democrats.

Bartlett's district stretches east from Garrett County and includes Allegany, Washington, Frederick, Carroll and much of Howard. The proposed district would bypass Howard and cover northern Baltimore and Harford counties (now in Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s district) to the Chesapeake Bay.

If Glendening's map is adopted by the General Assembly, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings would represent the entire western county and portions of Ellicott City. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin would keep parts of Elkridge and Ellicott City. The two Baltimore Democrats would split more liberal Columbia.

Habitat for Humanity hopes for reasonably priced land

Habitat for Humanity volunteers know that a stroke of good luck is required to find reasonably priced property in land-scarce Howard County. They're hoping lightning will strike a second time, and soon.

The local affiliate of an international organization that builds houses for families in need, Habitat for Humanity of Howard County purchased its first property last year, helped by a confluence of favorable circumstances. Now that leaders expect to begin building that house in a few months - perhaps by April - they're preparing for a second foray into the county's competitive land market.

They have selected a family for the house they would build on a parcel they hope to find at a reduced cost.

Man pleads guilty to abuse of his 3-month-old son

A 36-year-old North Laurel man who admitted harming his then-3-month-old son, causing an injury that one expert said likely resulted from violent shaking, pleaded guilty to child abuse Monday and was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

Before Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney imposed the sentence, Manuel Johnson Jr. apologized for what his lawyer called an "act of frustration." Johnson's son, Spencer, now 2, spent several weeks in hospitals after the incident March 17, 2000.

2 teens charged as adults in rape of 15-year-old girl

Two teen-agers have been charged as adults with rape after a 15-year-old girl told Howard County police she was raped by two boys while three others watched the night of Feb. 7 in western Howard.

Police arrested Guillermo Carbajal, 17, of the 9200 block of Wilber Court Tuesday evening. He was charged with first- and second-degree rape, second-degree assault and numerous sex offenses.

Another teen-ager, Frank Kwaku Prempeh, 15, of the 5900 block of Harpers Farm Road, was arrested and charged Feb. 8 with first- and second-degree rape, four counts of sex offense and second-degree assault in the same case.

The girl, whom The Sun is not identifying because of the nature of the crime, told police she dated Prempeh, a 10th-grader at Wilde Lake High School, in years past.

5 Centennial students face drug and weapons charges

Five students at Centennial High School face various drug and weapons charges - and possible expulsions - after a police officer and a school administrator discovered marijuana, prescription pills, a small knife and a razor blade on them Wednesday.

The school was in lockdown from 10:45 a.m. until about 1 p.m. while police questioned suspects and made arrests, Principal Lynda Mitic said.

The search began after a teacher sent a 15-year-old girl to the health office Wednesday morning because she seemed lethargic, Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

Man arrested, crack cocaine worth $1 million seized

Troy Kevin Turnage lived quietly just off Route 100 in Columbia until Baltimore police got a tip that he might be involved in criminal activity.

A four-week Baltimore police investigation culminated Wednesday night in Turnage's arrest and the seizure of about $1 million worth of crack cocaine from his two-bedroom apartment in a quiet rental community called Orchard Crossing.

Turnage, 32, paid his rent on time and never disturbed neighbors, said property manager Beth Centifonti, whose eyebrows shot up when she learned that police confiscated 3.2 kilograms of crack from the apartment.

Turnage was being held at the city's Central Booking and Intake Center on $500,000 bond.

Robey, council consider options in face of shortfall

Howard County's tax revenue slump is so severe that County Executive James N. Robey is facing a projected $18 million shortfall in the current fiscal year. He also has run out of surplus cash, which has helped pay for expensive bricks-and-mortar projects.

Now Robey and members of the County Council face a classic election-year dilemma: whether to borrow now for construction projects despite higher interest costs later, or be frugal and just say no.

Both impulses were apparent Thursday as council members agreed to slice $17,000 from their proposed $1.5 million council budget for next fiscal year, discussed the borrowing issue with Raymond S. Wacks, the county budget director, and then voted to approve a $138 million county bond sale/refinancing package that will save the county $7 million in coming years, according to Dale B. Neubert, the finance director.

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