Howard Week

March 31, 2002

Child abuse reports rising sharply, as is burden for workers

Reports of child abuse and neglect are rising in Howard County, straining the county's system for handling abuse cases.

County social services board members have learned that child abuse reports are on track to be 30 percent higher this year than the 808 recorded in fiscal 1998, burdening workers with 30 to 40 cases each - far above the 12 to 17 cases per worker considered ideal by the Child Welfare League of America.

For the 12 months ending June 30, Howard officials expect to record 1,050 investigations, compared with 969 the previous fiscal year.

Teachers union, officials reach tentative contract

After months of negotiations that nearly came to an impasse, Howard County officials have reached a tentative agreement that would provide pay increases for school employees over the next three years.

The Howard County Education Association and the Board of Education agreed on a tentative contract for teachers and support personnel, HCEA President Joe Staub said.

The contracts must be ratified by the HCEA board of directors, the representatives council and the general membership before they become official, he said.

House OKs bill to close real estate loophole

A bill designed to close what supporters call a lucrative corporate real estate tax loophole and increase Howard County's tax income by an estimated $1 million a year was approved by the House of Delegates in a 90-39 vote Monday night.

The bill, denounced by business boosters but hailed by others as a way to increase sagging government revenues across Maryland during the recession, would stop the use of so-called shell corporations to transfer land without paying recordation and transfer taxes.

Instead of transferring land in courthouse records after a sale - triggering the taxes - the corporate owners create a corporation and sell one corporation to another, avoiding the tax. A Department of Legislative Reference analysis said that if the bill becomes law, cash-strapped local governments could see $16 million more in revenue next year, and the state could realize $4.8 million.

Survey finds 62% think Columbia on right track

The social goals and values on which Columbia was founded matter most to residents who are black, older than age 45 or have lived in town more than 20 years, according to a recent 800-person telephone survey commissioned by the Columbia Association.

The survey, conducted from Feb. 26 to March 3 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research as part of the Columbia Association's strategic planning process, found that 62 percent of residents think Columbia is on the right track.

That is up 30 percent from April 2000, when residents were asked about same thing in a survey conducted for the Columbia Flier. Then, the town was embroiled in a dispute surrounding then-Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty.

Cider Mill Farm closing before expected date

Cider Mill Farm, a rural landmark in an increasingly suburban landscape, is suddenly closing its doors without the public getting a chance to say goodbye.

The hands-on farm in Elkridge, where children could milk cows and feed goats, had been expected to open April 8 for at least one more season, before closing in a deal to sell its 59 acres for development.

But the decision was made to close for financial reasons, causing scheduled tours for more than 2,000 children to be canceled.

Leash-free dog park to open this summer

Some Howard County dogs can look forward to running free this summer, without the restraint of a leash or the threat of a ticket for their owners.

The Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks has decided to open the county's first leash-free dog park after years of lobbying by dog owners.

The park will be on 3 acres of the former New Cut landfill site, north of Route 103 in Ellicott City. The gates may open as soon as July, once reclamation work on the land is complete, John Byrd, a parks and recreation official, said Wednesday.

Columbia man indicted in Jan. 25 fatal shooting

A 20-year-old Columbia man was indicted Wednesday on murder charges related to a fatal shooting that occurred days after he was released on bond in an armed robbery case.

A Howard County grand jury returned the 13-count indictment on charges including first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery against Tavon Donya Sands in the death of 23-year-old DeShawn Anthony Wallace on Jan. 25.

Investigators say Sands was one of three men who confronted Wallace, his 19-year-old brother and three others on a parking lot in the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road and ordered them to the ground.

Real estate scheme suspect is arrested, charged

Robert Franklin Miller, a man charged with working a real estate scheme on victims across the Baltimore area, was arrested Wednesday in Harford County on warrants from Baltimore County and Howard County.

Miller, now charged in three similar grand theft cases, posted $5,000 bonds in each of the counties and was released Thursday from the Howard County Detention Center.

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