Howard Week

April 21, 2002

Maglev train route option in the county displeases officials

The speedy Maglev train that Maryland officials are promoting as a new East Coast transportation option could be years from construction, if it is ever built, but it has Howard County officials and developers blinking.

To the surprise of local leaders, state transportation planners drew one of three alternative routes through Emerson, a Rouse Co. planned, mixed-use community along Interstate 95 near Savage, where $400,000 to $500,000 homes are being built.

State and county politicians - usually friendly to new rail transit plans - are turning against Maglev, arguing that it would be a waste of money and would do nothing for Howard County except bring trouble.

Construction exemption draws angry responses

Crowded schools delay the construction of subdivisions in Howard County - all, that is, except the very smallest developments.

Though relatively few houses have been built under this exemption, residents are beginning to question its wisdom in a climate where every little bit of classroom space counts.

People who want to build another house on their property - or two, if the land is empty - can do so without being held up for as long as four years by crowding in elementary and middle schools. The idea is to make life easier on small landowners, such as parents who want to carve out a lot for an offspring.

But angry Ellicott City residents are watching developers use the exemption to their advantage by building a little now and the rest later.

Off-duty officer arrests suspect in burglaries

A 33-year-old man wanted in a series of commercial burglaries was captured in Columbia last week after a brief struggle with an off-duty Howard County police officer.

Robert William Stone of the 7900 block of Harriet Tubman Lane in Simpsonville - the county's most wanted fugitive - was being held without bail on charges of burglary, malicious destruction of property, resisting arrest, theft and assault, court officials said.

Off-duty Officer Chad Myers spotted a man he recognized as Stone about 5:10 p.m. Sunday entering a home in the 6100 block of Turnabout Lane, near Howard Community College, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

Councilman Gray enters District 13 Senate race

The battle for the District 13 state Senate seat officially began Tuesday before a crowd of about 70 supporters and fellow officials as C. Vernon Gray formally announced he is running for the seat - his goal after 20 years of representing east Columbia on the County Council.

At his rally in a former bank office in Long Reach Village Center, Gray said, "We're going to run a campaign that is fun, invigorating, engaging and that touches the people."

Stressing his support for education and better health care for children and senior citizens, and promising more anti-smoking efforts, Gray said he wants a study aimed at broadening the state's tax base beyond taxes on property, sales and income.

No tax increases or layoffs in Robey budget blueprint

Hewing to his usual cautious fiscal approach, Howard County Executive James N. Robey's $824 million final first-term budget proposal contains no tax increases or layoffs, but denies county schools over $6 million in spending requests.

Like other area executives, Robey blamed the recession for a minimal 1.6 percent spending increase, and a local first - the use of up to $15 million from the Rainy Day Fund to pay this year's bills.

Robey would give schools $16.3 million more to spend - a 5.2 percent increase - plus an additional $1 million for Howard Community College, while simultaneously cutting the rest of county government $3.6 million below this year. A hiring slowdown will keep about 100 county jobs vacant; 143 teachers will be added to help open the new Reservoir High School and keep up with rising enrollments.

Fire code violations found in Circuit Court building

An unplanned inspection of Howard County's Circuit Court building has turned up a series of fire code violations - including exposed wires, overloaded outlets and storage too close to sprinkler heads - in the cramped, historic structure.

Fire and risk management officials originally visited the building two weeks ago at the request of the sheriff's office to update the court's evacuation plan. But that visit turned into an inspection when a fire official noticed violations, Fire Chief Joseph Herr said.

According to a report of the April 4 inspection, officials found violations of 10 areas of the county's fire prevention code, ranging from locked doors to items stored too close to sprinkler heads and electric panels to exposed wires and too many plugs and extension cords. The report notes that the building will be reinspected in 30 days.

Elkridge man, 20, given one-year term in escape

A 20-year-old Elkridge man who eluded authorities for eight days last summer after bolting from the Howard County District Court commissioners office during a bond hearing was sentenced Thursday to a year in jail for the escape.

"One thing that's overriding is there has to be a deterrent," Howard Circuit Judge Lenore R. Gelfman said before sentencing J.C. Porter.

Porter, who pleaded guilty to the escape charge Feb. 1, must serve the time after completing an 18-month term in a 1999 resisting-arrest case.

Porter's escape Aug. 20 came as county police and state court officials were preparing space in the Southern District police station for a court commissioners office.

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