Harford Week

January 26, 2003

In Bel Air, 3 elected to fill vacancies on commissioners board

Robert M. Preston, a lifelong resident of Bel Air and grandson of the late county school administrator and historian C. Milton Wright, was the big winner in last week's special election to fill three vacancies on the Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners.

As the top vote-getter, Preston, 53, will serve out the term of Robert G. Cassilly, which runs until November 2005. Cassilly was elected to the Harford County Council in November.

Joan Morrissey Ward and James V. McMahan Jr. finished second and third in the voting, respectively, in a field of 11. They will fill the two other vacancies on the five-member board until the next scheduled election in November.

"I'm very pleased with the turnout, the volume of people," Preston said of Tuesday's election, in which 949 ballots were cast. "It's good to see the process work and the people respond. All of the people were good candidates, and this stimulated the voter turnout."

Bel Air Mayor James M. Decker, also one of the five board members, said the turnout was a surprise, surpassing the normal turnout of 600 to 700 voters in regular town elections.

Decker said the new members will be sworn in at the next board meeting, Feb. 3.

Perchlorate detected in wells at Perryman

Tests of Harford County's well field have detected perchlorate, a hazardous chemical discovered last year just miles up the road in the city of Aberdeen's well field, and an Aberdeen Proving Ground spokesman acknowledged that military activity in the area was the source of the contamination.

A test conducted in December and just released found that one of the county's production wells has a detectable level of perchlorate, an explosive salt used widely by the military in rocket fuel, smoke grenades and other incendiary devices. No perchlorate was detected in the finished drinking water, county officials said.

The wells are in Perryman along the western boundary of Aberdeen Proving Ground. The well field is about five miles southwest of the city of Aberdeen's well field.

203rd intelligence battalion ordered to new mission

The 203rd Technical Intelligence Battalion, based at Aberdeen Proving Ground, was ordered to new duty last week.

The unit is headed to Southwest Asia, but the details of its departure and the exact destination were not disclosed.

The battalion is a mix of active Army and Army Reserve technical experts, the only one of its kind in the Defense Department, whose mission is "to provide intelligence support to deployed commanders," said Maj. David Matthew, who stayed behind but expects to join the unit in March.

Bluegills are Aberdeen's last line of toxic defense

Eight bluegills swim in tanks of treated water piped from beneath Aberdeen Proving Ground's most toxic dump, a melange of decaying chemical warfare agents such as napalm, cyanide and sarin.

In the ground water beneath the dump, the soup of chemicals is so exotic that environmental scientists don't entirely trust the computer sensors that test treated water for purity.

The largest of Maryland's military bases, spanning some 72,500 acres between the Susquehanna and Gunpowder rivers, Aberdeen is the third most expensive base cleanup in the nation and perhaps its most complex. The Pentagon estimates it will cost $741 million to rid the base of toxins. And when it's all over, by the 2030s at the earliest, the cleanup will have spanned more than a half-century.

The fish act as low-tech environmental sensors. If electrodes pasted to the tanks detect an unusual wriggle or cough, a computer alerts engineers that toxins may be getting past a multimillion-dollar water treatment system. Enough sick fish, and the engineers investigate. Enough dead fish, and they shut off the discharge into the Gunpowder River.

Grand jury indicts man charged in city girl's death

Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly said he hopes to have Jamal Kenneth Abeokuto moved to a jail in the county so a five-count indictment against the Baltimore man, handed up by a grand jury in Bel Air on Tuesday, can be served.

The grand jury indicted Abeokuto, 23, Wednesday on charges of kidnapping, first-degree murder, first-degree assault, extortion and carrying a weapon with intent to injure in the abduction and slaying of Marciana Ringo, 8, whose body was found in a wooded area in Joppatowne last month.

Cassilly said he hopes to know within a week when Abeokuto, in federal custody in Baltimore, can be transferred to the Harford County Detention Center and arraigned.

Businessmen acquitted of murder of intruder

Two Harford County businessmen -- Kenny Der and Darrell R. Kifer -- were found innocent Thursday of first-degree murder charges in the death of an intruder at their East Baltimore warehouse in June 2001.

Baltimore Circuit Judge John M. Glynn ruled that the men acted in self-defense.

Cecil County

Developers offer plans for project at Bainbridge

A group of developers unveiled details last week of their plans to build a retirement community, hotel, residential housing, offices and other businesses at the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center.

They estimated the cost of the project at $500 million to $750 million and said it would provide nonconstruction jobs for as many as 7,000 people.

Prince George's developer Kenneth H. Michael and Clark Turner Cos. of Harford County presented the details of their plans at a meeting of the Bainbridge Development Corp.

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