Howard Week

October 26, 2003

Protection orders said to drop 34% in first 9 months of '03

The Howard County Sheriff's Office has reported a 34 percent decline in the number of civil protection orders issued during the first nine months of this year.

But the Sheriff's Office and the Howard Police Department have been busy serving interim protection orders since a law took effect in December that enables domestic violence victims to ask for the interim orders on nights and weekends.

The interim order is a temporary measure that forbids someone accused of abuse from contacting the person seeking protection for 48 hours. Issued by District Court commissioners after court hours, the order is typically served by police when the Sheriff's Office is closed.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence said Howard's decline in protection orders this year provides only a partial glimpse of the problem in the county, and they cautioned that the winter season typically brings a surge in domestic violence cases.

Columbia board proposes assessment rate reduction

The Columbia Association board of directors has proposed reducing the assessment rate in the 2005 budget by almost 14 percent to bring relief to homeowners who were hit with high assessments caused by skyrocketing property values.

In a straw vote during the board's work session last weekend on the 2005 and 2006 budgets, members agreed that reducing the rate - currently 73 cents - to 63 cents would be fair to property owners and still keep the homeowners association on track to reduce its long-term debt, which is $78 million.

If the board approves the 63-cent rate when it passes the 2005 budget in February, a homeowner with a house valued at $250,000 would pay the association $787, compared with $912 under the current charge.

Ballet teacher gets 6 years in sex abuse of student

An Ellicott City ballet teacher convicted of sexually abusing a young student during two years of private lessons was sentenced Monday to six years in prison.

Hobbled by injuries from a serious accident that forced the postponement of his sentencing Oct. 16, Jose Anibal Macedo stared at the trial table as Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney imposed a 20-year sentence with all but six years suspended.

Sweeney said he recognized the strong support Macedo, 42, enjoys in the community - 10 to 15 parents and students have attended every hearing - but said he could not ignore the fact that the Halethorpe resident had been convicted of "very serious and disturbing criminal offenses."

Rouse defends request for Columbia rezoning

Rouse Co. officials sought Monday night to refute criticism of its plan to rezone commercial land and add thousands of new residents to Columbia as the Howard County Zoning Board heard the seventh night of public testimony on the proposal.

The meeting ended at 10:15 p.m. with a promise from board Chairman Ken Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat, that Nov. 3 will be the eighth and final session on the matter. "The five of us are committed to staying as late as it takes to finish on Nov. 3, even if it's 2 or 3 a.m.," Ulman said.

Councilman Kittleman plans to run for executive

The next statewide election is three years off, but three prominent Howard County Republicans are already jockeying for the county executive's job - hoping to avoid the kind of nasty GOP primary battle that helped Democrat James N. Robey to victory in 1998.

Defying the political trend of raising money without saying what it is for - and in the midst of Howard's once-a-decade comprehensive rezoning process - western county Councilman Allan H. Kittleman told 200 supporters at a fund-raiser Oct. 18 that he is planning to run for county executive, though he asked them to keep it quiet for now.

The West Friendship resident, long involved in county politics, recently resigned his job as a workers' compensation lawyer to spend more time with his four young children. Robey, a two-term executive, cannot run for a third term.

Christopher J. Merdon, Kittleman's only Republican colleague on the council, said he is aiming at a run for county executive. Steven H. Adler, general partner of Savage Mills and the GOP nominee last year, also said he is considering another run at the office.

Gun found at high school; 5 at Hammond arrested

Five Hammond High School students who police believe were involved in a plan to sell and buy a handgun were arrested Wednesday after the unloaded weapon was found inside a locker on campus, police said.

School officials began searching for the weapon after a parent found a note detailing the proposed transaction and turned it over to school administrators, police said.

The handgun was found in a student's locker by a school official, who was helped in the investigation by a school resource officer, said police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn. Howard police assign one officer to every high school in the county, she said.

High school site opponents get mixed results on appeal

Marriottsville residents who don't want a new high school built in their back yards got mixed results last week when Howard County Circuit Judge James B. Dudley dismissed an appeal they had filed in one motion, and then granted the group another hearing in the next.

The citizens had complained in court that the County Council erred in allowing construction exceptions for the school, claiming members did not study the impact of the changes or apply proper zoning laws to them.

But in an order signed Monday, Dudley found that the group was not entitled to question the council's conclusions.

A second order from Dudley, however, said he would hold a hearing, scheduled for Nov. 26, to consider standards the County Council should use in granting variances.

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