Harford Week

March 21, 2004

Racing museum proposed for Havre de Grace

Harford thoroughbred enthusiasts are seeking to bring back the glory days of horse racing at Havre de Grace with a $1.2 million proposal for a racing museum, equine retirement center and horse park.

Led by Chairman John Bowers, the Maryland Thoroughbred Racing Foundation has won support among state lawmakers for a $400,000 bond bill, a slice of proposed slots profits and a donation of land from one of Harford County's biggest developers.

One of the project's strongest supporters is Havre de Grace Mayor David R. Craig, who remembers "if you went somewhere and they asked you where you were from, anyone who was older would say, `Oh, is there still a racetrack there?' "

When he was a college student, a Maryland history research project at Towson University sealed Craig's interest in the track, which was opened in 1912 by New York racetrack manager Edward Burke in large part because pari-mutuel betting was legal in Harford County. Bettors traveled by train from New York and Philadelphia, Craig said.

After completing his research at Towson, Craig said he gathered oral histories from people who visited and worked at the track before it closed in 1950, after New Jersey authorized racing and the New York-Philadelphia crowd chose to bet closer to home.

Settlement reached on Harford airpark

The auction of a Harford County airpark was stopped unexpectedly Wednesday by an early-morning deal that kept the airpark in the hands of two of its shareholders.

But in a twist, the two shareholders were also involved in lawsuits against the Harford County Airpark in the 1990s that ultimately pushed it to insolvency.

Fred Simmons, an Aberdeen insurance agent and a trustee of Harford Community College, and Churchville accountant Steven Wright are to become majority owners of the park in exchange for dropping further legal claims against the Harford County Airpark Owners Group Inc., Wright said.

"It's the start of a new beginning with the airport," said Wright. "What we want to do is to maintain the airport operations but to expand the enthusiasm of aviation in the community."

In the deal, the more than three dozen airpark stockholders agreed to issue about 4,500 outstanding shares of the total 5,000 shares in the business to Simmons and Wright, Simmons said.

RTR Technologies moves to HEAT Center

RTR Technologies LLC has moved to the incubator space at the Higher Education and Applied Technology Center in Aberdeen.

RTR is a technical service firm that develops research models for management decision-making. Using simulations, RTR provides analyses that can be applied to common management issues, including fund and personnel allocation.

RTR Technologies President Randy Rippen said the company chose the HEAT Center because of the flexible lease terms, rental price and amenities, including the conference center and high-speed Internet access.

Delay sought on pact for North Harford High

Harford County school officials asked the Board of Education on Monday night to delay awarding a contract for North Harford High's modernization until this week to allow further talks with the county on closing a funding gap of more than $9 million.

The schools don't have the money to award the bid for the three-year, $44 million high school renovation because they received only $1.5 million of a $6.5 million state construction funding request - and bids for the work came in more than $4 million above estimates.

"This is all still very fuzzy," said Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas, adding that the schools would need the county's commitment that they can make up the shortfall this year.

"That would be the only way we could move forward," Haas said.

Impact fee bill advances in House

A bill in the General Assembly that would allow the Harford County Council to impose an impact fee of up to $10,000 on new homes to pay for school construction faced no opposition Thursday during a hearing in the House Economic Matters Committee.

Supporters of the legislation, the Harford County School Construction Financing Act of 2004, filled the hearing room. County Executive James M. Harkins, Schools Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas and school board President Robert S. Magee testified in favor of the bill.

The officials said the bill was needed to generate a revenue stream to help pay for building the new Patterson Mill middle and high school complex near Bel Air, as well as the renovation of older school buildings in the county.

Three County Council members appeared in support of the bill: Robert G. Cassilly, Cecelia M. Stepp and Richard C. Slutzky.

Hydrant flushing to begin April 5

The Harford County Public Works Department will begin flushing fire hydrants April 5.

The flushing will done between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. Officials say they expect the job to be finished about June 5.

Water potability and safety will not be affected, though temporary interruptions, dicoloration and changes in water pressure may occur, said Water and Sewer Facilities Chief Edward Kimmel.

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