Howard Week

May 16, 2004

Glenwood residents' battle against lights intensifies

Residents of western Howard County met last week to step up their campaign to defend the darkness of their rural landscape from lighted ball fields planned for Western Regional Park.

Neighbors of the Glenwood site hope to persuade the County Council to cut funding for the lights from the county budget, set for a vote Friday.

Neighbors fear light and noise pollution, and they worry that the site may not be able to handle a waste-disposal system designed for an estimated 200,000 visitors annually.

Local politicians embrace multiculturalism

Maryland's governor and comptroller might not like multiculturalism, but Howard County's politicians embrace it.

At a meeting Monday in Ellicott City, Howard County Council members told leaders of a Korean-American group that they likely will get up to $10,000 in county money to pay bilingual liaison workers as part of a pilot project intended to learn how much help immigrants need to gain access to county services.

$968 million budget for fiscal '05 nears OK

Howard County Executive James N. Robey's proposed $968 million budget for fiscal 2005 appears headed for passage with only cursory public scrutiny, though Tuesday's brief final County Council session ended on a note of political acrimony.

Although minor tinkering will continue until it is formally adopted, the major elements won't change, said council Chairman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat. Those elements include no tax increases, 2 percent employee pay raises (6 percent for teachers) and the spending plan announced April 19. A final council vote is scheduled for May 21.

The school operating budget will fall about $9 million short of the Board of Education's request, after $3 million worth of computer equipment and maintenance costs are transferred to the capital budget, where increased state funding is available, Guzzone said.

Courtney Watson, the school board chairman, noted that the $9 million cut comes atop the $7.6 million the board had trimmed from the request.

Mobile home village in Savage is to close

Residents of Ev-Mar Mobile Village in Savage, who had hopes of organizing a housing cooperative so they could own the land under their homes, have received notice that the park will be closed.

Vince Patrick, who spearheaded the cooperative effort, said some of his neighbors hoped to purchase the land, own shares and operate the park themselves.

Park residents opposed a request to change the mobile-home zoning to a district that allows townhouses. As a result, the Howard County Council denied the rezoning request in February.

A months-long search for superintendent gets nod

The Howard County Board of Education approved a superintendent-search timeline last week that would leave the position unfilled until February or March, despite directives by state education representatives to hurry the process along.

The timeline and process the board approved Tuesday night include September meetings with the public and community groups to develop a profile of the ideal candidate. Finalists are expected to be chosen as early as February, with a permanent replacement announced by Feb. 14, if all goes well. If there are problems, the process could last through March 28.

Coach who sued argues for release of papers

A high school football coach who could be fired as the result of a grade-changing scandal appeared before a Howard County circuit judge Wednesday to argue for the release of papers he said he needs to retain his job.

"These documents are critical," said Thomas R. Bundy III, attorney for Oakland Mills High School coach Kenneth O. Hovet Jr., who filed a lawsuit against the office of the Howard County schools superintendent last month alleging he was being denied access to material he requested under the Maryland Public Information Act.

Hovet has been on administrative leave from his positions as a coach, teacher and athletic director since November, when he was accused of improperly altering a student's grades to make him eligible to play football.

Furlough defense rests in fatal-poisoning case

The defense rested its case Friday after a mental health expert testified that Ryan Furlough was so depressed and so heavily medicated for his condition that he could not rationally think through his decisions in the days and weeks before he slipped cyanide into a friend's soda can in his Ellicott City basement last year.

The explanation Furlough gave for his decision to poison 17-year-old Benjamin Edward Vassiliev on Jan. 3 last year -- that his friend no longer gave him birthday and Christmas presents -- shows that his state of mind was impaired even as he planned the killing for months, Dr. Michael K. Spodak said. Vassiliev, a popular Centennial High School senior, died five days later.

The expert testimony came after a morning that featured Susan Furlough's accounts of her son's worsening mental state as he progressed through his high school years, and a psychiatrist's decision to treat his condition with higher and higher doses of the anti-depressent drug Effexor.

Prosecutors claim the defendant's motive for killing Vassiliev stems from his jealousy over the victim's girlfriend, Caroline Smith, 18. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin tomorrow.

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